Friday, May 30, 2008


So, today - Friday - is my Mom's last day as a member of the working force. She's been with UPS as various computer-related things for 19 out of the last 20 years (or so). They had a retirement lunch for her on Wednesday, and I was glad to see the turn-out was pretty large. I know, free meal, but I got the feeling that everyone there held my Mom in high regard.

I do intend to write a longer post about Mom soon - not only is she retiring, and Mother's Day isn't too long ago, but her birthday is this Saturday, as well, and all of that adds up to a longer, more in-depth essay.

Suffice it to say in this shorter one that if ever there were anyone who deserves to have a great retirement, it's Sandra Kopperman (née Baldwin) - a woman who has taken the Yankee ethic of work to heart. In other words, she worked hard to build a good life for herself with a financially secure future, and she's got all of her interests lined up - opera, reading, trivia, language, art, travel, food - so that we're all pretty much going to be living in envy of her for the next few decades.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Rambler Year

Well, this is post #365, which means that it took me just about 13 months to write a full year of entries.

What have we learned in the past year? As individuals and as a nation?

Are we going forward or backwards? Do these terms even mean anything?

Are you happy with your life?

Does this tie go with this jacket?

Is it possible that I could get that to go?

What smells funny?


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ars Gratia Lucre, Part Two

So, having had a script idea approved, the time had now come to illustrate the damn thing. I usually like to do as much prep work as possible in the sketch phase, since visual storytelling has always been my handicap - a major stumbling block for a cartoonist! - and there's nothing like doing a fully inked page only to discover that some major point of the damn thing is unclear.

Of course, with each successive submission I did for these strips, I did less and less drawing. Partly that was for time reasons - the more time I spend on the strip means the less I'm getting paid for my time, if that makes any sense. Partly, there was a nagging idea at the back of my head that some of the more involved drawing from the earlier submissions was distracting the client from the strip, if that makes any sense.

So the strip they ended up accepting had nothing more than the characters standing in a void, only marginally interacting. Well, that's no good. Time to do some staging. Out of all the settings that I'd already used, the coffee shop locale seemed the most likely candidate for this strip - although I really want to do a strip outside, set on the campus quad, so I can render some damn trees and Greek Revival architecture. Maybe next time.

So I stole the staging from myself from the coffee shop strip, and proceeded to pencil from scratch. My preferred work method these days is to work up a full layout sketch, print it out at the size of the final (usually tiling it in Acrobat), and then taping it to the back of a clean sheet of bristol and tracing a basic layout in Non-Repro Blue over a light box. However, there was nothing salvageable drawing-wise from the comp, so nothing for it but to draw it again, from scratch, only better.

Again, I use the Non-Repro Blue to do the basic forms and placement, then do all the pencil rendering in graphite. The point of this is that a lot of corrections will be made at the layout stage, but, generally, by the time you start rendering, the basic drawing will be 'correct.' Blue pencil means I don't have to erase during the layout stage, and lots and lots of erasing can really mess up the page. It also means that I avoid laying the graphite down too heavily, which can then make it impossible to erase after the inking.

The technical problem that this strip posed was that the layout had me crossing the Director's Line. At least, I believe that's what it's called when you have two characters speaking and then flip the camera around them for an edit within the same scene. As you can imagine, on film, it's really disorienting, and it's something you should try to avoid in visual storytelling of all stripes.

However, I also set myself up the problem of having the characters reverse the order of their speech after the first panel, and I hate having the second character in the panel speak first. Nothing for it but to do a cutaway (the second panel) and hope that people aren't too distracted by the swap. I also made the background 'pan' so that it would be clear - hopefully! - that we're now looking at them from an opposite angle, and it's not that a third person is seated at the table.

The pencil stage was submitted and approved, so I moved on - first to lettering, then to inking. My preferred ink tool for the last decade or so has been the brush (Windsor Newton 00 or whatever else is handy), but, as mentioned, the Art Director likes my fussy pen and ink work, so I try to include some of that in these strips. The previous strip I did was done all in brush, and I thought the backgrounds came out too heavy, so this time out, I split the difference and inked the foreground characters with the brush and did all the backgrounds - including the background characters - with the Hunt 102 pen.

I normally wouldn't do all that rendering for a page that's going to be in color, but, again, pleasing the art director is at the forefront of my mind with these. The hand lettering is one the A.D. and I are in complete agreement on - we both prefer it to computer lettering.

Note the completely gratuitous use of the mechanical tone - Letratone Mezzotint 20% screen, to be exact - over the jacket in the first panel. Despite the fact that I view original comic art just as a stage in the production process, the use of this stuff clearly shows that I have at least some interest in the final inked page as an object in its own right. A total affectation on my part, and one I probably won't give up - at least on small, single pages like this. If I ever get around to doing long form comics, again, I may have to abandon it as time-consuming and expensive, two factors that will no doubt overwhelm any need to be cutesy on my part.

When I color, I like to work from a ground - a technique I learned not from my four years at art school, but from an aside in a Ed Sorel interview in The Comics Journal. The ground gives me both a unifying color scheme and a way to make the other colors 'pop' more. So I like it, and I probably owe Mr. Sorel a percent of my college tuition.

Colored in Photoshop, of course.

Note the title change in the final color version - they were afraid that people might not get that it's an election poll that's being discussed. Despite the fact that it's made pretty explicit in the second panel, when she talks about 'campaign money.' The new title is their proposal. I counter-proposed 'Political Science,' which I think is much more on point - the pun in their title seemed to obscure the issue further, really - but they liked theirs, so theirs it be.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Ars Gratia Lucre, Part One

There's almost no point to posting this, since I think everyone who reads the Rambler regularly has already seen these - but I finally got the thing approved and billed, and it's good to show process. Yes?

Again, this is the strip I do for the KPMG college recruitment magazine. Usually, they give me a couple of topics, I submit a couple of ideas, they pick one, I draw it, we're done. This time around, they chose Politics as the topic, and didn't waver from that choice. Which wouldn't have been a problem in most other circumstances, but KPMG is the dictionary definition of a company that doesn't want to rock any boats, anywhere. And I knew going in that it was going to be difficult. So I ended up doing six submissions altogether, trying to find some way to make a joke about the political process - they insist on the set-up and punchline structure, even though it's not my strong suit and there's no way I can do anything with teeth under the editorial restrictions of the publication.

To show how this works, here's the first strip I submitted, knowing even as I made it that it would be too aggressive for the magazine - but I wanted to see exactly where the boundaries were:

I figured, 'well, there's no way I can be pro or con either candidate or party platform, so I'll start by making fun of pundits.' At the same time, I also submitted a really (really!) soft piece, to hit the other end of the spectrum. This was done as a full page, because the art director likes my detailed pen and ink style, and the splash pages give me much more room to stretch out and draw:

So, nah. The pundit one was, as I suspected, too harsh, and the bookstore one was too lame.

Following that, the client requested that I try to make it more positive, to encourage the audience (college seniors) to 'vote and get informed about the issues,' and to use the characters I'd established in the first two published strips - which the bookstore strip already did, on both counts, but it was rejected for just not being funny, and I certainly can't argue with that.

Gotcha. Lightly humorous, character based propaganda:

To which the client responded, '[those are] more “social commentary” than plain humor, etc. Didn’t like the 2nd one in particular, the way it ended about having a coronary….'

At which point, I almost had a coronary, trying to figure out just what 'plain humor' is, and realizing that it meant I couldn't do anything that would have been appropriate in a Peanuts Sunday strip from 1962. So, make it funny, yet make it soft. Argh?

I never did get a definition of just what was meant by 'plain humor,' and a couple of different things happened. First, I tried to convince them that there was no way we were going to be able to do a strip on the subject for the magazine, so maybe I could have a different topic?

No, they really wanted it to be about the election.

Then one of the staff writers gave me a script, that I fleshed out a little:

But I wasn't too happy with that, so I decided to submit one more of my own - figuring that a), well, even though it is work-for-hire, the reason they hired me is to do the kind of work that I do, b) my name was going to go on it, and c) this one stood a strong chance of being rejected and I wanted the money. So I generated one more idea, literally from the depths of my subconscious as I was falling asleep one night - 'hey, Dave, how about something about a time machine?' The next day, I figured, what the hell, and drew it up:

I figured the idea was absurd enough to get around the problems with doing a strip on the election topic, and - some calculation involved here - gambling that the person who wanted 'just plain humor' might be meaning 'something like The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, or Dilbert.'

Thankfully, I figured right on all counts, and An Inexact Science was the one they accepted. Great. Then it was time to draw it - and you can tell from the visual progression of the strips that I was spending less and less time drawing each submission - so that by the last one, all sense of place, blocking, or even spatial relation was out the window.

Tomorrow: The Money Shots

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Longtime Companion

Your Weekend Listening, 5/25/08
Prodigy, 1996

The demarkation line for what I consider the 'old' Dave music and the 'modern' Dave music is the year of 1996.* Two factors played a secondary role in this: 1) the 18 months or so that I played, recorded and toured with Lizard Music, and concurrently, 2) the few months I spent playing with Lost, Lonely and Vicious. I won't go too much into depth about either band today - those are both long, heavy essays that require a lot of set-up to make any sense (and I don't really have the mental energy to get into on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend) - and the only way they figure into today's essay is in their one shared feature - both were situations I stepped into after a major creative force had left the band, and both featured leaders who were now eager to explore having the full control of the band that their absent collaborators had previously prevented them from achieving.

Which means to say: in both bands, I was expected just to shut up and play. And much of the time, I was expected to shut and and play exactly what I was told to play (although in Lizard Music, I did have more input into my parts). Actually getting either band to play my material? That was out, and after finally coming to terms with the fact, I effectively stormed out of both bands in a huff. LIterally, in the case of Lost, Lonely and Vicious, after realizing I was getting the runaround, I shouted something to the effect of 'I never have any control!,' and drove off.

None of this, I should stress, was really the fault of either of the bandleaders in question, both of whom I had and have tremendous respect for. But I'd been an apprentice for too long and was, frankly, pretty fucking tired of it. There was also five years of RISD frustration thrown in for good measure - a whole lot of feeling that I had a lot of potential but had lost my way somehow, and had to fight to get it back.

The way in which these combined apprenticeships changed me creatively is, again, secondary. The primary factor for the change was the arrival of one Edward ("Edz") O'Leary. Or, really, the arrival of me into Edz's situation. Edz was, at the time, the drummer for Lost, Lonely and Vicious (LLV). He'd been recruited by the person I replaced, his high school friend (and guitar genius) Darryl. Edz and I got along pretty much right away - Edz was also chafing at the creative constraints placed on him, and I'd always admired his drumming (LLV had been a going concern since I was a teenager) and just enjoyed the act of playing with him, in the few places in the music of LLV where there was anything remotely like jamming.

Still, I doubt we would have done anything about just playing together - I'm terribly shy about finding musicians, and Edz isn't an instigator by nature. But it turns out that Daryll - having left LLV due to that old stand-by, 'creative differences' with his primary writing partner, really wanted to get another band going, and suggested to Edz that the three of us could give it a try. That lasted only a couple of weeks - Daryll worked out pretty quickly that I wasn't an effective foil for his music, and I realized that he had no real interest in the songs I was writing. So Daryll was off.

But Edz, curiously, stuck around.

And that begins the period of development in my music that still holds the most interest for me - because, I guess, it was no longer 'me.' It was 'we.' For a little under two years, Edz and I just tooled around in my basement dungeon as a duo, and I refined what my writing was going to be, mostly through finally discovering a working method that, to this day, keeps me feeling energized. What it boils down to is basically: generate a sketch of a song, usually pretty unfinished. Bring that to the members of whatever band it is that I'm currently a writing member of. Bounce ideas around. Fix things or discard outright and start from scratch. Repeat until a finished song emerges.

The most potent part of that is the ingredient that I left unmentioned: seek Edz's approval. Our working method over the years hasn't altered much, even with the addition of other players to the equation - I generally provide some basic song ideas and annoy him eternally with endless tweaks to his drum parts (generally trying to get him back to the first thing he played, which always seems perfect, but he often forgets) - but the one thing that has remained a constant is my need to have him like the material.

And even more importantly than my own fragile ego, Edz is singlehandedly responsible for making me a worthwhile bass player, still the instrument I feel most at home on. While I got lots of bass-learnin' from Bran Lancourt and Lizard Music bass wunderkind Chris Guice, real bass playing is something that only happens with a drummer. And, obviously, the better the drummer, the better the bassist you become. I think I'm a pretty rocking bass player - so what does that tell you about Edz? Still the best drummer I've ever played with. If there's a part he can't play right away, he gets furious with himself until he gets it right. Self-loathing is a tool for positive change, I say.

As a musician, the years I spent as half of the Analogue/Copper Man rhythm section with Edz were far and away the most rewarding in the area of pure playing. Never was there a moment that wasn't fun, and even now that I've moved back to keys, the occasional moments when I get to revisit the bass position with Edz are - and I'm sorry to resort to cliché, but it's a spot on image - exactly like getting back into a comfortable old suit and finding it fits perfectly. Because, with no exaggeration whatsoever, Edz taught me how to play bass.

Edz probably undervalues himself as a writer, and I've no doubt contributed to that somewhat over the years. Working with me in a creative situation can often confound people, I think. Chalk it up to my grating enthusiasm for my own ideas. Still, the very reason I trust Edz's judgement is that he's got a writer's ear, and a very good one at that, even if it's one he doesn't indulge frequently enough - although every single time Edz has deigned to cough up a musical idea for inclusion, it's always gone on to be one of our best songs. So go figure.

Really, I think it's that he has better taste in music than I do. That will always and forever be my true achilles heel as a musician and songwriter: lousy influences.

Anyhow, this Weekend Listening comes from very, very early in O'Leary years. It may not be the first thing we worked on together, but I'm sure it's one of the first. And you can see all of my frustration at my wasted potential coming out in this lyric:

As a child, they always felt I was born a special way.
They kept me informed of my progress on a daily basis.
A disciplined intelligence registered with several agencies -
But I can do without the constant referral on my listed allegiances.

Of all the times that this could happen,
I would have to say that now is the worst of them all.
This awful memory will drown me out -
So how about leaving it be, for now?

We walked on by with no eye contact,
But someone said, "I recognized you from your picture, man!"
I said, "Yeah, we made no compromise... and look where it's gotten us."
He nodded once and backed away.
Disappeard into the crowd.
The ticker-tape fell,
And the music played a Sousa march at funereal pace.

Of all the times that this could happen,
I would have to say that now is the worst of them all.
This awful memory will drown me out -
So how about leaving it be, for now?

Single plane across the sky.
Oh, time does fly.
I'm troubled.
I'm troubled.

Sure, the lyric is still too dense for the meter to comfortably accommodate - but there are some lines in there I really like. And, musically, I really like that bridge, which spooks me out listening to it, now. Certainly my own performance - particularly in regard to the vocals - isn't quite up to snuff. I do like Edz's vocal, though. Ryan Ball once said of Edz that 'he has the perfect band voice,' and listening to this, I know just what he means. The haunting, plaintive quality he brings to the bridge is something I couldn't muster if I were dependent on life support and all the circuit breakers in the hospital just blew.

Oh, and the name 'Edz?' Taken from an old Albert Brooks impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger. In case you were wondering.

Tech Info:
Recorded on Tascam Porta-One 4-Track ("The Standard!")
Mixed to cassette
Bass, Guitar, Piano, Accordion, Vox: Me
Drums, Accordion, Percussion, Backing Vox: Edz


*Yes, I wrote that with a straight face. It's my blog, dammit!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Twilight Time

Been going long, strong and hard today, and I want to focus my energies on getting through tomorrow, so I think the Rambler will be going over the side. Next week, I'm probably going to do another La Semana del Arte, which is always great because the Ramblers look better and I don't have to write as much. Some weeks, we likes the words, some weeks, we likes the pictures.

Your Weekend Listening is coming up - probably Sunday, since I have the Floyd show tomorrow and will be fried from that. This weeks entry will start excavating the lost albums, of many recordings that were done when it was just Edz and me, from 1996 to 1998 or so. Some of my favorite stuff, really - the point at which I feel we truly earned our indie wings.


I work, you drink

The Floyd cover band that I torture the keys in - Us Not Them is playing this Friday at the Bruckner Bar and Grill, at 8 PM. $10 cover, all ages, etc. Drink yourself silly and ignore the mistakes I make during the extended Moog wankery in Dogs, Welcome to the Machine, and Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-23.

I've never been to the location - it's at 1 Bruckner Blvd. in Da Bronx - but I am assured no violence will be visited upon me. I see no reason why anyone else should feel at risk, either. After all, I'm the one lugging the fucking Fender Rhodes around. That thing will really slow you down when the angry Bronx hordes come to reneact the 1977 World Series, in the bar. The rest of you can just run.

Anyway, the set is drawn mostly from the Floyd's 70's blockbuster albums, but I have coerced the members into including a couple of earlier songs - nothing yet from the Barrett era.

In the meantime - yes, I accidentally typed 'meatnine,' and I wanted to save that word for posterity - I have much work to do - Moog programming, deicing the wings, etc. And since I have forgotten, a terrible oversight, allow me to take this moment to thank Karl for co-designing and assembling the wonky new Moog stand, so that I can now have all of the keys right in front of me while I play. As much as I've fetishized that image of the prog rock keyboardist surrounded by a swarm of ivory, fenced in yet still dominating the sounds at his disposal, that will never be me. Unless I can see the thing in front of me, the notes and chords that I'm playing will be a complete toss-up. Good for an Ornette Coleman tribute, bad for a band that's playing Pink Floyd.

Feel free to read Karl's entry on the day of construction over at his blog.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Bear No Responsibility for the Content of This Blog

This is basically an experiment I am actually using back to dictate to produce this blog. I am also not going to add it any of the results. So if anything seems non-grammatical, strange, or even nonsensical, blame the software. Paragraph. Well, it looks like I don't know how to make a

Period and period enter it and see what I tell you? Things get very strange, particularly when you maintain a rule of not making any corrections. What I was trying to say before I so rudely interrupted myself was, quotation well it looks like I don't know how to make a

Then a if. If. Paragraph. Enter. I can't seem to work out what the word paragraph does. Sometimes it makes a

What is happening is that when I say the word of new followed by the word paragraph, it does in fact, create a new... paragraph.

Curiously, it's a lot more difficult to compose a blog with any sense of structure or thought flow in this method. Because I'm so conditioned to form in my thoughts using the keyboard. So I apologize for not only the rambling quality of the Rambler, but the clear misuse of the English language.

What Dictate is best for other moments delete. Start again. What dictate is best for our the moments when it doesn't understand exactly what you're trying to say. So I think to leave you this evening, I will give you the POR... oh wait. I did not say oh wait. I said keep your. No, I said, the pew or a. Thought it. It's.

Here is some to your. No here is some total nonsense for you. Got else I can as the vibe and I found the LDAP to have the period. When dictate doesn't understand what you're saying, it just makes shift up. For example, much of the above, and this bit right here: and at August met and our stead of together via the led by on the lap I've put back on a knack in the that now.



Recycled Message Board Rant

Nobody responded to my criticism of the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over at the message board I frequent, so I'll put it here, where it can do double duty - since my brain is shot from the Floyd practice earlier.

Someone asked who had yet or was going to see Prince Caspian, and I am not.

I loved - and still love - the books. The first film was a huge disappointment in a way that almost no other property adaptations have been - and, curiously, it's in the misinterpretation of Lewis's allegory that it falls down, bad. And it's odd that I feel this way, because I'm a secular Jew, but it was so painful to see the filmmakers miss the point entirely.

I guess you could say that the Christianity of the book has been 'Americanized' for the first film. Sure, the plot is hewed closely to, but only the dark and dutiful aspects of Lewis's thesis on faith are in there.

Sure, good is to fight and defeat evil. But isn't there anything else to a life in Christ? Joy, perhaps? The book gives us Aslan taking a moment and playing like a kitten after his resurrection, taking joy in new life. The film goes right from the moment of resurrection to the battle. The book shows Narnian creatures celebrating the arrival of Christmas after so many years with a huge feast, then they're visited by Santa Claus and given gifts. This is gone. Now, Santa Claus just shows up as some grim dude to give the kids the weapons they need to fight the 'good' fight.

Fight, fight, fight, fight. Blah. Why, exactly? Lewis says that faith is sometimes a struggle, but those who prevail will find joy in Christ. The film says that faith is just a dreary, endless battle (with bad CGI) against the forces of evil. Feh.


BTW: The Floyd show is this Friday, at the Bruckner. I'll put up details tomorrow.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Name That Tune - Finally!

Your Weekend Listening • 5.16.08
Won't You Come Back to Me, 1992

This is a blog in progress - tune in Saturday afternoon for the full upload.

Oy. How about Monday morning? Apologies for the delay, people - this weekend turned out to be jam-packed with stuff, and I didn't want to give this feature short-shrift. Then I realized, well, my next week is going to be pretty jam-packed, too - in fact, there will be jams and they're packed in pretty tight - so I might as well get to it.

Not like it's going to be a big blog of revelations for this song. I have no recollection of when it was written or even what instrument it was written on. That's me playing the Rhodes on that, which would suggest that it was written on piano, but I know enough about my writing and playing style from the time to say with some surety that it was most likely written on guitar - the chord change and structure is just too 'simple' for me to have written it on piano. But why and when did the Rhodes enter into the equation? Fucked if I know.

See, the session these recordings came from was what I would consider my first album. Not that anything was released or marketed or anything, but after about five years of dicking around with all acoustic four-tracks (guitar and piano were all I could play at this point) and going through my entire time in college without getting a rock band together, I felt like it was time to blow a chunk of change and get something I could stand to listen to together.

To that end, I pressed into service the twins, Ansley and Bran Lancourt, and the drummer in their power trio (known at the time as The Good Fall), Craig Rogers. This was a band that practiced every day - Craig lived with them - and were incredibly tight, so the learning of the material went very quickly. I don't recall more than a week or so of practice before going into the studio, but I could be wrong. I didn't end up playing much on the final recordings - some little acoustic here, some keys there - because it was an airtight band and my playing style didn't really fit in.

Frankly, my playing style still wouldn't fit into what that band was doing. White-blues-funk-rock has never been anything that I could automatically sit down and toss off, as should be indicated by the slightly funkier Rhodes-with-Wah pedal part I tried to play on the chorus. Still, my playing on the verse indicates my playing style as contrasted with these other musicians - when confronted with a flurry of complex, aggressive musicianship, I fall back into my default mode of very laid-back comping.

What's particularly interesting on hearing this song and the eight others that were on the album - an album titled Agnostic Love Songs, btw - is that the country-folk angle was there in my writing as early as 1992. Which is odd, because I'd swear I didn't start writing in that vein for another few years, yet. Probably, if I'd had more of a sense of myself as a musician at the time, or a wider library of influences to draw from, this album would have been a much different beast - quieter, more contemplative. Lord knows the more rocking songs on the album - and The Good Fall could rock, let me tell you - show my singing voice and vocal meter in their worst possible light, straining to hit notes and pack syllables in, and failing to do so with depressing regularity.

Today's entry, therefore, is something of an anomaly on the album - a simple, straightforward and tuneful number that's about as heartfelt as I was capable of. Even the weakness of my voice at that point played to its favor, since the pretty basic plea for reconciliation and sense of loneliness aren't too hard to miss in the lyric, written with my college girlfriend in mind. It's an anomaly in that regard as well - almost all the other songs on the album are buried in unnecessary wordplay, and I recall specific comments from the twins to that effect while I was recording the vocals.

True, the songs would have worked better if the band had slowed down the tempos a bit, but trying to get The Good Fall to play in a more Dave style - at a point when said style was a big question mark - would have been a lot like trying to slow the Earth in its orbit by going outside and jumping up and down. When those guys took off, it truly was an unstoppable force of nature. And the playing is great, no denying. The Good Fall arrived at the Dave Matthews Band sound a good four years before that band broke.

Really, if I'd had more maturity as a writer and performer, I would have seen that I needed to simplify my own approach on every song, as I somehow did with this one. I'm making an educated guess, here, that Won't You Come Back to Me was written very late in the game, possibly just weeks before we went to record, while some of the other songs on the record date back as far as 1990. Perhaps not coincidentally, the older songs are the ones most in need of a syllablectomy, so at least I was working it out.

But it's recordings like this that help us all work things out. When you're a young musician, developing your style - and a young writer, developing a voice - the largest influence is going to ultimately be yourself and how you react to what you've done. and hopefully, you regard it as a challenge to improve, whittling away at the extra crap you think you need, until you find the songs within.

Tech info:
1992 - Recorded at Kevin Lacy's Freudian Slip Studios, on 1" 8-track.
Mixed directly to Analog cassette tape.
2008 - Imported to Logic Express, added Compression and EQ.


Addendum: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Ansely's rather nice harmonica solo at the end - thanks for reminding me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm going to regard this as a major positive, and try not to think how it might impact the Presidential election, as the Massachusetts ruling did in 2004.

Perhaps the most unwittingly humorous part of the article:

"Groups opposing same-sex marriage also reacted strongly to the ruling.

"The California Supreme Court has engaged in the worst kind of judicial activism today, abandoning its role as an objective interpreter of the law and instead legislating from the bench," said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for the group Concerned Women for America, in a written statement."

If the Women of America are so fucking concerned, why can't they find a female policy director? Oh, wait a minute - I have a phone call...

...I've just been offered the post of Token Jew at the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What comes after the new wave?

(Higher-res version at the link.)

For some surprising reason - not that it's really surprising, but I am nonetheless surprised - a lot of the more interesting work in computer animation (both for film and online) have come out of France.

Take today's Rambler Helper, for example. This is a student film (originally in French, but translated to English for out viewing enjoyment). And while I don't doubt that a lot of student work of equal quality has been produced in recent years in the U.S. and other countries, I'm kind of stunned at both the effortless quality of this film and the complete and total immersion in a vision that is the stamp of directorial authority.

And while it is effectively a universal story in the film, there's something in the education that is uniquely French. I don't mean the voice of the boy, although that's a small part of the flavor. I mean some large ephemeral thing that's difficult to put your finger on, but you know it when you see it. It completely suffused The Triplets of Bellville, as well.

I guess it's the flavor that playing with the expectations of the form will bring - not metacontextual, necessarily, but these French auteurs like to find what's unique about the form in which they're working, and comment on it in some subtle but deeply salient way.

I don't know. You tell me.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Viral Video is the Tired Blogger's Friend

What do you post when you're suffering from a sudden late-night onset of brain failure? If you're me, you help promote a band you've never heard of by linking to the very clever video for their very catchy song featuring their very cute singer.

Apparently, between this and Feist, them alternagirls have it worked out that product partnering with Apple is the way to get the geek bucks flowing to their iTunes offerings...

Karl? This one is definitely up your alley. In fact, I think they named the alley in honor of you...


International Geophysical Month

Okay, God's really racking 'em up in Asia this month. What gives? God sucks, apparently. Don't look at him funny or he might open a sinkhole under your house, or rain fire on you, or whatever fucked up thing he's in the mood for that day.

For you? Giant, flaming, throbbing, slightly radioactive hemorrhoids. Don't like it? Well, fuck you. Who do you think he is? He's God, dammit.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Ballad of the Bookstore Employee

Your Weekend Listening • 5.9.08
Her Boyfriend Who's a Sergeant, 1995

When I first returned from Providence in the late Spring of 1994, it was pretty much as a vague, Dave-shaped object that answered to my name. Identity had fled in the face of my overwhelming lack of focus, and was replaced with a feeling I'm sure most of my readers has experienced at one time or another.

I wish I had a less clichéd term for it, but, really, it's sleepwalking. You've finished college, you're in-between relationships but still hung up on your previous girlfriend, you have no career direction mostly because you're not sure you even want a career.

Heck, in May of 1994, I wasn't even sure I wanted a life. And, somehow, without committing suicide, I found myself without a life anyway. I hate to resort to cliché again, but it is my history and I have to rise to meet it. Yes. There I was, living in my parents basement. And not just in it - all three rooms that used to belong to my stepsisters were now mine to do with as I pleased. The damp, moldy air was mine, the lack of natural light was mine, and the poor substitute of flickering fluorescent was mine, along with the low-slung ceilings and the cold concrete floor covered by the merest skim of linoleum.

What else did I have? A BFA in Illustration from a prestigious institution and a job at the local Barnes and Noble. For a brief while, perhaps four months or so, I was a floor employee, which meant flakey hours and dealing with customers constantly, as well as having to dress the part.  Thankfully, I ended up in the shipping and receiving department, which was 9-5 Monday through Friday and away from the 'floor' as much as possible.  Even better, I was the clerk, rather than manager, so I only had to show up and work and not make any decisions, which suited my mindset and temperament quite well.

Most of my free time was spent writing and making home demos, desperately trying to find a band to play in so that the cliché that was my life would be complete.  The material I was writing began to change style as well - most of my college years (also entirely bandless) were spent writing on piano.  I'd only started playing guitar in my freshman year, and it took me a couple of years to break myself of the Billy Joel meets Rick Wakeman in a community college songwriting workshop vibe I'd had going when I wrote on piano.

It took a lot, mostly because my writer's voice was influenced by too much progressive rock, and piano - even though I've never been exactly what you'd call a technical player - allowed me to indulge it to too great of a degree.  Switching over to writing on guitar in my sophomore year was a help, because my technique was so limited that I had to keep everything simple.  I should note in my favor that this was by design; I knew my writing was byzantine and grating, and I desperately wanted to find a way to write pop tunes I could live with.  Songs that hopefully said something personal and universal, and did so with a halfway decent melody.

Of course, I was hobbled on more fronts than just choice of writing instrument.  I had a weak voice with limited range and iffy pitch, little or no sense of song structure or dynamics, positively 'outsider' rhythm, and a piss-poor lyrical style.  On top of that, I never did find my way into the kind of band I wanted to be in during college - at RISD, no less, so I never got into an environment where I could learn by doing in a group.

But at least I had a direction - I knew where I wanted to be and I had some external help in the form of Ansely and Bran, who had spent the majority of their teenage years learning how to write and play music and were now moving into their music career.  I was still a one-man-band, but at least I could get writing and arranging advice from a source I trusted.

The one good thing to come out of this period was it was the time when I finally found my songwriters voice - something genuine and specifically me.  1994 is the earliest point where I can go back and listen to my songs and find that I don't hate them.  Some of them I'm even still pleased with, although much like the parent of a deformed child, it's with a defensive affection.  Of course, there were some earlier songs I liked, and we'll hear some of those, but by and large here's the demarkation of reliable quality.

It's probably not a coincidence that this is the period that I began to realize that arranging is as much a part of composition as the writing process - and the main tool through which this was learned was the Tascam Porta-One four track recorder.  If I couldn't have a band where I learned the importance of parts, at least with all that free time I could work out vocal harmonies and bass figures and all that.

Eventually, I worked up dozens of songs, trying my best all the while to find a band to play in, even a single musician to partner with.  Finally, I just threw up my hands and decided to record an album by myself.  I borrowed the drum kit of a friend's father - a beautiful old Slingerland kit (from his time in an Army jazz band) that if I'd had any sense I would have realized was too good for me, and then proceeded to teach myself how to play, over the course of about three weeks.

I also picked up a bass for pretty much the first time, and went at the best fifteen or so of the last year's output of material.

Since I'd booked time at a studio, I wanted to make sure that I knew what the hell I was doing and not wasting what little money I had farting around.  To that end, I had a rare burst of work ethic, and did a complete version of the album in the month before I went into the studio, on my home four-track.  Since I'd been doing acoustic demos of the songs as I went along, some of the songs ended up being recorded three times in the space of a few months.

Tonight's entry ties up all of the above in one neatish bow. The lyric refers to a crush I had on a Barnes & Noble co-worker - who did in fact have a police sergeant boyfriend (later husband). It's also the first song I can point to as being in the 'modern Dave' style, a distillation of all of the ideas and themes that I'd been working on all year. It's an effective self-portrait, too, of the man I was at the time; lonely, frustrated, and surprisingly focused when it came to music - if not much else in life.

The four track, first:

Drums were single mic, set up and go. I tried to remix this digitally earlier tonight, by playing in each track one at a time, but I found that the tape speed was variable enough to make for some serious dissonance when they were all put back together. Next time, I'll grab the band Alesis mutlitrack firewire mixer and port each track simultaneously. This mix is a little hot and loud - apologies. When I implement this feature on the Copper Man site, I'll remix again.

Only one small computer-aided edit on this - I leave it to you to guess what it is.

Here's the lyric, straight from memory:

Just the other day I met a spanking brand new girl.
Now, whenever she's around, I tumble to a Studebaker world.
I called her up to ask her out, but she kept going on about
Her boyfriend who's a sergeant.

Things with them are very strained, at least that's what she says
And though she's dying from the guilt, we fool around whenever he's away.
I'd like to tell him all about, but I'm so afraid he'd bomb my house.
Her boyfriend who's a sergeant.

A drive on Palisades.
Brag about the friends I've made,
and impress her with my brains.
But she knows what excites her, man...
A capacity for violence.

Note: I did not have any kind of affair with this woman. That's wish-fulfillment. And the boyfriend was a police sergeant, as mentioned, so bombing was probably out. The line about 'a drive on Palisades' refers to a meeting I had on the bus into Manhattan, bass in hand to jam with some band or other (I can no longer recall), and running into a high school classmate, and trying to somehow impress her with tales of how I'd changed and my rising social circle, because by this time, the twins had been signed to Maverick Records and were in the process of rehearsing for their album with producer Ric Ocasek overseeing.

Having gotten the arrangement to my satisfaction, I redid the song at Kevin Lacy's Freudian Slip studio - also in his parents basement, but much more nicely set up - 16-track 2" tape this time around. Mixed by Ansley, if I recall.

Again, the version is all me, with one notable, and slightly sad, exception. Take a listen:

Quite a nice, flowing guitar solo at the end there, no? That's by Virgil - given name Dave Drescher - who was a part of the twins' and Kevin's circle of acquaintances, who played in a funk-rock trio/quartet called Yummy that shared their studio space. I didn't know Virgil that well, and was very grateful when he acquiesced to lending his excellent playing. If I recall correctly, this only took him one or two takes, and I listen back to it now and realize just what a great player he was.

Virgil's been gone now for at least a decade, a victim of a drug overdose. I'm sad at the loss of an obvious talent who just loved to play, and I'm also sad that I didn't get to know him better. He was a sweet and funny guy, very laid back, obviously accommodating, as his presence on this recording shows. Thanks, Virg - it's not much, but this one was for you.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rambler Called on Lack of EvidenceEdited: Found the Gold!

Added, 5/9/08: And there it is! Lurking with the worst tags possible in the nether regions of YouTube. Man, this is a work of sheer perfection.

I watched The Puppetoon Movie today, which is a collection of shorts from George Pal, most of which date from WWII and earlier. The earliest ones are absolute magic - stop-motion that hasn't been bettered since. Oddly, the bulk of those were shorts the Holland-based animator did as commercials for Philips radios, and all were unearthly, charming and strange.

Unfortunately, I can't find any of those online, so you'll have to instead settle for his most famous short - a little more polished and cutesy, definitely more for the kids. Animation is still top-rate, though.

I do recommend picking up the full film, though - with a library of supplemental shorts, it's a museum of lost treasures. And I curiously feel like buying a Philips radio, too...


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Does Whatever an Iron Can

Yeah, Iron Man is pretty damn good, what can I say? The last line (before the credits, that is) is classic. Everything locks together nicely, even though the screenplay is pretty much becoming Marvel screenplay version 1a. It's really all about the gadgets and the acting(!), and both are tops.

Get ready for the Avengers, come 2011. That should be a film that will make me poop not only the pants I'm wearing in the theater while watching it, but also retroactively poop every other pair of pants I own.


Monday, May 5, 2008

The Living Room

Got in late from practice - I think I'm finally getting "Dogs" together in a way I can live with. Lots of leaping around from keyboard to keyboard on that song, which is funny, because it's not a song that most people would say, "Oh, yah! Tons of keyboard on that!," but there's so much textural stuff, all mixed way in the back. Hell, even the keyboard solos are mixed way down, as if foreshadowing Rick Wright's departure from the band on the next album.

Still, so many little things to worry about keeping in order - I feel a bit like Madonna, getting my dance routine right while hitting the cue just so for the costume change.

Yesenia exiled me from blogging in the bed, tonight, so I'm writing this from the living room. It occurs to me that I don't believe I've ever blogged from here before. An historic occasion if ever there were one! Huzzah.

Anyhow, I've fallen behind on email over the weekend, so I think I'm going to take what end-of-day energy I have left (which I really should be putting towards a dealership brochure that's due tomorrow, but I can't even think about that) towards that. Good night/morning.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Silence is Copper

Sorry for the absence from this weekend - I had a freelance illustration assignment on Friday that took all of my creative energies, and then Saturday was an all-day Kopperman family affair, with bowling at Lucky Strikes (my mom can bowl! who knew?) and then an 80's theme/housewarming party at my stepsister's new apartment in Nyack. For those not Rockland savvy, Nyack is what passes for an arts community here in the county.

So neither day left me the kind of energy I need to break out a piece of audio from my clueless past and deconstruct it. Next weekend, which looks fairly open, perhaps I'll make it a two-fer.

Today, Yesenia's high school friend came out to the house (from Brooklyn) and we did a little prep for his upcoming show - he's a beginning guitarist who just finished a program at some guitar school or other and wants to celebrate with an acoustic barrage of 80's music. I'm doing two with him - I Won't Back Down by Tom Petty and Desperado by the Eagles. I know Desperado isn't an 80's song, but he originally chose Summer of '69 as the other song I would do with him, and that was both something that I didn't think would translate well to beginner acoustic (with matching vocals) as well as being a song I never particularly cared for, so I looked through his iPod for a song he would know well enough to substitute, and Desperado was the most likely candidate.

Of course, maybe I've been colored in my judgement by this version:

Possibly the best benefit of the day was that Yesenia went all out for a home cooked meal, which she doesn't do as frequently as I'd like. So I'm guessing we need to have more guests that she wants to impress over for dinner...


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tick Tock Tick (Doo Doo Doo Doo)

All I know is, since New Jersey is taking their sweet Garden State time to cash that tax check we sent them, they'd better not fucking cash it tomorrow or there's going to be a problem.

For us, that is. Jersey will be fine. Corzine's probably lighting up a big fat stogie as we speak, using a flaming, rolled-up $100 bill in classic movie villain style.