Known Johnson

February 12, 2009

You take the good, you take the bad

Filed under: Creations,General,Kids,Music — Tom @ 2:18 pm

. . . and there you have the Facts Of Life. Thank Alan Thicke, and Scrubs a couple weeks back, for that one.

To All The Girls . . .

I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique until recently, when I finally “got it.” Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Sure, it’s full of ridiculous, pedantic rhymes, but the music, oh man, what they did was incredible. Nothing before, nothing after (because The Law put a stop to this kind of sampling) matched the creativity or wit of what they and the Dust Brothers concocted. This new remaster is of the “good” kind – it simply makes it sound better, which that old CD was in dire need of. As their website says, it now has enough bass to crush your one frozen testicle. Thanks, I needed that.

Broken suspension

You know, I love my truck – a Honda Ridgeline, if you didn’t know. But there are times when I realize that it’s built by a car company, and the picture above is an example of one such time. I’ve never had this truck off road and yet one of the suspension components is broken. On top of that, this component (the left rear sway bar link, if you’re curious) is pencil thin. This is ridiculous. You don’t have a 5000 pound truck bouncing around on top of something that flimsy. This is what happens – it breaks. And there are no aftermarket replacements – I’m just going to get another one of these and hope for the best.

Rainbow in the dark

It’s just nice, isn’t it?

Asleep, again

Sleepy head.

Flash train

A piece drawn for a project for work, done completely in Adobe Flash. This took friggin’ forever. FOREVER. It is incredibly detailed. Flash is definitely not the tool to use for this kind of illustrating, but I wanted to try it because many of my coworkers draw their stuff in Flash rather than Adobe Illustrator, which is far more exacting. I would have saved a lot of time and frustrating going my normal route with Illustrator, but I’m still rather proud of this train. It doesn’t exist in real life, by the way – it’s an amalgamation of who knows how many trains I looked at online for inspiration. If you ever wondered what it is I do for a living, this is it.

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 31, 2009

My beat is correct

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 8:01 pm

Tonight, while listening to Beck’s Guero, as the song “Hell Yes” played, Amanda asked what the song was. I began to tell her and then stopped, halted by the fact that the name of the song was a swear word. Now, let me say that I’m not really worried about her hearing “hell” but just telling her the name of a song like this plants it in her head as something she can say. I know she has no ill meaning behind her usage of words, just like most people don’t when they use something like “hell,” but I pause at simply telling that to a three year old. It’s just too damn weird.

“Daddy, what’s this song called?” she asked again, and I thought for a moment, then stumbled out a brief, “‘Yes,’ it’s called ‘Yes.'” I felt like I’d lied to her. Of all the things that we’ve talked about – Santa, the toys she could get for using the potty properly right now because I know it isn’t going to happen, why things are called what they’re called – leaving “hell” out of this song title bit at me the most. Maybe because I don’t want to be one of those parents, you know the kind – the ones who endlessly, mercilessly censor their childrens’ lives to the point that it’s all bright colors and lollipop and gumballs, yay!

And then we were off the subject, as she became fascinated with the sounds within the song itself, pointing out a repeating beep that she thought was funny, or how the lady said “hi!” a lot (I tried to inform her it was probably “hai,” as in Japanese for “yes,” but that fell flat – she had a whole story concocted in no time, that she was saying hi because she wanted more customers. “You are a very business minded little girl,” I said.)

But soon it was back to the title at hand, “Daddy, what is this song called?” And just as I was about to try and pass off my edited title again, she blurted out the words: “‘Oh Yes’! Is that what he’s saying?” Yes, yes, that’s it, I happily agreed, just fine to let the computer voice in the song that slurs the “hell” into “oh” take care of my problem for me.

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?

December 22, 2008

Vs. vs. vs. vs.

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 1:52 pm

I’m going to have to file myself back in the “don’t sue, Joe” category after watching everything for the past couple of weeks. Satriani might have felt unjustly ignored by Coldplay initially, but he may find himself the target of a lot more criticism now that so many other, older songs are being linked to his.

The above video only misses one other big song that is eerily similar, Cat Stevens’ 1973 “Love/Heaven”:

I can’t believe this has been going on since at least August. When I first heard about it, I really assumed it would just die out and nothing much more would come of it. Will it destroy Coldplay’s career if the case somehow winds up in Satriani’s favor? No way. Will it destroy his career either way? I fear it could make him a joke no matter what now. Rather than just letting things be, he’s chosen to go public with this and now all of these other songs are being presented that show that neither of them were being particularly original. Coldplay can get away with that because people just like their nice stuff and don’t care if they nicked it from elsewhere, but a guitar guy like Satch, whose reputation is built on his knack for melody and his talent, well, it could just shuffle him further into the corner of guitar-geeks who listen only for licks and speed. It’s probably too late to stop now, as that will look like he’s running away with his tail between his legs, but he may wish he could. I wish he’d simply taken it as an unacknowledged compliment from Coldplay to him on his melodic skills, leaving the lawsuit as just an unfulfilled thought passing through his head on a bad day.

December 15, 2008

Ben Folds reluctantly joins the audiophile ranks

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:13 pm

With his latest album, Way To Normal, garnering the exact opposite of praise from quality sound lovers, it didn’t seem likely that this would happen, but today on Folds’ Myspace blog he announced that he will soon be giving away, to fanclub members, an uncompressed audiophile version of his latest album – on two discs, no less, with the first disc filled with the album plus extras and the second containing “stems,” or basic audio tracks, for remixing the album as you like. That said, he does seem to be going about this grudgingly, as if being prodded uncomfortably by someone holding a sharp stick at his back: “Although I stand behind the official version of this album and have the utmost respect for the producer and engineers involved, I’m a populist at heart and saw no reason not to provide a slightly different approach for those who prefer more old fashioned dynamics along with a sequence that builds.” “Old fashioned dynamics” is how he says “music that doesn’t sound like a screaming wall of noise.” Isn’t that quaint? He must love the new Metallica album.

I haven’t been the die-est of hardiest fans of Folds, but I like what I like a lot – that said, I found his previous album, Songs For Silverman, to be a snore-fest, and found myself growing more interested in this new album of his based on reviews. Now I have no reason to buy the regular version – I joined the fanclub solely to get this version of the album, as I have no need for the crap-sounding regular edition. No word on when the thing ships, but there is mention of “Feb. 15” being the drop-dead date for new fanclub members to get this two-disc Normal, so I would guess it’s after that.

Oh, and that membership gets you a t-shirt! Yay!

December 11, 2008

Breaking down the case: Satriani v Coldplay

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 2:10 pm

Hey, Coldplay isn’t the most original band in the world. Joe Satriani didn’t need to take them to court to prove that. This really clears things up – it likely wasn’t intentional, but those two songs are nearly identical, and it’s not just the solo, which is what most people are focusing on, and likely wouldn’t have been enough to go to court over. (Watch about from about 6:40 on if you only want to hear the evidence, watch the whole thing if you want to know WHY they’re the same.)

November 26, 2008

The week in rock

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 6:00 pm

This is now overdue, as I have other new acquisitions to talk about, but let’s get started with the stuff from the previous couple of weeks before this week, shall we?

Good stuff - all of it, seriously

Let’s go left to right, like we’re reading:

The Police – Certifiable: – Two CDs, two DVDs recorded live in Buenos Aires, 2007, on their reunion tour, on which they pissed off a bunch of stiff yuppie fans who couldn’t handle songs being changed up a bit from their original formats. Me, I love it, and maybe I wouldn’t have hated hearing the songs basically played straight, but my thinking is, if I want to hear the album versions of things, I’ll listen to the damned albums. For a very mainstream band, The Police put on what amounts to a weird show. They are in great form here, but I have to admit I haven’t even touched the DVDs yet – I’m satisfied with the audio portion. One big complaint, however: the packaging is terrible and cheap feeling. The CD/DVD trays are made out of some flimsy recycled plastic crap that feels less substantial than a 2-liter soda bottle, and these are glued to thin paper-board, rather than a sturdier cardboard box that you might be expecting from a 4-disc set. There’s also just a small book of pictures, no text . . . it’s just a really cheap package all around, designed as if it was an afterthought. I’d link it on Amazon so you could listen to clips, but it’s a damned Best Buy exclusive, so just go pick it up if you’re so inclined.

Brad Paisley – Play: You read that right, Brad Paisley, country singer dude. Except here he hardly sings. It’s a guitar album, you see, and it’s pretty hard to classify it as a country guitar album – he pays homage to his influences, from (and I’m guessing here, just based on the styles he displays) Joe Satriani to Les Paul to Danny Gatton. It is tasty good stuff. Admittedly, there are four vocal songs, but those have been unchecked in Itunes so I don’t ever have to worry about hearing them again. I just don’t know who he’s trying to aim this one at. I can’t imagine most country fans are too interested in this more rock-styled album, and I would bet most rock listeners are going to turn their noses up at someone so aligned with country. It’s too bad, they are all missing out on one of the better examples of how instrumental albums should be handled (it’s at least as much about songcraft as showing off licks.)

B.B. King – One Kind Favor: Is King fixin’ to die or something? Because this is one dark album. The album is a meditation on the end days of a man realizing his mortality, but besides that, it is a complete reinvigoration of King as a musician. He sounds fresh and excited to play. How much of that is due to a nasty brush with the flu in early 2007 (when you’re 80, the flu ain’t nothing to mess with) or due to the incredible talents of producer T-Bone Burnett, there’s no telling until he speaks up about it, but the fact is that this is King at his best. It’s raw blues from one of the early masters, and there aren’t many of them left anymore.

Jeff Loomis – Zero Order Phase: The one thing that pretty much destroys my interest in death metal, and I’ll bet there are many others who would support me on this, is the vocal style. It’s either a deep, gutteral growl or a whiny, shrieky yell, neither of which are particularly intelligble, but that never really matters because the lyrics are usually another weak spot – if you pay attention to them. The music, on the other hand, can be incredible – intricate, complex, sometimes incredibly powerful and even beautiful, but then those ridiculous vocals come in and ruin everything. Loomis, the guitarist from Nevermore, has obviously heard my pleas and released an instrumental death metal record. Perfect! And it is – it’s friggin’ great stuff. Fast, hard, heavy, and then there are those moments of surreal beauty, and not a one of them spoiled by the devastation of hearing “GRRRROOOOWWWWWWL!” suddenly appear over top of it.

Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy: Would you believe that? Fifteen years we’ve been hearing about this. And you know what? It’s really good. But you’ll be hearing a lot of bad reactions and I’ll tell you why: everyone wants to make sure their opinion on this is registered. Don’t pay attention to them. I’m seeing reviews from people who 1) care only for Appetite For Destruction, 2) can’t listen to music by any band that doesn’t have Slash in it, 3) never liked the band in the first place, and 4) those who liked both Use Your Illusion albums. The first three don’t have much good to say about it, but they can be discounted immediately – what reason would anyone accept the opinion of someone who just plain won’t like anything by what is called Guns N Roses today? The last one is the one where the reviews are going to matter – they are people who are not simply attached to a band lineup for nostalgia purposes and will give the music a chance, but I do admit there is the annoying problem of the fanboy, those weirdos who think anything and everything touched by their objects of desire is 100% golden. Those are easy to spot, however. It’s safe to say I’m not one of those. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again: I don’t care what the name is, I’m just looking for good music. Call it GnR, call it Axl’s Guitar Club For Men (seriously, you should see the credits – so many guitarists,) whatever. The music would remain the same, and it’s pretty damned good if you open your mind. Sure, it’s excessive and in places it might be too excessive, but it manages to feel like a big, grand rock album, the likes of which we rarely see these days. I don’t want to see this kind of thing make a comeback, but one big epic like this once in a while is a refreshing change of pace from the sometimes too-earnest, straight-ahead, stripped-back rock that has been dominating the market for so long. So, if you’re of an open mind, Chinese Democracy is a surprisingly strong album that wants to be a really great one, and it comes very close. No link – another damned Best Buy exclusive . . .

November 20, 2008

Take that, wonderheart

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:28 pm

Three days early, the new “Guns N Roses” (here’s the ‘ – please place the apostrophe wherever appropriate, I never quite know where it goes) is playing through my headphones right now. And I put the band name in quotes because, as we all know, it’s GnR in name only, but, unlike many others, I don’t give a dump. Is it good music or bad? So far . . . surprisingly good. Call it GnR, call it The Axl Rose Show, I don’t care. If it’s good, I don’t give a rodent’s scrote who is the name that takes claim for the music.

Is it a decade and a half of work good? What would be? I’ll view it like any other album – it came out this year, and if I keep listening to it, I like it. I think I’m going to keep listening to it – it’s at least as good as the best parts of Use Your Illusion I & II together. And guess what? It’s actually fun. Chuck Klosterman agrees.

Oh, and the absence of Slash? Not really all that big of a deal. Keep this quiet, a little secret, you know . . . but between you and me, there are lots of really, really good guitar players out there – some are even better than Slash! Shocking, I know!

November 12, 2008

The Jimi Hendrix Experience reunites – Mitch Mitchell, RIP

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 2:40 pm

Another legend gone. Noel Redding rejoined the band in 2003.

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