Known Johnson

May 28, 2007

Various and sundry – May 19-28 Supersized Holiday Edition

Filed under: Migraine,Various and Sundry — Tom @ 9:17 pm

A rose by any other name Favorite things becomes my much-abused Various and sundry this week. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Cheap stuff Man, this is awesome: Costco has the 5-disc, 12-hour HBO special on the 1960s space program, From The Earth To The Moon, for a “whopping” $21.99. That’s $5.40 a disc. You cannot beat that – it’s not even that cheap used on Amazon. Too bad I didn’t learn about this until after we’d already made our big trip there – and so had to make a special one-item-only trip and endure The Lines just for this. It was worth it. (And, yeah, I’m aware that Discovery Science is airing the episodes. I don’t want the episodes. I want the whole series and the extras, dammit.)

Wax on, wax off I spent most of Memorial Day waxing my truck, after having spent part of the Sunday afternoon prior to that claying the truck with my newly purchased Clay Magic kit. You may remember some mention of claying in a previous post in which I purchased Turtle Wax’s new Liquid Clay Bar. Well, I gave that a try on Alissa’s car, got as far as the hood with that, and changed the name from “Clay Bar” to something that begins with “s” and sound suspiciously like “hit.” I dug out my old Clay Magic bar and went to work and in about the same time that it took me to do the damned hood had the whole car clayed and, as it should, it felt like glass once waxed. I have come to realize that trucks are always more difficult to deal with when cleaning, requiring about double the amount of time and energy, so it came as no surprise that my Ridgeline took far longer. The results, however, were much the same – the finish is amazingly smooth. Seriously, if you love your car, do it and yourself a favor and give it a claying once a year. You will reap rewards come time to sell it – people freak out at how well paint gets taken care of when you do this. It removes all the damage that the sun and the chemicals from the road can do to your paint. It obviously can’t fix paint damage, but it seems to ward off fading completely – four years on and the paint on Alissa’s Accord looks just like it did the day we picked it up.

Ain’t that a kick in the head When I wasn’t waxing my truck, we took Amanda to Arrowhead mall today to check out their play area. We’re coming up on the last weekend of her Little Gym classes (whew) and she’s going to need something indoors to burn off some energy on weekends, and our house just isn’t going to suffice. We were hoping this might do in a pinch and it seems it might, but I wasn’t too thrilled with the “clientèle,” I guess you would call it. Sure, security swooped in to kick out the kids who were obviously far too old to be in there, but he didn’t stop the idiot kid from jumping off the faux-firetruck, hitting Amanda in the head as he did so. Luckily he only grazed her, but it could have been much worse: my daughter’s first enemy may have had to feel my wrath.

Speaking of pricks . . . I finally begin my long treatment for allergies with twice-weekly shots for the next few months, which then goes down to a slightly less intensive schedule and gradually lessens over time for the next few years. It sounds tedious and it probably is, but with as awful as my allergies generally treat me (migraines, infections, etc.) it’s likely going to be worth it. Since I’ve been on some serious allergy medicine, things have been pretty good. Not perfect, but good. But I don’t want to be on medication forever, so the shots are the best way to get around that. I hate needles, but I think this is actually going to be worth that – and that’s saying a lot.

And speaking of medication I’ve got a meeting with Dr. Brain next week to hopefully start weening myself off of my migraine medicine. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my migraines were from a few strategic foods that, unfortunately, I really, really love, but that I’ve basically given up and since then I really haven’t had any significant problems. I hate saying it, but chocolate and cheddar cheese are things of my past and, in the case of chocolate, that’s really hard to deal with. I’m sure there’s a threshold that will allow me to eat some, but I don’t really like tempting fate right now. I have learned one thing and that is that things labeled “chocolate flavor” are not really chocolate and so are basically safe, for whatever reason. There must be some vital ingredient missing. I don’t know what, but I sure wish I did. Anyway, it will be nice to get off of this drug – it makes me forgetful, most of all, such as spelling words I’ve always known how to spell, or forgetting words just as I’m about to say them, but most embarassingly is that it often prevents me from remembering people’s names, even people I see every day. Very, very frustrating – I have that “tip of the tongue” feeling much of the time, know what I want to say, but just can’t say it. I’d also like soda to go back to tasting normal again. I’ve learned to deal with it but the day when the drug is out of my system and soda tastes delicious again will be wonderful.

Lost for words Remember what I said a couple weeks ago about missing out on Lost? Man, anyone that was a fan and dropped out seriously missed out on one of THE BEST season finales of ALL TIME. Rent/buy this season when it comes out and catch up.

Bad influence One of Amanda’s favorite books has a picture of an ice skater that I found particularly dorky. For a while when Amanda would point at it I would say, “Geek.” Now Amanda points at it and calls the ice skater “Geek.” Oops.

Fakation I’m utilizing the power of a holiday to maximize my time-off savings, so I’ve taken the next four days off for a fake-vacation or, as you’ve guessed it, a “fakation.” It’s an Al Bundy vacation – I’m not going anywhere, I’m not doing anything special, just staying home and hanging out with my little girl (when I’m not destroying faucets or repainting parts of the house, that is,) but, unlike Al, I’ll probably be doing some home-fixin’ things that aren’t particularly vacationary in nature, but, hey, at least it’s not work.

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May 26, 2007

The thanks we get

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 10:40 pm

Wilco proves, once again, that they are indeed a kick-ass band for people who want to be fans. As they’ve done for the past two Nonesuch releases, the just-released Sky Blue Sky includes yet another special offer once you’ve bought the album. Pop the disc in your computer’s CD/DVD-rom drive, open it up, and open the file named “extras.mov”, which will pop open a special Quicktime file to access content on the official site. What is that content? Why it’s an album outtake in the form of “The Thanks I Get”! (It will also apparently be available via Itunes soon – but why would you want that when you could have a free high-quality mp3?) Oh, and if you’re curious where you may have heard that, it’s in a Volkswagon ad!

This is in addition to the two-track bonus disc offered at indie retailers for purchasers of the album (tracks featured: outtake “One True Vine” and Kicking Television live outtake “Theologians”) plus the Itunes-exclusive, “Let’s Not Get Carried Away,” which can be purchased a la carte. With all these bonuses, I have re-ordered the end of my version of the album to include all these tracks – normal album ender “On and On and On” now is followed by the very quiet, muted “One True Vine,” followed by rootsy rocker “The Thanks I Get,” then the raucous “Let’s Not Get Carried Away” and finally “Theologians (Live)”. This requires a little tag-surgery in Itunes, but this will flow as one long album rather than separate releases – the way I feel these tracks should flow. You may feel differently, but this way, I think it feels much better than the way they started out, separately. Now the group of previously disparate songs has some sensible flow – “On x3” and “One True Vine” make sense together, and “The Thanks I Get” needed to follow that instead of “Carried Away,” which is just too noisy but makes for a good lead-in for the live “Theologians.” It’s a good listen.

Wilco is a great band for fans because of stuff like this – in addition to all the great music, of course. Now, off you go – if you don’t have it already, go buy Sky Blue Sky, of course – and download your free song.

Come hither, death

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:28 pm

I beckon Death with open arms to our home. Come hither, Death, just don’t knock upon our door – I only want you to hang around outside and kill.

You see, I sprayed some kick-ass bug spray around the house today. I’ve sprayed it before and it is, hands down, the best bug spray you can get, from my experience, outside of professional applications for which you would pay way more. We’ve always had big problems with crickets and I hate crickets. Since I started using this stuff last year, no crickets. And really not much of anything else. And I’m alright with that. I don’t view my house as “the environment” – I don’t want bugs and such to live here, so as long as this stuff is safe for humans and cats, it’s good with me. So today I put down another bi-monthly application and made sure to completely cover our back porch, which is where Amanda’s little slide is (being sure to move the slide before I sprayed, of course) so that nothing can come up on the porch and make a safe home of her slide. Along with, of course, a heavy application around the entire house foundation and about two feet up the side of the house and out onto the land around it. It took a while, but it sure is worth it when, tomorrow morning, I go outside to see the battlefield lined with the bodies of those who made the mistake of attempting to cross the invisible shield of death. Tonight, Death waits not with his scythe for bugs but in a field of crystallized granules of delatramethrin. No, it’s not very poetic, but it sure is satisfying just the same.

May 22, 2007

Goodbye, Veronica Mars

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 10:44 pm

A good season finale does a couple of things: it winds up whatever loose ends have been whipping around all season long, usually with a satisfyingly involving episode that leaves viewers wanting more, and it often leaves one little new nugget at the end to be addressed in the following season. We all know those as cliffhangers, those aggravatingly intense final moments of the episode that leaves one vital clue out and leaves us viewers dangling for months wondering how it will be resolved. A good series finale, on the other hand, has a slightly different job to fulfill – not only does it need to tie up those loose ends, it also needs to tie everything down with some gravity. That’s not to say everything needs to be tied up tight – the best season finales feel like great episodes that happen to answer just the right questions and leave dangling only ones the answers to which are obvious. A series needs to end in such a way that viewers walk away from their favorite series’ with a sense that things have finished, that life on that show carries on in some fashion, that nothing new has been introduced that whets their appetites. And this is where the series finale of Veronica Mars failed.

For an otherwise fantastic finale, viewers were left with a tremendous let down at the end. I won’t bother to try to sum up this entire episode because, as anyone who knows the show would know, this is a very complicated show and we simply don’t have time for that (try Wikipedia for that.) Suffice it to say that things were brought to an exciting head and then the loose ends were very well tied off. The problem is that the end left us viewers hanging – and here’s a warning for those who have not seen this finale yet and plan on doing so: I will spoil everything right . . . now – when, on the eve of the elections, Veronica’s father, Sheriff Keith, is exposed as having destroyed evidence against her in order to protect her. This is one of those sweetly realistic moments on the show – a father taking the extra step to protect his daughter even when she’s done something very wrong, even if her actions ultimately freed an innocent man – and is an example of the kind of writing that will be sadly missed next season. What is upsetting is that we are left knowing that Keith must lose the election to slimy fellow private investigator Vinny Van Lowe, and we instinctively want to know what happens to the town of Neptune under his rule, or lack thereof.

Therein lies the rub. Series creator Rob Thomas knew going into this finale that there was a very good chance that Mars would either not be coming back at all or would be coming back in a drastically different format, one where Veronica’s college years were skipped past in order to follow her in her FBI training afterward. Yet he went a head and gave us an ending that left us gasping for a follow-up season watching Sheriff Vinnie destroy Neptune while Keith returned to his duties as a P.I., shamed once again out of the limelight, once again because of his daughter. Now, of course, we’ll never know anything else about Veronica and Keith Mars’ futures, and for that I’m just plain upset. Shows like this don’t come along very often, and now another one has just disappeared.

May 21, 2007

Overlooked Alternatives: Battles, Killing Joke

Filed under: Music,News,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 8:58 pm

Whew – the past few weeks have felt like a barrage of too much stuff, so a couple of quiet weeks were in order, and we’re going to be getting that this and next week. That’s not to say that nothing’s coming out, but the schedule’s just not as jam-packed as it had been. Rest assured that most music geeks, me included, will find plenty of ways to occupy ourselves in the quiet times.

Battles – Mirrored: Three years after a single and two EPs, it was about time Battles finally put out their debut album. And, from the sound of things, the wait was more than worth it. Where the EPs hinted at what was to come, they suffered a bit from a band struggling to define themselves. Mirrored proves that Battles has discovered who they are: the bastard children of Animal Collective and Don Caballero. With guitarist/vocalist Tyondia Braxton (son of avant gard sax great Anthony Braxton) and drummer John Stanier (ex-Helmet, current-Tomahawk) on board, it’s easy to see why such a sound would emerge – it’s just not so easy to imagine when listening back to those EPs, which sounded more like a lost Tortoise. Believe it or not, this could be the surprise indie breakout of the summer. First single “Atlas,” with its nonsensical, pitch-shifted vocals, glitchy synth, and driving, pounding drums, is the kind of freak-out, weirdo song that leaves listeners divided, for sure, but it sure makes an impression, and those that like it, love it. Serious fun. Watch this one – it will likely end up placing high on year-end lists.

Killing Joke – Bootleg Vinyl Archives 1 & 2: For Killing Joke fans, the past month has been pretty cool. First their was Inside Extremities which offered a previously unreleased 1991 concert, and now there are these two releases: two three-disc sets (at a very low price-point) of live material from the band’s career throughout the 80s and early 90s. From what I read, the sound quality varies, but the name should warn you – “bootleg” is a pretty apt title, and just like back in the old days, you never knew quite what you were going to get. The price helps make this more fun than it used to be – I remember regularly plunking down $25 for a single-disc bootleg only to find out it sounded like it had been recorded in some guy’s armpit. It’s not all perfect sounding, but for the most part, you fair much better here – especially with regards to your financial investment. Essential? Probably not. Fun? For fans, yes. For anyone else, I’d suggest sticking to the studio material.

May 19, 2007

Favorite things – May 12-19

Filed under: Various and Sundry — Tom @ 9:15 pm

It’s that time again – time to look back at the past week and get all misty-eyed about the great things that have passed. A lot of TV talk this week . . . it’s season-finale time, you have to expect that.

Word to your mother/Yo momma Mother’s day has come and gone, and I didn’t get a chance to say anything on the site, but I’m seriously amazed at how Alissa has managed to just become a mother literally overnight. I realize this is her second year at it, but it can’t be said enough: I am eternally thankful for the amazing job she does tending Amanda. Fathers, as important as they are, have a significantly different role – we grow into it, despite being there from the beginning. Mothers take it all on immediately, and I really don’t know how they do it.

Wilco It wouldn’t be a “favorites” list without some mention of music, and currently the new Wilco album, Sky Blue Sky, is completely dominating my mind. It’s beautiful – sublime, gorgeous, and relaxing while being intelligent and just confrontational enough that it could never be deemed “easy”. It’s a stunning piece of work – maybe their best. Watch Lookout For Hope as there will be a review coming sometime soon. (I feel a little bad – I still haven’t written about Rush’s latest and here I am ready to whip one out for Wilco after just a few days.)

Genesis remasters/remixes Oh, come on, you can’t possibly expect me to not mention more music. I told myself I’d hold off and I tried, but Tuesday I picked up the just-released remix/remaster of Abacab with $10 in Best Buy Reward Zone coupons and fell in love. (Seriously – I just jumped between this and Sky Blue Sky all week, basically.) There are a lot of complaints from audiophile geeks about a travesty having been committed upon the back catalog, having had the master tracks remixed to today’s audio standards, but I’ll tell you – I’m hearing things that I’ve never, ever heard before. Sure, they’re a little sharp and bright in the treble end of things, but I can put up with that. And today I gave in and bought the rest – utilizing the amazing power of Discounts: Borders’ “buy 3 get the 4th free” sale (bought 3 discs and a birthday present for my brother in law) and Google Checkout‘s $10 off your first purchase deal at, surprisingly enough, VH1’s online store for $14.79 plus $4 in Fedex shipping – for a total of $8.78. The total of all 5 albums is something like $55 – about $33 cheaper than the box itself, which I’ve decided is a waste as the b-sides are a non-issue since I have most of them on the Archives 2 box, and they’re just not all that great, for the most part.

Survivor Say what you want about Dreamz’s back-stabbing reneging on the deal he made with Yau-man, it sure made for great TV. Come on – think about it. Yeah, it made everyone angry as hell, but had it gone the other way around, the finale would have been boring as hell. I still think that stupid bastard should give Yau back the truck he cheated him out of, even if he doesn’t actually want it (Yau-man is a conservationally-minded citizen, of course) so at least he can sell it to make something out of his Survivor deal. As for Dreamz, well, I’m not a spiritual person, but I think that boy’s got some serious karma headed his way. He might be getting a lot of attention now, but that’ll be short-lived. Once the media moves on – and it may already have done so – then what? Think of what kind of attention he would have gotten had he given up his immunity. He would have been a hero and could have had publishers begging him to write his life’s story, he could have been a motivational speaker, etc. – something that could have made the difference he claimed all along he wanted to make. Now he’ll always be the guy from Survivor that screwed over a beloved contestant, all for naught.

Gilmore Girls This week marked the final episode of one of my favorite series. (I might be one of the few straight males to say that.) While it had taken a serious down turn in the past couple of seasons, the latter half of this season was rapidly approaching the quality fans knew and loved. Regardless of that, it was time to say goodbye – the story was winding down to a logical conclusion and, despite talk of a possible shortened 8th season to wrap up some loose ends, the important stories were drawn to a satisfying conclusion this past Tuesday. So satisfying, in fact, that it makes it hard to believe they actually had any plans to carry on from here next season – there is simply no logical way to pick up from such an emotional “season” finale as this and move on, and then end it again. Any other finale would have paled in comparison. And, if any Emmy personnel may be watching, why not give a nod to Lauren Graham, who has gone so sadly ignored for so long. If she doesn’t deserve an Emmy for the scene of her saying goodbye to daughter Rory while ironing her clothes to ward off tears and bad thoughts, no one does. It was one of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen on TV in a long time.

American Idol I missed my Idol wrap-up this week, so I’ll just post my reaction here: I’m both surprised and not surprised at Melinda’s elimination. For such a talented singer, it’s a surprise, but with the powerhouse fanbases that Jordin and Blake have churned up behind them, it’s hard to be too surprised. Melinda simply attracted an older group of fans who aren’t going to sit on their phones, obsessively hitting “redial” for her like Jordin and Blake. That said, I think Melinda will be fine – she’ll probably never be a huge success, unless she can somehow manage to pull off a rock career (her “Nutbush City Limit” this week convinced me she actually could) because she’s just too old-fashioned and will appeal to a crowd that appreciates that, which is to say, a limited one. I’ve been predicting Jordin for the win and I still do, but who knows – she could royally screw up on Tuesday, and from what I read, a lot of this is dependent on what awful piece of “songcraft” they are given for their first single to perform that night. We’ll see.

Vacation No, I didn’t take one, I just made a decision on when to take some time off: the week of Memorial day. I’ll be taking the four days following that day and just resting, getting stuff done around the house, and playing with Amanda. It should be nice, but most of all, it’s just plain needed. I am burned out, badly, and need a break from the everyday grind. I wish we could go somewhere but that’s just not in the cards right now, unfortunately.

Cell phones Didn’t I talk about this last week? Deja vu . . . In the span of one week, we made a decision – we got rid of our old phones and found new “pay as you go” phones from Alltel, and so far, so good. For people who use their cell phones a minute or two a day, committing to a plan is just stupid – but very good for the cellular company. This puts the ball back in our court, even if, per minute, it’s slightly more expensive. We’re still way better off financially because we will never use up the minutes quickly enough that it makes sense to be on a traditional plan. Plus, the new phones are tiny, and now I can carry the damn thing with me so I actually have it to use if I need it. That is, after all, the whole point of a cell phone.

May 17, 2007

CW: Veronica Mars shall investigate no more

Filed under: News,TV — Tom @ 7:22 pm

Ever since the painful death of my beloved Arrested Development a couple years back, I’ve found it hard to get behind the campaigns to keep TV shows alive. I’m a dad now – I don’t quite have the time to devote to campaigns like that, nor the energy. Besides, it seems that once a network decides a show is no longer in favor, that’s it – a decision has already been made and it’s only a matter of time before the ax falls. So, as those who’ve been reading here for a while know, I’ve made a few pleas to watch one of TV’s best, most under-watched shows, Veronica Mars, but I didn’t go on quite the crusade that I did for AD. It was probably because I knew today would come no matter my efforts: Veronica Mars has officially been canceled.

It’s not just the cancellation that’s so insulting. It’s what the CW has opted to pick up in its place: a dating show about a farmer looking for a new wife, another about things happening online, and a “news” show along the lines of Entertainment Tonight – because we need more of those. My guess is that all of these will be canceled in short order. Granted, Veronica Mars struggled with its ratings, but CW wasn’t exactly supportive. More supportive of it than, say, Fox was of Arrested Development, but that’s not saying much, especially given that practically no one watches the CW to begin with.

Veronica Mars was fertile ground from which to grow a very strong, dedicated following, just like the one that claimed Gilmore Girls as their own. On a network this small – and new – it simply needed more time and support, but when your network is focused solely on the fickle, attention-deficient whims of an audience in the 14-24 year old market, an intelligent show like Veronica Mars simply isn’t going to work. I should have known to be prepared for today, and yet I found myself angry and let down just the same. I know some will think this is silly, getting upset over a TV show. It’s “just” a TV show and yet, is it just a TV show? Aren’t these things we reward ourselves with and look forward to? I guess, in the case of Veronica Mars, not any longer.

May 14, 2007

Overlooked Alternatives: Genesis, Guided By Voices, Manic Street Preachers, Rufus Wainwright, Wilco

Filed under: Music,News,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 9:06 pm

Huge week here. Huuuuuuge week. This is a real good one for the music freaks. This is one of those weeks where you just have to weigh your options and choose wisely, because unless you work two well-paying jobs, there’s just no way you can afford it all.

Genesis – 1976-1982 Remixed and Remastered (all 5 albums): My favorite period of Genesis’ history – the years just after the iconic Peter Gabriel had left the group, when the band shouldn’t have been able to be a success, but drummer Phil Collins stepped up the mic and brought his own brand of iconic, if short, stature to the front of the stage, and somehow made it work. Many, of course, will be quick to point out that the band was simply a hit factory, but most of those who do so aren’t even aware of the material recorded in the latter half of the 70s, when Genesis was still heavily focused on progressive rock instead of the pop charts.

The albums here, A Trick Of The Tail, Wind And Wuthering, And Then There Were Three, Duke, and Abacab, have been remixed by producer Nick Davies for both CD and surround-sound 5.1 DVD, the former a move that has been greeted by many with derision and upset, the latter scrutinized for a lack of sound quality. I’ll leave that up to individual listeners – if you have complaints, remember, you don’t have to buy these as you’ll always have your originals to listen to. The DVDs include newly filmed interviews about the albums in question along with archival footage – some of which include lengthy concert performances (Trick includes a show with temporary drummer Bill Bruford.) For those with some extra cash, be sure and pick up the box set of all five discs which includes, of course, a box plus a book and an additional CD/DVD of b-sides from the era that have also been similarly remixed.

This, sadly, is one of the things I have had to pass on this week – I’d rather hear some new stuff that really excites me than things I know by heart, but I will get around to these sometime soon.

Guided By Voices – Live From Austin, Texas CD and DVD: As a Guided By Voices fan, I’m pretty excited by this. Of course, I watched the Austin City Limits episode when it aired, but knew it couldn’t be a full show – GBV always puts on epic length shows and there was no way they simply played the nine songs that aired. As it turns out, I was right – but that’s no big surprise as nearly every ACL release has had a few extra performances. In this case, however, there are TWENTY ONE extra songs, forcing this onto two CDs. As far as I know, this is the first double-CD Austin City Limits release. But, being Guided By Voices, you kind of have to see them to fully understand the experience, so I highly suggest getting the DVD – or both. Personally, I’m pretty excited to see the footage that didn’t make it to the show, such as drunken vocalist Robert Pollard’s rumored mis-introduction of Pete Yorn as “Thom Yorn.”

Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers: Now, this may technically be out in other countries, but here in the US, it’s not even coming out, so Amazon lists May 15 as their own release date, so I’m going with that. Regardless, it’s unfortunate that the Manics have been so ignored in the states – they’re one of the more intelligent straight-up rock bands out there, but I suppose that’s probably what keeps them from success, ultimately. They don’t cater to simple-music formulas, instead writing condemnations of societal ills that aren’t easily glamorized (take, for instance, “Kevin Carter,” which briefly addresses the photographer’s expose’ of a horrific South African tradition of public execution by “necklacing,” his successes, and his ultimate suicide. Not typical subject matter by any means – but typical of their material.)

Vocalist/guitarist James Dean Bradfield has one of my favorite rock voices of late – sort of a gutsy Dennis DeYoung – backed by rock that swings from anthemic to near punk. It’s infectious stuff, almost from an era that doesn’t exist anymore, yet touched by modern structures and flourishes that makes it impossible to exist at any other time. And yet they’ve gone ignored by at least those in the US, so they go without a label here. Sometimes music is so good it’s worth paying extra to get the expensive imports. Manic Street Preachers are that good.

Rufus Wainwright – Release The Stars: I am convinced that Wainwright is this generation’s finest melodist. I can’t think of a single young artist who so beautifully crafts vocals in such a way that it simply doesn’t matter what he’s singing about – you just want to hear the melody he’s singing. And there is a lot of Broadway in his vocal style, but he uses it for good, not evil, turning out stunning performances in material that would normally have a nasal-voiced singer like him kicked out of every open audition he tried out for. Wainwright’s vocals simply stretch beyond the normal – there’s power and emotion that so few honestly display in modern rock. He’s got me hooked and I’ll be back for more.

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky: So much about this album has already been said – Wilco’s been offering streams of the album on their site to stem the flow of mp3s on the internet for over a month now, and it’s probably a double-edge sword. Everyone has an opinion. On the upside, they seem to have fairly well thwarted the file-sharing demon, as most people simply went and listened to the album on their site. On the downside, they’re going to get a lot of negative commentary about the style of this album. I’ve seen a good many comments mention words like “lazy,” “plodding,” and “boring,” and the oh-so-chic Pitchforkmedia deemed Sky Blue Sky a 5.2 (out of 10, and basically reiterating the comments I just mentioned), but, as a rule, I think most people should discount these naysayers. I’m not saying that Wilco can do no wrong, but I am saying that Wilco has turned out album after album of good music, much of it the kind of music that has proven itself worthy after many repeat listens. This album is no different.

Or maybe it is – in a way, Sky Blue Sky is the kind of laid-back music we don’t really hear much anymore, hearkening back to the 70s, to the kind of music you sit and relax while listening to. Do people really do that anymore? I think that’s the problem. Most people are “on the go people” who want “on the go music,” and Wilco just isn’t that kind of band, but especially not on this album. So I’m saying this: if you liked Wilco in the past, especially if you liked Wilco’s quieter moments, buy this album. But don’t listen to it if you’re expecting Summerteeth or Being There or really even anything in particular. Just wait for the right moment when you’re relaxed and then put it on. I think, if you’re already a fan of their general sound, you’re going to find something beautiful is going on with Sky Blue Sky that is far too easy to overlook when you’re rushing about. In time, I think Sky Blue Sky will be viewed as a special Wilco album, a turning point of sorts, even. Don’t miss out.

(And check out the formats the album is available in: CD, CD/DVD (includes live studio performances of most of the album), and vinyl (which includes the CD, but not DVD.)

Learning by example

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:53 am

Man, I sure do miss the days of class trips. Lining up outside the school, clambering up the steps of the bus, finding just the right seat – preferably one that didn’t have too many gouges in the vinyl covering, sneaking a window open before one of the teachers noticed, and then heading off to something that was supposed to be vaguely educational, but was really just an excuse to get away from actually learning for the day, and, of course, let’s not forget a terrifying fake gun attack at some point in the trip.

Something tells me Assistant Principal Don Bartsch bears an uncanny resemblance to The Office‘s Michael Scott . . .

mscott-school.jpg

This sounds more like something Dwight would plan, however.

May 11, 2007

Favorite things

Filed under: Various and Sundry — Tom @ 1:06 pm

I’m starting a brand new thing here on the site, partially just to make sure I keep active here (so I don’t focus all my time over at Lookout For Hope) but more because there are just things that don’t fit anywhere that occur during the week that might not warrant a full post by themselves but would qualify as something I really enjoyed and want to mention anyway. Or maybe they’re just some things that happened. Maybe not “favorites” – just something. Whatever. Don’t be harsh.

And thus was born “favorite things”! So, without further ado, this week’s favorite things:

Lost: holy crap, what a great, weird episode. Those that abandoned Lost are really missing out. Sure, they dragged their heels for a while and that 6 episode thing last fall where we watched Jack, Kate, and Sawyer sit in cages wound up being pretty pointless, but starting earlier in the spring, Lost has been back at season one quality, aside from a couple of stray episodes. This week, however, might have been the ultimate Lost episode. If you gave up because you weren’t getting answers, you gave up too soon – we’ve been consistently getting answers this latter portion of the season (along with new, equally intriguing questions.) And they’ve been doozies!

Robert Plant’s Pictures At Eleven and The Principle Of Moments remasters – I’ve never given Plant’s solo career the time I should have, not after years in my youth listening to what really weren’t very strong albums (Now & Zen, Manic Nirvana). I’ve always thought he had some great singles but not particularly great albums, so I never bothered to give them a shot – until this week, when I sampled his first two post-Zeppelin albums, Pictures At Eleven and The Principle Of Moments, which recently were remastered (they were previously available remastered only in the 10-disc Nine Lives box.) And, man, have I been missing out. While after these two albums he quickly fell victim to 80s production values, these two albums are absolutely awesome. While I’m annoyed that I missed out on them for so long, I’m kind of glad that I get to discover them now.

The Office I’m of the belief that most “super-sized” sweeps episodes are not stronger than regular-length episodes, and last night’s was no different (last week’s was far stronger) but this is still by far the funniest show on TV. Key moments go to HR rep Toby, who Michael refused to allow to go on the beach trip, for his unmasked disappointment expressed when offering Pam his suntan lotion when she commented that she needed it because she was wearing a two-piece (and I think many of us guys agree, Toby, but we never got a payoff in the episode.) Creed also got one of the best moments – just two brief bits where he was seen in the water catching a fish with his own hands, then was later seen upset at missing out on the hotdog-eating contest, holding the bones of said fish in his hand.) I think my favorite – and he’s always a favorite – was Stanley, who, in an attempt to win Michael’s favor and therefore the management position, tried to be positive and happy for once. If you couldn’t guess, my favorite moments of The Office involve the smaller characters.

Neil Peart: Ghost Rider Not so much a “favorite thing” as an update. For a couple of months I’ve been reading Rush drummer Peart’s memoirs of his days following the loss of his daughter (car accident) and wife (cancer) within 10 months of each other, and I just don’t seem to be making much headway. I can be a slow reader. I don’t like to read fast. I don’t find much satisfaction in that, but this is really slow. I think what it is is that it’s unpleasant. Rush is my favorite band, but reading about the pain he’s suffering is very difficult, even if it informs the songs he would later write. I just don’t know that I’m going to make it through. It’s hard to read page after page of mentions of pain, not to mention that there is a lack of forward story motion. I realize it’s his real story, but, I don’t know, it might have been edited down a bit more to make it move forward a little less slowly. Maybe I’m just not a good audience for this type of writing – I’ve never been a big fan of pretty much any autobiographical writing pretty much for all of these reasons.

Cell phones It’s time for a new phone. My phone had a crack in the plastic over the display for something like a year. Sometime last week, I think it was, I dropped it on the floor of my truck while I was driving and moved it with my foot. Little did I guess the sheer power harnessed within my very foot, for I crushed the clear plastic without realizing it. I picked it up to find a bunch of shards of plastic in there, but the phone still works. It’s just ugly and uncomfortable. It’s also almost three years old now, amazingly, and I’ve pretty much hated it the entire time I’ve owned it. It’s a big phone. I don’t need anything special, but I definitely want a flip-phone, as this one was not and I think it was my first non-flipper and now I see why most phones are. One thing to know about me and phones is that I don’t really use them. I don’t call people. I’m not a phone person. Email is my thing. I’ll call if I have to, but I’m just not a big talker. I use my phone maybe one minute a day. But I get why phones are important and it’s been a very handy/important thing to have, especially when you have children, so we’re going to switch to those “pay as you go” phones with the refill cards. That concept just makes sense. Buy the phone, buy a card for like $25, and make sure to use it up in 90 days or get a new refill in that time. I can live with that. But $60 a month for something I barely use? Not making a whole lot of sense. But this time I get a phone with a camera. It seemed totally pointless in the past, but now I have had dozens of times when I’ve thought “damn, if only I had a camera” – not something I NEED to have a great picture of, but something stupid I would have loved to have gotten a picture of. I will rectify.

Leaving work two hours early because the boss said so I can only think of one thing better than that, and that is not working that day at all.

Oh, and this:

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve watched that this week.

(If you’re totally confused, and you probably are because, well, you’re a normal human being, it’s from Cartoon Network’s Tim And Eric Awesome Show Great Job!. I’m certain that about 95% of the public will hate this show, but for those 5% of us who enjoy bizarre humor like this, this is a gold mine.)

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