Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Crosstown Traffic (do-do-do-do-do-do-do)

Mr. Loman's Wild Ride, Continued

In northern New England, all of the interstates run north/south. And they are quite nice, well-maintained and uncongested, and supplemented by an equally nice, well-mainatined and uncongested state route system. But there is apparently no trade or other need to move things swiftly east or west, because there is no way to get from upstate Vermont to Bangor, Maine, except on one of those winding back roads. The state routes with the very high or very low numbers - but never "Route 35," or anything like that. The two-lane highways with the very infrequent passing lanes - the kind where people see you have a New York license plate and respond accordingly, with a deep-seated mistrust and fear.

Hey, I'm Jewish, too! Lookit that! A New York Jew! Ho-lee damn!

My Google directions suggested it was going to take seven hours to get from Glover to Bangor (that's what she said, hardy-har-har), and they turned out to be pretty accurate, which is pretty amazing when you consider that I got lost on a complicated route number trade-off near Waterville, Maine, and spent about forty-five minutes eating breakfast at a celebration in wood paneling whose name I can't recall, but claimed to be a Chinese-American Restaurant.

This sit-down eatery - located in Lancaster, New Hampshire - also has a spot for the local kids to come and rock out, an upstairs lounge noted by a flyer for "Lancaster's best funk-rock band," coming Saturday. In the bathroom hung a framed image of a wolf overlooking a town in the moonlit snow, which was made all the more poignant when I noticed that it was, in fact, a jigsaw puzzle that had been completed and then proudly glued and hung for all to see. Well, for all the men to see. The colors were also a little off register, making it one of the grandest works of found art I've seen in years. If I could have gotten out of the place alive with it, I would have taken it. But the restaurant was too full of thickly grey-bearded, overweight and flannel-plaid-shirted men, and I hesitated to think what fate an outsider dressed in shorts an a Green Lantern t-shirt would face for the crime of stealing the bathroom puzzle.

I'd found the place not two minutes up the road from the gas station where the female cashier had professed total ignorance as to a place I could get breakfast along the route east.

Now, Glover, Vermont - again, where the Bread and Puppet homestead is - pretty much defines 'the ends of the earth.' The Canadians admitted as much by naming a town just over their side of the border "Magog." So I didn't expect the drive to and from Glover to be swift or steady. In fact, all the driving once north of Connecticut went very well, blessed by beautiful weather and, in the case of the Vermont leg, breathtaking scenery. I kept struggling with wanting to take the camera out, but I wanted to just stay focused on the drive. In fact, I thought about having pictures for the Rambler, but then I decided that the drive that morning was just for me to see. Lovely. LIke a misty green and hilly Heaven.

As mentioned, when I reached Waterville, Maine, I got confused by some poorly noted - or perhaps poorly seen, at least by me - route swapping, and got lost just where Route 2 crosses 95. I finally got back after buying a map from an Exxon (and marked the second time that day when a gas station employee indicated to me that not only did they have no idea where they were, they just didn't care at all) and made it to the Bell School by 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Now, how's that for timing? Thanks, Google!

Next: What the Hell is "The Bell School?"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Lab....

While Dave is busy driving through upstates New Hampshire and Maine, we thought we'd take a moment to update our readers on current events:

I spent all last night catching up on work, including a color draft of the KPMG comic. Which one did they go with?

While I'd be perfectly happy to run this draft as is, I'd made the mistake at one point of showing the Creative Director some of my watercolor illustrations, so I'm on the hook for that. Thankfully, all of this now exists in Photoshop in layers, so all I need to do is swap out the images. So the digital work is mostly done.

Anyway, I really am glad to be doing the watercolor version. It's what I've been wanting to do for awhile, and getting paid to practice is a pretty good deal.

However, since I went to be this morning at 8 AM, and them rose to go to work at 9:30 AM, you'll excuse me if I leave it at this for tonight? I was going to try to put up a poll - Blogger offers a poll widget, now! - but I think it's one of those things you need to have hosted on their site, and they only seem to have a really obscure, silent video clip showing implementation. None of which I can focus on in my current state.

And what will that current state be when we resume the tales of travel tomorrow? Fuckin' New Hampshire, man! Where the wooden paneling is cheap, the scrambled eggs are sliced up like flat noodles and the men are bearded, silent and clad in plaid. Be there!


In Which a Thorough Soaking is Deservedly Had

Willy Loman: The Lost Weekend

So I got out and drove back to my campsite. Racing the rain, again, which at this point, was a 100% chance of happening. Got in, opened the gate to the camp, drove through, and closed it up again. Then finished the drive with my lights off. The camp had 'quite time' from 9:30 on, and I didn't want to cause problems driving it at 10:15.

No problem seeing, though - there were two tall sodium lights, including one about 30 feet directly above my tent. Of course, I hadn't even noticed this before, since it was still daylight when I left. Now, changing clothes in my tent, I noted that it was still like daylight, only amber and sleep-depriving.

Anyway, the rain started just as I zipped into my sleeping bag. But I was set. Water? Check. Apple Juice? Check. "Compact Camping Pillow" that I'd picked up in Brattleboro? Check. Itty Bitty Booklight? Check. Reading material? A copy of "The Comics Journal." So I settled down for my nightly reading myself into oblivion, enjoying the sound of the rain thapping against the outside of the tent.

After a few minutes reading about Roger Langridge's influences, I felt a little drip on my head. I aimed the booklight up, thinking that I hadn't secured the rain-flap properly. No, that was perfectly dry.

The tent walls themselves, though...

...the water was coming through the fabric. Straight through. Not as rain, but whatever moisture accumulated outside was - either by osmosis or condensation - swelling in individual drops on the wall, then flowing down to the floor when it had grown heavy enough. Shit: the tent wasn't waterproof. Not in the slightest. And the rain wasn't even particularly heavy - just constant. This was an all night affair.

I looked in the corners. Already, after only about half an hour, there were substantial puddles in each one. I reached down to my canvas clothing bag. The bottom was well-soaked. I moved it towards the center of the tent, and pulled myself away from the walls and corners as best I could. At this point, the tent was it, so I laughed at my idiocy and rolled over and did my best to sleep in the far-too-bight amber haze of the tent. Also made note to self: next time, bring mattress pad. The ground is hard and lumpy and a tarp, tent and sleeping bag do little to soften it.

A few minutes later, I added 'making sure I brought a real pillow along' to the list, having realized that the "Compact Camping Pillow" was from hunger. Refluffing and meditating on this, I drifted off.

A couple of hours later, I awoke convinced that the sleeping bag had been breached as well, but the dampness on my pajamas and skin just turned out to be sweat. I opened the bag, refluffed and recursed the "Compact Camping Pillow," and fell back asleep.

I awoke to real daylight. The rain had stopped perhaps a couple of hours before, and the camp owner was down by the small beach, clearing it for the day's use. I exited the tent - a pretty damp place at this point - and found my cell phone in the car. Time? A little after six.

Huh. Well-rested enough, and with a seven hour drive ahead of me to Bangor, I decided to break camp quickly and hit the road. I did my best to lay the sleeping bag out on a rock to dry out, but every other surface - car, picnic table, etc. - was far too wet to try to dry out the tent, so I rolled it up and put away wet. The tarp, also folded and thrown in the trunk still wet. I plugged my phone in to one of the outlets in my site (I did mention that this campground catered to RVs, no?) and went off to take a shower.

Oho! The hot water, I gathered, doesn't come on until the camp's official 'opening' time of 7 AM. Not that I can't take a cold shower, but after a night in a wet tent, just getting wetter and colder for the sake of being by myself in a car for a few hours was unappealing. Doc Bronner and I cleaned my naughty bits and jumped out in record time.

And that was it. Dressed and on the road by 6:30. Back to 91, south for twenty minutes, and then east towards New Hampshire.

Next: Land of Flannel

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Piss Break

Sorry, one more intermission. Just got in - at 2 AM - from a dinner with much alcohol with friends in Brooklyn. Tired and fuzzy. See you on the morrow.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Slow Years

The Willy Loman Arts Spectacular, Part III

Small correction: despite yesterday's Rambler title, all of the events described below happened on Friday. And we are still on Friday, because I can't seem to find any way to compress this narrative. Perhaps if I were ever taught something about brevity being the soul of wit, but have you met my parents? Seriously, I should have my father leave complimentary voicemail messages for all of you. Then you will know what it is like to grow up the son of people who never get to the fucking point, already. I was doomed from the moment the doctors smacked my bottom to clear my lungs.

The overuse of italics and boldface? That's all mine, though.

So: I'd printed myself a list of nearby campsites and just-in-case motels, from (where else?) Google. And time was a factor, since the clouds were back and I really wasn't sure how long it would take me to set up the tent. Really, really wanted to get the tent up before the rain came. Nothing worse than a wet tent.

First place on the list? Straight up RV park. But there was a place just before it on the road that - while also catering mostly to RV's, was small, on a nice enough lake, and had one spot far enough away from the rest of the sites that I could at least kind-of-sort-of feel like I was camping like an adult. On the hill. right next to the bathroom, you know. So I could go pee-pee in the night in the toi-toi if I had to.

After some fumbling - and a surprisingly adept bout of knot-tying to secure the separate rain-flap - the tarp went down, the poles and pegs went in and the tent went up. Then I strung my guitar*, with strings that were also acquired back in Brattleboro (which was starting to feel like a mission prep before a round of Ultima, or something), and went back to the Bread and Puppet to share in their communal dinner. And I started to feel that unease again - the one I get when I'm in a large crowd of people, all of whom are part of an entity and I'm on the outside.

And then, since most of the interns were rehearsing for the night's show - and, again, on the basis that I'm a big, lumpy guy with nothing better to do - I ended up washing dishes.

Now, hand-washing dishes is something I really enjoy. The whole zen aspect of it, the tactile pleasure of the hot water and the feeling of rubbing my thumb over the squeaky-clean dishes. But, of course, the dish-washing at B&P followed some pretty specific homesteader guidelines. One washer, one rinser, someone else dries and puts away, someone else brings in more to clean. There's basins of money-saving Octagon soap and iodine in the rinse water. There's scraps that need to be set aside for the pigs, and coffee needs grinding, and people who've spent three very close weeks together gossiping and laughing and, etc.

Still an enjoyable experience, but I definitely felt like I had two left hands, and it really got me thinking: Jeez, the standards here must be pretty fucking high if what's generally regarded as about the lowest shit-job there is - the kind of job you can get with a fake SSN and no questions asked beyond 'can you start tomorrow?' - if I'm feeling like I'm doing the whole thing wrong, somehow. Good thing I have my art degree and my career, because I don't think I could hack it out there in the highly specialized world of communal dishwashing...

After that, it was Showtime! Shuffle into the barn theater - with kokopelli burned into the facade and quasi-Greek bas-relief on the insinde. Then the dancers came on. And an hour later, when it was over, I dropped $50 into the oversized papier mache Uncle Sam donations hat, and went off to deal with my newly acquired and growing sense of anxiety and unease.

Kate again, obviously pretty beat, but we went to the basement of the big museum barn to view the work that Rebecca was doing on their project - an autobiographical performance piece detailing some of the extremely lame foster homes she'd found herself in before meeting up with Kate and her husband Noah. From there, we went up to the kitchen where there was cake for the performers, and my building anxiety and unease doubled. I'd brought in my sketchbook to show Kate some of the Vomit Comics, which, at John's suggestion, I'd started to think about putting together in a mini-comic. Mostly because I was thinking of doing the cover as some kind of print - lithograph, screen, etc. - and I figured since Kate is the studio manager for Wesleyan University and has a masters in printmaking, I could hit her up for some advice and maybe a couple of hours in the studio to try my hand.

Her alarm at this concept was pretty palpable. Did I, she asked, have any idea how involved a process it was? Well, no. That's why I'm asking for advice. Maybe, she said, I should go do an internship somewhere? Well, I don't want it to get out of hand, I'm just so tired of most of my work involving computers in one way or the other, I want to have a little fun trying a real hands-on, stinky technique. How about? No.

I realized that she felt as if I was casually saying that I was thinking of going to war, and maybe she could show me how to drive a tank for a few minutes?

Well, no cool hand-made covers for the Vomit Comics, then. Fuck.

Then, I did something odd: I started to give unsolicited advice to Rebecca about music. Which would have been fine, except I'd forgotten that I was talking to a girl who'd come through some pretty repressive environments and also gone to study guitar at Berkley for a year, before leaving in a depressed state, and putting aside her guitar. Now, she was into singing, and had even formed a band with Kate and Noah, but had put that on blocks because of performance anxiety and what have you.

Aha! I thought. Here's someone I can help! I know what it's like to be so demoralized by my own work that I just set the heavy burden aside, and then coming back to it. I also know a lot about song for, composing, performance, etc. Let me spread my wares for this girl, that she may learn from my experience.

Stupid idea. I mean, I love nothing more than to talk shop with other artists and musicians, and the way I've learned to do it over the years is to proclaim my opinions and let others whittle away at them. Sadly, Rebecca had no previous experience at dealing with Dave in Blowhard Mode, so did what any sensible person would do: backed away slowly, in shock.

Finally, I just went with my first instinct of the night and got out of there before I could damage that poor girl any further.

But I left thinking: boy, that crowd of people in the other room looked like they were having fun...

Next: I risk a temporal paradox by writing about my Friday night on a Saturday!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

S-A-T-U-R D-A-Y Drive!

The Willy Loman Arts Weekend, Part II

There - my Brattleboro Super 8 Motel room and the McDonald's opposite my window. How's that for newsworthy photos. I'm glad the camera at least held on for that, lest these memories be lost to history...

....note the faux Grandma Moses above the bed? How about the ledge over that toilet that guaranteed that the seat would try to fall down while you urinated? These are the details that historians of the W. years will be clamoring for.

Blissfully, the further North I drove, the fewer symbols of corporate America there were. Indeed, since the Super 8 was in the sprawl section of Brattleboro just off 91, the town itself was much, much cooler. Realizing I'd forgotten a few things - pillow, waterproof matches and a tarp chief among them - I went into town in hopes of finding some damn Wal-Mart, or something. Much better, I found a really, really great camping supply store in the old downtown area, right opposite a decent place to get breakfast. So I fueled up, got my supplies (plus a nice shirt!) and hit the road.

The Saturday leg of the drive was everything that the Friday night drive was not: exhilarating, fast, open, accompanied by beautiful, moody skies and increasingly dramatic landscapes as I sped North. 91 goes through the less developed Eastern part of Vermont, so it's mostly trees and hills, unbroken by large towns.

It only took me a couple of hours to reach Glover, and I pulled into the - well, it's either a parking lot or a field, depending on what season it is - and there I was at Bread and Puppet.

The Bread and Puppet Theater, for those who don't know, is the base of an art/homesteading/political movement founded in the 60s by German (or is it Polish?) born sculptor/dancer Peter Schumann. My thoughts on the whole Bread and Puppet experience will take up a longer entry later on, but in brief: the name of the organization is refreshingly literal. They have some giant puppets that they use to serve up a statement of some kind (it's not to difficult to guess that the protests fall towards the further left end of the political spectrum), and then they serve up some bread - cooked by Mr. Schumann himself - spread with garlic aioli. The value of the art is open to the individual viewer, as is all art. The bread and aioli are just empirically good.

Sometime later - in the early '80s, they added a manifesto of some kind called the "Cheap Art" movement. I confess that the details of this were a little vague to me, and it did seem sort of tangential to the central mission, but when an art community - I can think of no other way to describe the place - has been around for as long as B&P has, they have to mutate or wither.

Used to be that they held a once a Summer Pageant that apparently rivaled Burning Man for draw. But it got out of hand, becoming more of a hippie drug weekend getaway event, until the original mission was lost and, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the attendees was killed at a nearby campground in 1998 - a father of four, no less. I have to say, I'm very heartened by the fact that Schumann and his group were so appalled by what had happened and the general tone that the thing had taken on that they decided to scale back the summer events. Much to the chagrin of local businesses, of course.

At any rate, their overall mission - from political goals, to homesteading ideals, to business practices, can be found in not too much depth at their site. I understand that a two volume history has been written by the grandson of Bertolt Brecht, of all people, but I haven't seen that. And most of my RISD fine art friends and culturally aware friends from Northern New England had either read extensively about the movement or visited at some point. But not me.

In fact - up until last weekend, I'd barely heard of the place. My college friend Kate - a participant in the internship this year along with her foster daughter, Rebecca - had mentioned it to me in passing a few years back, but it was one of those things that didn't register with me. Mostly because, well, I'm not into puppets and art as theater is something I have little taste for. So going to see was more of an socio-anthropological journey for me than an exploration of their art.

Anyway, as I said, I'll get much more in depth with my observations and reactions to Bread and Puppet in a couple of days. It's complex, to say the least. For now, the basic chronology:

Leaving my Subaru cooling in the parking field, I walked back down to the 19th Century farmhouse and barn that comprises the B&P homestead. All the interns were sitting out back of the house, in some kind of discussion, so I waved to Kate and made off for the museum. The museum is house in the old barn, which is easy to picture if you think of Elsetree Studios, or the Javits Center, except made out of rough-hewn lumber and about 200 years old. It's a big barn, I'll give it that. As soon as you enter, right up front is what I guess would be considered the museum store - and since the museum also reflects the Cheap Art Manifesto, everything available is hand-printed posters, wood block prints and the like.

The museum itself is more like a storage facility for their pieces, with room to walk around and look at them. The puppets themselves sort of defy description - the only description that kept coming to mind for me was 'Pre-Christian,' as if these were props designed for some film about Solstice Festivals on pre-historic Salisbury Plain.

Kate found me, and - as a big, lumpy guy with nothing better to do, I volunteered my services and helped carry a 15 foot papier mache and wood figure (complete with a crown of straw) down across the rolling fields. Rolling and damp, since the rain had apparently been going non-stop all month, and really only abated the afternoon of my arrival. The drop-off point was one of many old school buses painted Merry Prankster style that dot the farm. We were moving the figures in hopes that the weather would hold for the Sunday Pageant (a much scaled-down version of their old festivals). And indeed, the Merry Prankster bus had gone to ground right by a copse of tall, symmetrical pines that lined the edge of the forest, a natural cathedral that the parade runs through. Well, it had been planted, but you get the point.

I met here a few of the other interns, and noted: most were college-age white girls, crunch-style. An Australian brunette with half-bleached short cropped hair introduced herself as 'Bugs.' I really wanted to follow that up. In fact, I could have spent hours happily interviewing every member of the collective, in the spirit of my socio-anthropological bent. I mean, I exist as a perpetual outsider in society, but there's me being outside of a particular social group, and then there's me being waaaaaaay outside, and the social group that made up this year's crop of interns was that same social group I went to RISD with, and never quite found out what made the entity tick, either en masse or in constituent parts. Nice sweet people that you want to know, and, if you're me, coupled with a sudden social anxiety attack and need to run away very far and very fast.

At Kate's recommendation, me and my magnificent belly decided to go for a swim at a nearby lake, and since this was the first time the weather had really cleared enough to do so, she and Rebecca came along. Kate swam, but Rebecca stayed ashore, singing. Occasionally, a toot from her pitch pipe wafted out over the waters, but no matter how I strained, I couldn't hear her sing. Later, I gathered that she has a near crippling shyness when it comes to public performance, which I'm afraid I may have compounded. More on that later.

Now, the weather had cleared, but it was still pretty cool, and the water was cold, but it was actually quite nice. I'm assured that on normal days, the lake was quite clear (I think it may even have been named 'Crystal Lake,' but that could have just been land developer's hyperbole). We got out, and the girls went to some social event for the interns, and I went to try to find a place to set up my tent before the rain started up again.

Enough Rambling for one entry! The excitement continues - tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Can you really have an intermission after the first act? Well, I can: the lack of sleep from last weekend just caught up with me, and I'm 'quite sleepy.' So, part two of the Willy Loman Weekend will appear in this space tomorrow. Watch for it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Trip Tick

The WIlly Loman Weekend, part one

So. Dicked around most of Thursday, when I should have been preparing to leave. I've always been that way, but my lack of thrill about vacationing solo was definitely dragging my ass slower than it would have normally. And my ass drags even on normal days; scientists have published articles that prove that my ass actually displays high-gravity relativistic effects wherein objects that draw near to it slow down in time. The Chinese have launched a probe with a fraternal teenaged twin - the other remaining behind in Hunan Province - to within 70,000 kilometers of my ass. Upon his return, the ass-bound twin had only aged 7.5 minutes, while the other twin was retiring from his career as Minister of Agricultural Phlebotomy.

Over the course of the previous two days, I'd started laying the groundwork for my weekend, but in about as lackadaisical manner as possible - kind of like a contractor laying the foundation for a house by just randomly throwing some cinder blocks into a hole every once in a while. I'd mentioned to my boss I'd be away Friday (always a good thing to tell your boss these things), borrowed a tent and binoculars from my dad, but sadly decided against bringing the telescope, seeing as how if I'd brought it, it was a guaranteed rainmaker.

By late Thursday, though, my plans were still just a vague haze in the back of my mind. North, to Glover, Vermont. Where is that? How do I get there? Shall I drive, or sit on my ass and wait for the vacation pixies to sprinkle me with travel dust and just poof me to the campsite? Given how much practical effort I was putting into the planning, these were equally likely scenarios as of 6 PM. Eventually, and with a great amount of mental effort, I got my Google directions, Yesenia packed my bag and selected me some CDs (if I weren't so sure of her love for me, I would have sworn she was trying to get rid of me), I threw the camping gear and other ephemera/detritus into the car, including my guitar, and finally, finally made the call of no return - the reservation at the Brattleboro, VT, Super 8. And then I was off like a shot. At 9:15 PM.

See, all I really needed to get going was the idea that if I didn't go, I was about to waste seventy-nine bucks on a motel room that I wouldn't be sleeping in. Therefore, it is proven that the only force stronger than my inertia is my cheapness.

The drive itself was uneventful, if you consider several late-night hours sitting in traffic on Route 95 in Western Connecticut 'uneventful.' I suppose, since no events actually occurred, that is a technical definition of uneventful. As it turns out, they've now entirely dispensed with the pretense that there's some kind of goal or end in sight to the repairs on the Connecticut stretch of 95, some point at which the repairs will be considered 'done' and the build-team will be able to relax and have a beer, hopefully somewhere up high upon Connecticut's tallest peak, where they can look down upon the whole, shining, unbroken and unblemished ribbon of the Interstate, as the traffic flows like playful otters flashing up and down the river of tarmac. No. The army of robot slaves has been set to the task of constant labor, rebuilding CT/US-95 over and over and over. When the Earth finally explodes and the hunk of it that used to be Connecticut exits the Solar System at a 17 degree angle to the elliptic, they'll still be toiling away on that bit just before the first Northbound Guilford exit.

The point is: I'm a fucking idiot, because I'm so used to taking 95 that it didn't even remotely occur to me that even if there was no traffic or construction, it wasn't the road I should have taken. What can I say? I've been going up 95 to Rhode Island several times a year for the last 36 years that I'm like a Canadian Goose that's been trained and requires some dude in an ultralight to lead me to a new path.

Anyway, I finally just winged it, dropped off of 95 around exit 40 (onto the Wilbur Cross Parkway/Route 15) and discovered - much in the same way that Columbus 'discovered' a land that had been inhabited for several thousand years - that there was a) no traffic, and b) a nice, civilized mutually agreed upon speed of about 65 MPH by the few cars that were on it. Like Columbus, I bought Catholicism and Small Pox to Connecticut, but since they already had them, it wasn't such a big deal.

In this way, I reached Route 91. From there it was a relatively speedy trip to Brattleboro, and I got into the Super 8 Motel around 1:15 AM. I checked it, wrassled futilely with the 'courtesy PC' in the lounge to see if I could check my mail and or post a 'here I am' kind of Rambler, but the PC was even more exhausted than I, so no dice. I retired.

The room was nice enough - hell, it was clean and there was hot water, which is about all I require, but I have to say that I think the name of the place is a little misleading. Curiously, the Super 8 Motel does not have Super 8mm projectors showing someone else's old home movies in each room. It's jut cable, like every other motel in the U.S. So, I set the alarm and primed the wake-up call for 7:15.

Does this entry seem like I'm mostly talking about driving? Well, you know, I went from southern New York to northern Vermont, to Bangor, Maine, and then back to New York in the course of three days, so there was a lot of driving involved. Steel yourself.

Tomorrow: Breakfast in Brattleboro, Bread and Puppets in Glover, and the tale of the wet night.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No Pictures, Please

Welcome back, me! I just did the "Willy Loman Special," a three day whirlwind trip to, through, and from Northern New England. I'd have liked to have pictures to post, but my camera would have nothing of it. Apologies. You're spared beautiful shots of cloud-clad green mountains, fiery sunsets, open valleys, quaint towns, etc. Also, shots of bearded men in plaid flannel. There was a lot of that in northern New Hampshire, in the passage between Glover, VT and Newburgh, ME.

Also, a thing I didn't get photo of, but wish very much I had: a sign for a town just over the VT/NH border, which the slogan (beneath a carved and painted image of a sun setting between low mountains over rivers and fields) is "where rivers and people meet!" Which sounds to me like it's the place where people can't take it anymore and drown themselves like lemmings, along with the spring thaw.

What I do have are a few Ramblers worth of travel anecdotes. Since I saw a lot of theater on this trip, and very little beyond that, I guess it's more like a few Ramblers worth of theater anecdotes.

Not much else for tonight, though. Harry Potter 7 had arrived in my absence, and I just spent all day reading it. So, now I should catch up on some work, no?


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Work for Hire

So, here's the stuff I put together for KPMG last night. Two strips and some character sketches.

A little necessary info: these are one-page strips intended for the back page of a publication that KPMG (again, the global accountancy firm) is distributing to college campuses across the U.S. to recruit new 'talent.'

I like them, even though it's to a theme. Since it's been fifteen years since I was in college myself, I read a couple of Jessica Abel collections to give myself the slice-of-life flavor I wanted in the clothes-shopping strip. The other strip, I figured I'd just do a straight-forward punchline set-up and delivery. Hopefully, it's not too forced.

Curiously, the lead designer was sort of disquieted when he saw the strips. I was able to piece together that he expected to see finished work along the lines of what was in my portfolio - which is totally bizarre, when you consider that these things were absolutely intended as first-draft offerings, and so by nature would not have any labor-intensive finish to them whatsoever. Lord knows what he was expecting: a completely finished full-color strip, that I would then redraw completely from scratch when someone didn't feel it matched? I'd say the odd answer is yes, and it's weird that the lead DESIGNER would expect work of that level for a first draft. Obviously, he knows a lot about design process but very little about illustration in general or comics in particular.

I guess that's Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark, et al., that's skewed people's perspectives on things like this - when your first comp can look like the finished version, everyone expects perfection from the start.

Not like I'm complaining. It's the desktop publishing revolution that has given me a career.

Anyway, Yesenia liked them both very much, which totally brightened my day, I must add.

The two characters are, of course, myself and Yesenia. The Dave stand-in is yet another variation on Dan Miller from At the End of the World with my Sister, not necessarily because I'm into self-plagarism (although Dan himself was a variation on an earlier character of mine, Hammond Cheese, Private Eye), but because when I do work like this where I figure I'm going to be drawing a lot of one character and I want to keep them on-model, I like to make it as easy on myself as possible. When I'm drawing a variation of a character I've been drawing in one form or other since 1986, I can focus on storytelling and polish, and just let the characters 'act.'

Anyway, more on this as it develops.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fire Up the Anxiety Engine

Tonight's a late-nighter - drawing the comps for the KPMG comics. So, nothing for the Rambler.


Seriously, we're closed. Come back tomorrow.


Monday, July 16, 2007

The Man from A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.

A few random noises from the back of my brain:

1) Collaborations
Outside of "Under Pressure," has there ever been a team-up that's really delivered on promise?
- Blind Faith? Probably not so much.
- McCartney/Costello? Admittedly, the best work on the four albums (two for each artist) that the songs appeared on, with a few that I'd consider classics. "Veronica" and "My Brave Face," and especially "So Like Candy." But there was also a lot of filler on both albums. I keep meaning to make myself a super-mix of all their co-compositions, and see how that flows as an album.
- and.... anything else?

2) C.H.U.D.
This has an internal contradiction that bugs me. To wit: they'd actually have to be human underground dwellers, in order to be cannibals. As it is, they're just man-eating humanoid underground dwellers. Although I suppose a film about mutants that live in the sewers and just eat each other might be kind of interesting...

3) Tom Waits
The man needs to back off the overdriven, drunken wombat in a cavernous bathroom vocals over fucked-up tuned percussion and dissonant electric accordion. Man, it's been done. At this point, the most avant-garde, visionary thing he could do would be to go into the studio with a tight four-piece and deliver some songs with melodies, while sober.

4) Deathly Hallows
It occurs to me that my Harry Potter book 7 will arrive the day after I leave for Vermont and Maine. Therefore, I will avoid all sources of news between midnight Thursday and midnight Sunday, at which point I will start reading and not sleep until I read 'The End.' I wonder, are you allowed to call in sick with a "Harry Potter Hangover?"

5) Vista
Just sat and really used it for the first time on my dad's new Toshiba laptop, today. And all I have to say is: what an unusable hunk of shit. And I'm not even one of those anti-Microsoft people; I think Office (particularly Word) is an elegant and powerful set of programs, and (let's face it) Entourage is a better integrated app than iCal and Mac Mail. I mean, I still prefer Mac Mail, but iCal still hasn't gotten it together, and I'm beginning to wonder if they ever will.

But, really - Vista? Bad. Godawful. In fact. they haven't yet invented a word to properly describe this needlessly complex and inefficient experiment in hostile senility wrapped in day-glo, so I'm coining one now. It's Vista. As in, "Wow, that's really Vista." "Yeah, totally Vista, dude. I'm so sorry."

The Vista abortion and Zune together, combined with the recent XBox multi-billion dollar fixes just prove that Microsoft really has serious, serious development and rollout problems. We'll see what happens with Microsoft Surface (which I'm admittedly still pretty wowed by), but given their recent track record, it will probably come contaminated with the Ebola Virus, or after twenty hours of non-continuous use, it starts to give users random high-voltage shocks. Of course, since it looks like they're planning on an airport lounge only market, I'm guessing that all the business travelers will be too zonked on Mai-Tais to notice.

I wonder: who will be the first to email a nude full body shot of themselves to the LAX "Skywings" bar Surface? I'd like to shake that man's hand.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cough, hack, gasp

Well, don't know if this is allergies or something infectious, but I sure feel like crap. I expect these notes to be forwarded to the M.E. upon my seemingly imminent demise.

Nothing much to report. The brain is apparently going into energy-save mode during my under-the-weatherness, so no interesting observations to make. Spent the morning finishing up the dining room wiring, then went to Jim's small outdoor party. After a while, I waddled over to the sidewalk leading up to the porch and spent about fifteen minutes lying face up on the concrete, much to the annoyance of Matilda (who's six), sure that I was going to get munched on by either ticks or red ants. Then she started pummeling me with her acrylic balloon. So that was restful.

"Chase me! Chase me!" So I chased her, and she ran and let slip the balloon. I ran back and leapt to retrieve it, but it was already too high for me, and I'm not such a great jumper in even the best of health. Big ass, and all that. The balloon went up about fifty feet, rested for a few minutes in the very top branches of a tall maple, then dislodged and went away. Matilda sat on the lawn and pouted. Apparently, that was the second balloon she had lost today.

During all that, between courses of chips, dip, cheese and various grilled meats and a orzo salad (which most people at first took to be rice), we played multiple games of Mad Libs, the 'Dinosaur,' 'Catwoman (the movie)' and 'Justice League (the animated series)' editions.

And that was that.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Out and about

Spent the morning doing house stuff, then had a brisk fight with the wife, then we went up to Norwalk. South Norwalk, to be exact, an old New England mill town that's become one of those places. What is 'one of those places? I'll give you a hint: they call it "SoNo."

Anyway, since I'm my mother's son, I'm rather partial to those places, so Yesenia and I had a rather nice time at the aquarium, then a leisurely lunch and stroll along the renewed historic district - including a stop at a bohemian upscale chocolate café, where we tried the upscale bohemian chocolates with the cutesy names. I had the "Queenie" (chocolate ganache with a sprinkling of green Earl Grey) and the inexplicably named "Patricia," which was a little dark chocolate in the shape of a lingam filled with a tangerine/chili creme. Rather good, actually. Yesenia informs me that she had the "Francesca" and the "Elizabeth," respectively a port wine truffle and a passion fruit/ginger creme. Actually, she ordered the "Francesca," but the brought her an orange creme by mistake, so we don't know what it was called. Perhaps it was the "Julius."

For lunch we were going to go to a tapas place recommended by Bubba and Fin, (who pointed us to SoNo in the first place), but it wasn't opened and we instead went to a burger bar (coincidentally called "The Burger Bar") and played a never-ending round of "War" with the deck of blue Bicycle playing cards in our table's condiment bucket. Again, SoNo is one of those places.

The burgers were good, washed down with some expensive imported beer (O.O.T.P.) and shepherded by an altogether too enthusiastic waiter. Imagine a skinny, younger Henry Rollins; one who has replaced his anger at social and political injustice with a sparkling, rainbow-bright passion for burgers and a yuppified old mill town in Connecticut, and you might have a clear picture.

Anyway, the day was nice but I was still - and am still - under the weather, with either an allergy or some weird cold that's acting a lot like an allergy. Tired, aching, sneezing, stuffy head, puffy eyes, etc. I'm like the 'before' picture in the NyQuil ad. And since we don't have NyQuil in the house, I guess I'll just go with TheraFlu.

Just as well, since the big "Q" would put me in a coma until mid-August (unable to find the great old Chris Farley NyQuil parody that's a reference to. Curse you, copyright law!)

Have a good Ny, yourselves.


Friday, July 13, 2007

This Week's Entry

So, not going away this weekend. Really, it's a good thing, because I would have had to haul ass, and given my very rare under-the-wetaherness - not quite a cold, not quite a stomach complaint, but something just not quite right, either - I would have probably made myself a lot sicker. So that will be next weekend, and I'll be good and rested and hopefully have a much lighter work week next week so that I don't keep myself at this extra-stress level for two weeks running.

In the meantime, here's my Vomit Comic from this week's class:

(Click that image for the same image, only bigger)

Really, I'm not sure how the title relates, but I put it there in small letters on the upper left corner, and it sparked this low-key homage.

For those who don't get the reference: Jules Feiffer did a recurring feature in his eponymous strip featuring a gangly woman who danced to all sorts of things. I'm not sure if she ever really did dance to art, but I'm sure that somewhere in the thousands of weekly strips he's accumulated over the decades, there's been at least one.

It should be pretty obvious that this strip is about as close to an essay as I actually get, so you can just go ahead and call it the real content of tonight's rambler.

Good night.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fun, Fun, Fun on the Autobahn

Well, I'm almost kinda sorta committed to my weekend trip - solo, sadly. I need to get away very, very badly, but my feet are dragging. Of course, it's the 'solo' part that's giving me any hesitation whatsoever. If Yesenia could get away this weekend I'd be off like a shot, with no parts of me dragging.

As it stands now, I have an insane Crazy Eddie level of work to get done before I leave after class on Friday. So the Rambler will be set to minimal for the next two stops, and then possibly drop to zero for Sunday morning. If I can find an internet café off in the ass-end of Northern Vermont - one that isn't run by bears - I'll see if I can kill some time. However, if the weather holds, I hope to get some good stargazing in.

I'll bring the camera and see if I can get together one of those damn photo-blogs that have replaced slideshows as the dreaded vacation chronicle of the lower middle class.

"Oh, here I am fishing. See that? That's the time I got my cock impaled on a Narwhal's tooth. Yeah, good thing I had my double-beer hat on - I just ripped 'em open and shotgunned 'em right into that freaky dentist's nightmare's maw, and he buzzed instantly and withdrew. Now you can store a pen or even a flash drive in there. When I'm aroused, my wife can play it like a flute, but only in a dorian scale, so don't expect to hear any Bach."

All right. See you tomorrow.


BTW: Is someone playing a joke on me, or did Tony Millionaire really post a comment on this past Sunday's entry? I have to say, joke or real, both likelihoods are all the way at the ultraviolet end of the extremely bizarre spectrum.

You know something? It's probably Danny Hellman...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Comics Jounal

Had occasion today to be part of a meeting discussing a new magazine from KPMG (the global cabal/accountant firm). My participation in this magazine - aimed at brainwashing soon-to-be college grads into throwing their lot in with the company - will be a single full-page, full-color comic.

I say 'will be,' because at this early stage of the game, there are many, many hurdles to overcome, not least of which is the conservative and humorless nature of a global accounting firm that's headquartered in Switzerland. OF course, I could be wrong about that - after all, think of the famous Swiss comedian,

... uh...

Well, you know. They've got famously private banks with favorable tax laws for foreign investment, a lot of chocolate and a sense of really kind of being off to one side of history. They're too busy with all that to actually go all the way with it and become Jews by developing a culture of humor. That and the fact that they probably hate Jews.

Anyhow, my anxiety radar immediately went off, because I can see what's coming and will be unable to avoid it: a comic by committee with seriously questionable attempts to be hip by design, as to appeal to the college crowd. Well, to appeal to the college crowd that would think of joining a global accountancy firm right out of college, so I guess the 'hip factor' can be pretty negligible, after all.

Still: full-color, full-page, published comics work that pays. Hard to say 'no' to that. Nice portfolio piece, and maybe a good shot in the ego department for the illustrator in me. My illustrator's ego took several crippling blows between arriving at the Rhode Island School of Design having been a star of my high school art crowd to find that I'd been demoted to walk-on part, and the one-two punch in at the end of my stay there, with: 1) a severely damaging portfolio review at the Society of Illustrators in New York that left me sobbing in the basement of that august institution, and 2) the rejection of my submission of At the End of the World with my Sister to the Xeric Grant for self-published comic creators.

Looking back on all that: man, what a whiny pussy I was!

However, I know the dangerous area of self-doubt I'm sailing into here, and I have to be careful not to get too involved.

Money. Published. Portfolio.

Dave Kopperman, Illustrator? That has a nice ring...

...and somehow, I have to come up with three samples by this Friday. Good fucking luck, Dave Kopperman, Illustrator. I'll be waiting for you at the bar with Dave Kopperman, Animator, and Dave Kopperman, Singer/Songwriter.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Insert Lame Pun Here

Well, Monday night, and I still can't decide what the hell it is I'm doing with my weekend. Go for a camping trip alone up to Vermont? Catch some weird puppet show thing that features a college friend of mine? Stay home and do more work around the house? See a friend of mine from Barnes & Noble? What?

My inability to make clear decisions has long been my real failing, I think. Expect my epitaph to feature several internal contradictions and at least one unresolved ellipsis...


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Party of the Second Part

Okay! It's more Vomit Comics! If you missed it, check yesterday's Rambler for an explnation. Otherwise, let's dive right back into the puke pool!

Click those fuckers for bigger pictures, okay?

This one is both kind of stupid and also very, very stupid - it's two totally different kinds of stupid.

Stupid #1: Obviously, the joke itself doesn't pan out. The punchline is supposed to be calm guy freaking out with oedipal complex that reveals itself to him in his dreams. Ha, ha: sex dreams about mom.

Stupid #2: Because the drawing of the random guy in the first panel looked to me like my friend Jim, I just named it after him. If I'd thought about it for more than half a second, I wouldn't have done that - because Jim's mom was seriously ill at the time. Meaning that not only is the original non-punchline lost, it now seems like some weird thing about this specific Jim and his sick mother, which is not only stupid but really, really tasteless.

Curiously, a few months earlier, my own mother had been sick, and that undoubtedly played some hand in the subconscious life of this page.

I will say that I like the drawing of the car.

Moving on...


I have to admit, this one cracks me up.

I was aiming for something a little more stylized in this one - really trying to push to get out of my normal doodle style into something more graphic. The addition of the Silver Sharpie does more for this than any of the actual drawing.

Mr. Subdued himself is probably an ode to Peter Bagge's early comics, which in turn were homages to Crumb's earlier work. I'm guessing that doesn't come across. It's hard to ape perfection in 15 minutes.

Mr. Subdued also bears a passing resemblance to my ace pupil, Kalliope Dalto. She'd just been to a Trek convention and gave herself a Spock bowlcut. I only bring it up so that I can say: watch out for the name Kalliope Dalto. She's going places. Of course, she's only 12, so it won't be for a few years yet.


The first Vomit Comic from the third round of classes.

More boats. I'm thinking this is me telling me I really need a vacation.

Also, this reads like the worst Tony Millionaire comic ever. Sorry, Tony.


Someone had mentioned Newton's Second Law of Thermodynamics to me just before class, so it was on my mind.

The joke - which is pretty opaque, I'll grant - is based on a new-ish Cosmological Theory that states that the big bang isn't a singular event, but something that happens over and over and over.

Of course, it doesn't follow at all that the same universe will keep being recreated - same history, same timeline, same conditions, same everything - but I'd caught ahold of that theory a couple of years ago and it sparked a sci-fi/superhero story in me that uses just that interpretation. So this page takes it from there.

A better punchline would be that God hates you so much that he keeps recreating you just so you can die all over again, but it didn't occur to me at the time.

I'm aware that I misused 'infinitesimally,' but what do you want from me?


Fifteen Minutes and it Shows

When I started teaching the Mechanics of Comics class last September, I wanted to get a feel for where everyone was in terms of development. The best was I could think to do that was to start the first class with an exercise where everyone had to do a complete page, cold. The drawing didn't have to be perfect - in fact, since I decided to set a time limit of 15 minutes, the chances were good that the drawing wouldn't be much of anything at all. Fast and loose, whatever your brain can come up with, but you have to finish.

And just to show that a) I was willing to put myself at risk by showing the new class that I could suck hard, so sucking is not such a bad thing, and b) just to loosen my stiff drawing muscles a little bit before getting into class, I sat down and did the exercise with them.

The first round of classes, we only did this once, and it did get the job done, in that I was able to quickly gauge everyone's level and try to pitch the class accordingly. Since the class was my friend Jim (age 36) and two 13 year olds, you can imagine that trying to find the right middle-ground was challenging, to say the very least.

It was only the second time the class was offered did it occur to me that starting every class with a 15-minute blank-page-to-finished-comic exercise would be good for loosening-up, and hopefully getting everyone out of their day and into class. And you know? It worked for me, but the second round of classes ended up with one very young crazy prodigy and three teenagers who didn't draw a thing for twelve straight weeks. Still, I continued with the exercise for the first few classes - which focus more on plot, character and layout than any actual drawing - and then dropped it for the latter half of the sessions, when we did get into drawing nuts and bolts.

About halfway through the second round of classes, I started calling the exercise Vomit Comics, because when you're under such a tight deadline, you have no choice but to make them stream-of-consciousness. Whatever is on your mind - even if you don't know what might be on your mind - ends up puked out onto the page. The time-limit is definitely a nod to Scott McCloud's 24 Hour Comics - in which an artist has to create a complete 24 page comic in 24 hours. Of course, by shortening the time limit to a page in fifteen minutes, that basically means that you'd do a freaking 96 Page Graphic Novel in 24 hours. There's a challenge, and one I'm sure I won't take up in my lifetime...

Anyhow, I guess I'll show you a few of these things. They're incredibly crude, and mind-numbingly stupid, but have to admit that I'm entertained by them. First, a note on the method and materials: I prefer to do these directly in Sharpie - which really means that the line you put down stays down - so no pencilling or pre-planning. I maintained that aesthetic here, so nothing has been retouched. Other than the first one, which was done with both a fine and very fine point, all were done with the one size. Lettering and legibility suffer as a result. Apologies. Also, the first one was done at letter size, where there others were done pretty big in my oversized sketchbook, 14" x 17". I like working that size - drawing becomes much more of a physical activity, and looping the lines around on the page is pretty therapeutic.

All right: the first half of the not-much-ballyhooed Vomit Comics, in the order in which they were created. Individual notes follow.

Remember to click images for larger versions. At your own risk.

Punchline? What's a punchline? It's pretty clear that my anxiety about teaching for the very first time in my life had some effect on this comic. I think that third panel - the group of kids staring up at the window in the very, very late moonlight - is pretty creepy. I hadn't intended it to be, but the necessary quick drawing to get an entire crowd of kids in just a couple of minutes made sure that they ended up empty-eyed ghostly presences. Once I saw that's how they were coming out, I decided I liked it and just wnet with it, which os why they get increasingly creepy as they move out from the central figure - the first one I drew.


This is probably the lamest one, if only because it's so literal. Done not in a class, but sort of a 'come take my class!' session I did to drum up attendance. A mother and daughter - about eight years old, I'm guessing - were the only attendees, and neither took the class.

I guess I sort of like the big pose in the third panel, but really: meh.


Really, what cartoonist hasn't done some lame detective noir comic pastiche at some point? I actually have a history of it, having tortured people with my own Hammond Cheese, Private Eye from 1987 to 1989. Of course, since I have zero interest in detective fiction or film-noir, Hammond Cheese ended up being more of an Indiana Jones rip-off. Which is also a little odd, because I don't really like the Indiana Jones movies, either...

This detective has nothing to do with Hammond Cheese, but no doubt that was at the back of my mind, somewhere, while drawing.

I've also played a half-assed detective/film-noir character on film, which means that I'm spreading my ignorance of the genre out over several media. Maybe I'll write the Detective Symphonies, next.


When in doubt, hit that metafiticonal/fourth-wall/self-referential button! Always guaranteed to never get laughs!


All right. Tomorrow, some more of these gems.


Friday, July 6, 2007

The Year of the Cat

Yes, it's that kind of night: when we have no idea what to write about, throw up a random blog title and hope that sparks something. Well, no: I'm not going to write about Al Stewart (although we did take a brief pass at "Year of the Cat" in practice the other night).

Frankly, I'm not going to write about anything. I'm fucking exhausted. Tomorrow, I'll post some of my 'vomit comics' to share. What are 'vomit comics?,' I hear you ask. Well, you'll just have to link and see, won't you?

Have a good night and all that shit.



Well, I'm about to blow my art school cred for the billionth time, but I have to report that I rilly, rilly liked Music and Lyrics, a surprisingly smart, funny, touching - and oddly genuine - romantic comedy (or rom-com, if you're writing for Variety) that slipped in and out of theaters earlier this year. The characters are all intelligent and act accordingly; when the romance finally comes, it falls into the script so organically that even though it's right on cue, it's still affecting. Also, the milieu - a new songwriting partnership between a faded 80's pop star (modeled on Andrew Ridgley) and Drew Barrymore's neurotic writer - felt very real, which isn't something you often find in films of this kind. It gets the details right, so the characters can become more solid as well.

One detail totally nailed - that feeling of the first real day of a new relationship, when both people are hopeful and timid at once. Nicely done.

The end was a little pat, but, what the hell. At least it was genuinely funny, and even though the satiric targets (80's new wave pop bands, sexed-up teen pop starlets with delusions of enlightenment, reality TV and snobbish academic novelists) are easy targets, the jokes are all spot on and pretty fresh.

Of course, the casting is what makes these things work, and Hugh Grant's effortless charm and self-effacement combined with Barrymore's reinvention of the Annie Hall stereotype gets it done. I'll call it the best film of its kind since You've Got Mail, meaning that it's slick Hollywood product that nonetheless is more human and sincere than any number of Slamdance winners.

And hey! The song in question is genuinely catchy, and the lyrics are indeed solid, so it passes the dreadful test of having the piece at the center of the film be a tremendous vacuum, which is always a danger. See Eddie and the Cruisers II for clarification on what a train wreck a film can be when everyone in the story appears to have lost their mind by responding to an utter hunk of rock and roll crap as if it were stone genius on the order of "Strawberry Fields Forever."

To top it off, they only have the final recorded version of the song in the film once, so the development of it pays off very well.

Anyway, see it. There are far, far worse ways to waste $4.00 at Blockbuster and 90 minutes of your time.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007


A big, rainy, wet kiss of a birthday celebration for our nation this evening here on the east coast. Thankfully, we didn't have to go anywhere far to see any kind of fireworks display - we spent the afternoon and evening at the Yacopino's, and then at around 9 PM, a neighbor of theirs set off a pretty impressive - if intermittent - display. Apparently, the launcher is a NYC policeman who annually brings his haul of confiscated fireworks (they're illegal in New York for private use) and lights them off from his home without any hassle from the local police. One of those benefits of the fraternal order of the blue, but who am I to complain? Free fireworks from a friend's porch? Not bad.

I'd like to take this moment - as all bloggers in the whole damn sphere who happen to have an Earth address in America have no doubt done - just to praise this great, resilient nation and the framers who gave us enough rope to hang ourselves with and enough leeway to come down from the gallows with renewed purpose. The drawback to this is every four years, listening to yet another group of hopefuls mumbling some vague bumper-sticker about 'America finding a bright new day in the sun.' The advantage should be obvious: witness how fragile and faltering civil democracy is all over our world, and then turn around and take a look at the miracle we've preserved for over two and a quarter centuries.

Sure, at times it seems like a wash. Certainly, the system is too limited in choice, too easily corrupted by money. Yes, image always seems to trump content. Too often, those who govern forget that we are the rulers and they merely the executor of our wishes. And, Lord Knows, the poison of prejudice and discrimination in any form will always be the shadow of our national soul.

But we've gotten this far with nothing more than a few words on a piece of paper and some contraband fireworks, so hand me a beer, slap me on the ass and point me towards the future. Maybe the American Way gets a good, solid ass-fucking every once in awhile, but the American Dream is still unsullied - a shining city on a hill that's worth standing in the rain to watch for.


Unfinished Sympathy

Of interest only to Dave completeists - and perhaps Karl - presented for your approval is the list of tunes from the band with no name. Or the band called DeSk, depending on which band member you ask.

Songs with completed lyrics and melodies:
Imperial Evidence

Songs with complete melodies and incomplete lyrics:
Surf Beat Twilight
Old Red Towel/Sweet Poison

Songs with incomplete melodies and incomplete lyrics:
Green Light

Songs with no melody or lyric:
6 in 3

Songs with no song (yet):
Some damn new thing with no title (in D)
March of the Moodies

Songs that are possibly instrumentals:
Pastoral in F
The Sad Keys
The Croce Variations

Songs that we cover:

As you can see, the further the song gets away from being completed, the odder the title is. These are what we like to call "working titles," although given that some of these songs have been going by these titles for well over a year, obviously the titles aren't working so well, after all.

It seems as though, in lieu of getting a ribbon or gold star or somesuch, songs in the band with no name/DeSk get rewarded a title as they show progress. Neutrino started life as Waltzina, which is just a mash-up of "Waltz in A Major." Newscast went under Hungarian Restaurant for a while, because the guitar pattern reminded us of an earlier song of ours called Chinese Restaurant - which in turn was just a play on Billy Joel's Scenes From an Italian Restaurant. My favorite footnote to that song is when our drummer, Edz, made out a click track on his PC, the computer automatically shortened the title to Chin Rest, which is the best title EVER.

Other songs come from their title. Surf Beat Twilight - which may yet be renamed - is named so because it sounds a bit like a surf remix of the theme from The Twilight Zone. Imperial Evidence was a misspeak of Karl's, who meant to say "empirical evidence." It seemed liked such an evocative new phrase that I quickly wrote a song to it.

6 in 3 is a shortened version of Shaun's original very descriptive title, 6 Notes in a 3/4 Time. As you can see from that and Waltzina, some titles are merely mnemonic devices. A necessary evil sometimes, when you need to remember just how a piece went before it has any defining characteristics, like a melody, lyric or arrangement.

Other titles are more prosaic. Old Red Towel is so named becuase the jam room, indeed, had an old red towel hanging off a shelf. Meatloaf? Yesenia was cooking dinner while we cobbled that one together from a very loose and bluesy (in a Norah Jones kind of way) chord change from Shaun. It may be the only song ever named after the smell in the room when it was being written, if you discount Livin' la Vida Loca.

Green Light may be the most interesting case study of all, title-wise. The piece had no name when we put it together - it was just a nice sounding minor-key new number with vintage new wave tones. But when I dumped the complete unbanded session disc into iTunes for a quick import, the Gracenote system found a disc from another artist in the database with the title Green Light (Live). This I immediately knew was not only the right title, but the Lynchian imagery mixed with the sound of our new song - I had and have no idea what the other band sounded like - came together so well that the lyric pretty much unfolded itself whole, just from that combination.

Of course, it's still not done - many aren't done - but it's getting close. The time has come to start the rinse cycle on these fuckers, and see what makes it to the album.

Provisionally speaking, for the band with no name with the songs with no titles. Lord knows just what the album is going to be called.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Temptation Desert

So: walked in to the Apple store today, determined to blow a percentage of my extra cash on a laptop. Walked out ten minutes later full of confusion and doubt, as always. They have six (approximately) models that range from small and powerful to large and even more powerful. Even the lowest end MacBook has about twice the processor speed of the Femputer (our Intel MacMini from April of 2006). That's okay, because the MacMini cost about half as much, but...

Ach! Why can't I just bring myself to spend the money? A lot of it has to do with the fact that supposedly when business picks up at the agency, I'll get a laptop from the business. Which would then not even be a question: the 15" MacBook Pro. But on my own home budget, that little black 2.16Ghz Intel with the 13" screen will do quite nicely.

These are problems? Apparently, because I'm sore beset by them. Anyhow, I'm open to arguments pro and con on which computer I should get, bearing in mind that it has to be at least a Photoshop workhorse, and hopefully also be useful as a music recording/mixing thingamabob. Anybody?

So: A THREE MOVIE DAY! Saw Ratatouille at the mall (fucking brilliant, sweet and satisfying, of course, although Bird might overplay his Shyamalan hand with the critic's mea culpa/conversion at the end), followed by (sigh) Norbit and Ghost Rider at home, with pizza and beer. And my wife. Norbit was about as lame as I thought it would be, but Eddie Murphy at least put in some work on the thing.

Ghost Rider was a major step-up for Daredevil 'auteur' Mark Steven Johnson, and we both liked it a lot. It helped that Nicholas Cage struck just the right note of jackass and sad sack in his performance, but the script was better and the F/X a lot more sensible than in Daredevil. Plus, Eva Mendes has a nice body.

Still, I find I'm getting a little exhausted by these Marvel films. And with the (no doubt) huge financial bonanza of Transformers, I suspect I'm going to be just plain sick of toy-to-film properties with comics histories - get ready for the Rom:Spaceknight and Micronauts blockbusters.

And then... Hello Kitty:Goodbye Waltz


Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Sound of Young America

Spent several hours working on the dining room ceiling today, and got nothing done. Mostly, it was the discovery that what we thought was going on with the wiring - the layout of it, that is - had nothing to do with reality. Therefore, my hopes of taking advantage of the opened ceiling to replace all the old (old, OLD) wiring are pretty much trashed. Oh, well. Insurance fire claims, here we come!

In fact, 'getting nothing done' was the day's official motto. Just felt tired, and Yesenia slept pretty much all day. For a while, I took a nap as well - on the theory that when I awoke later, I'd be refreshed enough to tackle a couple of projects for work. Ha! Stayed tired, ate dinner, watched Dreamgirls, and still tired. The legendary second wind never came. Or if it did, it bypassed me and went right to Kiko (our cat), who's had 'the crazies' all night. Those of you who have cats or have had cats know what 'the crazies' are. For the rest of you: you feed the cat, cat goes on tear around house, jumps into open closet, stares at spot on wall, runs up and down stairs, goes into the basement and yowls horribly, runs back upstairs, leaps onto the bed and attacks your feet. Then expects to be fed again.

As for Dreamgirls, it made me want to read a history of Motown, so it had that going for it. Nice, slick Hollywood movie musical with great performances, but mostly forgettable songs. Still, good orchestration and set & costume design, so it's worth your time. As many others have noted, it's nice to see Eddie Murphy turn in a real performance, again. This will be immediately overturned, because the other film we have from BLockbuster is INorbit. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. Guy needs to get out of the cross-dressing fat-suits and follow the BIll Murray career path.

Seriously, what is it with black film comedians dressing up as violent, grossly obese matrons? Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy - I'm sure there are many more that I'm unfamiliar with. And what is it with black audiences that want to see this? Are they really clamoring for this? If so, this may be the greatest racial divide in our nation, today. There are some things that just can't leap across cultural boundaries. I guess if white people have A Prairie Home Companion, black audiences have Big Momma's House 3:Big Momma's Mansion.

Still, I'm sure we can all come together in agreement that any film written or directed by of Nancy Meyers is an abomination that should never be screened again. And the soul of a nation shall be healed.


Saturday Night's Alright for Slacking

Saturday nights are going to be the wildcard night, I suppose. Some weeks, we'll go long, other weeks - like last weekend, with long days at the hospital and only time enough for paying labor when I returned home in the late evening - are going to be stunningly brief. This one will also only be a placeholder, since we were at Jim's house all evening and only got home about 10 minutes ago - meaning it's almost 2 o'clock.

No worthwhile prose happens at 2 AM, you know. Even the great books that are already written, bound, reviewed, shelved and collecting dust find their pages emptied out and replaced with recipes for Jell-o Loaf and Japanese VCR clock-setting instructions. Moby Dick is replaced with the lyrics from the Zepplin tune (with author attribution going from Melville to "John Bonham! John HENRY Bonham!"), and the entire works of Shakespeare devolve to drunken, half-remembered limericks about women from Nantucket, and other places that rhyme with reproductive acts.

Curiously, at 2:17 - and only for about twelve seconds - the entire oeuvres of Tom Clancy and Edward Said switch, except Jack Ryan disappears from both versions and instead gets shunted over to a copy of The Bell Jar. Perhaps most frightening: he likes it there.