Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keep It Real

That's the card most of y'all should have by now. Sorry if I spoiled the surprise if you haven't gotten it, yet. The lovely watercolors are by Yesenia, while I provided the drawing and color pencil touches. A nice holiday collaboration, don't you think?

See you all in 2009. Actually, I may see some of you in 2008, still, but just not here; the Rambler is closed for the holidays. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here. Well, I guess you can stay here, but that's probably a sign of severe depression and you should contact a mental health professional ASAP.


Penultimate Ramble 2008

Tomorrow will be the last entry for the year - like every other blog on Virtual Earth, the Rambler has a tradition of taking off the last week of the year to recalibrate, recharge and all that other 're' stuff. In the meantime, some random observations:

- Been eating Cinnamon Life by the vat full, and it really is like a Proustian Rush in cereal form. And doesn't the name sound like a lost Fitzgerald novel? "Cinnamon Life, a tale of the jazz age."
- Spent about an hour today lugging my dad's old - and I mean old - Scientific Americans down from the attic. Three decades worth, going back to 1969. I'm tempted to enter Lileks territory and scan some highlights and mock them, but that would take effort.
- Got a major Flash tip from my 'source,' earlier, and though I'm sure he's tired of it, it really answered years worth of questions. Frankly, he's spent about five minutes over the last three months answering what, to him, are basic queries and it's made a light year's difference in my work. The site that I've been avoiding because I couldn't solve a couple of technical problems is now better than I could have imagined, so, Christine - do something appropriate to Greg for me.

See you all tomorrow - which I guess for you would be Christmas, wouldn't it? Oooh, the anticipation!


Monday, December 22, 2008

We Don't Even Need a Reason

The urge to search my back pages hit me hard, the other night. I'd just wanted to find one old journal from my 1996 trip to Yurp, specifically since that was the period when I got it into my head that keeping a dream journal would be a real boss idea, since I have markedly vivid and odd dreams. Sure, a couple of minutes every morning to jot down some stuff. I was also doing it because I'd had a few lucid dreams around then and really enjoyed them, and wanted to see if I could generate them at will - and, of course, the first thing they recommend doing is keeping a dream journal to improve your dream recall.

The recall part worked really well. I had to give up when I found myself spending the entirety of the train ride from Rome to Vienna chronicling one fucking dream. Seriously, the entry runs something like twenty-five pages. It's the dictionary definition of out of control.

So I never did explore my lucid dreaming, but at least I have a journal, somewhere, with a few really lengthy dream entries from the mid-90's, a particularly formative period in my adult life. And the journal is what I got a bug up my ass to find the other night. And did not find, finding instead pretty much every other thing that I own and need to find both a method of filing and a place to file.

The journal itself is highly iconic as a physical object - a small hardcover, with the above Richard Estes painting wrapping around front and back cover. I hope that the iconic nature of it doesn't mean it's irrevocably lost - it does kind of seem like things that assume a near-totemic quality in my personal Animism of The Things of Dave end up disappearing for good; the small gold coin I received for my Bar Mitzvah, the little rubber erasers in the shapes of fruit that I'm convinced still lurk somewhere in my father's old (and my current) office, my glow-in-the-dark magic window, etc.

But those objects really are lost to history. The journal will, I suspect, turn up in time, but it's going to make me wait until I've finally cleaned and sorted every object I own before it does so. I had planned to copy down that really long dream in serialized form for the last few Ramblers of 2008 - a blast from far in my imaginary past - but I guess it'll have to wait. You lucky people.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Living, Breathing Stockboy

Well, it's that time of year again - the homestretch into the New Year. I suppose this is the time that I'm supposed to sit back and take stock of everything that's happened over the last twelve months. I really wish I had some kind of elegant words for the passing of the old year into the new, but really: Fuck You, 2008. You sucked giant flaming demon balls. I only wish I had a foot large enough to wedge up your your massive, useless fucking ass on the way out.


Saturday, December 20, 2008


Had the big Kris Kringle party today, an all-day affair wherein I ate and drank too much, and now I'm feeling it. Tomorrow, I can tell, will be a low and slow day of recuperation.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Message to the Future

Occasionally, when I'm bored or having trouble sleeping, and trying to fill that particular set of empty hours with surfing, I'll dig through the archives of the Rambler and read about something I did over a year ago. And experience the odd thrill of remembering something I'd forgotten - some small detail, whatever.

That's something I've always liked about keeping a diary; given how poor my memory is for events in my own life,* it's nice to turn a page and find out what I did on this day last year. Apparently, on December 19th, 2007, I listened to Pink Floyd's More and wrote an essay about it - so the fluid content of the Rambler means I don't always get that small window into my life a year ago.

That having been said, I've always noted from the Rambler's inception that a blog that was just entirely about my personal life would be a real chore to read. But let me just drop in a few details of life today, so that when I check back here in a few months' time, I'll see what I was doing this week in Dave History. The rest of you may just be bored by this experiment in capsuling, so I suggest that maybe you try doing one of these for yourself, so that you can look back from the future and see the details of your life at one point in time.

For starters, I'm lying in bed while I type this, with Kiko on my left flank and Yesenia furiously crocheting away on a gift (recipient's name withheld) for tomorrow's Kris Kringle party. Although it's not that late- only a quarter to ten right now - we're both fairly beat. It's been a long week, with both of us finishing up our respective semesters, her with her translation classes, myself with Physics.

I had my Physics final earlier this week - a take home, which I was able to call in the assistance of friend Jim, who teaches Physics at the high school level. Some of the material on the test was a little tough for Jim as well, since it's stuff that he hasn't had to deal with since he was in college himself, two decades ago. But Jim is much more natural at math than me, and has a brain that can see the heart of a problem quickly, so he was an excellent help. I was pissed at myself for missing the opportunity to complete the first question, though - finding the final temperature of a milk/coffee mix. I thought I'd knock it off easily, having just done a lab on that, but I had a severe bout of math anxiety and couldn't see to the end of the problem, so I solved it to a point at 1 AM on the night before the test was due - six hours later at 7:30 AM - and just left it there.

Too, when I was on campus earlier this week, I stopped by the office of my lab instructor and found out that not only did I get a perfect score, I also got the highest grade in class on the labs. Which was by turns surprising, satisfying and a little scary, since I felt my grasp on some of the material was tenuous. But, still, the labs were done 100% by me, and I came away feeling more confident that I'd been all semester.

After having finished up all that, I spent most of Wednesday taking a well-earned space-out, thinking I might polish off my friend Kate's website, but not really mustering the energy to do so. Tuesday night, Yesenia and I got the tree, a Douglas Fir which turned out to be huge once we got it inside - but with a little trimming, it seemed just right, and Wednesday night, Yesenia came home and decorated. Our renter Chris lent a hand, while I worked on the Christmas card. Once I got the basic drawing done, Yesenia (by now finished with the tree) added watercolor.

We had pizza. Wouldn't we just?

Yesterday, took care of some small work-work, inked and added some color pencil work to the the card illustration, then had lunch with my dad at his house. Last night, the bad cover band had a first, an all-acoustic jam at Karl's (still new) house. I got to play a 12-string for probably the most extended period I've done in my life, which is remarkable when you realize that it's an instrument that I've long fetishized. The 12-string in this case is a Yamaha belonging to the BCB's Jim McDonald, and some curiosity about it required that it be tuned to D, meaning that the entire night it was capo'd to the second fret.

Playing a 12-string is hard to begin with; playing a 12-string with a capo is the advance level. I don't believe I mastered it or even amateured it, but I want one of those mothers even more than ever before.

First thing this morning, we took Yesenia's car over to a garage in Nyack, then I drove her over to work. The Jeep has been out of commission all week, with a knocking coming from the front driver's side tire. I had feared it would be a cracked ball joint, which would be expensive, and annoying, since we'd just spent about $1000 on repairs for the Jeep not a week before. Then the snow came, and by the time the garage called to say that it was just some loose lug nuts, there were closing for the day and we'd have to get the car on Monday. Which is fine, given that the party tomorrow has us home all day, and Sunday is supposed to snow again.

Speaking of snow, I did a little dig-out around 3 PM when I had to pick Yesenia up from work, but it was coming down so fast that it was filling in even in the ten minutes it took for me to dig out my car. It eventually stopped around 6 - 7 PM, and I went outside to really shovel every last inch of the driveway and sidewalk, since (as mentioned) we're hosting the Kris Kringle this year, and people will need to park. Thankfully, Chris lent a hand, so it only took about forty minutes to clear it all.

Afterwards, the town did their usual thing of marginally plowing the roads but still completely filling the bottom of the driveway with more mounds of heavy, dirty snow that I'll have to clear out again in the morning (the trucks are driving by right at this moment), but for now - well, that's probably enough mundane detail for one entry, don't you think?

Dave, see you in a few months. The rest of you, I'll see tomorrow.


The Cat is Asleep

And I should be, too.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crunching Numbers and the Numbers Crunched Back

My take home exam is due tomorrow morning, and man does this fucker have a couple of doozies. See you tomorrow, after my head stops spinning.


The Words of Night

Instead of Rambling this evening, I'm going to catch up on some email. See y'all tommory.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Holiday Miracle

For decades, Hershey's has been the premiere brand of mainstream American chocolate. And they have some real classics in their line; Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, for example. Kit Kats. But for some reason, one fairly basic chocolate variation has eluded them: Hershey's has never had an idea how to make mint chocolate.

Oh, they've tried. It's not as if they're unaware of this gaping hole in their product line. Sure, they market the York Peppermint Patty, but they don't manufacture it - it's on license from Peter Paul. But that's not enough. It's clear that they want a definitive mint chocolate that bears the Hershey's name. For years, every product they've test-marketed has avoided hitting that - forgive the pun - sweet spot for mint chocolate lovers. Either too sweet, or with a chemical taste, or not minty enough, or the wrong kind of mint.

In the past, mint chocolate from Hershey's has tasted of nothing more than desperation and flop sweat, and I can tell you, those are not ingredients a mint chocolate lover wants in their special treats. Nothing to compete with the Peppermint Patty, After Eights, Andes, or Junior Mints, or even the holy grail of mint chocolate, Russel Stover's Mint Dream (which I've heard favorably compared with Heroin). But still they try.

Mint chocolate lovers, are you sitting down? Hershey's just got it right. I give you: Hershey's Mint Truffle Kisses.

Nicely waxed dark chocolate with a firm consistency, perfect mint flavor in a creamy filling in exact proportions. I'm vaguely disappointed in the decision to tint the truffle a neon green, but I understand it from a marketing angle, and, really, it's not like this is something that I need to eat in more than one bite.

The holiday angle is nice, too - the green and silver wrappings look good sitting in a dish on the coffee table or sideboard. So break out the acne medication and buy yourself a bag. These things are pretty addictive.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hiber Nation

Been extremely beat the last couple of days, which would almost make me suspect I was (were?) coming down with something, but I think it's just end-of-semester/work-load crashing. Today, for example, all I did (minus a little PCMA business that shall go undiscussed here) was clean the rest of my crap out of Yesenia's upstairs office. Actually, that's more of an accomplishment that it sounds, because if cleanliness is next to Godliness, then I usually reside somewhere more like Bayonne.

Anyhow, it's all in advance of the holidays, as we're hosting two functions and it's years past time to deal with some of this crap.

Also for the holidays, I pulled all of the decorations out of the attic on Thursday, and Yesenia spent this afternoon spraying the downstairs with fluff and lights, and it did put me in a much better mood.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Music of 2008

Lord. It's around this time of year when the best of and critics polls for the end of the year start coming out, and I always have my moment of wondering what culture I belong to - because I've never even heard of any of them. I'm just not one of those 'new music' guys, and it always makes me feel a little deficient. It will pass, I'm sure: pursuing new music is one of those things that really has to be nearly a full-time avocation if you want to have a go at it, so things like having a job and school and a band and life kind of get in the way.

But still, it's a little embarrassing to be a musician and songwriter and generally self-identify as an artist and have zero interest in seeking out new music.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Geek Observer

For some reason, in the shower this morning (@ 6:30), here was my stray thought:

The engine for the plot of the film Tron was a basic case of corporate thievery. In the film, Kevin Flynn (played by a pretty damn svelte Jeff Bridges) has been forcibly retired from pre-Microsoft hardware/software/wetware giant Encom by CEO Ed Dillinger (played by eternal villain David Warner). The reason? While an Encom employee a few years before, Flynn had nightowled a few video games to keep himself entertained. One morning, the files are missing - only to turn up as authored by then-fellow programmer Dillinger. Encom releases the games, which are a tremendous hit.

No wonder - the graphics are years ahead of what could be found in any arcade in 1982.

The details are a little vague, but with Dillinger providing Encom with a huge cash cow, he's promoted. Flynn now owns an arcade, and spends his nights hacking into the Encom system, trying to find evidence that the games were originally authored by him.

Standing guard against these hacks is a program that Dillinger actually did write: the system's Master Control Program. Flynn is an expert programmer, but he can't really get access to restricted memory because the MCP is all over him. See, the MCP is smart, ambitious and not more than a little devious. In fact, the MCP filched the game files in the first place. Perhaps its skill at strategy and need to control is a lingering aspect of its beginnings as a chess program.* Perhaps not.

In either case, Ed Dillinger is made CEO because of the success of the games. And then Flynn finds his proof, and Dillinger is fired and replaced with Flynn as Encom CEO. Yay! The end.

And there's the stupid geek thought that hit me this morning: uh, wouldn't having created the world's first artificial intelligence actually be a much, much greater accomplishment than writing a few damn videogames? In fact, never mind the exponential advancement of several sciences that would have been - even taking away the AI aspect, the MCP is an incredibly powerful OS, one which can monitor every aspect of the system and is very, very, very immune to hacks. In fact, the only way that Flynn can actually hack into it is to physically enter the computer. Because, oh, by the way, Encom has also developed the world's first matter transporter. And apparently has storage capacity decades beyond anyone else, since it can store Flynn, who would take up an estimated 1,000 terabytes of memory - just for his brain alone.

And on top of the world's best and most secure multi-lingual OS, fully integrated on proprietary terminals, which also happens to be the world's first fully-autonomous AI, and also on top of having made real the ability to move physical matter from one place to the other in a beam of light, and on top of having super-RAM up the wazoo, Encom has also developed touch-screen technology of the kind that's just now starting to be made into a reality; Dillinger's desk is essentially, a fully-realized version of Microsoft Surface. In 1982.

And their big cash cow is a bunch of fucking Space Invaders ripoffs?

No wonder Dillinger got booted. He was obviously a CEO who had his business model wedged firmly up his ass.


*Never minding how a chess program eventually becomes an operating system. That's like finding out that Vista was developed from Minesweeper, or something.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paper Tiger

Tonight, thankfully, marks the last big push I have to make before the end of the year. True, I still have my Physics final next week, and four (!) Algebra tests to fit in this week, but with the end of Physics Lab (I handed in the reports earlier today), and the clobbering of a couple of big projects for work, I'm feeling much, much better.

To coincide with this, I'm feeling a little under the weather, so I think I'm just going to assemble the brochure mock-up I have to drop off tomorrow morning, and then it's beddy for me.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Waitin' for the Mathematician

A completely schizophrenic day, split evenly between ad work and the final assembly of all of my physics labs - 12 of them, to be exact - which are due Tuesday. Mostly, those are done, now - but there's a bit of scribbling in my notebooks from the Torque lab where something was solved - using math. But I'm not entirely sure how, so now I have to re-solve it to put in the report.

Moments like this, I always think of that great cartoon by (also great) Sidney Harris.

Still, I do actually have a miracle of my own: my father, the PhD'd math whiz from Forest Hills. He's on his way home from school and should be home about 11:30, at which point he'll call me and explain how I can solve an equation that relies on three unknowns. Fuck explaining; I just want him to do the math for me, and then he can explain later when I'm not so tired. Sometime in June of 2009 should be fine.


Saturday, December 6, 2008


Headed into Manhattan this evening to attend a birthday party for PCMA chanteuse Christine - which was 8 PM at the corner of 6th Avenue and 56th Street. And if I'd actually given it even a moment's thought, I would have said, 'oh, we should park uptown and then catch the subway down, because Midtown's a clusterfuck at the best of times, and even worse come the holidays.'

Sadly, that thought didn't occur to either Yesenia or me until we were well-sealed within the immobile block of cars that thronged Midtown for that period of time that is longer than you want to be sitting in a Jeep in NYC. We finally got free, and had some basic plan to head up to 72nd or thereabouts and park - seeing as how we'd already sat in traffic for half-an-hour - but we kept laddering the streets, and nothing was opening, and we were past the point of wanting to get a garage. Eventually, we both came to the same conclusion that we wanted to be home with pizza, wine and Star Trek, so I had Yesenia proxy-text Christine, and we got on Riverside and headed home...

...taking with us the cookies that I'd baked for Christine. No fear; I'm bringing them to Karl's. And they are good. Happy birthday, anyhow. Next time: weeknight in Queens might be easier.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Hello, it's Been a While...

Spent a goodly part of the day at the recording studio, as Ryan called me last night and mentioned he'd booked some time. Frankly, I jumped at the chance to resume my role as producer/kibbitzer on his album - probably a sign of how badly I've been neglecting my creative self these last few months. I was fucking overjoyed to get in there and start working. It's not my money, true, but I definitely feel it's one of my missions to keep Ryan focused and thereby save him money.

Anyhow, it reminded me that's it's been quite a while since we've had a Weekend Listening 'round these here parts, and since class is winding up (all my lab reports are due this Tuesday, and my final exam is the 15th), that'd be a good feature to resurrect. Double-good, considering how content-starved the Rambler has been for the last few weeks.

On that note, I realized as well that I haven't yet put up the most recent KPMG College Recruitment Magazine comic. It was finished back in mid-November, but I was pretty hesitant to post it, since a) I didn't want to curse it while it was still in progress, and b) I didn't write the thing and don't really like the final product. But since the thing has been approved and invoiced, there's no longer any reason to fear reason #1 - and, reason number two... well, I've already told you I didn't write it, so I invite you just to look at the art.

Click the picture to see the big 'un.

Karl actually felt that this was the strongest visually of all the comics I've done since my revival. It's true that I've finally been getting a handle on how to blend my detailed pen and ink work with color - the needs of which are almost mutually opposed - but it's also a sign of how far I've managed to overcome a lot of the negative feelings I had towards my own art over the last fifteen years. But that's also symptomatic of the split I've been noticing in people's reaction to my comics of late - there are those who prefer the detailed pen work, and those who appreciate the more spare brush line that I've been favoring. Since the Art Director at KPMG likes the pen and ink work, I've been delivering just that - but I do feel like all that crosshatching is kind of a crutch, and I should stick to my guns on my own (theoretical) personal work and refine my brush technique.

People who follow the KPMG strips on the Rambler might notice that the characters look a little different - indeed, a little more generic - this time around. That's because the original characters were - to me - Yesenia and me, and when they sent over the scripts, I just didn't have it in me to use those specific characters saying that dialogue. In fact, i initially didn't even sign the comic, but the Art Director flagged it and asked me to do so. I did, with the stipulation that the writer also be given credit. Again, two reasons; 1) it's incredibly unethical to take credit for another's work, and 2) I just didn't like the script and didn't want my name associated with it.*

But that did put Comic Dave and Yesenia out of work. I hadn't realized it, but it turns out that I do feel a proprietary affection for the original characters, which means I should probably take Ansley's advice and start doing some personal comics with them. It would be nice, really, to take them out of their shallow set-up and punchline existence and put them into a slightly longer narrative with the Jessica Abel-like rambling verité style that I think would suit them better.

We'll see; I don't want to promise anything I can't deliver, but in all of my anxiety about jobs and money and future and all that, maybe there's nothing to fear in putting together a decent few pages of serious comic attempts - it seems like not such a waste of my time and resources. All of my writer/artist friends out there can expect to be hit up for writing and drawing advice on this when I do get something started. You have been warned.


*There's also the other comp sketches and a much more in-depth version of the story, but I think I'll save that for a Walrus Comix feature at some point. I'll let you know when that's up - don't expect it soonest.

Good for Bad

Since Yesenia and I both decided to go back to school at the same time, our credit cards have taken a hit - add to that the last-minute trip to Puerto Rico that Yesenia took last week (sick Grandfather), and it was time to figure out what to do about it. Thankfully, a few years back, we opened a line of credit with Washington Mutual, which we'd recently paid off.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we took out another chunk, to be payable in fractional chunklets over the next couple of years. That money will all go towards eliminating our credit card debt - what our financial advisor calls 'bad debt' - and then we can pay WaMu instead. That would be the 'good debt.' It makes sense, certainly, when you realize that the credit card interest is what they call usurious - what is it, 372.8%, compounded hourly? - and the WaMu interest is civilized, in the mid-single digits.

I probably would have thought of this earlier, but since WaMu, you know, fucking collapsed a couple of months ago, it hadn't even crossed my mind that we could get anything from them. Anyway, I'm happy and relieved (in the global sense) that they're still functioning. Sure, the American economic train, she ain't what she used to be - but the wheels are still somewhat greased.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Automotive Wife Retrieval System

Yesenia's plane arrives around 7 AM at JFK this coming morning, so I'm bedding early. Night-night.


Studio 40

Well, finished up Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, as threatened. I actually did it all yesterday, only getting out of bed three or four times to ingest and excrete. And I can kind of see why many reviews of the show said that it started out great but got shaky: the first two-thirds are really strong, but the last six episodes are a single story arc that must have been interminable when it aired in weekly installments.

I think it suffers from Twin Peaks Disease - that's when a show has an incredibly compelling central story and leads, but the secondary storylines and characters never quite grab your interest the same way. True, Studio 60 never gets nearly as dreadful as pouty biker man-meat James Marshall getting involved with the married woman outside of town, or whatever. But Studio 60 would have no doubt righted itself in the second season it never got - you can just sense it.

Ah, well.

Still, those first fifteen episodes were damn good. Give it a try next time you've got a rainy day.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Strong Showing From Hulu

As I write this, it's 1:15 AM. I came home from Bubba & Fi's for Thanksgiving dinner about four hours ago, and fired up the laptop, with a little vague surfing in mind. Stopped at Hulu, in hopes that something might catch my attention. I have now watched the first four episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I can almost guarantee that I'll have watched the rest of the season by this time Saturday night.

At the time, I missed both the first seasons of this and 30 Rock. Yesenia and I rented that last year, and really fell in love with it - but I have to say, I can see why people at first thought 30 Rock was the weaker of the two shows. Studio 60 is a really, really strong show. Its one weakness is that the actual show-within-the-show comedy content isn't particularly funny - but then, 30 Rock's "Girly Show" also isn't particularly funny whenever they feature excerpted 'sketches' from that (which is likely the reason that they rarely do so).

Anyhow, I'll avoid giving Studio 60 the full Dave stamp of approval until I've finished out the season - or at least watched the greater percent of it - but the lead cast is uniformly strong, the writing is sharp, pointed and knowing, and the environment is compelling. Show business rarely goes wrong when it looks to itself for ideas.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now We Are Thirty-Eight

That would have been the perfect title for one of those dreaded mini-gift-parody books of the type that flourished in the 1970's, back when B. Dalton ruled the universe from a tiny little hole in the mall. I'm sure the Milne estate wouldn't have minded the profits - but then, Pooh is now a Disney property, so lawsuits ahoy!

Yes, today was indeed my 38th birthday. The stock market rallied up 200+ points on the news, meaning that Dave futures are looking bright, at least in Asian trading (Europe has never really bought big into the whole 'Jew' thing).

Getting me to bed a little early tonight - Yesenia is flying out of JFK at 6 AM tomorrow (Thursday) morning, and that means I'll be driving her out there at 3 AM. What few hours sleep I get between now and then will be my bulwark against the taxi, limo and black car operators that swarm like level bosses as you get closer to the airport, making the drive seem like a video game which increases in difficulty the closer you get to your goal. In this case, Mario is delivering the princess to the airport. Unfortunately, driving over any crates that happen to be lying on the Van Wyck doesn't give you any power-ups, unless you consider a torn oil pan and ruptured fuel tank a 'power-up.' I suppose it is, if you hit fast enough to generate ignition.

It just occurred to me that this will be my first drive across the newly-rechristened 'Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.' That will take some getting used to. I now have some sympathies with those who could never quite let go of 'Idlewild.'


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Blog About Anything

Well, the last few days have added extra annoyance and complexity to my life, so I've been avoiding blogging on the basis of the "Don't Blog About PCMA" rule. I thought there was logic to this, but now that I've spelled it out, it doesn't seem to make any sense. The PCMA rule is: to make any kind of optimistic projection online is to have your hopes dashed. Since my hopes are already dashed into little bits and pieces right about now, the PCMA rule does not, in fact, apply.

Blah. Yesenia suggested I go see a shrink, again, to help me work through this, but I find that therapy never helps me. It's not that I'm resistant to it - who's resistant to feeling better? - but something in the make-up of the talking cure means that I feel a little better after the first session, mainly for having gotten everything off my chest. Then I get more and more cranky with each successive session, and start to view attending as a chore. This may sound odd, coming from a man who writes about himself almost daily, but I really don't enjoy talking about myself.

Scratch that; I love talking about myself, but I hate to talk about my problems. Especially when I feel that my problems are real world, practical concerns. Telling someone that you're sad because your car doesn't start only helps if the person you're talking to is a licensed mechanic. There's a limit to how much I can talk about my mother and my childhood, and past that, all the problems are adult anxieties like money and security and all that. What can a therapist say that will help with that? Unless they hand me a prescription slip with tomorrow's winning PowerBall numbers scrawled on it, they really can't.

At risk of bringing the PCMA Gods down on me, I do want to state that I still have hope for the future. It's just the present that seems pretty hopeless.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Live from New York

Played Putnam's show, then crashed at Ansley's - where I'm writing this now. The idea is to catch the 8 AM Rockland Coach #20 to Tappan, but we'll see. I'll probably want to sleep in, but anytime I think I have a little time to myself, that's when the work emergencies pop up like smely little weeds.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fascinatin' Rhythm

Curiously, Putnam wants me to play drums on his next album - which I'm happy about, because it means I'll have gotten the trifecta of keys, bass, guitar and drums (is it a trifecta of four?) out of my system and on to record. The drawback is that I'll be playing in a restrained style that's far from what I do best - but that's just me being afraid to change.

Drumming behind Putnam is particularly daunting, since he's a solo acoustic player with very flexible rhythm that breathes with his performance, and he fills in a whole lotta space. I general feel that instruments should support but not duplicate each other in an arrangement, so it's a challenge to find a solid rhythm that doesn't in some way either step on what he's doing or lock it down too much, which is a real no-no for his type of acoustic music. Even the song that I could play along with naturally - a number that was somewhat influenced by his own cover of You Can't Always Get What You Want - turns out to be more difficult than usual because I have to (by request) lay off of a lot of my usual time-keeping motifs, like a simple eighth-note hi-hat pulse.

When I was at the peak of my drumming 'chops' about three years ago, there were actually a few times when I sort of impressed myself a little with some of the stuff that came out naturally - like I'd finally gotten over some kind of hump and could do some of the trickier - yet subtle - things that make for (in my definition) interesting drumming. Now I'm three years out from that peak and the hump is back, so trying to play a brushed hi-hat shuffle with syncopated kick and alternating snare and crash accents is sort of like trying to masturbate with your 'other' hand. Fun but challenging.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Or something like that. Actually, today was a vast improvement over yesterday, with everything pretty much working out all right. How's that for a karmic bounceback?

Have a guest tonight, as well - Putnam, in town for a couple of days. He'll be playing a show this Thursday night in NYC, at a place called 'Banjo Jim's,' at 9th St. and Ave. C. I will be joining him for a couple of numbers, so if you ever wanted to hear Dave as a foil in a folk context, this is your chance.


Monday, November 17, 2008

David and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Fuck this day, let me tell you. As if things weren't annoying and stressful enough in my life, on the way to class this morning (at 7 AM), I rear-ended a car at a light - mostly my fault, although the light was green and the cars were moving and then just as suddenly stopped moving, because the crossing guard around the corner stopped it.

Then - after waiting for the police and all that, my car wouldn't start, so I needed Yesenia to come with cables and give me a jump.

Then, when the mail came, yet another bill from a doctor who did emergency surgery on Yesenia's hand (kitchen knife accident) for around $2000 turned up, despite the fact that supposedly, yet again, the insurance took care of all that.

Then Yesenia called and said that the other doctor claimed we didn't send our October payment.

Then, for the final insult, I went out to rake. I did this because the leaves were kind of, sort of, but not really at all dry enough to rake, but it's getting very close to when the town comes to clear them, and I want them gone. Normally, when I do yardwork, I bring my cell phone with me, but about 20 minutes earlier it coughed out a 'low battery' warning, so it was inside charging. I also did not bring my keys, since I was only in the backyard.

The lack of phone and keys are important to this story.

After about 90 minutes, I'd cleared most of the smallish back and largish side yard. My preferred method is rake>pile>tarp>drag>curb, so I spent at least 2/3 of that time in sight of the front door. Eventually, it grew dim enough that it was time to call it, so I folded up the tarp, dropped the tarp and rake on the porch with the hopes that I might have the time to finish up the other side and front touch-up tomorrow. Then I failed to open the front door because it was locked.

Oho. The renter (Christian) had gone out during one of my times away from the front door, and quite thoughtfully locked the damn thing. As an example of how brain-fried I was by this point, I briefly contemplated which window to break in to (as I frequently did as a teen, when I did not have a house key for reasons unknown to me, since I was technically a latchkey kid). Then I thought better of that, and decided to use the neighbors phone to call Yesenia. Then I thought better of that and decided to run over (quite literally running, at this point) to my mother's house up the road, ostensibly to use her phone to call Yesenia.

Then it occurred to me that my mother actually has a key to our house. And by some small miracle, she was home. So I borrowed the key, a cup of diet ginger ale and a Hershey's Bliss dark chocolate, and went home to have a good cry.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stomach Noises

A day of mostly sitting around and watching things, today. First, the Bond film (was pretty good), then a couple of episodes ofFringe on Hulu. That's not so good. The thread running between them? The trailer before Bond was for the J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek reboot, and I have to say I might be less enthused than before. Yesenia seems to think it will be good - "I like the action," she says - but I've now fallen back to a wait and see posture.

Me, I like the action, too, but I've always thought "The Trek" (as my dad calls the whole franchise) is a unique style unto itself. Quotes Abrams has made about it - not so much a fan of the show, wanting it to be more visceral (like the Star Wars films, which he loves), etc. Not like I think the talky Trek works so great, but some kind of balance has to be made.

But mostly, the red flag is that The Trek always has a strong internal logic, even when it's complete twaddle. Abrams has no idea how to do logic, so he throws everything else in the playbook at us - but, if Fringe is any evidence (and it's the brainchild of not only Abrams but the scriptwriters for the new Trek), those other stylistic elements are thin and will fail.

I'll still see it. But color me concerned.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living Nightmare (Redux)

Wow! I ordered a beef enchilada on network television! I'm a fuck'n star, man!

Apparently, the only way they could get me to watch that show was to put me on it. What a terrible, terrible piece of television. I feel badly for everyone involved. Myself, most of all, because I paid $30 for the privilege.

Screw Fox. Although Terminator is still a damn good show...



And just as fresh as ever!

Well, no. But we're still here, and that's got to count for something. They say a journey of a thousand blogs begins with 500 blogs, after all.

Spent most of the day today doing Flash on my friend's site... but that's not done, yet, so no link for you. Spent pretty much all of Thursday coloring the KPMG comic... which I will post here, just as soon as I get that check. Jammed last night on a couple of promising new tunes for the band that now has a name that I can't tell you for fear of cursing it... but nothing yet to post.

Ffff. To misquote Gauntlet, "Elf... needs content... badly." It's not an exaggeration to say that the last six weeks have been just about the busiest of my life. I start each week performing triage, and every single day is spent juggling priorities like blazing meat cleavers and packets of Semtex. Curiously, when the Rambler started in April of 2007, I was working two full time jobs and also teaching two nights a week, and yet I still had time to do really solid entries on a daily basis. So how is it that I'm down to the one job (and school, of course), and have even less time?

In a later issue of Cerebus, in a dream (always one of Dave Sim's examples of genius), Cerebus is told the secret of existence, and I'll share it with you, now: "As you get older, time goes by faster and faster."

My own dreams of late? They are troubled, my friends.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gasping and Wheezing

I swear to God, at some point in the near future, the Rambler will flare back to life with a regular schedule, lots of content and a renewed sense of purpose. This, however, is not yet the future, so I'm afraid you're stuck with a little half-assed nothing until I can knock the rest of this shit on its head.

I sort of thought I was free tonight to catch up, but then KPMG called and approved the pencils and hinted that the deadline had moved up. Hinted strongly. Right, well, so I promised the inks on Friday morning, but decided to just get them out of the way tonight, so that I could color the thing over the weekend.

And let me zig here and point out that this entry is Rambler number 499. Seeing as how it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to mount an appropriately awesome Rambler number 500 (hologram cover, with trading cards) this week, just take a moment and celebrate with yourself. Ugh.

Before I forget: If I maintained a list of things that I never thought I'd get to see in this life, as well as another list of things I'd never want to see, right near the top of both lists is, "Seeing Rip Torn full-frontal, complete with actual genital manipulation." And now I have, so let me say, "Thanks?" to Nick Roeg, director of The Man Who Fell to Earth, which features this wholly unexpected and not entirely welcome sight.

Overall, the film is one that I believe the phrase 'an interesting failure' was coined for, with lots of neat stuff crashing up against goofy sixties hangover crap. David Bowie does deliver in a way that largely redeems it, managing an intense passivity that does an excellent job of drawing you in to the dreamlike state that the film creates. I also very much like the (kinda sorta spoiler) unannounced time jumps, with some adjacent scenes happening seemingly decades apart. And, what the hell - I'd say that Lynch probably got a lot from this film, the more I think about it. In fact, Lynch should remake it, with Bowie again. That'd be cool.

But only if we get Rip Torn, doing his own version of The Brown Bunny.


Living Nightmares

Well, the episode of Kitchen Nightmares that I may or may not be on will air this Thursday at 9 PM - the 'Fiesta Sunrise' episode. Enjoy.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apparently, All Their Dime Dancing Was Through

Steely Dan - Gaucho

It's been fifteen years since I sat down and listened to this album, and that's as close to a clean slate as any possible listening experience can be, under the circumstances. I put it on tonight as an accompaniment for homework, but since the homework consists mainly of math, I was able to free up the rest of my brain to listen and analyze. Curious that it's easier to do that while working on math than while writing - I wonder if that's a universal, or if that's just me. Take note, if you ever need to defeat me in some kind of cosmic 'Contest of Champions' and need to find a weakness, that the math part of my brain and the music part of my brain are not the same. At all.

At any rate, the quick review: this album sucks. Perhaps even more than I remembered it sucking, and I recall coming away from it with a pretty dim opinion way back when. If that seems a harsh review, read on for the caveats.

See, the problem for Gaucho is that it has the unenviable task of following up Aja, which, if not the actual peak of Fagen and Becker's work, at the very least represents the ultimate refinement of their creative method, writing style, etc. Everything they'd been striving at, brought perfectly into crystalline reality. There may be other albums from the band that people prefer, but I don't think anyone who's ever given Steely Dan a serious listen would argue that Aja isn't their masterpiece, a sophisticated groove at the edge of coked-out 70's apocalypse, with tasty bass and drums snaking in and out of seductive chords that hang on the point between bemusement and melancholy. And I can't personally think of an album where the lyrics and voice match the tone of the music so well. Seamless, which sounds like faint praise until you realize that seamlessness was what they were aiming for.

But what do you do when you've done what you set out to do? Few bands are able to find a second peak, and Steely Dan was not one of the lucky ones. I'd note that more than one band in that particular period at the tail end of the 70's found themselves in the same boat (The Eagles post Hotel California spring to mind), and I guess that the advent of punk and new wave (and disco!) and the self-reflection that seemed to hit all of the existing rock dinosaurs was a difficult thing to process. The question all of these bands must have asked themselves - either consciously or unconsciously - was, 'how can I prove I'm still relevant in the face of all of this?'

Which is a valid, but dangerous, question, for any artist on a roll.

It's one thing for a band that had run out of creative steam to examine the new thing and see what they can do with it - the post Peter Gabriel Genesis was in that boat, having clearly run out the thread of whatever it was that inspired their high-progressive period (Trick of the Tail being their last truly great prog record), but not quite able to shift gears until they found that they could take the elements of new wave (not punk, thank God for them) and apply them to their own writing formula. I still maintain that Abacab is one of the great artifacts of the new wave era, proof that a band can reinvent themselves and still be just as good.

For Steely Dan, neither punk (which was musically 180º opposed from their crafty arrangements and thematically the exact wrong kind of negativism) nor new wave (a much broader stylistic pool, but generally characterized by tight, pared-down rhythm work, more space in the harmonic structure and a propulsive contrapuntal tension between the band arrangements and the vocal melodies) could be an effective template for them to try to graft on to their existing approach. Particularly when their previous album had been such a successful statement of their working methods up until then. Again, it's always trickier following up success than it is reworking from failure.

So Gaucho ends up sounding for all the world like the sonic equivalent of a towel being thrown in. The recording approach had plateaued and calcified, lending the songs an air of paint-by-numbers arrangements. The session musicians - many of them holdovers from Aja - seem equally uninspired, collecting a paycheck by trudging through half-assed grooves that seem derivative of their own exciting work on the previous album.

It's especially annoying, because the album gets off the ground with two solid singles ('Babylon Sisters' and 'Hey Nineteen'), in a one/two punch that actually betters what Aja (not really a singles album, excluding 'Peg') was able to do in that regard. But there's an immediate crash and burn on the third track ('Glamour Profession'), with a malaise that doesn't creep in so much as slams down with the force and texture of the Boston Molasses Flood, a sudden oppressive wave of dense, uninteresting progressions and autopilot grooves. The image comes to mind of Fagen surfing lazily along the top, lying enervated on a shattered hunk of sticky oak barrel, casting out nonsense couplets that sound less like the seen-it-all, above-the-fray and too-smart-for-the-room barfly of previous albums and more like a crazy homeless man wandering down his beloved Hollywood Boulevard, his mind finally having sunk under the weight of all of that decadence. Perhaps he's even still aware enough to recognize his broken state (ala Syd Barrett's 'Vegetable Man'), as he hints in the line: 'Living hard will take its toll.'

Becker and Fagen, rather than using the mirror of the punk and new wave revolutions in a failed attempt to remake themselves, instead stuck to their guns, but seemingly not having the confidence to do anything other than go through the motions... almost as if they agreed with the punk argument that Steely Dan and their ilk were puffy and outdated, and were unable to mount an argument with which they could even convince themselves otherwise.


Discourse & Rhyme

"May you live in interesting times." - Ancient Chinese Curse

I'm not sure what it is that we all did to piss off the ancient Chinese, but maybe we should just man up and apologize.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roll of the Die

So, after all that, how did I spend my election day evening? After all, Yesenia and I had voted at around 6:30 AM - which puts us way ahead of most of the nation - and it meant that I had an entire day to fret. Thankfully, it turned out to be amazingly easy to detach myself from the election - not out of any calm belief that my candidate would win, but just that I had done my part, and that was all I could do. So I went to lab, dithered about at home, and then went over to Jim's to watch:

Which turned out to be pretty funny, as usual. I think the fantasy sequence was a little too specific as a parody of Lord of the Rings - that's the kind of thing I expect from Family Guy, not Futurama. Thankfully, that segment made up a much smaller part of the movie than I'd thought, and even within the Rings sub-Mad Magazine parody, there were some really classic moments - some tossed off lines (a particular favorite: "Hey, is that a Hobbit over there?" "No, it's a hobo and a rabbit. But they're makin' a Hobbit.") and one truly inspired lengthy sequence, where Fry's Gollum-esque internal dialogue turns into a show on QVC.*

Overall, I still like Beast With a Billion Backs best of the three features - if only for its willingness to be genuinely creepy. But I suspect that Bender's Game will fare best of all the films when it's presented in Futurama's natural habitat - on TV, in 22-minute segments.


*The very, very subtle punchline: how did he actually get the knife?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shep Smith, Master of Weary Annoyance

It's not so much the pummeling of Nader that I enjoy in this - but, really, what was he thinking, using such a loaded term? - as the follow-up comment about 'giving him time' during the roundtable (at the very, very end of the clip), and the expression of infinite, tired disdain that Smith bears along with it. Classic.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chest - Weight = Me

Well. That went better than I think I'd ever even hoped. Ever. In my wildest dreams of ever.

I know we'll all have to get back to reality later this week, but can we all take a moment and just bask in the completely batshit happy insane historical moment that we're in the middle of, as I type? I swear, the years 2010 through 2099 are going to be event-free, because it feels like we've been using up an entire century's worth of history just in this one decade.

Right now, here comes McCain's acceptance speech. He's gracious, even when his crowd boos the mention of the name Obama. But he wins them over with a nod to the power of the night.

Living history, man. And for once in the seemingly non-stop parade of anxiety that has been the tumultuous 21st Century, it's history that makes me happy to be alive and proud to be American. Frankly, it's the first thing that's happened in a long time that makes me joyful that this is the time I was born in to.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Things Move and then You Crunch Some Numbers

In addition to the Physics lectures, there's also a weekly Lab, with a report that needs to be done for each. Initially, I was pretty diligent about getting them done the week after each lab, but when it became clear that the instructor wasn't going to collect them until down the road, I slacked.

Well, guess what! 'Down the road' is this coming Tuesday, and I have to put together about four labs in that time. Thankfully, it's not so dire - only one of them really requires a whole lot of graphic work, of this nature:

And even that lab is halfway done, so I guess you can color my mood 'hunky-dory.'

The con side is that KPMG called on Thursday with an approval on one of the new comps, and I now have to fit drawing the fifth KPMG comic in next week. I was kind of hoping they wouldn't get back to me until the end of the month, even though it is paying work - I was just beginning to see over the top of the mountain of work crap, until they dropped this new peak atop the old. The pro side of that, however, is that they picked the strip that, out of five panels, actually has three solid black ones - so at least the inking and color stages will go blazingly fast. Of course, since my name is going on the thing, that means I'm going to overcompensate and make the first panel (a 'widescreen' panel) a anal masterpiece of pen and ink rendering.

You may be wondering why I didn't post the comps that I did for them? Several reasons, not least of which the curse of the Rambler, which is that whenever I post something of that nature ('Don't Blog About PCMA, for example), bad shit befalls it. The last time, I ended up having to do six comps for the KPMG strip on Politics, and that began to be seriously no fun by the last two. So, you can look forward to the full tale of this current strip after it's done and I've deposited the check.

BTW: I'm hoping the curse of the Rambler doesn't extend to my Physics Labs. That would suck.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Warning: Political Content (Part 1)

A) Code Pink protesters interrupt during McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul.

B) A primary plank in the GOP platform is National Security, with theirs being the party that will keep our borders secure and our civilian population safe.

Contemplating A and B together, two possibilities emerge:

1) The protest was stage-managed by GOP convention organizers, to give McCain something to 'spontaneously' riff on ("My friends... don't be diverted by the ground noise and the static!"), or

2) Protesters actually got in to the convention and did their protest.

If A+B=1, Then a question is raised over the general truthfulness of the campaign, right at its moment of inception.

If A+B=2, Then the GOP image as the party of security is called in to question, since they couldn't screen and prevent protesters from interrupting the nationally televised and widely-viewed speech of their candidate.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Hell Freezes Over

Well, the apocalypse is definitely upon us folks - I have proof.

Proof 1: Somehow, I got an 85 on my first Physics test. How the fuck did I do that? I tried like crazy to study, but just didn't feel like I was getting anything. Workbook problems remained unsolved as I couldn't even work out what the nature of the problem was. Can I apply F=Ma to this? No? Yes? Is anything moving, let alone accelerating? Force is a Vector, right? What time is it? Nonetheless, come test time, I guess some part of my brain kicked in. Really, it was the labs that did it, so whoever decided that labs needed to be part of the science curriculum: thanks.

Proof 2: It may be that the band with no name has a name! Barring final approval by the singer (who initially liked it but now seems to be wavering), there could well be music and a title by which to refer to said music.

Proof 3: I'm almost done with the insane workpile that I've been digging through for the last seeming eternity. One last hurdle: figuring out just how to get Flash to force download an MP3. Any suggestions?


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hulu Night Live

Yesenia and I are probably just bedding and finding something to watch online, tonight. How's that for being married? I sometimes feel like Chet Leeway...


Private Panic

Perhaps in advance of the stock market crash of 2008, my G5 decided to go legs up, today. Which is bad, because the G5 is the work computer and I seemingly still have a nearly endless supply of the stuff to get through. I had been acting funny and then funnier for the last couple of weeks, and then today at around 2 PM: zetz. Wouldn't even turn on, just pulsed its starting light for a little while, and then the fans got really, really loud. The G5 has about 18 fucking fans, so I'm surprised the thing didn't start hovering off the floor with all that whirring overdrive.

A closer look revealed that the light was actually pulsing in sequence, which meant (according to the online support center) that the computer wasn't recognizing the new RAM I'd installed. Which is great, except there hasn't been any RAM installed in this computer since it left Cupertino in Autumn of 2003, so I got confused, and sad. Still, I dutifully opened the case and pulled out one RAM card - but I realized it would be a fruitless endeavor and shunted it back in.

A quick - very quick - call to Karl (who'd had some other suggestions earlier as to the problem) told me that it wasn't fruitless, after all. His suggestion: the contacts were dirty, so pull out both RAM cards, put them back, and everything would be just fine.

And you know, it was? I'm writing this on the G5, now. Still, I definitely want to back up the big file I'm working on to the Manputer, just to be on the safe side. Sure, the G5 is only five years old, but that's something like 926 in computer years.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Acoustic Sketch

Brung my guitar with me up to ME, because, really, what's a cabin in the woods without a hootenanny? Unfortunately, we don't have video of a rather neat uptempo version of Blackbird that featured me on my crappy old Ovation and Putnam on his 5-string antique heirloom banjo, but I did get Yesenia to make a quick recording of the song that I started writing right after.

Looking at this later, I thought, "Well, I look kind of sexy." Which is probably the first time I've ever thought that. Don't laugh.

Take note of the eyebrow raise at 00:31, when I throw an E-minor after the E-major. That's some hardcore, real-time songwriting action for all you sports fans out there. Of course, the E-major to E-minor change actually sucks, in retrospect, but there's always the guarded but optimistic moment of consideration when you first try something on. Does this chord change make me look fat? Yes, it does.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Finally decompressing at roughly the halfway point of my giant workpile. Which probably isn't the time to relax, but at this point, it's either relax or explode, and I choose the former.

Yesenia and I, in sort of a rain check anniversary event, had dinner at the Upper West Side vegan restaurant 'Candle 79.' I'd been to their lunch café before, so I knew what to expect. Dinner was good, but when dessert turned out to be soy milk ice cream, we opted to go find a coffee place to get real dessert. In this case, a sour apple tart (her) and a slice of chocolate mousse cake (him).

Then, on the way back up to the car, we stopped in a bagelry on a sudden uncontrollable need for something solid and carb-y. The dessert for dessert turned out to be an untoasted, buttered everything bagel, of the kind that they only do right in New York.

We officially closed out anniversary season 2008 splitting the bagel in the car, driving up 1st Avenue, bonding over our love of comfort foods. Is there anything more romantic?


BTW: I keep forgetting - over at Walrus Comix, you can find about half an hour of me, with Ansley, Bran, Bubba and Fiona, with some genuinely entertaining party chatter. The "NSFW" of this Rambler's title refers to the copious swearing, so you might want to put on headphones if you're at the office. I'm a little embarrassed by how much my vocal inflections have been influenced by Patton Oswalt, lately. Apologies to Mr. Oswalt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Aching Trackpad Hand

Here's the music magazine comic. The coloring took waaaaaay longer than I'd intended. And now, I have to go put together a new client presentation. That I have to drop off at my boss's house before class tomorrow morning. Which is at 7:30 AM. And it's 11 PM now. Good God.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't it Make My Hazel Eyes Beige

Back from the North Country. Actually, back on Saturday, early evening, but had my head up my ass for the last two days. The overhang of work-stress dogged me throughout the trip, which was no fun, so I kind of tanked the anniversary trip for Yesenia. Still, Maine in the Fall is the dictionary definition of 'lovely,' and spending time with Yesenia, no matter how compromised by outside pressures, is always the best time of my life.

There are photos on Yesenia's Facebook page, for those of you who friended her.

BTW: There's probably a few more days of spotty Rambling in the works. Apologies for the big stretch of something/nothing. The mound, she is slowly going away.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eight Years High

Although Heaven and Earth (with some help from Hell and High Water) seemed to conspire to prevent us from doing so, Yesenia and I finally were able to get out and on the road to enjoy our eighth anniversary. And I note that for all those choosing to get married this time of year (pay close attention, Christine, for this is your future) that for some reason, Autumn always seems to bring the suck, as if to just try and ruin your happy occasion.

But we are stronger than that.

Anyway, here we are for the night at the loverly Silver Fountain Inn, in Dover, NH. And Yesenia is just out of the tub, so I'm signing off. Enjoy your non-anniversary-ness, people.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Seasoning the Witch

Hallowe'en, as it turns out, it Yesenia's favorite holiday. So, even though she always does a great job decorating for Christmas, the house always seems extra-cool heading into Fall. Maybe that's because Beadboard Manor is an Autumnal kind of house? Browns, yellows and reds make up the color scheme to begin with, so all Yesenia has to do is add a pumpkin and a candle and we're good to go.

I think we all like Hallowe'en around here.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

On the March

Wow, do I have a lot to do on Sunday. Study for my midterm, complete my physics labs, do comp sketches for KPMG (the second of two), build the navigation for a client web site, design sell-sheets for a new client that makes (no shit) armor for vehicles. Somewhere in there, I also need to start on the final for the music magazine comic, set up my office, and really play catch up on my (virtual) math class, which I've really fallen behind on with the insane amount of work I've had to do for another client in the last weeks - which really shows no sign of abating.

Plus, kind of brained-out, since the twins were over and we spent a couple of hours recording what may be an upcoming Fly on the Wall segment for their site.

So, not in a writing mood.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Account of...

Thankfully, things will never get so bad that they'll have to cancel the internet. But if the market keeps falling back towards early 90's levels, don't be surprised to find that every web browser has been replaced with Mosaic.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Borscht Belt

Tripped up to Middletown, CT, today, to put my hard-won Flash skills to use revamping the website of my college friend, Kate. She and her husband Noah live in an oldish farmhouse - well, I think it may have started life as such, but the farm is long gone. It's been almost a decade since my last visit, and the place has seen some revamping of its own in that time. Kate's father is one of those guys who buys properties, fixes them up, and then sells them, and Kate and her siblings inherited that trait.

In fact, the house is the one that Kate's father grew up in - much as Beadboard Manor is the ancestral Kopperman home.

Upon arrival, it was time to break my fast. Actually, it was about two hours past time to break my fast, since I got out of the house much later than I wanted - stupid, stupid work stuff - and got on the road just in time to hit rush hour traffic on both the Tappan Zee and the Merritt. This lateness was then compounded by a lack of clarity in my Google directions, sending me about five miles in the wrong direction off the exit. Still, as anyone who has ever fasted (like a day is much of a fast?) can tell you, after a point, you're not really hungry. I'm sure that you get really hungry a certain time after that point, but I doubt I've ever gone more than 26 hours without eating in my life, so I wouldn't know.

But I digress. Dinner was, as it turns out, homemade borscht. I think I may have had borscht one time before in my life, and that was when I was ten, visiting a colleague of my father's who had emigrated from the Soviet Union. That episode did not leave me with good feelings for borscht - maybe because it was served cold and I was uncomfortable, but most likely because I was ten and hated all things that weren't pizza or Cheerios. Tonight's borscht was good, served hot, and with a dollop of yogurt. Plus, there was buttered toast, which is never a bad thing.

Anyway, I have to do some sketching tonight for the next KPMG strip, so let's call this Rambler rambled. Have a good Friday.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Thicket of It

Even though I've been working like crazy, and have to get up at 6:30 for class, here we are at 1 AM and I can't sleep. Which means, in the words of Jemaine Clement, 'conditions are perfect.' Of course, he was talking about weekly marriage sex, and I'm referring to a half-assed Rambler, but the idea is the same: trying to fake something that really requires your full presence.

Sorry about the last few days. Been a lot on my plate and a lot on my mind, and not the good kind of stuff on plate and mind that makes for frothy thoughts that must be shared with the world at large (the .000000001% of it that reads the Rambler). Rather, lame, creativity sapping musings about things well beyond my power to control or understand, occasionally broken up by an episode of Stacked on Hulu.

Various titles for Ramblers have been floating through my mind over the last couple of days, and since I never wrote them, I've mostly forgotten them. I guess I'll present the only one that I can recall, here, before I forget it, as well - The Eternal Pants-Shitting Moment. That one has been sticking in my head like the chorus to a Glen Ballard song. Something you don't want to hear but just keeps hanging around.

Anyway, here's something that entertained me. Stick with it - the chair pinning event and Kristen Wiig's little dance are bits of comic gold.


Friday, October 3, 2008


And then suddenly, all of the work, all at once, all due right away. So let this be fair warning: I suspect that the Ramblers of the next few days will take the hit. Apologies in advance.

Consider this entry letdown #1.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Much, Much Better than Expected

I daresay that this is certainly the best Bond theme since A View to a Kill, and possibly even the best since The Spy Who Loved Me. Surprisingly good showing from these two.

Actually, all that sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise. In fact, I think it's a really good song.

High-res version here.


Eyes W/Out Face Seeks Same

What? I don't know. But I dare someone to place that as a personal ad and see who - or what - responds.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drawn Shallow

I ended up not bringing the camera to the Baltimore Con, which would have been nice because I could have just posted a few pictures with a little commentary and wrap the whole thing up easy.

But no, it looks like we'll be doing this the hard way. Anyway, a few stray observations from the convention:

- The main convention room is set up kind of like a giant concrete terrarium, with windows at either end of the room. Since the room is probably a tenth of a mile long and about half as wide and half again as tall, those windows are at a pretty far remove. Saturday morning, when I'd entered the hall on my guest pass a couple of hours ahead of Pete, Jim and John (the easy named bunch), I sat down at the table and started to do my homework. About 9:15 or so (the doors opened at 10), my cell phone rang: "Dave. I can see you. You're reading. You just put your arm down." Etc. Pete. Clearly, he could see me. And it took me about thirty seconds to figure out from where - it's not everyday you think to look up at a window a tenth of a mile away.

- Not a whole lot of notable cosplay going on, but the two Harley Quinns who accidentally met up just by our table were a high point. I'll also have to give points to the strikingly tall brunette in the skin-tight pleather Cobra Commander outfit - although it did make me wonder yet again when fucking Transformers and G.I. Joe became beloved properties? I mean, I'm right of age for that, and I certainly enjoyed the cartoons, but I couldn't give less of a shit.

- Hoping that she might give Kalliope some pointers, I went to chat up Carla Speed McNeil. Not only did she agree to do so happily, she gave Kalliope one of her trades. How cool is that?

- Jim, Pete and John, doing their traditional convention sketch/signature hunt, which paid off some dividends in a particularly nice Adam Hughes commission for Jim. Hughes is one of those artists whose work is so popular that hundreds of people try to get a sketch; the entire reason we arrived two hours before the con opened was so that the guys could get a good space in line. Even still, it was up in the air whether or not Jim would get his drawing, but Hughes finished it Saturday night and brought it in Sunday morning. It is a thing of beauty.

- The tables in 'Artist's Alley' were so close together that the only way in or out sometimes was just to slide underneath.

More tomorrow.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Anxiety Lad

Gah. Wanted to get more done today - or anything, really - but I have to confess that I'm beyond stressed and distracted by current events. I felt like I was walking around in a fog all day, and it has not abated with the news of the down vote. The instant explosion of party squabbling afterwards did nothing to soothe me, but neither did it serve to wake me up.

Good Lord, I think I may be in shock. I'll let you know if I have a tingling sensation in my extremities.

Please, let's at least get one big, massive hanging question mark out of the way. I can't take all this 'Reply Hazy. Ask Again Later' stuff. Right now, in terms of popular toys with an occult theme, I'd rather have me an Ouija board than the ol' Magic 8.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Conventional Ignorance

We'll see how many comic convention-themed puns I can generate over the next couple of days as I blog through my Balitmore Comicon experience for you. The first entry - plus an accompanying comic - can be found over at Walrus Comix sometime today, I'm guessing. In the meantime, I'm going on little sleep and have class in the morning, so I wish you a good evening and promise to pick up the slack here this coming week, now that I've got some of my shit together.

Some of what may or may not make an appearance here this week, as well: since I had time to kill at the convention, I thought about bringing down my bristol and pencil the final of a strip I'm producing for that music magazine, but I opted instead (and more sensibly) to bring my Physics texts instead, hoping to do exercises and get review time in.

Let me tell you, it's fucking hard to do conversions on the floor of a comic convention. The math anxiety set in big time, and nothing I did seemed to shake it. I stared at numbers as if to will them to comply, and felt that fuzzy pressure over my left eye - the one I get only when under extended periods of severe, uncomprehending focus.

Thankfully, i was able to talk to Jim a little bit while he waited on line for a Bendis signature, and it's amazing how swiftly he was able to clear that stuff up. One thing's for sure: I need to find a way to let my brain do the math and not get in the way. Which makes math sound like sex, which might be a helpful way to think about it, but I guess I just lack the imagination to make that particular allegorical leap. Really, is there anything less sexy than numbers? This week of all weeks, big numbers dancing around in vague and threatening ways make my scrotum tuck up inside and wait to see its shadow before it comes out, again.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Convention Ass

I'll share all my Baltimore Comic Convention war stories on a special Vomit Comic over at Walrus on Monday. In the meantime, I'm shot.

I mean that quite literally. They filled me full'a lead.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Rainy Day Driving and More

Good evening/morning/whenever you read this. I'm writing it on Friday night, from the darkened upstairs office at my friend Pete's, down in Baltimore. The office is darkened because I can't figure out how to turn on the light. I'm also in here because we just had Thai food, and I'm farting up a blue storm, and I don't want to subject anyone else to this.

My other friend Jim and I drove down earlier today, making pretty good time. Mostly because Jim drives like all the agents of Hell are on his tail.

I did, due to some remarkable planning and strategizing on my part, manage to complete the art project that I hinted at the other day, and it is, in fact, a mini collecting all of the Vomit Comics to date, including all of the essays and not much else. Still, it's a nice package - I must admit, I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out. I've printed up a small run for sale at the Baltimore Comicon. Did I mention the Comicon, yet? That's the reason Jim and I are here in the first place.

Anyhow, any extra copies that I have left over from the convention can be had from me at cover price or free, depending on how well you know me, or how damning the blackmail evidence you have on me - which, come to think about it, are really the same thing.

Shame I don't have a Twitter page, because I guess if I had anything worth Twittering about, it would be live from the floor of the Baltimore Comicon. Anyhow, I'll see if I have it in me to give any coverage tomorrow. Right now, I'm very, very sleepy.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keep On Keeping On

I really should take the method of Frank Nora to heart for these weeks when I've really got little time to Ramble or little to Ramble about (or both, as is the case this week). What Frank does for his podcast (The Overnightscape) is to occasionally record a spare when he's really going good, so that he has something to drop in place when time is short or the muse is fickle.

Sadly, I haven't done that. So I instead recommend that you go pay Frank a visit - you can find him in the podcast directory on iTunes or streaming at his own site, so do so. I have listened in a little while, but I'm sure the current election and economic crisis has given Frank a lot of grist for his mill.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still Pumping

Curiously, the sun came up this morning and I went to class. Although not necessarily in that order.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Placeholder Wednesday

This is proving to be the week of all work and no reward. Ah, well. I continue to hack away at the couple of big design jobs ahead of me, with significant progress - at least on the mental front. Now I just need to make the think in my head appear on the screen. Then we'll be golden.

The one bright spot in an otherwise stressful week: I've got a neat little personal project percolating that I won't even talk about until it sees fruition. Most likely, that fruition will fruit (?) Thursday or Friday, latest, so I doubt you'll get too anxious waiting on it.

Continuing my ambivalence and sheer jaw-dropping outdumb - it can't exactly be outrage when I pretty much expect these things to happen like this, so I have to coin a new phrase for it - I just have two comments on Paulson's address to congress:

1) Apparently, he's opposed to any kind of compensation cap for executives of firms which participate in the bailout, for fear it would make said companies choose NOT to participate, and,

2) Lending institutions and the administration are also opposed to a proposal by House Democrats to give bankruptcy judges more leeway for homeowners with 'non-traditional' mortgages to be able to deal with the inflationary interest rates and keep their homes.

Got that? Paulson is afraid that firms that will fail unless we throw nearly a trillion dollars their way will turn the fucking money down because the executive won't be able to take a $300 million bonus regardless of performance, and the institutions that are responsible for the crisis in the first place are dictating the terms of aid to the core problem area of the economy, being the mortgage credit crisis.

To answer #1) look, dudes and dudettes, it's our money. We are now your bosses, so if we say you don't get personally rewarded for giving all of America and the World creeping anxiety bedsweats for the foreseeable future, then you no get the money. At this point, I'm thinking that your performance has been so bad so far that any fucking lemur from a community college could do it better. Your 'experience' notwithstanding, I'll happily take my chances without you. To answer number 2), hey, two birds with one stone - actually helping out Americans as well as corporations, and also stabilizing the credit market. Where is the problem, exactly?

And the answer to #3)? Gentlemen, go fuck yourselves.

Right, there was no number 3. I was just testing you.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Incursive Recursion

Another day of pretty damn busy - although I am getting pretty close to catching up on the work work. I also did manage to do the drawing that I mentioned last night, which in this case, was a new Vomit Comic over at Walrus Comix. So go there for content, including my final word on Richard Wright, which I'd originally considered posting here - but, what the heck, I will post it here. Still, there's another few paragraphs explaining the strip (the Wright eulogy just talks about the dedication) and the strip itself.

Meantime, I'm trying to wrestle Excel into giving me a graph on the period of a pendulum swing, and - perhaps more importantly, having gotten that done - calculate the slope for me.

Here's the Wright eulogy - slightly clarified and amended - and don't forget to check the strip.

I guess I've been thinking a lot about music in the last week or so - well, a lot more than usual, which is usually quite a bit in the first place. This is because of the passing last week of Richard Wright, who has been reduced by obituaries to the credit of 'keyboardist and founding member of Pink Floyd.' He was so, so much more, a truly gifted musician whose harmonic language (ha!) was an irreducible part of what made the music of Pink Floyd hum. Roger Waters wrote primarily in a blues or folk song context; David Gilmour excelled at superhuman feats of melodic guitar soloing but had a simple and straightforward approach to composition. It was Rick Wright who brought something larger to the band - big, arching gothic chord structures with one leg in half-remembered jazz and the other in ambient before it even had a name. There's so much to Pink Floyd, a band more than any other that was greater than the sum of their parts, but I can guarantee you that anytime you heard their music and something surprising or unexpected - yet so, so perfect - caught your ear, it was Rick Wright who had written or played it.

He also wrote a handful of lyrics early in the transitional period of the band that literally make me ache for what might have been had he been able to develop his gift further. While Roger Waters was still writing ambling, trippy lyrics - largely cribbed from Tang Dynasty poetry and William Burroughs about setting the controls for the heart of the sun, Wright was the first Floyd lyricist to write convincingly about alienation and loss, two themes that were taken up by Waters only in the coming decade. In fact, Wright wrote specifically about the alienation he felt in the empty groupie experience of a touring rock musician, something that Waters used ten years on as a hinge upon which to frame much of his portrait of Pink's fraught mental state.

I've written on my own blog about Wright's unique approach to the age of electronic keyboards, but it bears repeating: among all of the keyboard players in prog, or in rock in general, Wright was the only one who grasped that each keyboard was an entirely different instrument, and where other keyboardists attempted to dominate each new machine by imposing their own (usually byzantine) style on it, Wright allowed his playing to change organically with each new addition to his arsenal, all while somehow retaining something at the core that was identifiably and uniquely him. The change in keyboard sounds and style really distinguish each album the early seventies Floyd catalogue. To name an example: Dark Side of the Moon is suffused by Wurlitzer and Hammond comping, adding a further rhythmic element that drives the album and keeps the harmonic structure clearly stated - their timbre also adding much to the overall warmth and fullness of the sound. Then on Wish You Were here, the Wurlitzer and Rhodes are largely gone, replaced by polyphonic and monophonic synthesizers, moving from stately grace and mournful remembrance to the sounds of an insect dystopia, pulsing with menace.

It's with this - and so much more - in mind that I dedicated this strip to him. Maybe music isn't a language, per se, but something about what Wright did and his approach to the keyboards at his disposal spoke to me, and became foundational to my love of and approach to playing and writing music, myself. There is not a note that I have ever played on keys that he wasn't in some way responsible for.

Goodbye, Mr. Wright.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Drag You, Drag Me

I'm literally aswirl in work this evening; math class, math homework, physics homework, physics lab homework, work work, work web work, drawing stuff. The majority of the day was spent preparing for and then attending a family barbecue in the glamorous Orangetown Memorial Park - for which I made cookies. So now I have some catch-up to do.

In the meantime, something from SNL/Hulu. Why not?


Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Allegory

In the absence of power, even in a system where all parties have initially agreed to an equal share in the costs and decision making, eventually, someone will move in to assume a greater share of that power.

There are those who will fight the new structure.

There are those who will adapt by trying to ally themselves with the new leader, thereby assuring themselves a higher role in the hierarchy.

There are those who will merely try to get on with their lives, and in doing so, tacitly endorse the new power structure.

Those who choose to fight the power are usually the first to be eliminated, by the direct action of the new leader or their proxy.

Those who do nothing will be next, having shown weakness but not having proven worthwhile by aiding the new regime. They will be exiled or argued out of existence.

Next to go will be the allies, who have tried to gain power through applied sycophancy. For an explanation of their downfall, look to simple mistrust or an attempt by higher-ups to consolidate power. Eventually, an act of betrayal is either discovered or fabricated, or merely presumed.

Lastly, the godhead. In a monotheistic world the bishops are gone and the church is looted. Pantheism posits that others are empowered to decide.

Belief is temporal perception colored by experience. Faith is belief plus hope. Hope exists outside of time and experience, and hope suggests.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Music and Lyrics, cont.

Last night I had too much to drink
Sitting in a club with so many fools
Playing to rules
Trying to impress but feeling rather empty
I had another drink

What a way to spend that evening
They all turn up with their friends
Playing the game
But in the scene I should have been
Far away

Getting up, I feel so bad, remembering what's been before
I open the door to an empty room
Then I forget

The telephone rings and someone speaks
She would very much like to go out to a show
So what can I do - I can't think what to say
She sees through anyway

Out of the front door I go
Traffic's moving rather slow
Arriving late, there she waits
Looking very angry, as cross as she can be

Getting up, I feel so bad, remembering what's been before
I open the door to an empty room
Then I forget

Richard 'Rick' Wright, Paintbox

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Rick Wright Memorial Barbecue

In case you can't tell, I'm still gathering my thoughts about the death this week of Richard Wright. Below is an email that I sent out earlier today - which most of you probably received - inviting those interested to my final show with Floyd/Not Floyd. Consider it something of a first draft eulogy for a man I never met, but whose death has affected me surprisingly deeply.

It seems perhaps appropriate that I would play not only my last show with the Pink Floyd Tribute band 'Us Not Them,' but possibly my last live show as a keyboard player, ever, just a few days after the passing of the man who was the main reason I was drawn to the keyboard as an instrument in the first place.

Whether it was traditional piano, Farfisa, Hammond, Moog, ARP, Wurlitzer, etc., Rick Wright brought a deep understanding to what made each sound one-of-a-kind, and his writing and playing style and truly unique harmonic sense somehow connected directly to the musical part of my brain practically before I was even aware that I had any musical inclination in the first place. The man was one of only about two or three people (of those I've never met) that I can say has had a profound impact not only on my musical life but my personal life, as well.

All of which sounds pretty morbid, but I'm treating my performance at this final show as a celebration, what little tribute I can make to this criminally undersung musician and man. If you can make it out, please do.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

1733 1st Avenue
(Between 89th & 90th Streets)
(212) 876-0203

$10 cover
21+ with I.D.