Sunday, June 29, 2008

Are You Ready for the Summer?

With each passing year, I get itchier and itchier about the prospect for a Summer vacation, even as that possibility draws further and further away. Yesenia's work schedule being what it is, as well as her need to save vacation time to visit her family and friends in Puerto Rico, has made our great get-in-the-car-and-go-for-a-week drives a thing of the past, and I'll admit I lament their loss. But I also can take advantage of the (somewhat compromised, true) freedom I have in working at home by taking a number of mini-drives by myself to points wherever.

In the Summer, 'points wherever' is here defined as 'New England.' So I'm taking a few days later this week to drive up to Maine to stay at my friend Putnam's new home, a genuine log cabin. I'm reasonably sure that there's no plumbing or electricity, so the staying there will be a small adventure in and of itself. I'll also be backing him on a few songs at one of his shows, which will be nice - I particularly enjoy playing live when I don't have to worry so much about carrying the show.

I'm still in the process of debating whether or not I'll be bringing the laptop with me, so the mini-trip may result in the blacking out of the Rambler for a few days. It would be useful to bring it, since I'd like to do a few changes to Putnam's site and I always find it hard to do any web work of that nature unless the person who it's for is in the room with me. But I also know myself well enough to know that I get anxious having to carry the damn thing around with me everywhere I go. In Puerto Rico, it was a genuine struggle to bring myself to leave it in the room, but I did and (of course) nothing happened to it.

Which proves nothing!

The main reason I want to leave it behind for a few days is just to, you know, leave it behind for a few days. I'd always thought of myself as a relatively addiction-free guy, but I'll admit that my relationship to the internet - and email in particular - verges dangerously close to obsession. It's more a symptom of a problem than a problem itself - really, it's because I have a terrible work ethic and anything I can do to fill up the time in a meaningless way is fine with me.

Not being a gamer, and no longer having cable television, means that the options for this kind of low-effort, passive entertainment have now been limited to the internet. Which, sadly, is pretty limited when you get down to it. I'm not sure when it happened, but a depressing fact about the internet is that the whole of human endeavor is on here, and it's actually small, lame and kind of dull.

Or maybe that's just me?


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Futuramas Past

Your Weekend Listening, 6/27/08
Futurama (Synth Pop Op. No. 2), 1998

There are a lot of different narrative paths I could follow for this entry - this is the first Weekend Listening to feature Rick Heins, and it's also the first to feature input from Karl. It's the first from an actual, functioning (albeit in a dysfunctional way) band, rather than either me playing all the instruments or in a duo with Edz.

But all of those are big, big, huge, big topics, and I'm tired.

Instead, a brief note on the writing:

This was written very soon after Edz and I started playing with Rick, while the three of us were figuring out what we were trying to do. In fact, after years of playing every single instrument, I really wasn't sure what I should be playing in this new band, so all the songs from the first few weeks of jamming have me flitting back and forth between keys and bass and guitar as well. Somewhere in the air, I suppose, was the idea that we'd find a bass player and I could be the utility man on keys and guitar (a role, curiously enough, that I fill now in the DeSk/PCMA collective).

And we did, in fact, jam with a bassist friend of Edz, but that didn't gel and Edz and I could sense Rick's doubt encroaching. So an executive decision was made to stop the flaky nature of the jams by picking up the bass myself, and from there on, the sound of the band became more focused.

But before that, in one of our very first jams (in my parent's basement, of course), Rick made the casual comment as he was exiting, 'oh, we should try to do some kind of synth-pop number.' As soon as he was gone, Edz and I commenced to writing, and two ideas came out - a chirpy number called "Keith Thinks He's Cool (But We All Know Better)" and this week's entry.

"Keith Thinks He's Cool" was, of course, the first number in the Synth Pop Opus.

When we played both for Rick at the next practice, this was the one that he liked, so we developed it further. Of course, what we showed him was just a bare-bones number, and I'm reasonably sure that the chorus change came from Rick. The coda definitely did, because those big, operatic, soaring modal guitar phrases are his stock-in-trade.

The bridge came from me, though, as a definite rip on Kraftwerk - specifically "Autobahn," which I'd first been listening to around that time. Really, so much of my writing from this period is made up of little current obsessions, as this was the first time I had to start writing lyrics to fit finished compositions. So the album contains some personal songs - most notably about the death of my Grandmother - but also contains weird tangent songs like this. Eventually, the final album also had songs with lyrics about time-travel sci-fi movies and a chapter title in a biography of Kafka I'd come across at work.

We recorded the rhythm track on my trusty Tascam at a studio down in Wayne where we used to practice. Oddly enough, the drums and keys were recorded live together, because that was really the only way we could ensure that Edz and I could keep time along with the octave riff on the Moog, the filter sweep of which set the tempo. Even given that, I've always liked the industrial low-fi sound of the drums on this song, and the cymbals are really quite explosive. I'd have to bet that Rick set up the drum mics, since he had strong ideas about that and I had none.

The string sound was an old keyboard of Edz - a Korg of some kind - that couldn't even be screwed together properly. But I do love that string sound.

The mid-section was put together with a sample from the audiobook of Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, and even though it was most likely a totally random choice, the idea of the creator of Cosmos relating a childhood memory while the Moog tweedles out the sounds of space-signals works really well, in hindsight. Honestly, if you asked me to reproduce the Moog part in that section, I couldn't do it. One of the wonders of the Moog is its one-time-only vibe when you play with the knobs just so.

I'm not sure if it was the use of these old-school synths or the fact that our album was recorded on the Tascam 4-Track, a technology that was well outmoded even by then, but Rick coined the name Analogue for us. It turns out later that the name had already been taken, by a band that it fit better, no less, but that's what we went by at the time.

As mentioned, this song is also the start of my friendship with Karl. I can't exactly recall if he volunteered or I requested, but in either case, this song - and the entire Analogue album (called The Future is Ours) - was digitally mixed by Karl and I on his old Motorola Mac running Digital Performer 2.4.

I wonder if he regrets it?

Believe it or not - and it is a little hard to believe, when you consider how huge a part of my personal geek pantheon it has become - this song was not named in honor of the brilliant Matt Groening show. In fact, when this song was written, I don't think the name of the show had been mentioned - only that Groening was working on a new sci-fi show for Fox.

I guess it's some kind of truism that all cartoonists are geeky in the same way, since I'd been obsessed with the 1939 World's Fair in my teens and had used General Motor's Futurama Pavilion as period flavor in my lame 40's detective strip, Hammond Cheese, Private Eye. So when I wrote the lyric, after casting about for ideas, it was with the themes of the World's Fair in mind - but it's funny how if you think of it as being a song sung by the show's time-displaced Fry character, you could easily see it as being written about him.

Get in my car
Start in on up
Drive to the spaceship.

Pick it on up,
Plug it on in -
Only please be patient.

You're counting on us
To explain all the fuss,
And why your time has been wasted.

Look it on up,
Then tear it on up,
'Cause you can't read the pages.

The future is what it used to be.

I've been here all week,
And I can barely speak -
In only a whisper.

On the T.V.,
They got it all for free,
And they're giving it to me.

They got what you need,
And if you keep it clean,
Every day is like Christmas.

I've got my CD's,
Got my DVD's,
But I just want my LP's.

The future is what it used to be.

The future is ours,
The future is ours,
The future is ours (in cars).

For the record, the only World's Fair I've been to was the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville - and that one ended up getting parodied in an episode of The Simpsons.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Things That Came

Watched the H.G. Wells 1936 classic Things to Come. Not a happy movie. I'd always thought it was going to be sort of a future travelogue thing, a bit like a feature-length version of the 1939 World's Fair (speaking of Futurama). But it's not. No, it isn't.

The first act is a ponderous build-up to war, on Christmas Eve, no less. The second act is the war itself - which Wells nails as starting in 1940. But then he fails to stick the landing by having the conflict continue until the early 1970s, at which point, civilization has broken down, from the continued conflict and a resulting chemical-warfare related plague known as the "Wandering Sickness." By 1970, Warlords rule dwindling fiefdoms, trying to scrape together enough parts to get 1930's era aircraft off the ground.

Then hope comes in the form of a group of scientists and engineers - based out of Basra, Iraq, no less - who have decided to rebuild society as a (Karl, here's one for you) Utopian Technocracy. And to basically force everyone else everywhere to fall into line, they come in some seriously giant planes and use something called - no shit - the Gas of Peace on the populace. That sounded so ominous when they first mentioned it that I thought it was going to be part of some mind-control joojoo, but it just turns out to be sleeping gas. Watch Ralph Richardson earn his Knighthood in this scene. Not for acting, mind you. For chewing and devouring whole blocks of masonry.

(Note: actual film in black and white. Accept no substitutes)

Then Futurism masturbates all over the screen in what can only be called the Will to Weld. Dig the music!

Beautiful fucking designs, though.

The last act is set in 2036, when all cities have now moved underground. We are on the eve of the first moonshot, and the labor force - I think? - is angry about it. So they go to damage the launch site, but just get themselves blown up instead. Progress!

So, to sum up: Wells is anti-war but pro-Fascism.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Billion Backed Beast

Well, we watched the second Futurama DVD movie last night, and it was (in my estimation) even better than the first. It's arguable that the plot hung together a little more loosely this time around, and for a while I was wondering if they were going to be able to tie the disparate threads - or tentacles, rather - together successfully. And, you know? They kind of, sort of, kind of did. Maybe not at the same level as the first, with the big Lucas space battle finale being won by Hermes' head, but it all stood up at the end.

But what made me like it better - possibly by a wide margin - was the sheer volume of classic jokes. The looseness helped in that regard, actually. Without having to hit a plot point every two minutes, the writers (or writer, since the sole script credit goes to Eric Kaplan) is able to leisurely set up some pretty genius bits, including a sci-fi classic that starts with a duel with planet-buster ray-guns and ends with a disembodied wart flitting to the ground.

Further, I liked the creepy tone the film had. The underlying theme is basically sad and disturbing, and there are scenes when you're not sure whether to laugh or get tense. As you can see from the package, the film takes as it's area of satire the 50's monster movie, but it goes in a completely different tangent. A good portion of the creepy vibe comes from the quasi-religious angle the story takes - this is a film in which the biblical rapture actually occurs, complete with golden escalators to heaven.

Lastly, I'm glad that Groening, Cohen and company didn't play any of the Fry/Leela relationship angle this time around. It weighed down Bender's Big Score by making Fry's decades-long, millennia-spanning lovesickness seem more like a sad obsession, and it flattened Leela out into a mere passive love-interest. Sure, Fry's lovesickness serves as an engine for the plot this time around, but the entire film is about loneliness and romantic loss, and it fits better here, if only because it's about a girl who (for once) isn't Leela.

Anyway, whatever kinks they needed to work out with the first film are gone here, and I'd put this one up against any of the best Futurama episodes.


P.S.: David Cross? Genius casting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



Projectile Vomiting

So the new Vomit Comics feature has started up over at Walrus Comix - and, as noted, I've inaugurated it with a new comic not previously shown here on the Rambler. I'm still not 100% clear if the feature over at WC is a blog or a comic page or what - it's a comic with a couple of paragraphs explaining/defending it, and I doubt there's a word for that.

Let's just consider it liner notes, or something.

I was going to tell you about some interesting PCMA news, but I have to stay true to rule number one: don't blog about PCMA.

In the meantime, I have to learn a couple more Floyd tunes - Sheep being the one that's most intensive in the keyboard department. The department that I manage, that is. And I guess with that, we'll have finished off Animals, although I don't know when that will be performed. I'll keep you posted.

I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to note the passing of George Carlin - long after everyone else has said their piece. Curiously, I had about of insomnia last night when it first popped up on the wires (Fark, to be exact), and then kept refreshing CNN until it came up. Fox had it earlier by about fifteen minutes, but old habits die hard, and I needed CNN to really, really confirm. Still, props to Fox for being right on that trigger.

All I can really add to the smothering blanket of radio clips and YouTube videos and all that is to note that it's amazing how much Carlin had woven himself not just into the fabric of America over the last forty-fifty years, but how many small memories here and there in my own life are Carlin related:

- chanting 'rat shit, bat shit, dirty old twat! Hurray! Lizard shit!! Fuck!! at the top of my lungs with JIm and Bubba during a break in senior play rehearsal, in the halls of our high school. Just as our principal happened by.
- hearing his "Let's Make a Deal" sketch for the first time on a plane to England or Australia with my family. My sisters Leah and Gail fell in love with that routine, and quoted it endlessly. "Oh, Monty, Monty, Monty!" To this day, I still use montymonty as an occasional password.
- Eight words: it's amazing... it's astounding... but it's no bullshit.

Goodbye, funny man.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Downward Facing Cat

Tried the Wii Fit at Bubba & Fi's this evening, and I have to say that I'm completely sold. The Yoga program was particularly cool. I would buy one of those in a second - but it turns out that we need to set aside about $1500 to irradiate our cat.

Turns out the beloved Kiko suffers from Hyperthyroidism - hey, who doesn't? - and has lost two pounds in the last year. Not so bad if you're a human, but that represents about 20% of her total body weight. And of the three treatment options, I'm a little shocked to discover that injecting our cat with a radioactive isotope of Iodine and then keeping her at the clinic for five days is the most humane. The other options are daily pills for the rest of her life or surgery, and neither of those thrill me. And I'm sure they thrill Kiko even less - but maybe she should have thought of that before she gave us her Power of Attorney.

Oh, and why does she have to stay at the clinic - called RadioCat, no less - for a week? Not for her safety - it's for ours. Because, apparently, it's bad news to have a radioactive cat around your house. At first, I thought that was being a little silly, but then I realized that Kiko generally sleeps every night folded in my left arm just under my neck, and every morning by Yesenia, and, yeah, I guess I don't want to risk brain cancer from my cat's half-life.

Maybe we'd be lucky and get superpowers instead...


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Vampire Hirings


Another book review of mine is up over at Walrus Comix - this time, a graphic novel that is best described as Clerks meets The Lost Boys. And I would have put that in the review, too, except:

a) It's overly reductive,
b) I use the same description in an interview with the author, which will be posted over there sometime in the next week, and,
c) even though it occurred to me independently, that exact same description turns up in the Entertainment Weekly review, and I hate to be derivative.

Although the Rambler can be as derivative as it wants to be.

The Vomit Comix will be going over there as well, as a weekly feature, under the (possibly false) assumption that a wider audience might enjoy them. That will probably be up this weekend, and I'll link to it when it is. Think I can spend fifteen minutes a week drawing? We'll find out!

Here's a hint of the first strip:

Huh? Tune in and see what that's all about.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It's turning out to be a light week here at the Rambler. My apologies to those who come here expecting to be entertained for at least a couple of minutes during the course of their day. But I tell you what - how about the first official Subway Rambler quiz?

Sounds like no fun at all? You're very probably right. But still - you're smart, aren't you? Why not prove it? You scared or something?

Q: What measurement of distance is today's title equal to?


Hint: I already told you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In the Mood

Blagh. What a mood I'm in. Not fit for human contact. Or maybe I need a lot of human contact, but just with the right humans. Or something.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Early Edition

Posting earlier than usual, since I'm leaving for Newark to pick up Yesenia in a couple of hours, and it's bad form to blog instead of spending time with your wife, whom you haven't seen in about a week. Of course, my internal blogger doesn't really have anything to say until I'm about to fall asleep, usually, so...


Pictures, Alice!

A few from the trip to el Yunque. Me, Yesenia, Darien & Melissa. I'll get these up on Flickr or something soon.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Softer Side of Dave

Your Weekend Listening, 6/13/08

Untitled (Acoustic Instrumental), 1996-7

MOJA, 1996-7

Apologies for (among other misdemeanors) the inexact dating of these. I'm sure if I really put my mind to it, I could place them more exactly, but all I know for sure is that they were done post-Lizard Music but pre-Yesenia. So let's say Spring of 1997? That sounds about as close as I can get, especially when you consider I have literally no recollection of the genesis of the acoustic number.

In fact, all I can really say with some confidence about the acoustic piece is that I'm 99.9% positive that it was a complete improvisation, something that I threw together on the Tascam one lonely night in the basement, literally playing with myself in the way that only a man without a musical outlet save for his trusty four-track can. In spite of this - or, more likely, because of it - upon hearing these two pieces cold for the first time in a decade, I think that half-assed acoustic ramble completely outclasses MOJA, a piece that I have a complete backstory for. And I can assure you that the backstory is just as labored as the resulting composition and recording.

The short version: I paid a visit to my Uncle and two cousins for two weeks around this time. Unlike my first visit to Corvallis in 1983, this time, I was bored out of my mind. The fault lay neither with the town or my family, but my own disconsolate and misanthropic 26-year-old self. Thankfully, my uncle - either thinking it would give me something to do or just coincidentally - asked if I could help shop for a guitar for my younger cousin Aaron. Since Aaron was about 9 at the time, I found an inexpensive short-scale guitar.

Of course, the idea that Aaron wanted to play the guitar was entirely in my uncle's head, as Aaron was 9 and only wanted to watch cartoons and play Nintendo. So the guitar fell into my hands, and I found it mercifully easy to play for my stubby, fat fingers. Which meant that I could play stuff more ambitious than I could on a normal guitar. Over the course of a few days, I occupied myself by putting MOJA together - deeply annoying, if I recall, Aaron, who got really sick of hearing the same passages played poorly over and over again.

And over. You get the drift.

Although I do have an ability to carry large and complex musical arrangements around in my head (borne of inheriting my father's math-mind and my own decades of prog-rock love), I've never been anything like a technique-minded musician. So assembling something as through-composed as MOJA - particularly on an instrument that I've never been more than a dabbler on - was more than enough of a challenge to keep me occupied for a few days.

To help, I also tested out a scoring program that my uncle bought for himself. And since my uncle didn't have any kind of midi device, I put all of the notes in manually. One unrealized dream of mine is to find a piano player who can sight read and perform the piece for me - I still have the print out of the score, if there are any takers!

Anyway, when I got back to New York, I wanted to get a recording of the piece. Of course, I didn't have a short-scale guitar, so my performance wasn't nearly as good for the final as it was in Oregon. Still, I had my Gibson Melody Maker and Fender Deluxe Twin amp,* which is a pretty sweet sonic combo.

It's easy for me now to sit and look back on this piece with derision, but I have to say that I still largely like the composition - even though it gets away from me at a writing level and I never was able to whittle it into a proper piece. And while the performance has a few too many fret-outs and hesitations to be mistaken for even a slumming Steve Howe** missing an arm and suffering from a severe spatial disorder, the insane ambition of even trying something like this given my writing, playing and instrumental comfort zones is pretty impressive, to me. Frankly, if I'd played the exact same piece on piano (then, as now, my premiere instrument), it would be unlistenable. But the combination of the overstepped compositional bounds and the beginner's guitar fumbling give the final a charm that I think carries it through.

When did I ever have this kind of clueless ambition?

And the name? Pronounced 'Mo-ha', it's an acronym for "Mellow On Your Ass," with a 'j' subbing for the 'y,' to give it more of a Spanish flavor. Why, I couldn't tell you.


*Close followers of my recorded music and this amplifier in particular will be able to pick out the tell-tale ring of the loose pre-amp tube. Here, it adds charm and warmth to an otherwise dry and middling performance.

**Speaking of Steve Howe, there's no doubt that his solo pieces in general informed the writing of this. In particular, there's an almost direct quote from his Masquerade in the little sliding licks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day Late/Dollar Short/Fishy Smell

Sorry for the posting weirdness this week - I actually wrote yesterday's entry on Tuesday night while still in San Juan, but Google got either huffy or forgetful (I can never tell which, the inscrutable wench!) and declined to post it. Meaning that all of Wednesday got shafted. Virtually.

Virtually Shafted...


Something about that sounds quite off, but I'm just going to leave it.

Anyway, I'll have a sum up of the PR trip sometime next week. Pictures galore! Sun and sand and surf and all that. For now, I'm trying to get my stuff together for a noon departure to a wedding in Rhode Island, with my head and heart still stuck in Puerto Rico.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Them

The Walrus Comix site just turned one - and rather than sitting around shitting its diapers and crying about it, the bouncing bundle of joy posted a pretty decent review I wrote on a pretty remarkable new 'how-to make comics' book. I have now discovered the joy of free review copies.

Anyway, give it a read. And, as ever, take a moment to read other features you'll find there. The roster of writers and site mandate have expanded quite a bit recently, with neat-o features on video games and new music. Although the newest video game review is actually the reviewer critiquing his old girlfriends Nick Hornsby style, so maybe I'm missing the gist of that feature...

Anyway, over to you, Dave:

Welcome back. In local news, today was spent marching through the jungle. I suppose the proper term here is 'tropical rain forest.' As though there were a distinction. Perhaps in order to be a jungle, you need a tiger? This being Puerto Rico, the best they can cough up is a Chupacabra and some coquis, so 'tropical rain forest' it is.

But I digress. The tropical rain forest in question is El Yunque, and is really well-maintained by the sole competent division left to our Federal Government, the National Parks Service. I have to say - not to wax political here, folks - but if the Parks Service can survive eight years of the Bush/Cheney Environmental Bonanaza ("Everything Must Go!"), those are some really dedicated Ranger Ricks.

And the coquis are wonderful, and never fail to make me smile and look at Yesenia when I hear one, echoing off the dense foliage. You never do see them, though. The coquis are loud but tiny, tree frogs about the size of a nickel. They are also bright green and live in the greenest fucking place on the face of the planet. Yesenia spent twelve years living on this island and has never seen one. But you hear them constantly - like the traffic in New York or the voice of doom nattering away at the back of your head, day and night. Only this is the good kind of constant sound, like breakers on a warm summer night, or a light sea breeze rustling the palm fronds outside your window - coincidentally, sounds you'll also find in abundance here on the island.

I'll be sad to go, and not only because it means I won't be seeing my wife for another six days. It's really a great place. But then you go to every restaurant and see the same limited four items over and over again as the entire menu and you're ready to come home. Really, I like deep fried plantains as much as the next guy, but I assure you, there are other things that you can serve as a side dish.

The sign I'm ready to come home: I had a six inch Subway turkey & cheese with Sun Chips tonight, and I was pathetically grateful for it.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

And on the Third Day, they Rested

A day of too much relaxation, as Yesenia got pretty blown out by the somewhat hectic pace of the first two days and demanded a day by the pool. As for me, I'm good for about two hours of such inactivity and then it begins to circle back on me and I get increasingly anxious with the inactivity.

Note that it isn't the concept of inactivity itself that bothers me - it's specifically the hanging out by the hotel pool for hours on end variety that winds me up. So I tore through a few sketchbook pages to burn some of that off, after exhausting all of the pool things I could do by myself - including a visit to the swim-up bar, which I like. In fact, rather than build a wet bar in the basement, I'm just going to flood it and throw some beer bottles down there and let people go diving for them.

The night closed with me doing laundry and Yesenia doing homework. Now, that's a vacation.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Photoshop Chronicles

Spent pretty much all day - and all night - retouching shots of beef patties for a client. And it's the exact kind of retouching I suck the most at - "Can you get that color to match the color on the other box?"

The short answer is, 'no.' The long answer is also, 'no,' but it comes after hours and hours and hours of fucking around with masking and selective color mixing and layer compositing and finally, my mouse elbow is screaming bloody murder.

I'd say it's time for plan 'B,' except I'm not 100% sure I have a plan 'B,' except to retake the shot.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fair Game

I'm sure I've mentioned this show as a mumbled aside to people before, but tonight it occurred to me that I've never actually linked to it - and in these days when virtual communication has supplanted the real deal, the link is the only thing that matters.

So, here you go: Fair Game with Faith Salie. The only show currently on the radio that's hosted by a Rhodes Scholar who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and got her master's from Oxford and also had a guest role on my favorite show of all time (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) in which she was the romantic interest of my favorite character in the entire Trek canon, Dr. Julian Bashir.*

I can't work out exactly what the broadcast schedule is, and it looks like they've taken it off AM 820 (which is where it was in this area - fuckers!), and on top of that, the podcasts aren't particularly well-maintained. But it's there, and the archives are good. You can tell by listening where her political sympathies lie - and if you can find it, her interview with John Bolton is a riot - but the show is generally mainstream, meaning that those who have conservative political leanings and a simultaneous crush on Jeanne Garofalo now have a radio personality that's cute and funny, and genuinely smarter, without the constant pounding on their own political leanings.

Whenever I have to work late, I start up a few of her podcasts and just enjoy the talk. Maybe a little too mellow, which is why she works best after the sun is down. And you know? If more talk radio hosts were as smart, fair and balanced as Faith, maybe I'd listen to talk radio much more than I do.


*Curiously, in an entire year of writing the Rambler, that right there about Bashir and DS9 is the most controversial thing I've ever written. Note that I said, 'my favorite' and not, 'the best.' That would be silly. It goes without saying that Bashir is the best. I'm gay for Bashir, and by extension, Alexander Siddig, the actor. I seriously will go out of my way to see movies if Siddig has a role. And it's usually a very small role. It's a problem.

Vomit Deluxe

For this week's Vomit Comic, I decided to abandon the usual fifteen minute time-limit. Every other guideline remained the same: directly in pen, with no pencils; no prep sketches; no forethought or preparation; and as little self-editing as possible. Usually, the fifteen minute deadline makes all the other rules fall into place. But when you spend time on the rendering, it's surprisingly difficult to keep your brain disconnected.

Frankly, when I started this one, I had no idea that I was going to get all rendery on it. I just had that feeling that I needed to doodle and hatch, while slowly and evenly breathing through my mouth and rhythmically twitching my leg. When I go into my freestyle inking mode, that's probably Exhibit A in the proof that I have some kind of Asperger's.

Not to say I wasn't mentally all there for it - while drawing, I was conducting class. Although the woman who usually takes most of my attention wasn't there, and everyone else seemed intent on and content to work, so I didn't have to stand up and move around much. With the exception of one personal lesson on perspective, people walked over to me and I made comments on what they were doing and that was it. Leaving me free to keep drawing for most of the class.

Two streams fed into this strip. The first is a comic script that Kalliope has been working on - sort of a Shelley by way of the Matrix thing. When I'm really bereft of direction, I just pick dialogue out of the air. After having laid down the title and first panel, and drawn the second, I showed it to Kalliope and asked her what the character was saying in the second panel. She said she couldn't think of anything because she had no idea what it was about. I replied that I didn't, either.

Thus was a panel scripted.

The rest followed pretty easily. When in doubt, have the invisible voice of authority come in and make your protagonist feel lousy. The second stream is really responsible for that direction - mainly, I began to think about the sketchbook comics of Crumb, which I've always preferred to his 'real' work. A theme in many of Crumb's sketchbook comics have him petitioning the Lord and being either ignored or rejected. Or the other way around. At any rate, the overall look and tone of the strip seemed Crumbish to me - at least my version of Crumb - so I decided to finish it as an ode to him. Curiously, the end result does seem roughly halfway between his sketchbook comics and Kalliope's Victorian Matrix, so I guess I'll call it a success.

The bonus: now I've got something in my sketchbook that people who leaf through it (and don't understand that a sketchbook is for sketching) will finally see and think that maybe I can draw. All those other sketches and Vomit Comics with the Medium Point Sharpie work just fine for me, and allow me to get the idea and gesture out of my head as quickly as possible, but don't seem to have any visual appeal to the casual observer. And my ego is still a little too fragile to allow people to come away from my sketchbook thinking I suck.

Well, really, they still might...


Monday, June 2, 2008

I see you and raise your rent

Well, you can tell by the nonsense title above that this evening's Rambler is entirely without form or direction. Get out while you still can.

Still here? Well, whatever. My brain has been stuck in first gear all day, and I have little to offer you in the way of witticisms or autobiographical anecdotes. I got up, did some work, did some writing, did some laundry, ate, worked, went to gym. Now I am home and have done some more work...

Jeeziz fuggin' Kryzt.

I'm sorry. Come back tomorrow. (Puts face in hands and weeps silently, only the shuddering of his shoulders betraying the display of emotion)


Sunday, June 1, 2008

The day the music slept in

Sorry about the lack of Weekend Listening this weekend - I've vowed that if I don't get it together by Saturday night, I'm going to forgo it for the week. Which really doesn't seem like much of a vow, does it? "By God, if I don't do it, then I'm not going to do it!" Never let it be said that I am a man without strong ethical and moral guidelines...

Anyway, the weekend was packed with stuff. Saturday I had my tutoring session/drawing time, then went to see Indiana Jones and the Extended CGI Chase Sequence with Yesenia, then both of us went out to dinner with Bubba and Fin at the surprisingly decent State Line Diner, where I proceeded to sear my lips off with too much Habanero Sauce on my Buffalo Chicken wrap. And by that I mean that I fucked a cute Mexican waitress, then let her butt-plug me and got a dose of the clap.

No, by that I really mean that I'm a WASPy-Jewboy who thinks he can handle spicy food but sometimes overestimates his ability to process it. I suspect that I'll outlive my stomach lining by a good decade, and my meals in those last remaining years will consist entirely of Ensure Shakes.

Spoiler Warning-ish: In spite of my above dismissive re-titling of the new Indiana Jones film, I actually liked the first 2/3 quite a bit. I just think that the structure went all slack towards the end. Why not have them get on a boat and race out to a climax on Easter Island instead? I mean, if you're just making crap up, why limit yourself? I want a do-over, with big Rapa Nui statuary coming to life and battling Soviet Migs and stuff. After the opening sequence - really an amazing and hilarious and ingenious series of events - the chase through the jungle just kind of sat there. If you start with your hero first escaping the KGB on a rocket sled, and then escaping a nuclear test in an airborne refrigerator, you'd better have an action set-piece up your sleeve to top it with in the last act. And they don't.

Or, duh, maybe if you open the film with KGB agents everywhere Indy turns, and then later a connection is drawn to the 1908 Tunguska meteor strike, you know, why not have Indy fucking go behind the Iron Curtain? The lovingly recreated 50's America is just crying out for a mirror image Soviet sequence in the last act.

Or a million other ideas that would have been more fun. Bearing in mind I liked the closing sequence - just amp it up and locate it somewhere else on Earth and lose the eternal sword fight on the jeeps with the monkeys and I'd be happy.End Spoiler Warning-ish