Known Johnson

February 10, 2009

Give me my money back, you bitch

Filed under: Annoyances,Music — Tom @ 10:21 am

A couple months ago, you might have seen me writing about Ben Folds releasing an audiophile version of his recent album, Way To Normal, to fanclub members, and if you joined before this week, you too could get a copy. Well, I fell for that wording too and joined – read my piece and you’ll see that I wrote that it was for fanclub members. WRONG. It’s in stores, today, right now . . . if they’re carrying it, of course, but the fact remains that you, anyone, can buy it, meaning it’s not exclusive to fanclub members, but that’s sure how the missive on Folds’ myspace page felt. I’m not interested in fanclubs, t-shirts, or exclusive access to tickets. I just want the damned music.

And, you know, you can choose to go “Ah, well, woe is me, I didn’t think this one through,” because, well, technically, nowhere on the page did they say “exclusive.” But, then again, nowhere on the page did they say “available in stores February 10,” either. It’s deceptive, and it’s intentional, and that’s gross. So I chose the other route. I bitched. I wrote an email, a strongly worded email, and said I wanted my money back (leaving out the “you bitch” part from Ben Folds Five’s “Song For The Dumped.”) I really didn’t expect much – I figured I’d get an infuriatingly nicey-nice email stating how great the fanclub was, and that it was too late to refund my money because the membership packets, with the CDs inside, had just been sent out, or an infuriatingly snide response – such as when I complained about Andy Partridge of XTC releasing a box with all 8 of the Fuzzy Warbles at a far lower price than they were separately, but because I bought them separately, I bought a “partial box” with the last parts of it, which was technically cheaper, but still brought the total price for all discs and box to house them to a ridiculously high price (the box should have been free to those who bought the whole set, and it wasn’t.)

I got a response fairly quickly – they’d refund my money. Nice. Good. (But they did want to remind me that Ben would be signing each and every copy sent to fanclub members. That’s okay – I’m not an autograph collector. Refund please.) Is this a sign of the times? Are artists doing dishonest things to their fans because of the economy? Die-hard fans are notoriously forgiving, but duping others into excessive purchases can backfire in a big way – this could very well have put me off of Ben Folds all together. I’m not saying that I’m a fair-weather fan. I’m saying that I’m not a huge fan, but if I listen, I want to hear the best version of an album that I can, and that is what I opted in to the fanclub for. But because I’m not a die-hard fan, and this music doesn’t mean the world to me, a situation like this could very well simply turn me away all together. Is that worth it to Folds and his fanclub? Maybe not for me, one simple fan, but how many others are feeling duped, too? How many others will approach his music with a bad taste in their mouths because of this, and slowly drift away, not purchasing anything more of his? And what about the impact it has on other “exclusive” releases by other artists? Does it make buyers wary to believe they truly are exclusive? These are things that artists, especially smaller acts, need to think about today, when they absolutely need to build a strong, loyal fanbase. Because ticking off a few fans here and there may seem like a small thing right now, but it may just destroy the ability to build me into a big fan later on.

January 16, 2009

The gateway read

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 3:25 pm

Can I just say that while I’m glad that younger people are reading anything, I’m getting a little tired of seeing people talk about “the books they’ve read” only to see lists of comic books and graphic novels? I know, it doesn’t make me cool to say that, but whatever. The illuminated manuscript is in, I know. Sorry – I consider reading to be, you know, reading, where the book in question contains mostly, if not all, words. Not to belittle the artistic efforts of comic book creators, because I know that requires a lot of work, and they very often have intriguing stories to tell. But there are different actions going on with the reader – a novel/stories requires the writer to do his job in such a way that the reader fills in the details, creating a world around the words, whereas the comic is bolstered by art that supports a minimal amount of textual cues, be it dialogue or narrative in nature. I want to encourage people to read, and if comic books gets them to start doing so, great. Maybe I’m too cynical. I just don’t see it being the gateway drug to reading novels.

The inbred toenail is no more

Filed under: Annoyances,Weird — Tom @ 12:20 pm

You may recall an incident late last spring when I dropped a big ol’ box on my toe, effectively crushing it. It was annoying, but it healed. Unfortunately, however, like the proverbial stone in water, there are consequences that ripple off one event in unforeseen ways . . . such as a damned ingrown toenail. Now, I admit, it didn’t look all that bad to the untrained eye, but as soon as my foot doctor saw it a couple months back, she said, “That’s going to have to come off, kiddo.” And my stomach sank. I know what the North Vietnamese did to their prisoners. I heard about sticking bamboo shoots under finger nails, and I know how much it hurts to merely pull the nail away from the bed just a bit. No thank you. So I held off hoping it would just magically heal. And then the nail broke, revealing a disgusting, bloody little hole right where my nail was digging in. But then it kind of healed back, but was sore . . . I dealt with it. Until it broke again, and then I had to admit that something was really not right. I gave in and agreed to have it taken care of.

Here’s one thing I have learned: when you have something wrong, don’t look it up. Don’t Google it and then read responses on message boards from people who claim they’ve experienced the same thing, or have friends, aunts, or know the dogs of people who have had whatever you’re looking up done. It will serve you not at all to know what these people want to say. You know when you ask someone about something possibly negative, and they go, “Oh yeah, my dad had that!” and proceed to tell you some horror story about it? It’s ten times worse on the internet. They want you to suffer and worry and possibly cancel it until it’s really, really bad. Because that’s what they did. See, something else I learned is that most people wait a really long time to do health-related things and then it’s too late for the simple, easy procedure and they get to experience the really painful, awful, disgusting things, and sometimes they wait so long that it has to be done twice. Infections and whatnot, you know. But I’m digressing.

I went to my foot doctor yesterday with visions of infested toes and mangled nails, blood-oozing sores, all set to horrific stories of pain and drawn-out affliction, infection, and other forms of grossness. And it was all for naught. Here’s what happened: I read about this, and didn’t really get it, because I thought people were saying something in a clever way. She froze my toe. And I mean literally froze my toe. It was some kind of extremely cold liquid that she poured onto my toe, numbing it. And it was cold – painfully cold, until it went numb. And then she went in with the needle to numb it. I didn’t feel the first shot at all. Cool. The second one, she repeatedly told me to breathe deep, really deep, and I just wasn’t feeling it . . . until I did, and THEN I breathed REALLY deep. That, dear Readers, was the most pain I would feel the entire time. I heard lots of snipping and cracking – big toenails are kind of grossly thick, you know – and within about 5 minutes, it was done. I was bandaged up and ready to go.

Wrapped up from ingrown-toenail removal surgery

Since I obviously couldn’t wear a regular shoe with that, I was given this stylin’ foam shoe.

The smiley-face on the shoe really helps with the healing process

The smiley face is strategically placed over the big-toe area to induce quicker healing, or so I hear.

If you are brave, jump on over to the next page for . . . toe revealed!


January 6, 2009

Consolation prize

Filed under: Annoyances,Ipod/Iphone,Music — Tom @ 4:28 pm

Alyssa I am consoling myself over the loss, again, of my old girlfriend, Alyssa Milano, to some shlumpy dude who she could clearly do better than. It’s okay, because Apple has finally given up on both that crappy DRM scheme and is offering upgrades to higher sound quality music. Amazon started selling DRM-free, high-quality mp3s a while back, and it apparently forced Apple’s and the labels’ hands. We’re edging closer to a day when we won’t have to even think about lossy compression of music anymore – it’ll just be high quality lossless stuff. But for now, this is okay.

Me, personally . . . well, if you ask, I only have a few things purchased from the Itunes store. Brad Mehldau’s complete Live In Tokyo, as it was originally a sickeningly expensive two-CD Japan-only release and is now out of print . . . except it’s available in its entirety on Itunes, but at the lowly 128kbps quality. Son Volt’s excellent The Search, expanded by 8 songs only on vinyl . . . and on Itunes. And Elbow’s recent exclusive Itunes Live set, which is so excellent – I am assuming Apple will be upgrading their own material, too, right?

Alyssa chose the goofy looking dude (seriously, you see this guy?) and I get files. Alissa (coincidence?) understands I may need some time to cope with this. Right, honey? Right?

January 5, 2009

Yo yo

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 9:29 am

Well, so much for all the positive talk yesterday. I’m right back to feeling awful again today. Great.

January 4, 2009

Great expectorations

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 8:09 pm

The great disease infiltration of ’09 continues pretty much unabated. Whereas earlier in the week I was downing dose after dose of a cough medicine designed to put a damper on the activity, I’m now taking something to do the exact opposite, which, as it turns out, is a pretty painful proposition. It also makes sleeping interesting, as midway through the night I awoke feeling as if something was sitting on the right side of my chest. A mildly deep breath resulted in spasms of coughing. Not good. Also of note was last night’s weekly garbage ritual, made exciting by the fact that I couldn’t really take much of a breath, and by the time I was done, I was gasping for air and sweating. Just from taking out the garbage. Part of me remembers a time back in high school when I had pneumonia and thinks “This seems awful familiar!” but I’m not sure it’s quite that severe. That said, I can’t seem to go anywhere – one trip out yesterday, the first in a couple of days, grew extremely uncomfortable.

And that was two days ago. I stopped writing for almost two days. Let me tell you, this cold, bug, germ, death, whatever it is, is nasty. I can’t think of the last time I had something that just laid me out like this besides an out-right flu, and I am pretty sure it’s not the flu, because that’s even worse than this. But this has been really bad for about 5 days, and just plain bad for a week. It was never “simple cold” level “okay,” which is sometimes okay because you can keep functioning with a simple cold. Not this. I was down and out. On the sofa doing nothing for days. For example, yesterday I watched seemingly hundreds of videos on VH-1 Classic’s “2009 For 2009” video countdown. Videos I probably wouldn’t ever watch otherwise. Because what else am I going to do? I watched a hilariously Tim & Eric-like commercial for (a company that promises to speed up your computer – uh-huh), the hoveround or some similarly entertaining mode of transportation for the elderly, and most frightening/humorous of all, bizarre commercials with “83 year old Tony Curtis,” who has apparently turned into a very old, bald cross-dresser. Not to be mean or anything – I know he’s old, but this commercial is beyond simply odd – it’s weird, creepy, and disturbing. And I saw it a LOT this week.

It was either that or Destroyed In Seconds on Discovery – a decidedly LOW-quality, un-Discovery-like show that has me fearing what direction they’re heading now. Just when things were stabilizing with a bunch of shows that were attempting to, badly, mimic the entertainment value of Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs, not to mention the “mind on cruise control” power of the new genre spawned by How It’s Made, they’ve managed to lower the bar. There was a moment there when, after watching a bit of Destroyed In Seconds, Amanda kept chanting, “I want to watch crashes!” where I can see how people turn into bad parents and let their kids get their way. It’s cute, if only for a bit, to see them say stuff like this, but you have to step aside and look at it from another perspective to realize this stuff ain’t for 3 year olds. Cute, and America’s Funniest Home Videos, as it may be ready to hear her chant for destruction, I just couldn’t do it. VH-1 Classic it was. All day long. After all, these were all the videos I grew up watching. And I turned out okay, right? Right?

And then this morning I woke up and everything seemed different somehow. I still had a bit of a sore throat, still felt the pain of congestion in my lungs and possessed that deep baritone voice of the very sick, but I felt better. The whole day’s been better. Amanda’s on her way, I think she’s a day or two behind me, so we still have a few days of “MY NOSE IS RUNNING!” and explosive coughing in the middle of the night, but the end is nigh.

The interesting thing that I noticed is that, while sick, I had no interest in being on the computer. As evidenced above, I began one paragraph and abandoned it, and that illustrated my computer exposure much of the week besides what little time I spent at work. Today, after a few hours on the computer this morning, I came away from the experience wishing I’d simply taken it easy, resting, reading, watching TV, doing anything but sitting behind this stupid box. Is it getting older? Or am I losing interest in all of this? I don’t know. If I believed in resolutions, one I’d make is to simply not spend so much time on this thing. As it is, I’ll simply say that I hope maybe I’ll keep in mind how I felt this morning after days away from the computer. And now I’m going to go take that advice. I’ve got pasta boiling, sauce cooking, some chicken awaiting cheese and sauce, and fresh, home-made bread baking. That beats the computer any night.

January 1, 2009

Degonkulater plus

Filed under: Annoyances,Baby makes FOUR,General — Tom @ 9:58 pm

The Sick has descended upon our household. It wouldn’t be a major holiday season without disease. This time it’s a cold or some related type o’ bug, annoying, but not too disruptive. A couple of down days for Amanda and I, where we quarantined ourselves as best we could from the other two ladies, and things seem to be righting themselves again. Luckily it appears Alissa and tiny Danielle have eluded attack by rebel germs. Amanda and I, brave souls that we are, took the brunt of the attack for them, defending the household for them.

Speaking of Danielle, today she celebrated her first month birthday. Well, not really celebrated . . . we didn’t do anything in particular because I was still suffering from The Death for much of the day, but we noted it (“Hey, Danielle will be exactly a month old in a few minutes.”) You may note I haven’t said too much about her . . . I have found that I feel kind of weird saying too much. I feel a greater sense of privacy this time around and don’t feel appropriate posting everything about her life like I did with Amanda. I don’t know why, exactly. I’m just uncomfortable with it, perhaps because I do seem to have a much higher visit rate than ever before, and it seems weird to me to be talking about what is essentially very private stuff. It wasn’t so weird to talk about diapers and other weird issues when I knew who the 12 people who visited everyday were, but now that it’s 90, 100, sometimes 250 a day, it feels a little weirder broadcasting that stuff out to the world. As the saying goes, it’s not you, it’s me.

December 19, 2008

Decision 2008

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 9:37 am

I have decided that I really don’t like Will Smith.

October 17, 2008

iGoogle blows goats, I have proof

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 9:26 am

I’ve been using iGoogle for a few months now and, until now, really liked it a lot. iGoogle, if you don’t know, is basically Google’s answer to Yahoo’s front page – it groups a whole bunch of stuff together for you – news, traffic, weather, mail, whatever you want, basically, as you can choose exactly what appears on the page. And then yesterday happened, when Google decided to mess with a good thing and, without warning, implement a bunch of unneeded, unwanted, and highly annoying changes. Before, it was a nice wide layout, where each pane of Google’s “gadgets” had plenty of room to be fully visible, but after yesterday, when they added a column on the left solely dedicated to some superfluous tabs, that layout got completely screwed up. And the tabs do nothing, by the way – they simply link to content that was already easily accessible. What Google tried to do is build everything into one big pane that the tabs would expand into, but it is completely unnecessary. The interface was perfect because it was what WE made it. Now I’ve lost control of it.

Worse, however, is what happened to Gmail within iGoogle. Before, clicking on the Gmail widget would take you directly into Gmail. Perfect – this never crossed my mind as a problem. It did to someone at Google, however, as now it opens a hobbled version of Gmail which doesn’t have any of the controls that the full Gmail has – no contacts, no folders, but most annoying, no formatting tools! Can you imagine that? You can’t even italicize a damned word in the iGoogled Gmail (“iGmail” from here on out)! For that you have to open the full Gmail, away from iGoogle, to get all the tools you’re used to having access to. What kind of damned sense does this make? But wait, there’s more – and this is just incredible: there are no links in iGmail. You read it right: if there’s a link, it’s just text. We’re back to ancient Outlook Express here. Copy and paste that puppy because iGmail ain’t going to open it. I am actually shaking my fists here in frustration just thinking about it. I will say it again: What kind of damned sense does this make?!

Of course, over on the Google Blog, it looks all rosy and fun, but try using the damned thing. It’s truly awful. At least there’s a link to send an email for feedback. You can bet I’ve already said my piece – twice.

Update: I’m trying out Netvibes in lieu of the awful new iGoogle. So far, so good. I don’t know if I like the Gmail integration so much, but it seems a lot more flexible in general than iGoogle.

September 30, 2008

Making bail

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 9:21 am

We live in a simple house. Our walls aren’t decorated with paintings – they’re not even painted, to tell the truth. We don’t have sculptures from local galleries all over our house, either, and we haven’t filled the house with a bunch of trendy furniture. We lived with basically the same cheap furniture we got when we got married nine years ago – until recently, when we finally got rid of the couches we realized long ago were a mistake and replaced them with my parents’ leather couches, and those were free. We just now finally bought a legitimate dining table after years with, frankly, a very ugly table we bought cheaply off of one of Alissa’s relatives. Our extravagances are simple – they are things well-thought out and probably overly considered, rarely anything “spur of the moment.” And I am usually behind their purchases – and they are typically things that make my life easier in some way: an Ipod, Iphone, Garmin GPS thingie. (more…)

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