Saturday, September 29, 2007


This is post #150. Have a good Sunday.


1000 Words, Plus or Minus

My, but these Ramblers have been pretty literal and dry these last few weeks, have they not? I think I'll have to focus on gettin' some purty pictures together to break up the monotony of all this type. Not for tonight, though: HouseWeek continued today with a plastering of the dining room, in advance of painting it - hopefully tomorrow. I say 'hopefully,' because in some areas - mostly the corners where the two - uh, corner moldings? - hung, the topography of the wall resembled one of those Marie Tharp maps of the ocean floor. You know, the part by the Mid-Oceanic Ridge where primordial crap comes boiling up from the Earth's mantle, and all sorts of fucked-up creepy-crawlies thrive on it? It looked like that.

In fact, once I pried off the molding, I found a thick chemical soup surrounded by lifeforms that some scientists claim as closely related to the first life on Earth! And can I tell you, both scientists and lifeforms were P-I-S-S-E-D when I ladled a tub of patching plaster all over them. Well, actually, some of the scientists seemed to enjoy it.

Anyway, the point is that the plaster over those two corners was so thick that I doubt it's going to be dry in time for me to prime, much less paint, tomorrow. Which is a shame, because I had set Sunday as the day when the dining room would be finished and all the furniture moved back in, since we have guests turning up for brunch. Still, if the weather holds, we can just eat on the porch, which is probably nicer in many regards.

And the color? Poached Pear from Valspar, by way of Lowe's:

...and can I just point out the sheer, pointless ludicrousness of putting paint chips online? It's about as close to the real thing as internet porn is to actual sex. Never mind the fact that everyone's monitor is calibrated a little differently, meaning that no two computers are going to show you the same yellow. But I can assure you that my monitor is calibrated for print work, and that color looks not at all like the color that me and Yesenia (mostly Yesenia) chose. As far as I know, Yesenia isn't partial to the Eyeball-Searing, Day-Glo Radioisotopic line of designer colors from Laura Ashley. The real world version of Poached Pear is much more subdued. And you can dine by walls coated in it without feeling ill, or suffering any other symptoms of radiation poisoning.

I'll spare you the boring lecture about additive versus subtractive color, but suffice it to say there is no way on God's Poached Pear Earth that you will ever see the same color on a computer monitor that you will on your wall.

Still, it did give the chance to finally liven up these copy-heavy Ramblers with some imagery, and for that, I'm grateful.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

(12 Angry Men) - (11) + (3 Calm Guys) = Dave

It's true. I have tantrums. I'm a very frustrated guy. Mommy didn't love me, no-one appreciates me, my house is falling apart and I'm the living antithesis of a handyman - or is that the living embodiment of an unhandyman? - I'm cruel to small animals, I smell funny, etc.

The backstory to this self-excoriation: at practice tonight, during a run-through of a song that has a tricky mid-section, I had a moment of complete fed-uppedness with the state of the the arrangement, tried to stammer a suggestion, tripped over my tongue, and instead shouted "Fuck!" - punctuating it with a slammed dischord on the Rhodes. Feeling bad but still deeply annoyed, I excused myself in a controlled huff and stalked off to the other end of Karl's very long loft apartment. In that regard, it's a great place to storm off in a mood, because you dwindle dramatically in the eyes of the viewer before you reach the other end.

In this case, the other end was Karl's kitchen, and I poured myself a glass of some non-descript white wine, and stalked back, knowing that everyone else was too mellow to give me a deserved hard time about my lousy behavior.

What can I say, the wine helped. At least the music sounded better to me.


Living Large

Today: successfully installed new sink disposal, along with new wiring and a new switch, shoring up the switch box. Took most of the afternoon, and left me cranky and tired. Also was essentially redoing everything I did wrong yesterday, leaving the kitchen sink unusable overnight and a hole in the wall with (capped off) live wires sticking out.

Tonight: Had to delete WIndows and reinstall, most likely because of some monitor resolution issue in Parallels, the UNIX shell it runs in. Windows just wouldn't start, and so I spent about two hours reinstalling and reconfiguring. Success was had, and Yesenia was able to log on to her NYU class that this has all been about.

Now: I'm freaking tired. And my dislike of Windows has been inflamed beyond all reason. I expect my dreams tonight to consist of Bill Gates forcing my hand into a garbage disposal.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Windows in a Crunchy Shell

What Yesenia was talking about last night was the installation of Windows XP on our little Femputer, a MacMini. As far as I can recall, there's always been a way to run Windows of some kind on Macintosh, but I gather with the advent of the new Intel chips, WIndows runs very, very well on the new Macs.

Instead of using Boot Camp (Apple's proprietary WIndows thingy), which partitions the drive and runs the computer either in Mac or Windows, separately, I opted for Parallels, which lets you run Windows in a window in Mac. It's nice. Obviously, it's a little slower on the Femputer than it would be on a newer Mac, but it still runs smoothly as you could wish. In fact, WIndows runs great, but the Mac apps get slowed down, because Parallels allocates a lot of memory to itself, presumably because you're not just running WIndows for the sake of it, but doing so to run some application that doesn't run on Mac, so you need to memory for Parallels to run Windows and any application that's running inside that.

The entire reason we're doing this in the first place is because Yesenia is taking an online class, and the interface only runs in Explorer 6, or something, in Windows. We'll see how it goes. We still haven't got that part running, but at least the big, ugly, ramshackle house that is WIndows is fully constructed and sitting inside the Mini, ready to go, like a three-doller hooker on her Vegas wedding night. Spread the disease, you lady, you.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Guest on the Subway

Hey! A guest writer this evening - my lovely wife, my better half, the eggs in my tuna salad, Yesenia:

Dave is annoyed at me right now, so he has decided that I should write his blog entry tonight. I guess it's supposed to be some type of punishment, not sure whether for him or for me. He's gone to brush his teeth because I told him that I couldn't write while sitting on his lap. The truth is I really don't have much to write about except that Bubba came over to install Windows XP on to the Fem-puter. He has a gentle touch with computers.

And that's where she threw up her hands and said, "Enough." Which sounds good to me. See you tomorrow, all.

And for the record, I'm not annoyed. I'll have to have a word with her about that...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mille Bournes

Spoiler Warnings, all right?

Watched the first two Bourne films last night and tonight. Didn't so much care for the first - it was solid and extremely well done, but by structuring it as a mystery when everyone in the theater knows the premise from the opening credits - was a mistake. It also makes you wonder just how smart Jason Bourne is supposed to be, when he:

- wakes up on a table to hear that he has been found drifting off the coast of France in a wetsuit with bullets in his back and a freaking laser embedded in the skin below his neck that when activated, projects a Swiss bank account number on the nearest available surface and doesn't immediately work out that he's probably some kind of, you know, secret agent or something?

- Or when he examines the contents of the account box and finds that it contains what looks to be millions of dollars in many international currencies, several passports from different countries under many different names, and (gee!) a gun? Secret agent, maybe?

- Or maybe when he goes to the American embassy and they try to arrest him? No red flags, J.B.?

- Or how about the fact that he has ultra-sahrp memory and survival skills, and inbred hand-to-hand combat training? Has he never seen a Bond movie? Does Bond not exist as a fiction in the Bourne world?

- Or that it's clear that highly trained and well armed people are trying to kill him? Hmmmmm?

And still, an hour in, when he and Franke Potente reach his huge, spectacular yet obviously sterile and impersonal apartment in Paris, he looks through his belongings and says, huh. "Looks like I might be in shipping." Dear God, no.

Anyway, the action kicks in after that, and so The Bourne Identity is overall okay. Takes itself way to seriously, though.

The Bourne Ultimatum is substantially better, because:

- it's a revenge film, so rather than be dragged down solely in trying to further solve the mystery of his identity, the plot manages to tie that journey in with a very good story of international intrigue,

- Bourne himself is really put through the wringer, and earns more of your sympathy... which is needed, because as the film progresses, we learn that he did a lot of unsympathetic things.

- The action is well-paced and well-placed, not being too front loaded or uneven, and avoiding too many slow spots.

The criticisms:

- The last third of the film is essentially one long chase scene, from Potsdamer Platz in Berlin to a traffic tunnel in Moscow, with most of the police force of both cities, as well as CIA agents both legit and rogue, and the hired assassin of a Russian oil magnate on his tail.

- By taking away anyone he can talk to - did I mention that they kill his girlfriend in the first act? - you've... well, you've taken away anyone he can talk to, which leaves the reasoning of some of his actions towards the latter part of the film more than a little vague.

Still, I'm on board for the third one. In fact, I'm going to call this and head over to my Blockbuster Online account and put it in my 'queue.' No jokes, please.


Eat and Wash

To break a fast, Dave-Style:

One Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
One Negra Modelo
Tortilla Chips
Black Bean Soup
Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Chicken Enchilada
"Full Moon" Chili Enchilada (Beef Sirloin Chunks)
Lindt Intense Dark Chocolate with Mint
Hershey's 70% Dark Chocolate with Coffee Essence
Tropicana Orange Juice
Bertie Botts Any Flavor Beans
Black & White
Chocolate Wafer
Everything Bagel


P.S.: With Bubba's help, the dishwasher was installed. Woo!

Friday, September 21, 2007

This Blog is Not Really Here

Uch. Just spent all day trying and failing to successfully install a new dishwasher. Came very close, but met with stonewalling at the local plumbing supply store and short of jumping the counter and searching the stockroom myself, I had to call it a draw.

I suspect it's God just messing with me for skipping Yom Kippur services. Hey! God! Aren't you supposed to be busy listening to people petitioning you to be put in the Book of Life for the coming year, or whatever? Can't you go give a totally lapsed Jew a hard time, instead? I'll confess I've never been that clear on the finer points of the Theology behind the High Holy Days, but at least I'm fasting.

Anyway, I'm totally beat, and in no mood to entertain any of you Subway Passengers, this evening. I assure you, you don't want a more detailed telling of the day I've just had. Homeowner's minutia of the deadliest-dullest kind. See you tomorrow.

Off to bed and some DVD movies with Yesenia.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Birthday of the World

That's the title of a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin short stories that I'm currently reading. The majority of the stories are from her science fiction universe of the human diaspora, the Ekumen. Anyone who's ever read any of Le Guin's science fiction (as opposed to her fantasy) knows that she doesn't really dabble in hard science in the style of Clarke, Asimov or Niven - although her science is usually 'tight' - and more sets up big civilizations that she can explore through the story or novel.

The different human worlds of the Ekumen are all incredibly well imagined, and her prose is about the best in the genre. The ice-bound world of Gethen, also known as Winter to its inhabitants, featured prominently in The Left Hand of Darkness, her Hugo & Nebula winner from - quick check on Google/Wiki - 1969, makes a return appearance in the lead story in this collection, Coming of Age in Karhide. An element in the original novel that gave it flavor was the nature of gender on Gethen: all people are gender neutral until a particular time in the biological cylce (maybe annually) where they become gendered for a brief period. And since anyone can become either gender, anyone can give birth. Also, since sex is not an issue most of the time, they have houses set aside for those who are in the Kemmer part of their cycle. In heat, in other words.

As I said, when Kemmer is brought up in the original novel, it isn't so much in the foreground. Although gender and sexuality are strong themes in the novel, it's more about communication and societal change (There's also a cool bit about survival in hash conditions). In the new short story though, it's all about the fuckin', with the climax (ho ho) taking place in a Kemmer House. Which leads me to believe that Ursula is becoming a dirty old woman. Still, what can I say? It's a great story, and a nice appendix to the original novel. At some point, I hope they treat her two major 'universes' - Ekumen and Earthsea - with the same obsessive sort of scholarship and complete volumizing that Tolkien gets, because she's worth it.

The closing story is a generation ship story. Anyone who has ever read much science fiction has come across a story of this kind. It's a staple of the genre. To quote her introduction:

"The generic, shared, science-fiction 'future.' [...] Earth sends forth ships [that] take decades, centuries, to get where [they're] going. [...] Most short stories [of this type] put the crew/colonists into some kind of deep freeze so that the people who left Earth wake up at the destination. I always wanted to write about the people who truly lived out the journey, the middle generations knowing neither departure nor arrival."

Since Paradises Lost is more of a novella than short story, Le Guin really gets into the nitty gritty of the type of society that develops after five generations of being sealed inside a flying biodome. Since the entire system is self-contained and all materials are recycled, and population control must hold as well, life and death take on different meanings. In the vacuum left in the absence of any religion (the original crew members were generally atheists), a new religion forms (founded by a man named Kim Terry) that makes the journey itself the purpose, not the destination. Therefore, when the ship arrives at New Earth, or Hsin Ti Chiu (as expected the blend of cultures on the ship means names not only in English), about 60% of the fourth and fifth generation crew - the ones who have joined this space borne relgion, known as Bliss - elect to stay on the ship and continue their lives as they've known them, despite the fact that the ship only has enough materials to support life for a couple of centuries more.

For a few years after leaving orbit, the ship sends constant personal greetings and news back to Hsin Ti Chiu. But then, in a bone-dry paragraph that's presented almost as an aside:

"Abruptly, the material received from the ship ceased to contain any personal messages or information, consisting instead of rebroadcasts of the three recorded talks given by Kim Terry, talks by Patel Inbliss, sermons by various archangels, and a recording of a male choir chanting, played over and over."

Maybe it's the fact that the colonists are powerless to learn what happened, and the reader never does. Maybe it's just the brilliant, pointed use of the word 'abruptly,' but that little bit towards the end of the story rang out in such pure horror for me that it drove the story up several levels in my esteem - and it was already pretty high to begin with. What happened to the Bliss group? Mass suicide, ala Jonestown? A refutation of the existence of anything outside the ship, as the core belief of Bliss holds? We don't know. Beautiful.

Anyway, here's my indispensable Le Guin, for those in search of something to read:

The Left Hand of Darkness
The Dispossessed
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
The Farthest Shore
The Lathe of Heaven

Let me know what you all think, if you read or have read any of these.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Night on Earth

Saw the perfect Half Moon hanging over the old Victorian house down the road

in a pale blue pre-sunset sky.

Subdued Summer's end green of trees and lawn below and

dug-up pavement under that.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Time

Turns out there wasn't enough turn-out to go ahead with the Mechanics of Comics class this Fall, and although it's a real shame, I'll confess that I'm not exactly heartbroken. Well, I am heartbroken, but not for the obvious reason. Ever since I started teaching the class back in 2006 (it's run three times now, and this would have been the fourth), I've had to fight with my high expectations of the types of students that would sign up, versus the students in reality.

Really, I'd hoped for a mix of people (and genders), mostly in their twenties, or talented high-schoolers. Certainly, at the least, I'd hoped to get people who were at least into it and dedicated to trying. What the classes ended up being was kids between 12 and 15, many of whom had major A.D.D., none of whom was the material meant for. Many couldn't draw at all, and I know that some of the lessons on anatomy and perspective were incredibly frustrating and probably discouraging to them.

Still, I was the one who was most discouraged, in the end. I'd gone in to the Rockland Center for the Arts with three class proposals, two for classes in comics. The first was one that I'd hoped would appeal to their base (from what I've seen, craftsy housewives with time to kill), sort of an 'art of comics' class - called, coincidentally enough, The Art of Comics - that would just let students explore the potential for self-expression in the medium. The other Mechanics class was designed to get down to the nitty-gritty of the step-by-step production techniques that have developed over the years in the American comics industry. All the tools, laid out and demonstrated. I also included a history of the medium as a slideshow, and talked about writing, characterization, theme, dialogue, layout, design, drawing basics (like the above-mentioned anatomy and perspective), inking and lettering, and then wound the whole thing up with a class on Photoshop technique for coloring.

Sounds like a good plan, but as the classes went on, the students were less and less engaged by the material. By the third round this past summer, I watched sadly as one of the more promising students dropped out after the first class, citing as the reason the age group. He was 17, and most of the others were 12-13. And I totally sympathized. In order to be engaged in a class like this, you want to feel like you're in an environment that's going to challenge you, and he just wasn't going to feel that from this group.

The thing is, even kids in their very early teens can be dedicated and directed, and there were a few in this class (along with my prize student, Kallliope) who might be able to get somewhere. And I really feel I can help them - but then I end up with the kids who just show up and make noise, and never draw either in class or out, who pretty much were dumped there by their parents because they figured, "Hey, Timmy likes comics!," despite the fact that Timmy has never shown any interest or inclination to be an artist.

The Catch-22 of this is that I want to work with all the kids, to make sure that they all are getting something out of the class - but I end up getting even more frustrated and not giving the time to the kids who are really there to learn, and I view everything dimly. The fact is, the last class had a number of kids who really had some talent, but I just ended up too scattered to help them in the way I wanted.

Still, anyone who showed up and listened would have gleaned something, even if it was just learning how to cross-hatch, or something. I suspect the class - if it is offered again - will continue to be given for kids, and will probably be a summer only class. Which, getting back to the opening, is a shame, but a shame I can live with. Obviously, if I was expecting to turn out a dozen graphic novelists, and was only getting maybe one finished page out of the kids (and not even most of them got to that point), what was needed was a serious reconsideration of my expectations and the resulting curriculum.

Perhaps I'll just try to teach a class in Pen and Ink, instead...


Monday, September 17, 2007

Hey! Big Spender!

All right: $1100 later and the gutters are up. The high price is because I had the front done with the shell topper, and at $10 a foot, that shit better keep my gutters running free or I'm going to burn down the Better Business Bureau. Then I'm going to rebuild it and complain. Then I'm going to burn it down again. Because I like fire. Fire pretty.

Tomorrow, I'm going to start calling the tree people. Ewoks! No, the other tree people. The ones that come and mutilate innocent trees, trees whose only crime is to grow too high, too well, and over my back roof in numbers too great. I'm sure the amount of cutting they have to do will amount to another dozen hundred or so, but this is why I took that damn freelance job in the first place - to do the stuff around the house that needed doin' that I couldn't do.

After that, the basement, which is going to be loan-taking time. And that will be it for the year. We'll see how my freelance situation shapes up in 2008, or if I just want to take a year off from hammering and earning and all that productive stuff.


Sunday, September 16, 2007


Saw this today. Worst kind of Oscar-grabbing kind of self-serious 'we are the world - if only we'd listen' kind of crap. Well, maybe it isn't quite that PC, but it sure as hell is about three times as long as it needs to be. Coincidentally, it tells three parallel and entirely unrelated stories, cutting back and forth between them in a feeding frenzy of boredom. Can't even really fault the actors, all of whom (yes, Brad Pitt included) turn in very good performances. It's all on the director's head. Your fault. Bad director. Bad.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Painted Veil

This film had a lot working against it - not least of which Ed Norton and Liev Schrieber - but it turns out I liked it quite a bit. Well-paced, possibly predictable but a really affecting 'love' story nonetheless. Naomi Watts turned in her usual luminous performance full self-revelation (she does have the eyes for showing moments of sudden clarity).

What the heck. Good movie.


Friday, September 14, 2007

North of No South

So: finished all of my work for the week and even got to take Friday off, so Karl and I went for a supposedly low-impact hike in the bottom part of Harriman State Park, just off of Seven Lakes Drive. I say 'supposedly' because we either misread the map or (Karl's conjecture) the map is old and a trail that was indicated as being 'not as well maintained' on the map when it had last been surveyed had, ceased being a trail altogether. So a little confusion and suddenly we're on the Orange Trail, and you know what that means: big rock promontories to scramble up and climb back down again. Thankfully, no scree. I hate scree.

Also, it was the longer way around, so what was planned as a leisurely two hour, two mile flat hike turned into a four hour, five mile hike over rough terrain. And since it was in the park's interior, actually achieving the top of the big rocks never rewarded you with any kind of view.

Did spend the time to come up with a new geek party game, which I need to refine the rules of, but the gist of it is to pick one (1) fantasy world you would like to live in and one (1) science-fiction world to live in. For example, would you rather be in Middle-Earth, Narnia or the Harry Potter 'universe,' on the fantasy side, and would you rather live in the Federation, Star Wars or Known Space (Larry Niven) 'universe' on the other side. Thus far, I've established that the field is wide-open - not multiple choice, that is, although the asker can prompt the askee with possibilities. It's also clear that for book or movie series that either cover a long chronology of events or refer to an earlier history (more common with fantasy than sci-fi), you have to choose which period you want to live in. You also need to delineate your reasons why you prefer world 'a' over world 'b.'

We thus far have learned that Karl wants to live in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, mostly because it's a time of relative peace and the magic is still upon the land. I found that I wanted to live in Narnia, most likely in the period between The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. Again, the land is at peace and the universe still exists. See, when the Narnia series ends, Narnia is destroyed and only true believers in Aslan/Christ are allowed to pass through into the Eternal Lands Over the Sea. I assure you, I'd be cast into whatever passes for a Lake of Fire in C.S. Lewis' allegorical theology. Better to live in a time before and die safely before all that. Of course, since the Narnian Judgement Day is an almost direct allegory of Judgement Day, you get resurrected and then cast into the Lake of Fire, so maybe it's a no-win situation for a Secular Jew in Narnia. I dunno.

I don't recall if we nailed down what our sci-i universes were. As noted above, the sci-fi universes are for the most part set only a few hundred years ion the future - leaving the future unknown and the past being pretty much our present - so you have to take the universe as-is. There are exceptions: Star Wars allows for a good ten thousand years of peaceful and prosperous galactic unity in before the events in the six movies, so anytime in there would be just fine. But Star Wars has never exactly provided any place that looks like you might want to live, either. Tatooine? Who wants to live in a fucking desert as a slave, farming water? Hoth, a planet-wide glacier? Coruscant, an Asimovian planet-wide city? Dagobah, a swamp? When the best you can do is a redwood forest full of semi-civilized pigmy ape-bears (Endor) or a planet that you have to share with a bunch of moronic underwater rastafarians (Naboo), you begin to realize why someone went to all that trouble to build a space-station that could blow up planets. It's sort of like the philosophy of finding out that there's nothing good on television and canceling your cable subscription.

Anyway, I'll get on solidifying the rules and conditions of the game and post again when I've done so.

And for the record, Bubba wants to live in an obscure video game from the early 90's called Land of Lords and for sci-fi, the Twilight Zone, because, and I quote, "My life is a little too predictable."

And it would have to have the Rod Serling narration and be In black and white, of course...


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Deadline Rider

Uch. I have four radio spots that need writing - in fact, I have to get them emailed by 3 AM this morning, and it's almost 11 PM now. And I got crap.

Really, I've never ridden deadlines quite like I have in this week. I blame the weather.

Anyway, made some slight progress on the house today - after a week of dithering, I went through the list of quotes I got from gutter repair places, and made the call to the one that I felt the best about. So, Monday: all new gutters! It's not quite like I'm doing it myself, of course, but when you think that the whole reason I was busting my ass doing all that freelance work over the last seven months was to have money to pay people to do some serious repair work, I think I can take the credit. And I think I've proven pretty demonstrably that I can't install gutters and should really not waste my time (and money, of course) doing it again.

Of course, all that work has left me pretty blown out. A weird thing to leave a job and find yourself pretty much as larded up with work as before. I've been out of KPMG for roughly a month, and I still feel like I haven't been able to take it easy.

Screw it. I'm just going to write some crappy spots and see how it goes. Dross for swine, and all that.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Navigation, Shmavigation

Today was a day I had to prepare not one, but two website proposals, all of which start life as navigational flowcharts. And can I just say here that there is not a less-qualified person for this task anywhere on Earth? Taking a large, formless pile of information and somehow ordering it into the most sensible paths possible for easy retrieval? I know, let's get Dave! He's the first person that comes to mind when I think 'organized' and 'clearheaded.'


Anyway, it's always a real struggle for me, and I'm still struggling with the second one, so excuse me for the evening, and I'll see you back here tomorrow.


Turkey Burger Deluxe

Whenever Yesenia & I have a certain kind of day - the mopey, long, unproductive kind on my part and the sour annoying co-workers kind on hers - about the only thing we can gather enough strength to drag ourselves to eat is the local diner. Which pretty much guarantees not so much an enjoyable meal, but one in which the culinary punishment we inflict upon ourselves seems to cap the day off with just the right flavor of defeat.

Of course, the diner we frequent is one of those diners that puts on airs. The menu is full of dish names that the owner clearly cribbed off of a real restaurant menu, at some point in the mid-90s. But if you put Santa Fe Salads, Eggplant Wraps with Baby Greens and Pesto and Panini Thing-a-Mabobs on the list, you should probably back that up by learning how to make them, or at the very least tasting one at some point so that you have a general target at which to aim for your own version.

But a diner is always a diner, and that's what both bad and good about it. You're not going to go in there expecting the sublime and revelatory dining experience of a lifetime. The food is not going to send you into paroxysms of orgasmic delight. But you might just get yourself a pretty fucking awesome waffle at a quarter to one in the morning, and sometimes, that's the only thing in the world you want.

Me, I can't seem to order anything other than the eponymous Turkey Burger Deluxe, usually with cheddar cheese. Anytime I try something else, I'm filled with the odd sort of regret that comes from not being disappointed in quite the way you're accustomed. See, it's not like I love those T.B.D's. It's just that the whole diner experience is such a ritualized pattern that any deviation from it leaves me wholly unsatisfied.

To complete my ritual of the T.B.D., I need all my condiments lined up, and that always proves an exercise in frustration, made all the more poignant by the fact that we only go seeking comfort food, and comfort food has to be really exact in order to achieve the desired results - i.e., comfort. I can usually get the ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco that I require to enter my alpha state. But the most elusive condiment, curiously, turns out to be simple relish. Waiters look at me as if I'd asked for a mound of saffron, or boiled silkworm cocoons - apparently, relish is a rare and precious commodity.

Once, a waiter brought me out a plate of sliced radish, and I was so embarrassed for both him and me that I said 'thanks' and simply accepted it. Leaving him with the impression that I was going to put radish slices on my cheeseburger, and that this was the only thing in the world that could bring that fucking grilled meat slab to perfection. I wonder if he just had to try that for himself, later.

But the relish shortage is only in New York and New Jersey. Everywhere else, particularly in New England, they have giant vats of the stuff near the door, usually next to the Lobster tank. Well, no, but you can get it and they don't look like you asked them to borrow a lung when you ask for it by name. They blink recognition and then - gasp! - bring it to the table without comment. The holiest of holies, Newport Creamery actually has a jar of the stuff right on the table, so you don't have to debase yourself by asking. And it's the good kind, too: hamburger relish, the red and green kind, like it's Christmas every day you order a burger, there. Now, that's civilization.

Tonight, I had a little more luck than usual. The waiter - perhaps the same one as a couple of years ago - clearly at first thought I was asking for a radish. "Can I get relish?," I asked. His brow furrowed, and he replied, questioningly, "Radish?," with that very soft latino 'D' that can be confused for an 'L' if you haven't been married to a Puerto Rican for the last seven years. I have been married to one, so I caught it and said, gently but forcefully, "Not radish... relish. Hamburger relish? Pickle relish?" I made a chopping gesture over the pickle sitting on top of my cole slaw.

"I'll see what I can do." He said, still not with what I'd exactly call the light of recognition shining in his eyes. Still, when the burger came, there it was: a small dish full of relish. I'm really going to have to learn the Spanish word for relish so that I can spare everyone the suspense in the future.

And Yesenia? She had the Waldorf Salad. It looked good. But not... comforting.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Once More Unto the Breach

In our kitchen, we have one of those big Office Max business calendars - you know, the kind that's supposed to lay flat and cover your entire desk? As I was doing bills earlier, I noted that there is now a listing on the 11th: "Patriots' Day (US)." The strangeness of making a holiday of some kind out of September 11th - envisioning some bizarre point in the future when it's moved to be on the second Monday in September so that people can be sure to get their three-day-weekend in - is not lost on me.

But what I really think is: isn't it way to soon for any kind of official day of remembrance for those who died six years ago, today? I know the official line is to honor the fallen, but is there anyone of any political stripe in these United States - or, indeed, the world - that needs to be reminded to meditate on the day and its meaning? Who remains blithe enough to see the 11th approaching on the calendar and not feel the black tubesock of history close in around their emotional calves?

Hell, never mind the 11th itself - has there been a single day in the last six years that you weren't reminded, in some oblique way, of the 11th? The news from the twin fronts of Kabul and Baghdad are memorials in their own way. Lest we forget.

Lest we forget.

What really sticks out to me about the Federalized celebration of the 11th is the name. "Patriot." Why should this word be used for a terrorist attack on civilians, where the infinitely more spare and truthful name of "Pearl Harbor Day" will suffice for an attack on our troops outside of wartime? Is "Patriot" being used as a veil, because a more straightforward name like "Twin Towers and Pentagon Remembrance Day" would upset people? Or is the very word "Patriot" being used as a way of telling us how we should feel about this day? A standard against which we should measure our own reactions, both private and public?

Patriot Day even has its own built-in Santa figure: every year, the holiday season will begin with a new video from Osama bin Laden. I'd say that even if they do capture him, they should have him put out a new video every year anyhow. It just wouldn't feel like Patriot Day without it.

But "Twin Towers & Pentagon Remembrance Day?" That one they can leave alone. It's not a holiday that can be co-opted from me, or from any of us. It's a holy day, one that we set aside in ourselves to think about what we think about, patriotic or not.


Sunday, September 9, 2007


It occurred to me as the Rockland Center for the Arts director handed me a check after my presentation today that I've completed an odd rite of passage - I've earned my first honorarium. Of course, my father was there to witness the moment where I proved my mettle, much as when he shepherded me through my Bar Mitzvah.

It's just $50, but I have to say there's an odd feeling for being paid to talk on something you're enthusiastic about for an hour, and then be treated like the talk was worthwhile, instead of just a huge bore for everyone involved.

I wonder if I can convince anyone to fork over the cash for me to prattle on about Syd Barrett for an hour?


Saturday, September 8, 2007


Pencils for the comics demonstration I'm giving tomorrow afternoon. Tangentially part of a story I'm doing, but this page isn't really part of that narrative. Somehow, I have to fit writing, layout, penciling, lettering and inking a comic page within an hour, so I figure I'll treat it like a cooking show and have completed stages done beforehand, that I can whip out of the oven as soon as I put the uncooked one in.

BTW: I keep forgetting to link to John Nora's "At the Circle," a brilliant short comic from the early 90's.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Good Rockin' Tonight

Had a good DeSk practice, getting close to a 'complete' arrangement on the final composition
(well, it's most likely the final) for the record, and even doing a few high-altitude adjustments to the drum sound.

I know I've written about it before, and I'll no doubt write about it again, but the art and science of "The Drum Sound" is an endlessly fascinating subject to me, and, indeed, almost anyone who plays in a rock band, or a jazz band, or indeed any band that has drums in it. In fact, the only person who doesn't really seem to care that much about the drum sound is the drummer. Perhaps it's because they're the one to whom the drums always just sound peachy, seeing as how they're sitting on the other side of it.

Case in point: first King Crimson drummer Michael Giles. Unhappy with the sound on In The Court of the Crimson King, he decided that he was going to be the drum engineer on the Ian MacDonald & Michael Giles album from 1970. Giles writes in the liner notes that he wanted the listener to hear the drums as he did, the sound behind the kit. And that's just what he did.

Of course, the drum sound on In the Court of the Crimson King is really excellent, big and subtle at the same time... and the sound on MacDonald & Giles is, to put it bluntly, deep fried owlshit on a stick. It's awful. Flat and dry and completely separate from the other instruments, like you accidentally put on two records simultaneously and they just coincidentally happen to synch up in areas, like The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon.

Not that drummers can't make good engineers for their own sound. John Bonham was left to his own devices pretty much for every Zepplin record, and the Bonham sound has come to define what hard rock drumming should be. In a word, orgiastic.

Still, I can see how hitting the same drum over and over at the command of the engineer and producer could really just make you not want to know what the results are, but I think it's deeper than that. Most drummer are only happy when they're playing, in the moment of playing, and generally can't stop tapping things in the lulls between songs and even when they're away from the kit. The drummer personality of having music happen in the moment doesn't lend itself to the concept of "this one's for posterity, boys."

So, getting the drum sound tonight consisted of the three band sound wonks - guitarist Shaun, myself, and bassist Karl - standing around and arguing about the tiniest minutia in EQ and buzzing and the like, removing drum heads and taping things up and generally making life difficult for each other and Edz (the drummer). Well, the arguing was mostly Karl and I, who seem to work best when we find a point of confusion in each other and then move to exploit it. Shaun is very passive, and sometimes hard to read, but you know when he's satisfied.

The most humorous moment of the evening was when Karl, Shaun and I stood in a tight grouping around the rack tom, headphones on, taking turns moving the mic around and grabbing the tom all over to see if we could isolate the source of a rattle that occurred in the ring-out from each drum hit. Finally, Shaun suggested that it was the lower screw housings, which were freed from the removal of the lower tom head. That in turn had been removed to see if we could 'kill' the high pitched tone that came after the initial strike.

Indeed, it was the screw housings, so we taped each one to the drum and that got rid of the rattle. That tape, joined by all the tape and wadded paper towel on the brand new drum head, made the tom look like an elementary school show and tell project.

At that point, it was decided that we spend a few hours some Saturday in the near future really "Getting the Drum Sound." The recording will begin in earnest. In earnest in theory. In earnest in theory in practice.

The punchline for the evening? That quick run through of the 'final' song we did revealed that the drums actually sound pretty damn good even without our eternal fucking around. So, maybe the drummer is right. Just hit 'record' and go.

No way is it that simple...


BTW: none of this is to suggest that Edz isn't engaged by the engineering process. He did tune the drums and offered plenty of comments. It's just that Shuan, Karl and I are definitely 'sound nerds,' and like all nerds of any kind, anywhere, we can dither on quantum points like nobody's business.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Sun and the Moon could collide to be Frank

Blah. Had dinner and went right to bed. This is the Midnight Rambler, then... have you heard about it? Hardy-har-har.

No, seriously: been asleep for about four hours and I'm just doing this on a pit stop on the way to the bathroom and then right back to Sleepy Hollow. But just allow me to sing the praises of the new dish Yesenia came up with tonight: scooped out pastry shells, filled with pesto, a mixture of sauteed spinach, onions, garlic and chopped sun dried tomatoes, and topped with herbed feta cheese. Really, she made it up on the spot, It was really, really good.

I didn't even put any tobasco on it. Now that's a mark of quality.


Members of the Wedding

A perfect, perfect day at the Squantum Association. Really, the pictures tell the story, so don't let me stand in the way.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Newport News

Click for the little birdies.

Rather than try to work out if there's any kind of Blogger photo-album widget, I've just put up a slideshow of our Friday over at our .Mac page. Go there. Let me know if there are any problems loading.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Decisive Moments

A little tired to get into the whole weekend-slideshow thing tonight, but as I was in bed, reading a Carl Sagan biography, approaching the section on the mid-70's and the run-up to the Voyager missions, several little balloons lifted in my head at once:

1) Why am I reading a Carl Sagan biography?; and, perhaps a better question, why am I enjoying it so much?

2) It seems like the only biographies I really enjoy are those of either scientists or musicians.

An acute illustration of how parents influence their children: when my friend was young, on December 8th, 1980, his mother came into the room, weeping. "Something terrible has happened (or words to that effect)," she sobbed. My friend tensed up, thinking that a close relative had passed away. The moment held, and then the mother said, "John Lennon has been killed!"

The other side of the coin? At some point in 1979, I don't know for sure of the exact date, I was sitting in the living room when my father came in, clearly thrilled. "Jupiter has rings!," he enthused. Sure enough, Voyager 1 had just confirmed a suspicion of two JPL scientists.

In my eternally unfinished screenplay from a few years back, I have two friends who meet as kids, one who is a SETI enthusiast and genuine radio astronomy nut, and the other who is advanced musically for his age and into all things rock. Somehow, they trade life courses, with the radio astronomer dropping all interest in science as he enters his teen years and modeling himself as an indie bandleader type, while the musician - who was technically gifted but without much creative spark or passion for music after a while - ends up studying robotics at MIT.

It never occurred to me for a moment that the entire engine for the script was spun from these childhood moments and the paths they showed to a parents' affection.


Note: that Jupiter movie is probably ©1979 NASA/JPL. I don't know. They don't seem like the litigious kind, do they?

The First Day of the Rest of Their Lives

Today was the wedding, and it was a lovely affair, but I think I'll wait until I can get to my own computer and give y'all a nice picture-filled Rambler, instead of a drawn-out prose narrative. Lucky you!

The drama going on here at the hotel as I type is people walking in and out of the lobby - and it's already about quarter to one in the morning - desperately looking for a place to stay, and being really crushed to learn that here is (presumably) yet another hotel that's sold out for the night. This is the weekend that Brown and RISD - and I suppose Johnson & Wales and Providence College - freshmen come into town, and the town swells with parents as well.

Interesting parallels of the wedding today and the start of college for all of these people floating around me. Is that an energy that a 36-year-old really firmly set on his life course can tap in to in some way? Be useful to do so. Good thing to bottle and sell - "Fresh Start Mojo!" - in Mint and Spring Lilac. Makes a great anniversary present.

Anyway, after all the hubub today, I'm feeling quite sleepy. Enjoy your labor free Labor Day day of rest, and I'll bring the pixels tomorrow.