Known Johnson

November 30, 2007

Queen + Paul Rodgers release “Say It’s Not True” for World AIDS Day Awareness

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 11:46 am

No, not “say it’s not true” about Queen + Paul Rodgers, but a new song from the trio called “Say It’s Not True” available today only for free at their site to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s 46664 HIV AIDS global campaign. This originally appeared on the group’s live album, Return of the Champions, in a more stripped down, “acoustic” form sung by Roger Taylor. This version, however, is a much more embellished studio recording with Brian May and Paul Rodgers contributing significantly.

Let’s put aside the problems many have with Queen carrying on. It’s a done deal – Queen has suffixed their name with Paul Rodgers and is recording a new album, supposedly due out in 2008, and based on the live album put out a couple years ago, and which I finally just gave in and bought, if Rodgers can lend that kind of vocal talent and May and Taylor can keep up typical Queen quality, it could be fantastic.

But what about this song? Well . . . I don’t know. It’s a very typical charity song – the lyrics are a bit trite and obvious, the melody is also a bit simplistic. It feels like something we’ve heard a million times before. No real surprises are in store here and yet it manages to invoke some of the magic of Queen – it builds at just the right moment into a glorious power ballad when Rodgers comes with that voice to take it through to the end and May comes with that guitar to carry it over the top. It’s hard to fault these guys – they just sound so damned earnest. I guess that’s why I’ve just listened to this “trite,” “obvious,” “simplistic” song three freakin’ times in a row. It takes the short acoustic number Roger played in concert and shoots it into the stratosphere – simplistic and trite or not. It just works in grand Queen fashion.

But is it Queen? Is it just Taylor/May/Rodgers? Ask yourself this: does it really matter? Does the name really mean anything? Isn’t it the music that means the most? I found distaste in Queen + Paul Rodgers a few years ago solely because of the concept – I didn’t listen to anything, I ignored reports of the shows. And then I realized that I was balking at a concept, not actual music, which is something that goes against everything I stand for about music. And so I listened to clips on Amazon – why bother investing if perhaps my fears were true? – and what I heard sounded good. Return of the Champions soon found itself in my hands and ears and I fell for it. I put aside my misgivings, forgot who I was listening to, and just enjoyed. Not just that, but I heard something else – I heard England proclaiming its love for one of their great bands, and at that, I came back around again and embraced this again as Queen . . . okay, + Paul Rodgers.

It’s hard to dismiss the outpouring of love and the warmth with which the fans welcomed Rodgers. Freddie may be long gone, but his spirit was alive and well in the music the band was playing, and the audience’s enthusiastic reaction bore that. It was a celebration, and while this new song here was written with the intent to be a message about AIDS, its music, to me, is also a celebration of all the things Queen has been – big and bombastic, but so full of beauty. Sure, it’s not the most complex song, it does nothing we haven’t heard before, but it hits all of the Queen hallmarks that have grabbed most of us over the years. Does Queen still have to prove anything to us anymore, other than that they are still Queen? They’ve proven that to me already.

Last day

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:33 am

You know, sometimes it just seems ridiculous to try and concoct something eloquent and grand to say about an occasion. NaBloPoMo is over after today. I did it. I posted every single day since I began – granted, I started a couple days late, but I also posted multiple times on numerous days and sometimes in two places at once. I think that more than qualifies and that’s really all that matters.

I mentioned a couple weeks into October that how I’d wanted to write more often and this just happened to serve as a great primer for that. I don’t know that I can keep up this kind of pace forever, but I certainly aim to write much more often than I had been. Now what I have to figure out how to do is how to balance writing between the two sites – Lookout For Hope has gone a little ignored this month, unfortunately. I tried, but it just wasn’t possible to meet the daily requirement and do something at that site every day, too. Maybe every other day, I don’t know. I’ll figure something out.

So, in other words, while it’s “the last day” of NaBloPoMo, and while many see it as a relief, it’s just the beginning for me. I’ll be back as often as humanly possible. I love writing, this really is no chore if you haven’t noticed. It’s just some sick affliction I have.

November 29, 2007

I saw my reflection in a big pile of nachos

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:18 pm

I’m a little weirded out by the fact that Megadeth main-man Dave Mustaine now sells his own line of coffee. I am, however, amused just the same that you can buy, for a premium, of course, an autographed bag of said coffee. Something about this reminds me a little of “Stevie Nicks’ Fajita Roundup” . . .

“Like my house specialty, Burrito Dreams. Now there you go again/You say you want burritos . . .”

This clip was not easy to find. As you may know, NBC has forced YouTube to remove all SNL clips because it wants control over everything. Sure, they show up from time to time, but NBC combs through and forces them to remove them – I know because I had found this clip previously (it’s a favorite) and now it was gone.

NBC should be ashamed of this childishly backwards thinking. Until and unless you’re going to allow fans some way of picking each and every segment they themselves want to show people, don’t take this away from people. I know what they think – that by keeping this capability away from people they’ll encourage people to buy DVDs, watch the show (yeah, right) and go to their own website to watch clips. The problem is that they only put a very small number of clips up there and, of course, they are only the very, very most popular ones. Sure, we want to see those, but if it weren’t for YouTube, things like this little two and a half minute piece of an October 1998 episode would disappear all together. Is that fair? No, of course not. I understand that NBC wants to make money off of these videos, but they have to understand that making it impossible to view them at all doesn’t help anyone. If they want to encourage people to use NBC resources, then they need to make an NBCTube or something where they can plaster ads for crappy shows and GE products all over it while you wait for your video to load. Did they do this? Of course not. These, of course, are the same selfish, stupid bastards that don’t want to pay their writers for this content, by the way, so I guess we can’t expect very much.

November 28, 2007

Strange magic

Filed under: General — Tom @ 2:17 pm

Some people like to think everything happens for a reason, and applying that logic, I’ll say that getting this awful, awful stomach flu is responsible for me finally taking the time to finally sit down and watch my Battlestar Galactica DVDs. No, not the show from the late 70s (which I loved as a kid – come on, who didn’t?) I’m talking about the recent series developed by the Sci Fi channel that significantly “re-imagined” the show but kept the basic premise. Dark, serious, and intense, it’s almost nothing like the original – thankfully. The result is some of the best TV I’ve seen in ages. It’s as engaging, inventive, challenging, and fun as the first season of Lost was, without the mysteries that kept some perpetually frustrated. What I am frustrated about is the fact that season 3 finished as of last season but has no release date on DVD – and yet the follow-up movie, Battlestar Galactica: Razor, which recently aired, will be out on DVD next week. What kind of freaking sense does that make? Miss the holiday season, when TV-on-DVD boxes like this are HUGE gift ideas? Really stupid. I fear they’re going to do something awful like package all three seasons together and make you buy the previous two to get that third one rather than sell it by itself. Don’t act like it doesn’t happen – Cartoon Network just did that with Dr. Katz (seasons 1 and 2 have been out for ages, but no others came out, and now suddenly a box of the entire series has been released.) What sucks is I know if they do that I’ll buy it – I’m hooked. This is incredible TV.

The good news is I’m feeling better. Not great, but better. I’ve found that, for whatever weird reason, keeping food in me has the reverse effect one might expect, so I’m trying to eat a little bit of something every now and then. It’s kind of hard to convince myself to eat when I really don’t have much of an appetite, but once I eat, I feel better, which is a strange kind of magic. I sure would like to get to the point where bread products were not the only choice I have, but, really, eating anything else invokes fear in me gut. Besides, eating that blandly just makes all the orange Propel I’ve been drinking taste that much more like nectar from the gods.

Also neato is that the official website of one of my favorite jazz dudes, Dave Douglas, has picked up on my little piece that I wrote about his new album. I like exposing people to new music and it really feels good that the artists themselves appreciate getting the exposure – they sure don’t get it from mainstream avenues anymore. There’s a reason this guy wins all these “Trumpet Player of the Year” and “Best Album” awards. Find out why.

November 27, 2007

So I was wrong

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:37 pm

. . . when I mentioned the other day that I thought it was a bad power supply that was clogging up my computer’s speed. Given that I had a little free time on my hands the past couple of days, I did a little more research before pulling the trigger on a new power supply and it’s a good thing I did. With some creative Googlin’ I found suggestions pointing more toward a bad hard drive – a much more nightmarish scenario – rather than a bad power supply. I also found suggestions to check out programs that examine your hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. information, got one, and indeed it told me that I had a very bad drive – and the one I was most worried about, my Itunes drive, which is packed with 200gb of music. Let me restate that for emphasis: 200gb of music – that’s 689 artists, over 3000 albums, nearly 37,000 songs. Do I want to re-rip all of those again? NO. Would I rather spend $100 on a new drive and transfer all of that to a new, safer haven? You bet. And that’s just what I did: one 500gb Western Digital hard drive is on its way right now. Now this old drive just has to last through Friday when it’s delivered.

Slim fast

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:24 pm

Ratio of things eaten to weight lost in the past 32 hours:

Eaten: one cup of rice Chex, 10 saltines, and a couple handfuls of pretzels.

Lost: 9 lbs.

Now that’s a diet.

The Breakdown: Dave Douglas

Filed under: Music,News,Reviews,The Breakdown — Tom @ 4:39 pm

Thanksgiving has come and gone, Black Friday has come and gone, the stupidly named “Cyber Monday” has come and gone . . . and now we’re left with those last few, dry weeks before Christmas where the labels don’t even feel like shoving out box-sets, best-ofs and live albums. No, what we’ll get now is stuff the big labels probably didn’t thing could sell any other time of the year, and things from small labels that realize that their audiences don’t pay attention to goofy things like the calendar. Take, for instance, this week’s one lone recommendation . . .

Dave Douglas – Moonshine: I really admire trumpeter Dave Douglas. Not only is he world-renowned as one of jazz’s best, he has taken the high and difficult road by setting out to create his own little sanctuary for musicians, a label, Greenleaf Music, where they get treated fairly and where listeners can feel the same. My dealings with them have always been nothing less than wonderful – great products and quick shipping, what more can you ask for . . . other than “more”?

Well, today we get a little more – Douglas called together his Keystone band (Marcus Strickland: saxophone; Gene Lake: drums; Brad Jones: bass; Adam Benjamin – Fender Rhodes; DJ Olive – turntables and electronics) for another album based around, like Keystone, a silent film, this time the unfinished Buster Keaton/Fatty Arbuckle project, Moonshine, from 1917.

Where the first project worked as a soundtrack to the accompanying DVD, which included Arbuckle’s “Fatty and Mabel Adrift” and a shorter video of footage compiled from “Fatty’s Tin-Type Tangle,” Moonshine is meant to stand on its own, simply using the film as inspiration, a jumping off point. And, just like the first project, you don’t really need to know the films to enjoy this – Douglas’ band is a powerhouse that will have listeners riveted with or without a concept. The result is much like the music of Keystone – gritty and urban, but filled with exactly the twists and turns one would expect from Douglas. Rooting itself in several genres and eras at once, DJ Olive keeps things firmly in the world of today with his electronic explorations while the horns display a distinctly European flair and Adam Benjamin’s Rhodes work reflects a bit of 70s fusion. Gene Lake’s drumming spans it all, tying everything together – much of the time he’s deep in a groove with bassist Brad Jones but often he’s coloring the air with little percussive fills that, you know, “really tie the room together.”

Dare I say that it’s among the best jazz of the year? It’s certainly the very last best thing to emerge this year – which is no backhanded compliment. It’s very hard to find a truly disappointing Douglas release, especially in the past few years when he seems to especially have been on his game, and that’s no different here. What’s unfortunate is that the album is out so late this year, when it will surely go ignored by many, and only available through his site until sometime in the spring when it will get wider release. Perhaps it’s a small Christmas gift from the man and the band to the fans – we get to enjoy it early. What’s more, we get to enjoy it even earlier – when placing an order, you’ll gain access to downloads of high quality mp3s of the album tracks in about a day. Not only that, but included in that is one non-album track download in the form of “Photosynthesis.” Like I said, Douglas and Greenleaf Music have been good to their supporters. Why not find out for yourself?

Samples (full-length tracks):

Dog Star (5:01)
Moonshine (7:30)

Christmas classics explained

Filed under: General — Tom @ 1:08 pm

. . . by Amanda, age 2:

The Grinch?


He . . . is a turtle.


November 26, 2007

Pepto Abysmal

Filed under: General — Tom @ 2:23 pm

It’s here – the all new and improved stomach flu. If you had last year’s version you’ll want to upgrade. I got my copy sometime this weekend, a sneaky little gift from – I assume – Amanda, who had it last week. What was most fun was that I woke up this morning feeling extra tired and groggy, laid there in bed an extra long time, but otherwise just thought it was a normal Monday. In other words, I didn’t want to go to work.

I dragged my ass out of bed and grudgingly got ready for work. It was when I was putting my lunch together that something seemed wrong. For starters, everything I looked at just looked gross. Apple, granola bar, leftover pizza . . . bleh. And then there was the fact that I wasn’t even remotely hungry. This should have been very strange, seeing as I didn’t even eat dinner last night.

See, I was feeling strange yesterday too, but I attributed it to simply overstressing myself, as I tend to do – the holidays and such often bear heavily on me for no legitimate reason, and I just figured it was happening early. The fact that my entire day’s eating consisted solely of a bagel and some crap from McDonald’s and yet I was never very hungry in the past 24 hours should really have set off an alarm bell. But I ignored it and set off for work.

Once I got there, it was obvious within 45 minutes that something was amiss. And then it was obvious again about a half hour later. And then I got the message. I wrote my manager, who wasn’t in yet, an email, packed up my stuff, and fled for home. Since then it’s been exactly the kind of fun you can imagine comes with stomach flu. I think I may have a slight upper hand in that I didn’t eat much of anything yesterday, but, even with the pain of this awful little bug comes a little gnawing hunger. That doesn’t even make any sense. Body, don’t you know that it’s not going to be in there long?

I can understand the existence of just about every creature on earth . . . except diseases. It’s one thing if bacteria help in the decay process of dead plants and animals, but it’s another for disease to get into a body, wreak havoc for a few days, and then it dies. It serves absolutely no purpose in the big scheme of things. Therefore, I declare that it should just go away altogether.

Gastroenteritis? More like gastroEXITitis.

November 25, 2007

30 days and counting

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:07 pm

Think about it – 30 days from now, many of us will already be in recovery mode from Christmas, suffering the post-traumatic disorder that comes with so much shredded gift wrap where we’re in a kind of daze, not believing it’s already over. All that stress and frustration, all over in just a few short hours, or even minutes. It’s kind of like overeating. While you’re there, at the table, it’s hard to imagine you don’t want more – it’s there, it’s good, it’s fun – but given an hour or so, you start thinking about it and realize that you really over did it.

I’m an only child, so I know – my Christmases were all about excess. I got pretty much everything I wanted, and more things I didn’t even know I wanted. My parents showered me with gifts. And afterward I just sat there like, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of stuff.” It didn’t really hit me until much later that other kids I knew, kids who had siblings, were not having that kind of Christmas every year. They got a few very specific gifts each.

Hey, don’t look at me like I was so lucky. I missed out on some things, too, you know. All of you who had brothers and sisters, think about how many times you scapegoated one of them for something you did. Me? Nope – I was always responsible for whatever I did. Don’t think that kind of thing doesn’t take its toll on you after a while. I couldn’t get away with anything – I only had the dog to blame.

And, seriously, how many only children do you know that are normal? We’re all weirdos, off in our own strange little worlds. Oh, sure, we get along in the real world just fine, basically, but as only children, we’re pretty sure that the one we’ve created around ourselves is the one that everyone else knows. The above is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about – my Christmas surely must have been everyone else’s.

I do have one thing I can say that might be a plus to someone else. Since my own gift-getting experiences were so excessive, I have a tendency to not know a good, safe, comfortable boundary on giving. Whatever I’ve gotten for someone so far isn’t enough. I’m always doubting that I’ve done enough to make them feel loved and wanted. If you’re me, that’s stressful. If you’re on the receiving end – or a credit card company – it’s a very, very good thing.

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