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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Everything Might Go! Pt. III



As the ramp up to Saturday's convention continues, and perhaps reading some ambivalence into my reporting on the progress, Anonymous wondered why I was getting rid of The Kopperman Collection in the first place. Too, Jim, who provided valuable sort and pile assistance today, pretty much voiced the same question, albeit in more specific terms - as in "why are you getting rid of this comic?" (No one comic in particular - he asked it quite a bit about any number of titles - although Marvel's Star Wars - which, as reported in this space before, is the cornerstone of my collection - was one that he asked it about, and one that admittedly gave me some pause.

For starters, as I think I mentioned the other day, it's not as though this were a sudden and impulsive decision. It's something that I've been thinking about in the back of my mind for the better part of the last ten years. Moreso since Yesenia and I moved into Beadboard Manor, which is where the bulk of The Kopperman Collection has been housed since its inception in 1980.

Really, what it boils down to is: I am not, by nature, a collector. I buy comics, and always have bought comics, for the simple - or highly, aesthetically complex - pleasures they bring me. I love the art form, in both high and low forms, and I understand the culture. But I just don't enjoy having all this stuff around. Boxes and boxes, gathering dust and taking up space. Admittedly, that's what the space is there for - after all, as George Carlin noted, your house is just a big box where you keep all of your stuff. But I generally regard ownership as more of a burden than a joy once the volume of stuff owned begins to get out of hand.

So, just trying to clear out space is one reason. Anything else? The fact is, I'm not, nor have I ever been, particularly attached to my collection, as most collectors would be. Which is a little odd, because a tour through these boxes is an archaeological dig through my own past, through the works that shaped my sense of fun and of art (and no doubt also showed me that fun and art are probably one and the same thing).

I also think that these things were made to be read, not hoarded, and I know that I've pretty well exhausted the reading potential of my backstocked collection. I used to dig out particular issues to read through - which is why the collection is in such a chaotic state - but I've tired of that. And it's one of those things that's been such a gradual exhaustion that I have a strong sense that it won't ever return with any kind of great force. Sure, I envision a pang or two once the Kopperman Collection has be broken up and sent to new homes. But I also suspect that I'll feel good knowing that people who want to read them will be reading them, which is more appreciation than they get from me.

There are many other variables at play, here: change in reading habits; shift from reader of comics as serial fiction to comics as personal statement; the availability of many of these comics in reprint form should I desire to read them again; the rise of other media (including the forum you're reading this on); etc. But what it really boils down to is not wanting to allow my love of comics to be confused with the owning of comic books, the desire to let others enjoy them, and maybe make a little money on the side. After all, it's not as though I'm going to stop buying comics to replace the ones I'm selling. Symbolically, when I paid a visit to the comic store today (every addict knows that Wednesday is new comics day) to buy some bags and backing boards for the high-ticket items, I also bought this month's issues of Fantastic Four, Futurama, and The Spirit.

So you'll excuse me as I close down for the night and settle into bed with some good comics. If you'd like, perhaps you can make an offer when I sell them at the local comicon in 2027.

D.

Everything Might Go! Pt. II



Things proceed slowly, as I feared they would; I'm incapable of unpacking these boxes without having an uncontrollable desire to read every single one of these things. It's like sorting 5000 physical manifestations of Proustian Rush, one 24-page, four-color spark at a time.

Thinking about the strategy: maybe bring a few high-ticket items with me, to see how they sell, and then a couple of long-boxes full of ¢50 wonders, so that the day wouldn't be a total loss.

Above is an example of one of said valuable items in my possesion (or, "The Kopperman Collection," as I've taken to calling it) - the first issue of a Wolverine limited series, drawn by Frank Miller - of later Sin City and 300 fame. Back from the early 80's, when things like Miller, Wolverine and even limited series were still a pretty new thing. A mint copy (the highest possible grade) supposedly is worth $100. Mine is actually in quite good condition, possibly 'fine,' thought doubtful 'very fine.' So I would hope that I could get $30 for it.

Really, I'd be lucky to get $30 for the entire four issue series. I don't know.

You know, for a guy that works in advertising, you'd think I'd have a feel for this whole selling thing...

D.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Everything Might Go!



Next to no juice left on the laptop this evening, and I just can't be bothered to get out of bed and plug it in. So this Rambler faces a time limit. Perhaps more serious: it faces a brain limit, which can't be overcome by plugging me in.

This week, the big project begins: the unloading of the comic collection. It's something I've been meaning to do for years, but with something like 5000 comics in my collection, I haven't been exactly looking forward to the task. But it turns out that the local Church is hosting a comic convention (well, sports memorabilia, coins and comics), so Jim Doller and I got a table (for the bank-busting price of $25.00) to hawk our wares.

Of course, that means I have to now go through my largely unorganized collection and see just what those wares are, and then see how much they might be 'worth,' and then be realistic about it and see how much I can really get for them.

I'm sorely tempted to just sell the whole thing for ¢.50 a comic, which would be a pretty remarkable $2,500 haul, but I think even that is a highly unlikely outcome. Reasonably, I'd be better off bringing my more 'valuable' ones down to the show, see how I do with them, and then go back and start dealing with the rest in some other fashion.

You may be wondering why words like 'worth' and 'valuable' are shackled in the Quotes of Irony? Well, any idiot who thinks that comics are like Apple stock and will seemingly rise is value forever (except after a dreary Expo, of course) is sorely deluded. A comic, like all other things on Earth, is only worth what someone will pay for it, and no more. When print runs are low and demand is high, something can sell for, yes, hundreds of thousands of dollars to insane people. When print runs are high and demand is low, even insane people keep the wallet sealed.

So: Action Comics number one, which features the first appearance of Superman, and of which fewer than 100 copies are known to exist, has an outstanding offer of (no shit) one million dollars for a near mint copy from high-flyin' collector types. Whereas Action Comics number 860, which features the eleventy-thousandth comic appearance of Superman and which had a print run of 150,000, all of which are still in existance, is worth only slightly less than the paper it's printed on.

See? It's simple.

More to come.

D.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An Empty Chair in an Empty Room



I was organizing my iPhoto Library, and this picture made me say, 'yes, that's exactly how I feel right about now.'

Hopefully I'll get in a better mood, and tomorrow's photo will be of Laetitia Casta naked in a hammock.

D.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Rambler, But at Least it's Something New to Look At...

That orange was getting a little tired, don't you think?

And what the heck - after 250+ posts, I guess maybe it's time to throw up the toolbar and let the archives be searchable. If only for my own benefit.

D.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Opposites Repel



Am I the only one who thinks that Tori Amos sounds like Ian Anderson in drag?

D.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Heartbreak Kid (Redux)

The remake, that is - Farrelly Bros. with Ben Stiller. For some reason, I feel like the Farrelleys never fell off in quality - I still laugh pretty hard at their films - but there was a brief period when the were in vogue, and now they're not.

Oh, well.

D.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

$169.50



Finally got down with the loose change, today. The biggest mental hurdle was (were?) the pennies - they always are, but in this case, that giant Tupperware you see there came to us completely full of the little brown Lincolns. More precisely, when Yesenia got her grandfather's Buick, the full container came with it - which means tat it's been floating around undealt with for something like eight years. Anyway, that, plus the normal accumulation of spare pennies over the last seven or eight years, totaled almost forty dollars in pennies alone. Meaning that we had close to four thousand fucking pennies.

Altogether, it took me about four hours to sort, pound and roll all the change, which means I 'earned' about $42.50 an hour today. Woo-hoo!

In case you're wondering what's with the odd lookin' coin sorter, well, I got it at the Dollar Store and that's about what it cost. Something kind of charming about it, really.

And for the record: it weighs about 38 pounds. Oh, you know you were wondering...

D.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Motionless Picture



Tonight's title is stolen from the Mad Magazine parody of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And, boy, how spot-on they were. Dick DeBartolo, I'm guessing - I think he wrote every movie parody Mad did from 1965 to 1982. Or something.

Anyway, Yesenia borrowed the DVD from a co-worker - really, he pressed it in to her hands and swore up and down that it was TOTALLY UH-MAY-ZING. She brought it home and I rolled my eyes so hard I almost passed out. I thought, prayed, hoped I might be able to spare her this curious misfire in the Trek canon - a gigantic sleep-inducing ICBM that I knew was only going to seem that much more lumbering and cumbersome ('lumbersome?") in comparison to the fourth season of Next Generation we'd just finished with the night before.

And I did warn her, of course: are you prepared (asked I) to watch a movie that purports to be the beloved Star Trek property brought back to life on the big screen, but in reality is a perverse art film, wherein the veterans of the 1960's TV show are filmed standing around and reacting to a Douglas Trumbull showreel?

Seriously, this is a sloooooooow movie. Even the poster seems to warn you. Take a close look at the Enterprise. Doesn't it look like it's flying backwards?

Lord only knows what Robert Wise (the director) was thinking. I mean, I can't really fault him for wanting to lavish all that screen time on the special effects - they're lovely. No-one had a way with verisimilitude like Trumbull (see also: 2001, CE3K & Blade Runner), but there are literal hours of the movie given over to Shatner & company standing around and looking at the viewscreen (oddly tiny in the redesign of the bridge, here, especially when you consider that this is such and effects-driven spectacle). Really, I wonder what the actors thought upon being given a script that could only have been about twenty pages long, with the cumulative dialogue amounting to no more than a few paragraphs on the bottom of page three:

Interior, Los Angeles, Day
We see WILLIAM SHATNER in his office, script on his lap. He has a look of confusion on his face, his shoulders slightly slumped and defeated. The telephone rings, and he startles. He picks it up. Hearing the voice on the other end, his expression changes into one of dread.

SHATNER: (Trying to sound cheerful) Gene! Yes, I did. Just now. It's... what can I say? (Pause, listening) Uh-huh, yes. And when will the full script be completed? (His expression changes back to shock, but he manages to keep his voice steady) So, this isn't the outline? The full script, you say.

Still talking, SHATNER leans over his desk and picks up a statement from the IRS. A close-up reveals that he owes the Federal Government several thousand dollars in back taxes.

SHATNER: Absolutely!


What's especially odd is that even given the simplicity of the story, the mechanics of the plot are kind of difficult to follow - it's almost as if every other scene has been left out. Which they'd have to do, of course, otherwise the film would be four hours long.

Still, it was interesting enough to see this thirty years on, the weekend that the trailer for J.J. Abrams Trek reboot hit theaters. ST:TMP was a bad movie, almost comically slow and having one of the more predictable plots from the original series, sure. But it established an updated look and approach - and, especially, had some great music, with Jerry Goldsmith actually improving upon Alexander Courage, which is no mean feat. In fact, visually and musically, it's one of the real treats of 70's cinema.

But flash and pomp do not equal entertainment on their own, and the slowness of the film and completely bizarre structure totally sap the audience of any enjoyment. There's a really symbolic scene early in the seventh hour of the movie, where the Warp engines go kerflammitz, and the ship plunges - well, strolls; nothing in this movie does anything as swift and decisive as plunging - into a wormhole.

And then the world's slowest movie actually gets even slower.

That's right: the wormhole has slowed time for the crew, and the movie - which has already slowed to what could charitably be called a 'crawl' by this point - actually moves so slowly that it first draws to a complete stop, then starts to run backwards. Eventually, it runs all the way back before the opening credits and into the third season of the series, where we get to watch Kirk actually doing something, like hitting or fucking or emoting or doing any of those things that made the TV series so fun, but apparently was decided to be too challenging for the filmgoers of the 1970's.

Not, not really. But it's nice to dream, isn't it?

D.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

App-Happy

Responding to my brief grouse about Apple here the other day, DSEZ wrote:

"It's true. Apple does not care about its faithful customers. It has a habit of alienating them by constantly pulling the rug out from beneath their feet. The iPhone's somewhat botched release, and subsequent precipitous price drop, is a perfect example. A rebate (to only certain buyers) really isn't enough to restore consumer confidence.

My 30G iPod video was pretty much obselete mere weeks after I bought it. It was replaced by the 80G iPod video, which in turn was rendered obsolete by the iPod Touch--which itself was outdated within several weeks after ITS release.

Apple--chill out!"


Being an Apple fan definitely means you need to find some way to square their position as a maker of boutique items. Obsolescence is a big part of that, sadly, and it's something I understand, even if I don't like.

Given how competitive the market is for portable media players, you pretty much have to expect your iPod to be obsolete the moment you exit the store. That's by design (in every sense of the word, in Apple's case). I mean, the race is so tight that I've given serious, serious thought to buying the newest Zune, and would have if anyone had gotten it to work with the Mac OS. The iPod line has to be Apple's digital shark - keep moving or die.

Where Apple really falls down is in acknowledging and living up to their genuine fuck-ups, such as (my own personal case in point) the DVD burner in the Intel MacMini, which claims to burn DVDs at 8x, but will really only do 2x, unless you feel like shelling out for Apple blanks. It's clear they're not going to do anything about it. They are not a customer service company, image to the contrary. They do not respond to the needs of existing customers on existing products, and continue focusing instead on new product development and expanding their market share.

That's why the retro-rebate for early iPhone purchasers was so shocking - that's got to be a first in the history of the company. What's especially odd about that is that it's the one case where I'm not sure it was justified. I mean, the price was clearly advertised, and only a mindless idiot would expect that the price would not only go down, but that a much more powerful version would turn up within months. So I'm not convinced that the spendthrift toyheads who just had to have the shiny new thing deserved to get any money back (I guess it was in the form of Apple Store credit, but still).

It would take a lot for me to abandon Apple computers, but I'm more than willing to do without any of their media devices, although I'm not so much a market for them in the first place. A needless non-ancillary to a life already overwhelmed with entertainment choices. We have an iPod in the house (Yesenia's), and even though I can use it whenever I want, I pretty much never do. So I may not be able to generate the justified annoyance at the development cycle of the iPod.

Guitarist Shaun has an iPhone, and my primary feeling about it is to note the interesting sound his amplifier makes when the iPhone is anywhere near it. I've also toyed with my sister's iPod Touch, which she's cracked and added all sorts of extras that definitely serve as improvements - and while I admit holding it makes me feel the future has finally arrived, I don't feel any desire to point over her shoulder, widen my eyes and shout "Who's that?!?" in a tone of mounting panic and then abscond with the thing while her back is turned.

Which means I really an not the market for new media...

To which you might ask, 'well, why do you even want a Zune, then?'

Quite frankly? The radio.

D.

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Rambler

Really? After a week of nothing entries, another entry of nothing? What the fuck?

Seriously...

D.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What Doesn't Hurt?

The pain, the pain! After the back cleared up, my sciatica kicked in like it hasn't since it first appeared a few years ago - 1997, my ten year sciatica anniversary!

Then I have the weirdest shin splints, that feels like my ankle isn't properly connected and it feels like it keeps popping in and out of place.

Then the headaches and the eye pressure.

And, of course, I overdid it with my voice at practice tonight - covers of Jet and 21st Century Schizoid Man are to blame. Only it didn't feel like it was raw - felt more like I pulled my vocal cords.

I must be stroking out...

D.

Buyer's Premorse

Presenting: The MacBook Air

MacBook Air - Intel integrated graphics, with no Ethernet, no CD drive, 2 GB of non-replacable/upgradable RAM, flash hard drive, and non-replacable battery, 1.6 GHz Duo Core, no Firewire, no eSATA, with a base model price of almost $1800. Unless you want the solid-state drive, in which case open that second mortgage - $3000.

Hey! But at least it weighs 3 pounds less than a MacBook Pro and you can fit it in a manila envelope.... meaning, I guess, that you can offset some of the expense by saving on a carrying case.

I was trepidatious about the product announcements, because I just gave in and bought a MacBook Pro two weeks ago, and I was gritting my teeth in case they introduced something that really made me regret it - always the risk with the super-secret, disloyal-to-existing-customer-base Apple.

My big fear? A tablet laptop.

But that long, low hiss you hear coming from just north of New York City? That's the sound of me letting out the world's biggest sigh of relief. My impulse purchase has not become obsolete with a keynote speech.

So I have at least a year before the buyer's remorse sets in...

Oddly, the thing I find most alluring in the whole product announcements is the TIme Capsule, Apple's new wireless hard-drive (500 GB/1 TB) merchandised as a tie-in to Time Machine, Leopard's new automated backup. I find myself giving it serious thought.

D.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Wall Over Troubled Waters, Part I


Pink Floyd • The Wall
1979

Part I: In Which I Encounter An Old Comrade, and Find Them Gazing Also - My History With The Wall and A Digression On Fascism as A Theme.

This album is the one that defined a generation. When I think of The Wall, before I can even get to the album and the music, I have to dig through all the other crap in my head that occupies space with it. High school in general. Jim drunk and bellowing it. Again with Jim, watching the film in his parents' TV room. The first CD purchase I'd ever made, as a birthday present for Bran. Learning how to play piano by making a tape of the song Nobody's Home, then painstakingly picking out each chord and note and rewinding over and over and over again to get it right.

And being a very early album for me in terms of my listening to rock music - up until age sixteen, I pretty much exclusively listened to orchestral movie soundtracks, of all things - my feel for it is much, much different than the music I listened to later. The Wall is an album I first - and last - heard before I really could consider myself a musician (for the sake of argument, let's say that I am one now, all right?) and certainly before I started to listen to music with any kind of sophistication. So my concept of the album is frozen in amber, a group of emotions and sensations that were experienced by me twenty years ago that never was opened and reexamined, since I put the album aside before my Freshman Year in college, and haven't heard it since.

Despite the fact that I listened to The Wall for only a short time - really, only my senior year of high school - anyone who has listened to the album knows that you can become very familiar with the piece with little effort. And if you're a socially awkward teenager when you first hear it, it sticks in you even deeper. That is, after all, the audience it's meant for, whether the band likes it or not.

So listening to it again was a strangely familiar experience, like running across someone you once spent a really intimate night with decades ago, to find that they're remained unchanged, but you now understand what they were trying to tell you over all that noise in the bar. On the other hand, now you're a little older, a little more sophisticated, and find you're more questioning of their argument.

Teenage boys, after all, buy into things with pathetic ease. It's tough to say who's more easy to sway with peer pressure, girls or boys, but it's clear that the messages that carry weight with the different genders are different. The Wall takes violence and despair, social decay and isolation (not to mention heaping spoonfuls of misogyny) and wraps it up it intense ear candy and sells it back to the listener. The more impressionable listeners - teenage boys are not known for their appreciation of subtext and irony - will take the message at face value.

It's amusing that Roger Waters had as one of his central theses on this album the idea that rock is akin to fascism and the singer a demagogue, because this is actually the album that probably made more sheepish converts for them than any other. Sure, they got a huge fan-base with Dark Side, which continued to grow through the '70's, but the albums that preceded The Wall were very universal in their lyric approach. Not The Wall. The Wall was your friend. The Wall understood you, how hard things were for you. When no-one else would listen, The Wall would hold you close and whisper in your ear.

Or spit in your face. The incident that drove Waters to write The Wall in the first place was the closing show of their 1977 tour - a stadium tour - where Waters grew so angry with a fan that he spat right in his face. That's when he felt that he'd gone down the wrong path, that the whole stadium spectacle thing was dehumanizing for audience and band alike. So he sat down and wrote a story - about a rock star named Pink whose extreme isolation causes him to re-imagine the arena concert as a Nuremberg Rally, with himself as Hitler.

And, boy: you think you can build an army with rock and roll alone? The real key to the heart and wallet of a teenage boy - as countless bands have successfully shown since - is to stroke their solipsism and tell them they're right, the world is a dark and horrible place. And there's your army of suicide bombers right there.

Next: More Themes, No Doubt.

D.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Copper Globes

In light of this year's cancellation of the traditional Golden Globes broadcast extravaganza (replaced instead by a press conference) due to the writers' strike, I will tonight be doing away with all of the song and dance routines - as well as all of my usual witty repartee - as I announce this year's winners of the first annual "Thanks, Guy" Dave Kopperman awards for people who might have done something of note over the last year that has personally benefitted me.

However, in support of the Film & TV guild, the Rambler writers are on strike as well, along with our staff historian, librarian and archivist, so we're just going to go with anyone who has helped me within recent memory - which, given my very thin sense of gratitude added to my very poor retention skills, pretty much represents the last, oh... say, 72 hours or so?

Anyhow, without further ado:

Best Link: Christian Kriegeskotte
This Pittsburgh based composer and noted crank forwarded me a link to a widget that would allow me to embed audio into the Rambler in a much more attractive way - which, given how lame the traditional little MP3 thing looks to my eyes, is a real boon. Examples of its use can be seen at his own recently resuscitated blog, which I've also added to my list of links. His blog is the best written and supplemented on the list - and far better than the Rambler - but, then, he does live in Pittsburgh and will probably die before the rest of us.

Mitigating factors: dogmatic approach to anti-dogmatism in music; may believe in the literal philosopher's stone; name difficult to spell.


Best Advice from a Total Stranger: Cathy (?)
I did my first full video chat last night. I started with Karl, and then we got the idea to try to add a third just to see how it works, so Karl called up the former Apple Sales Rep to his school district, a woman named Cathy (thus giving her the unique position of being the first person I've met via webcam). Cathy is a woman of strongly held life philosophies, many of which she was willing to hold forth on authoritatively without much in the way of prompting. The general advice had much to do with a better way of managing your life and finances, mostly through intense planning and real estate (both on Earth and in virtual space), of which she herself is living proof. The specific advice was how to find the IP address of my networked printer, which I had been unable to get from Karl in the past. So she did right by me. All in all, a pretty fascinating conversation.

Mitigating factors: drinks Coors Light; allowed her cats to be killed by her dogs, which seems a little unsportsmanlike.


Best Advice from a Financial Advisor: Hayes Griffen
The curious thing about being told how best to manage my finances by Cathy - who had done so with her own quite spectacularly - was that earlier in the day, Yesenia and I had visited with our own financial advisor with Ameriprise. Hayes is our second advisor with the company, and this was our first real extended meeting with him. Two hours later, Yesenia and I left the office feeling really optimistic about the future, which really is how you want to feel about the future whenever you can bring yourself to consider it. I recommend it as a good way to start the year. Specifically, Hayes looked at both long term goals and gave exact, practical advice on how to deal with current debt, which is a good mix.

Mitigating factors: meeting was on Saturday morning during my 'sleeping in' time; money scares me.


Best Metaphorical Deal With the Devil, and by "Devil," I Mean Microsoft Windows, and by "Metaphorical," I Mean: Bubba
After successfully getting the IP address for the networked printer, the time came to deal with the reason I wanted it in the first place: to tell the Dell laptop running Windows XP - nicknamed "Pazuzu" - to actually acknowledge its existence and deign to print to it. This was a project I've dabbled with over the last few months, always with the same predictable non-results. Over the course of the evening, Bubba walked me through a few procedures.

An early success of note was putting the Dell into DOS mode and pinging the IP address, and finding that, yes, the computer could see the printer. Sadly, Windows could not, which is a little odd considering that WIndows is on the computer. Running the Printer Set-Up 'Wizard" - obviously more Saruman than Gandalf - only resulted in Windows disavowing that anything could be found at that IP address.

FInally, we went through a secondary routine deep in some other function that miraculously got the printer found and printed to. It was, however, achieved in such a roundabout manner that I commented to Bubba that it was as if you were driving a car with standard transmission, and couldn't switch gears using the clutch - but it turns out that there's a second secret clutch under the passenger seat, and they neglect to mention it in the manual.

Bubba also walked me through defragmenting the drive and cleaning up a bunch of needless start-up programs that weren't found in the "Add and Remove Programs" function, so the Dell now runs at something resembling a useful speed, which Yesenia will no doubt appreciate, seeing as how she's chained to it as the only computer that will work for her online Translation classes.

Mitigating factors: Still finds Windows superior to Mac, in spite of all empirical evidence to the contrary; Depeche Mode fan.


Thanks to the efforts of these kind people, I can now sleep better knowing that the Rambler will be more current in functionality, my future is secured and my Dell can print. And isn't that what we all hope for?

D.

Productivity

Did much today. Now am getting in bed to watch a much earned episode (or two) of TNG. Have a good Sunday.

Y'all.

D.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Deadline Kid

New client meeting on Monday/
Got no time for Rambling/
Ooh, baby you got me hoping/
That I can find something that rhymes with rambling - yeah!

D.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Digress

You know what fills me with an almost overwhelming sense of nostalgia?

Driving in winter, on a section of highway that has tube-blasted rockface on both sides - and when the rockface has those miniature frozen waterfalls.

Always makes me think of driving up to New England for Christmas when I was a child.

D.

One Man Garage Band

So, I got itchy to record that arrangement of Rick Wright's early Floyd song, See Saw, that I've been blathering on about doing for the last few days. And then it occurred to me that with the new Laptop, I could do what I always do on a new computer (since 2003 or so) - give it a spin with Garageband and see how it goes. So to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to do a scratch version of the song in Garageband, and see how it went.

Thing is, it came out a lot better than I thought it would, especially when you consider that all the recording was done just with the laptop's built-in mic, and, frankly, I'm not even sure where the mic is located on this thing...

...so, unless I get a further bug up my ass to try this again, this may be the final version. Perhaps. I think I may remix it slightly - it's late and I had to keep the speakers low. I suspect the rhythm guitars are a hair loud and jangly.

The other benefit is that I think I've proved my point, that it's a really, really lovely song sunk by lousy band performances, arrangement and production. Not that my arrangement and production are any better, of course, but... well, anyway, now you can focus on the melody and lyrics, which are both just great.



My approach was to keep the song generally in the same key and time signature, and to give it a more straightforward AABABCABBA form, to bring out what I se as the real sense of loss and longing in the song. The original song changes modes frequently, and I found I was able to keep the momentum going if I kept it in C, and didn't even have to alter the melody to do so, beyond singing one note a half-step down. The original song also took a suite-like approach, really getting heavily into instrumental segues that removed focus from the lyrics and melody.

Here's the original - you can see where I picked up some of the instrumental segues and reconfigured them to fit in the new feel.



The only element of the original I lost was the big 'bomp bomp bomp' before each bridge, which I couldn't really find a way to rephrase. Besides, I took it to be an arrangement trick in the original, simply a way to get from the Em at the end of the chorus to the Eb of the bridge - and I realized if I just left off the Em, I could get to the Eb without it sounding too odd. But you tell me.

Lyrically, you'll note that I rephrased one line, which had originally been stretched to fit the change in signature from 6/8 to 4/8. I just left it in 6/8 and dropped a couple of syllables. Here's the whole lyric, with my changes indicated in bold.

Marigolds are very much in love, but he doesn't mind
Picking up his sister, he makes his way (they go) to the see-saw land
All the way she smiles
She goes up while he goes down, down (I excised the first chorus)

Sits on a stick in the river
Laughter in his sleep
Sister's throwing stones, hoping for a hit
He doesn't know so then
She goes up while he goes down, down

Another time, another day
A brother's way to leave
Another time, another day

She'll be selling plastic flowers
On a Sunday afternoon
Picking up weeds, she hasn't got the time to care
All can see he's not there
She grows up for another man, and he's down

Another time, another day
A brother's way to leave
Another time, another day


D.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mixin' Mortar

I've finally thrown myself into the deep end of the pool and listened to The Wall, today. First disc in the tub, and the second on the way to Port Chester for P.C.M.A. practice. As I mentioned to Karl - talking with him to try to arrange my thoughts on it - I surprised no-one more than myself by actually finding that I liked it quite a bit. Still, I think I need a couple of days to marinate (or fester) in it before I can write anything sensible.

With the review of The Wall, I'll have officially hit the halfway point!

Albums down:
1) Obscured by Clouds
2) A Momentary Lapse of Reason
3) Animals
4) More
5) Dark Side of the Moon
6) A Saucerful of Secrets

On deck: The Wall

Still to come (although not likely the order in which they'll be reviewed):
1) Piper at the Gates of Dawn
2) Ummagumma
3) Atom Heart Mother
4) Meddle
5) Wish You Were Here
6) The Final Cut
7) The Division Bell

Most of which I count among my top 100 favorite albums, and one of which - Meddle - has long been my favorite album, not just coincidentally because it has my favorite song. Ever.

Since I had no real plan when I set out other than to revisit these albums with a critical ear, I'm pleased to note that I'm capable of writing positive reviews at length. It's a sad truth that as a critic, I've always found it easier to praise things through an honest appraisal of their flaws than to go on at length about positive qualities, even for those works I love unreservedly.

And the Floyd catalog is more than just a bunch of albums that I own - in many ways, these albums shaped my aesthetic sense, particularly with instrumental approach and the weighted image approach to lyric writing. On a deeper level, the story of the band and the internal fighting serve as an object lesson for me. So the reviews, both positive and negative, are in some feedback-looped way a review of myself. Even moreso than your average article of criticism by any critic you could name, these Rambler Floyd reviews should tell you a lot about me by the time we're all done.

BTW: As mentioned in the second part of my Saucerful review I've been futzing around with an arrangement of that album's See Saw. And can I say: what a lovely song. Once you strip away the half-assed playing and the really overripe production, you find a lyric that stands up with any of the best in the Floyd catalog, along with a really melancholy harmonic and melodic set. I'm definitely going to get this one down on 'tape,' at some point.

D.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sidelined/New Technology

So: Finona won a couple of free hours of bowling at Lucky Strikes, and tonight was the night. As mentioned, I didn't want to risk bowling and bringing back the serious hurt, which has mostly cleared up to a dull ache. So instead, I sat on my fat ass and had a beer, a bleu cheeseburger and fries, which is the type of thing that's probably more responsible for my back in the long run than the couple of hours of heavy lifting that led to the current situation.

Still, the symptom is always easier to treat than the root cause, and, fuck it - it's the American Way! I feel like a patriot, now... although the beer was an import. The only import.

Tangentially, that's still one of Lucky Strikes' two weaknesses (the other being the non-period music, which was less obtrusive this time out, and the ladies enjoyed taking turns sitting on the subwoofer) - they have a pretty sad selection of beers. I'll attribute that to the fact that it's located in the Palisades Center. I'll bet that the one in Hollywood has a great selection on top... but Lousiville only has Schlitz. In 40 oz. cans.

And the 'New Technology' of the post title? Allow me to introduce the Manputer - our all-new (well, closeout, but you get the point) MacBook Pro 17" 2.33, etc., etc.

What can I say? My mind is truly blown.

video

D.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wrecktastic

So, just in time for the back issue to clear up, I think I've come down with pink eye.

Charming.

D.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mono in Stereo, Pt. II


Pink Floyd • A Saucerful of Secrets
1968

Picking up where we left off:

Track Four: Corporal Clegg
Written by Roger Waters/Sung by David Gilmour & Nick Mason

In many ways, this song is Roger Waters' first actual song on record. As noted in the first half of this review, both Let There Be More Light and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun are less songs than modal jams, loose skeletons that the band could expand upon live in concert. And his sole composition on Piper at the Gates of Dawn fits even more into that category, offering little more than a few stop-time lines before the band launches into a total freak-out.

But Corporal Clegg offers up a fully arranged pop tune, complete with introduction, verse, pre-chorus, chorus and instrumental bridge and coda. Add to that Waters' first lyric about a World War II veteran having some seriously bad flashbacks to his war service accompanied by explosive sound effects and a marching kazoo battalion, and you've got the all of the ingredients of his last two albums with the Floyd over a decade later.

Of course, The Wall and The Final Cut have a deadly serious take on the subject, but Corporal Clegg is straight-up satire, both lyrically and musically. The lyric could go either way, with lines that on paper read as very cutting:

Corporal Clegg had a wooden leg
He won it in the war In nineteen forty four.


And the music in this section agrees with them, with fencing guitar and organ stabbing at each other in wrenchingly atonal clusters - a much heavier part than anything else on the album. But then the music shifts tones, going to a light three part vocal harmony over a lush major chord backing of wah-wah guitars and a descending Farfisa figure, for a visit with - well, either his wife or mother, but someone who's clearly in a state of denial about the situation:

Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him.
Mrs. Clegg, another drop of gin.


And from there, it's off to a marching band comprised of kazoos - of which more later.

In the meantime, take a look at the video - or 'promo clip,' as they called them in the pre-MTV days - and tell me that the images here wouldn't seem that out of place if you put a random track from The Final Cut over them:




Track Five: A Saucerful of Secrets
Instrumental • Written by David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters & Rick Wright

A far more experimental track than anything they'd done before, for several reasons. First, with Barrett in the group, the band had more than enough song-oriented material to fill out a complete LP. Secondly, EMI was less open to releasing experimental electronic music from what they took to be a top-40 singles band, and Floyd early on was very much at the whim of their record label. However, on their second record, having filled out enough of the rest of the album with what producer Norman Smith regarded as more commercial material, the band was allowed 12 minutes for whatever they wanted to do.

Smith had served as engineer for the Beatles and hoped to make his name as producer with the Floyd - so it's certainly understandable that he'd view the free-form approach to music with less enthusiasm. Even Gilmour - again, having come from an R&B cover band - wasn't prepared for the kind of atonal mood approach to music that this track represented.

No wonder: for the first nine minutes, nothing happens that could be considered 'music' from any traditional point of view. The first section (of three) builds slowly, starting with a low rumble built from some very closely miked cymbals being stroked very gently with mallets. Wind chimes pan around, the Farfisa comes in with a wandering eerie feel, never settling into any traditional mode, and then more sound effects begin to tense the mood - strummed piano strings, clicks and electronic yelps, building to a crescendo that cuts to part two.

Part two features much of the same background effects (now run backwards), but is run through with an insistent drum loop from Mason and some scary mic-stand leg slide from Gilmour, the only real guitar on the track.

Part three is a radical break from the first two sections, beginning with the return of the Farfisa, much softer and mournful now, which gradually morphs into a requiem of rising chords, repeated several times with other elements coming in, including Mellotron, slide guitar and a wordless chorus, before resolving (a little abruptly due to time limitations) on a triumphal major chord.

Even after all this time, listening to it on headphones is, as they say, a 'trip.' The band, left to their own devices by Smith, begin to explore the recording studio for the first time, and clearly have a strong sense of its potential right out of the gate - and go further towards experimental music than almost any other major band ever has, marking a line in the sand and naming it 'progressive.'

Later on, of course, they had to find a way to reproduce the studio construction live, and that's another story altogether.


Track Six: See Saw
Written and Sung by Rick Wright

It's easy to see why this track ended up being sequenced directly after the dark and intense Saucerful, being the only somewhat traditional ballad on the entire album, and for a few moments after the opening chord, its gentle rolling quality and major tones are genuinely refreshing.

Sadly, the song doesn't hold-up, mostly by being a little more ambitious than the band could handle. The composition isn't, as the working title had it, 'The Most Boring Song I've Ever Heard Bar Two' (I'm thinking Waters coined that one), but the arrangement is so sloppy and stoned, awash, again, in a whole cavern's worth of reverb, Wright doesn't have a handle on the vocals, the band doesn't know where the accents go, and the whole thing gets really cocked up in the mix, which loses any momentum the rhythm section might give.

That having been said, I've always liked the composition - good chord change, and nice lyrics and melody. I have a suspicion that if there were a prominent rhythm guitar and Gilmour sang this and the verses were arranged to be more streamlined and greater dynamic overall, building, say, to a nice solo, this song would be well thought of.

I might have just suggested a project for myself, having once done an arrangement of Remember A Day that sort of cross-pollenated it with the Beatles' Rain. Of course, since I played all the instruments on it before I could even play several of them at the meager level that I can now, that version is really an area of total musical devastation, an atom bomb of megasonic craportions. Perhaps I'll put it up in the archives at some point, but I first need to dredge it up and digitize it. You have been warned.


Track Seven: Jugband Blues
Written and Sung by Syd Barrett

Sure, the first six tracks on the album offer a staggered portrait of all the possible Floyd's to come, but then Syd shows up to show what's been lost forever. I don't think a more effective 'goodbye' has ever appeared on record, and I have to think that the rest of the band were aware of it as well, by placing it last on the record. Certainly, there's nowhere else it could have gone. Really, what could follow it?

Jugband Blues is equal parts haunting and wistful, beginning with Syd's gentle acoustic strumming and vocal, accompanied by slide-whistle. From there it builds into a loose party atmosphere, reprising the march section from Corporal Clegg - creating it, really, since Jugband Blues predates that. Although the few times the band performed this track live, they did so with kazoos, on record Barrett had a Salvation Army band come in and lay down essentially whatever they wanted.

From there, the track segues into another Floyd studio freak-out, one that seems so effortless for Barrett and makes the formal structuralism of the title track seem like a month of bedsweats in comparison.

And then, back to the acoustic, and a few, sad last words from Syd before he disappears forever - at first seeming nonsense, but then resolving into a pained and unanswered question:

And the sea isn't green
And I love the queen
And what exactly is a dream
And what exactly is a joke.


Here's a live version that I was surprised to find. Even though the band is miming their performance, it really is a live version, different from the record. But still. Of all the possible futures that A Saucerful of Secrets represents, it's the unrealized future of this song that gives the album the ultimate air of finality it has, packing twelve massive concept albums' worth of angst into three short, sad minutes.



D.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Mono in Stereo


Pink Floyd • A Saucerful of Secrets
1968

The history of rock and roll is littered with albums that are figurative tombstones of the bands that imploded while making them. Frequently, the tensions in the studio end up producing something remarkable as a result. There are many examples - Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel; Younger Than Yesterday by The Byrds*; The Beatles' White Album and Odyssey and Oracle by The Zombies come to mind.

In fact, I can almost guarantee that if there's a band you like and an album of theirs has a particular resonance for you - not necessarily your favorite by them, but there's something about it - then if you were to read up on the making of the record, you'd see that the band itself was undergoing some major internal change, and no doubt a highly stressful period of external and internal pressures.

A Saucerful of Secrets is practically a complete mausoleum in this regard - recorded while the chief songwriter and singer was being ousted from the band while simultaneously losing his mind and featuring seven schizophrenic tracks that all point to radically different possible futures for the band. In fact, the entire album is so fractured - but compelling in that very quality - that it's nearly impossible to review it as a cohesive whole. It's more like a collection of singles or studio outtakes, material that didn't quite fit on several years worth of albums.

But at the same time, all elements of the past and future Floyd are present here in every song, pure and unadulterated. So we're going to approach it from a track-by-track analysis - and see what made it in to the mixer as the group went from being "The" Pink Floyd into what FM radio thinks of simply as Pink Floyd.

Track one: Let There Be More Light
Written by Roger Waters/Sung by Rick Wright (verse) and Dave Gilmour (chorus)

The newly leaderless Floyd leads of with a track that clearly distills the idea of the live set for the record. It's really two completely different songs in one, both minimally written riff-based sections that bear little relation to each other beyond the fact that both sections are modal and feature a repetitive bass figure. Section A kicks off the album on its most energetic note, with a galloping octave bass riff (with a flatted seventh thrown in to give it a space blues feel) joined first by a slightly jazzy ride compliment from Mason that moves into a headlong tom rush and some aggressive atonal Farfisa from Wright, who moves it from a blues feel to a Middle Eastern one, shifting back and forth from F minor to F major.

After a little over a minute, a studio edit (masked by a big cymbal wash) brings in the second section, the vocal part of the song. Again, the bass sets the tempo, this time a slow repetitive four. The Farfisa retains its feel, now feeling eerie against the more open verse. The guitar is minimal, suggesting to me (at least) that the song was developed while the band was in flux, perhaps initially in rehearsals without either Barrett or Gilmour.

The lyric is inconsequential, obliquely describing a Day The Earth Stood Still encounter in Mildenhall. Still, the song is a good lead off, featuring strong playing from the three remaining members, and Gilmour's solo at the end - his first on record with the band - being a nice coda to the song as the pulsing beat gives way to big crashing whole notes on piano and cymbals. The Gilmour playing here is almost unrecognizable, seeing as how Gilmour came from a band (The Joker's Wild) that played mostly blues covers into a band that was very much into lengthy modal jams awash in echo that sometimes moved into pure noise.

This being the early days of stereo - hard to imagine that quad was only four years away! - the use of stereo is very experimental, with whole instruments wide left or wide right, and a secondary track of organ-led freak-out coming in and panning channel-to-channel with the drums and guitar.

So: the first Pink Floyd album to open with a headlong bass instrumental. When they revisited that idea on Meddle, it would yield the substantially more well-known One of These Days.


Track Two: Remember A Day
Written and Sung By Rick Wright

Wright obviously took it upon himself to continue in the pop vein that Syd Barrett had done so well, and which had paid off in the Floyd's two hit singles, both Barrett compositions - Arnold Layne and See Emily Play.

Remember A Day had, in fact, been recorded for Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and would have been a more seamless fit with that album's English Pastoral on Acid vibe. Barrett plays the atmospheric slide that moves through the piece, which has a very organic blending of the Floyd's light feel and their tribal freak-outs. There's also some very nice acoustic acoustic in the quieter sections that come before each chorus, which I presume are Gilmour - which makes the song nearly unique in the Floyd catalog as having both Gilmour and Barrett contributing to the same track.

It's very much a song, it marked contrast to the open modal jams of preceding track and the track which follows it, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. And here's the odd thing: it's also stronger lyrically, which goes against the general storyline of Pink Floyd. Where both the Waters lyrics are spacey and inconsequential, Wright picks a theme with some emotion and manages to convey it clearly. In fact, both of Wright's contributions to Saucerful focus on the same theme, a wistful look back at childhood, touched with the melancholy of knowing it's gone for good:

Remember a day before today
A day when you were young
Free to play along with time
Evening never comes

Sing a song that can't be sung
Without the morning's kiss
Queen, you shall be it if you wish
Look for your king
Why can't we play today
Why can't we stay that way

Climb your favourite apple tree
Try to catch the sun
Hide from your little brother's gun
Dream yourself away
Why can't we reach the sun
Why can't we blow the years away

Blow away...
Remember.


Bear in mind that Wright was all of 22 when he wrote those words.

As with most of Wright's more pop oriented songs, he moves away from his Farfisa and Binson Echorec and accompanies his vocal with a very gentle and open piano, even going so far as to play the chorus with a free tinkling. The song overall is drenched in (too much) reverb, and the vocal isn't quite up to the task of singing the very nice melody, but it does add to the plaintive, aching quality of the song.


Track Three: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Written and Sung By Roger Waters

The album's first taste of the Floyd sound that would dominate their live shows for the next five years - in fact, the song itself was played through 1973, even along side the complete Dark Side of the Moon.

Like Let There Be More Light, the vocal melody is a direct parallel of the bass line, which is in turn harmonized by some ethereal Farfisa. Again, the lyric is light as air, an assemblage of images that's clearly meant to set a mood than to lead to a concrete meaning - and, in fact, were mostly cribbed from a T'ang Dynasty era book of poetry. But they work perfectly, put just right in the mix to the point that the vocal and bass share such a similar tone and timbre that they feel like one instrument, and Waters' slurred delivery gives the whole thing a beautifully meditative quality that's borne aloft by Mason's tom and beater work.

The whole thing seems evocative to me of a sunrise service at a seaside Taoist temple, designed to drive the listener inward: Someone plays a spare and jazzy Vibraphone (I'd guess Wright, but you never know) AND a trippy chromatic Xylophone, and the Floyd's gong can be heard pulsing away in the background. At 1:30, something almost like a bullroarer makes a brief appearance - and at the end, seagulls can be heard, panning from left to right.

The track is excellent ear candy, and just about the best mix on the album - perfectly complementing the tight and controlled playing from the full band. Even the two or three completely obvious tape edits in the song's central jam feel right, as if the listener's mind had slipped. Again, the track features both Gilmour and Barrett, but the guitar presence is quite minimal, mostly relegated to background wah-wah atmospherics.

Next: More S.O.S.

*The Byrds are a particularly interesting example, because the late 60's saw them in such a state of flux with a major member either arriving or departing with each album that four albums in a row have that desperate, seeking quality to them - each being a landmark in its own way.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Point of Re-entry

Sure, taking almost two weeks off from daily blogging seems like a good idea - but the difficulty is all on the back-end, when you realize that, in the interim, you've forgotten how to generate several paragraphs of crap every night. So bear with me for a few days worth of rambling Ramblers as the crew in engineering gets the warp field going and we can get this thing underway.

And in the meantime, expect a few entries about blogging itself; that seems to be how this logjam manifests itself.

I hesitate to write too much about any kind of New Year's resolutions in this space - as in last night's entry, I'm superstitious enough (a sad trait in one who considers himself a stone secularist) to keep my resolutions to myself, lest I fail to follow through with them and look like a fool. Willpower ever being my least reliable trait.

Case in point: the above sentence originally read "keep my resolutions to myself, lest they not come to fruition," the psychology of which is pretty transparent, a window to my personality with a view that isn't very flattering. As if my resolutions were things unto themselves that I held no responsibility for. As if simply deciding a thing were equivalent to acting on it.

Ah. Wouldn't it be nice?

Note, after all, the initial promise of a revised Copper Man site to have debuted... uh, this past Tuesday. Well, Tuesday's come and gone, and where is the site? Good question. Allow me to push the date back (forward?) to February 1st, and try not to judge me too harshly. And the site will go up then, even if it's in an incomplete state of incompleteness.

Part of the delay on the site - indeed, the main issue with my inability to navigate life so well - is that I often lack the ability to impose a form on things. Thus, anything I have to do is seemingly infinite in nature. I haven't yet been able to come up with a practical navigation for the site because I perceive the site as being as near a complete archive of my life's endeavors as I can make it.

Brilliant idea, of course, but even the best organized of us would blanch at the idea of trying to order 37 years worth of content into any kind of sensible order. And I am far from being the best organized. Is the position for 'least organized' open? If so, I nominate me.

Anyway, the obvious way to proceed is to create a framework, post the framework, and then fill in the missing squares as I go. the real trick will be in giving myself enough flexibility at the outset to allow myself to create entire new sections, if need be, without having to go through all the trouble of redoing the home page and navigational structure. To accomplish this, it seems sensible to break the site into a series of mini-sites, only really joined at the top level, but that does go against my web philosophy of minimal work to navigate and maximum interconnectivity.

Plus, the mini-site idea has the potential to break down into complete chaos in a very short while. Let me give a for instance: Let's say that, just off the home page, I have a master section dedicated to my illustration. From there, we would break it down into - oh, I don't know, color and black and white. Seems sensible enough.

But how about navigating by subject? Or time period? Lord knows, I want to include a very sizable selection of juvenilia, but my ego forbids anyone from confusing those pieces with my current ability. Still, the whole point of including the high-school work is to allow people to trace my progress (or lack thereof) as an artist. So, rather than having the same work over and over and over again, it seems more likely that I instead want to create some multidirectional approach to navigation.

Time, subject, media, etc.

Hmmm. And how would that navigation take form? Some kind of rotating compass, indicating the possible directions the viewer can travel? Sounds enticing, but it goes far beyond my abilities to create that automatically, so I would need to create each link manually. The labor involved in that concept is a little cowing.

Thoughts?

D.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome Back (Pain)

For those of a superstitious bent, who believe that the way they enter the new year will dictate the way the new year is lived, witness:

1) When the basement flooded in April of 2007, I decided to move some of my crap into storage.

2) This included comic storage longboxes (unwieldily), vocal PA systems (heavy), bass amplifiers (heavy and unwieldily), and other things of this nature.

3) This storage cost me $100 a month.

3a) I'm very cheap.

4) After putting it off, I decided on December 29th to go and empty the storage unit.

5) But first, I picked up cinder blocks (h) and plywood (h & u) to make a platform to keep the stuff dry in the basement in case of water.

6) I did the move.

7) Now I'm paying for it, with a startling inability to even sit up without feeling like Andre the Giant is working over my kidneys.

The most annoying thing? I desperately wanted to enjoy bowling at Fiona's free bowling party at Lucky Strikes on Monday. Now I'm going to have to sit on my ass and just talk shit about other bowlers, without really showing them who's boss.

Sucks, eh?

D.