Known Johnson

October 31, 2007

The meaning of Halloween

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:48 pm

Amanda Halloween

Our little bee went to the mall to trick-or-treat tonight. We decided that Amanda’s best bang-for-the-proverbial-buck would be there rather than on our most likely nearly deserted streets and we were right – it was packed! Can you blame everyone? Nearly all the stores participated, making it a very easy score for a lot of candy, not to mention a great way to make sure your kids are doing something safe.

We did, however, have to drag Amanda away from the Hobby Bench store window where she became transfixed by the train that runs around and around there:

Amanda sees the train

What is it about kids and trains?

Anyway, the odd trend was that the kid’s stores gave out the worst “treats.” After we got home, I divided her stash up into three distinct levels of quality. Check it out:

“Pure shit” level:

Halloween, lowest level of quality

Oh, come on – could you try any less? A magnet from kid’s store Pumpkin Patch and a friggin’ coupon book from Dairy Queen. Kids love coupons! This level could also be known as “it’s Halloween? Oh, dig up some crap from the back and hand it out.”

“Not really trying” level:

Halloween, level ‘eh’

This is very close to the lowest level, but slightly better only because they might at least interest kids. A couple of Disney cards (from the trading-card store,) a couple of stickers, and two balloons (of FIVE – the other three have already been blown up.) This level could also be known as “the kids aren’t going to shop here anyway so why bother . . . but maybe the parents will remember us, so we’ll put in a little effort.”

“Actual Halloween” level:

What Halloween is all about

Now that’s what I’m talking about – candy! This is what everyone, not just kids, wants. Bow Wow Wow said it – “I Want Candy!” – and the majority of the mall listened. There is no other name for this level – this is the heart of Halloween: sugar, and lots of it.

I can’t acquit myself for how blurry this picture came out (kids and cameras seem to be magnetically attracted – point one at the other and they instantly end up on a collision course,) but Amanda is so cute that I’m going to include it anyway:

Amanda - blurry but adorable

Cats and pajamas

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:42 pm

Well, it’s a good way into the day and so far I’ve only seen a couple representations of the Halloween staples for women: cats and pajamas. And, to be completely honest, I haven’t technically seen cats but the alternate animal, bunnies. Same thing, different ears and tail.

By 9 am I had eaten more candy than I think I have in an entire year, and I think I’m good until about Oct. 31, 2008, by the way I feel at the moment.

October 30, 2007

RIP, Robert Goulet

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:50 pm

Sad.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZhLDwU5Row”>

October 29, 2007

Definition

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:24 pm

Idiot defined: whoever it is that invented the keyboard and didn’t immediately think to cover it in a sheath of plastic/rubber/silicone/whatever. I mean, come on, these things are just built to store dust and other disgusting things. Do you know what I did today? I lost a piece of turkey in my keyboard. A piece of turkey. Right between the Windows key and “arrow pointing at something that should elicit fond memories of menus” key. I tried using the tip of a pen to gently nudge it back out. What did I do? I split it in two and shoved it further down. It wound up completely under the keys. I had to pry the Windows key out just to get it out – there’s no way I was leaving turkey, even this little sliver, in my keyboard. And let me tell you, it was scary under there. That turkey would not have been alone. There’s a whole ecology that has sprung to life under my keys.

Racist Einsteins?

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:23 pm

Amanda has become addicted to yet another one of Disney’s creations: Little Einsteins. I guess it’s not horrible – it could be some completely saccharine, meaningless tripe, but I really question the value of teaching children about art when the art in question is usually barely even mentioned – it’s usually used as a backdrop for their exploits. The music is a little better – being “classical” music, it’s at least something intelligent, not the typically inane crap that fills a lot of kids’ shows, although I do have a problem with them having to overlay stupid lyrics on top of the pieces, but whatever – it makes it more memorable to the kids. At least the Einstein people have stopped trying to claim their products (and this music) make your kids smarter.

I’ve also found it annoying that in one episode, during which three flying pigs get stuck flying, get this, adagio, moderato, and allegro. Okay – keep in mind that they’re introducing young children, ages 2-5 or so, to concepts like that, but something as commonplace as the thing that measures your speed is a little too complex, you know, the “speedy-meter,” as they call it, might go over their heads because when are those youngin’s ever going to hear the term “speedometer”? Man.

My favorite thing involving this show lately, however, has been this Halloween episode they’ve been playing. They’ve got a racially diverse cast, see, and that’s nice. There’s a little blonde girl, an asian girl, a caucasian boy, and an African-American boy. It’s balanced, and they seem to make an effort to have the kids be specialized in areas that are not cliched – June, the Asian girl, is a good dancer, and Quincy, the African-American boy, is good at music. Cool. Except in this episode, they make one colossal mistake – little African American Quincy (we could take issue with his name, possibly, if we really want to get nitpicky about stereotypes) shows off his Halloween costume . . . and it’s a bat. You might not be aware, but the term “bat” is an old, very racist term. I’m really very surprised Disney would let this slide through – surely someone would have caught this.

quincy-bat.jpg

I would love to include a video from Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend’s hilarious take on the plight of black actors in Hollywood and, indeed, his people in general, but you know YouTube – hit and miss. What I wanted to include was a short sitcom parody involving an African-American male who lives with a family but is always dressed as a bat – it’s parodying several things at once, you see (bad TV shows in general, the terrible roles black actors often find themselves stuck with, and the crude racist term itself.) I couldn’t find that, but found something that is equally funny – and maybe you’ll want to buy the DVD after watching it:

October 26, 2007

It’s always greener on the other side

Filed under: General — Tom @ 1:00 pm

My company has “gone green” this week. Prior to this, we’d been using styrofoam cups, flagrantly thumbing our noses at the environment as we sipped our coffee, soda, and water, then tossing the soiled remains into the trash. Now, however, we love our planet earth. Starting earlier this week, our break rooms have been stocked with a bevy of beverage containers of an environmentally-friendly nature, complete with an array of overzealous instructions on which to use where. That’s right – it’s not just one set of cups we’ve gotten. No, coffee and tea drinkers have gotten special cups for their brew, for which they now have to add a little sleeve to protect against the heat – a cup condom, if you will – while those partaking in cold drinks get clear plastic cups (no condom required.)

Using more eco-friendly materials is a really wonderful, earth-conscious effort. Who can’t get behind that? I do have to admit that I miss my styrofoam cups – they kept drinks from sweating all over the desk and kept drinks both hot and cold, whichever they were supposed to be, and without need for a condom. I know it’ll make a huge difference when I toss every cup into the recycling can trash can . . . oh, that’s right, we forgot one vital step in that “going green” equation: the recycling part.

October 25, 2007

Ween – La Cucaracha

Filed under: Music,Reviews — Tom @ 9:01 am

After a couple of albums that saw the band straying toward slightly more “mature” material, La Cucaracha finds Ween firmly back in Chocolate and Cheese territory – at least in spirit, if not necessarily in sound and style. If you had missed the days of Ween being wildly eclectic, jumping from genre to genre, then La Cucaracha is likely going to please you. New listeners, however, might still be left scratching their heads a bit. That is, of course, assuming that new listeners even take chances like this anymore.

The first reaction to a Ween album for the seasoned fan isn’t typically what it is for the uninitiated – who might be counted on to utter phrases like “Did they just say that?” and “This is so wrong.” No, long time fans know what to expect when it comes to the lyrical part of the equation – being offensive is simply part of the fun for the Dean and Gene Ween, and no one is exempted, which makes it fair in a perverse sort of way. What fans look for is just what the band took on as inspiration, because if one other thing is true about Ween, it’s that they’re masters at mimicking their idols – even if you can’t quite figure out who it is.

That’s not to say that everything they do is imitation, it’s just that they do it so well. On La Cucaracha, closing track “Your Party,” (which features the saxophone of David Sanborn – a fan of the band, believe it or not,) elicits the vibe of smooth early 80s pop, the kind of stuff that was soaked in coke that Bryan Ferry was so good at doing, while “Sweetheart in the Summer” sounds a bit like Nick Lowe’s brand of rootsy country-rock.

And often it’s just taking on a genre in particular – sludgy reggae in “The Fruit Man,” good ol’ country, a genre they spent an entire album exploring (1996’s 12 Golden Country Greats,) with “Learnin’ to Love,” and most surprising and entertainingly on this album, the electro-disco of “Friends,” with its ambiguously gay “let’s be more than just friends” message that is, frankly, almost entirely due to the music itself. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you know.) “Blue Balloon,” bouncy and dreamy at the same time, bears those odd, helium-influenced vocals that marked early Ween tunes, and calls for repeated listens. It doesn’t sound like anyone or anything other than Ween – and that’s just fine.

If there’s a complaint to be issued, it’s almost solely aimed at “Woman and Man,” a meandering 11 minute Santana-esque jam that simply goes nowhere once the 3 minute mark is breached. That might be the point, that jam-band music goes nowhere. I’m not sure – all I know is that I simply don’t want to sit through this too many times. It’s just too punishingly boring to sit through to discover the hidden nugget of truth that, I hope, is buried somewhere in the song’s meaning.

As usual, there are a couple of real surprises in store. Quebec had the beautiful “Chocolate Town” and the Pink Floydian “Transdermal Celebration”; White Pepper boasted the odd mid-tempo ballad “Stay Forever” and the gentle “She’s Your Baby.” La Cucaracha is no different, except that the attitude has changed – it’s not slower, gentler songs alone being used to showcase the band’s strengths.

The first surprise opens the album: “Fiesta,” with its bright, blasting mariachi horns, is the kind of high energy, boozy party theme that could land the band more attention than ever before – it sounds like nothing Ween has ever done before. In fact, Dean Ween told the UK magazine Bizarre that they hope that Taco Bell picks it up for use in commercials. Sadly, it’s too much fun to ruin like that.

But it’s “Lullaby” that might surprise the most – the title doesn’t lie, and the song isn’t a joke. Every once in a while, the guys from Ween sober up and do something actually serious, and this is when it’s absolutely impossible to deny that these are talented musicians. “Lullaby” could nearly pass for – and I prepare to duck as I write this – Tears For Fears. Pretty and delicate, all piano, strings, and harp, it’s an actual moment of legitimate beauty from this band of known for often employing juvenile humor. It stands in stark contrast to so much else Ween does, but just adds to the reasons fans can use to refute attacks on their favorite band. Hopefully it gives someone other than the die-hards a reason to pick this one up, too.

TechnoViking loves Ween
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8TQ_hiNbF8″>

That’s what she said

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:52 am
  1. I think mine is firm.
  2. Maybe I like it extra firm.
  3. I thought you like them big and soft?

From the category: “Things that sound unavoidably dirty in the pillow aisle at Target.”

October 24, 2007

Joshua Tree Deluxe details

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 11:52 am

I think it’s safe to trust Wikipedia in this case . . .

* Deluxe format: remastered album on CD, bonus CD with b-sides and rarities from The Joshua Tree sessions, and a 36-page booklet
* Box set edition: remastered album on CD, bonus CD with b-sides and rarities from The Joshua Tree sessions, bonus DVD with a concert from the Joshua Tree Tour and other videos, and a 56-page hardback book
* Double vinyl edition: remastered album on two gramophone records, and a 16-page booklet

Bonus CD

1. “Luminous Times (Hold on to Love)”
2. “Walk to the Water”
3. “Spanish Eyes”
4. “Deep in the Heart”
5. “Silver and Gold”
6. “The Sweetest Thing” (1987 B-side version)
7. “Race Against Time”
8. “Where the Streets Have No Name” (single edit)
9. “Silver and Gold” (Sun City version) – Bono with Keith Richards and Ron Wood
10. “Beautiful Ghost”
11. “Wave of Sorrow” (Birdland)
12. “Desert of Our Love”
13. “Rise Up”
14. “Drunk Chicken”
15. “America”

Bonus DVD

* U2 Live from Paris – live at the Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris, France on July 4, 1987
1. “I Will Follow”
2. “Trip Through Your Wires”
3. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
4. “MLK”
5. “The Unforgettable Fire”
6. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
7. “Exit”
8. “In God’s Country”
9. “The Electric Co.”
10. “Bad”
11. “October”
12. “New Year’s Day”
13. “Pride (In the Name of Love)”
14. “Bullet the Blue Sky”
15. “Running to Stand Still”
16. “With or Without You”
17. “Party Girl”
18. “40”
* Outside It’s America – a 40-minute documentary on the Joshua Tree tour
* “With or Without You” music video, alternative version
* “Red Hill Mining Town” music video, directed by Neil Jordan

A 56 page hard cover book in that 2-CD/DVD box? I think it’s safe to say that’s probably not going to be cheap – but it’ll definitely be worth it from that track listing. Wow.

October 23, 2007

Question(s) of the day

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:27 pm

Why do little kids like giraffes so much? And what kind of sound do they make?

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