Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drawn Shallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tomorrow.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Anxiety Lad

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

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

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


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Conventional Ignorance

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

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

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

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


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Convention Ass

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

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


Friday, September 26, 2008

Rainy Day Driving and More

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keep On Keeping On

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

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


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still Pumping

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


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Placeholder Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 22, 2008

Incursive Recursion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye, Mr. Wright.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Drag You, Drag Me

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

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


Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Allegory

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

There are those who will fight the new structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Music and Lyrics, cont.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard 'Rick' Wright, Paintbox

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Rick Wright Memorial Barbecue

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

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

$10 cover
21+ with I.D.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Music and Lyrics, cont.

Marigolds are very much in love
But he doesn't mind
Picking up his sister
He makes his way into the see-saw land
All the way she smiles
She goes up as he goes down

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

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

Richard "Rick" Wright, See Saw

Monday, September 15, 2008

Music and Lyrics

Would you like to say something before you leave?
Perhaps you'd care to state exactly how you feel?
We said goodbye before we said hello.
I hardly even like you, I shouldn't care at all.
We met just six hours ago, the room was too loud.
From your bed I gained a day and lost a bloody year.
And I would like to know: how do you feel?

Not a single word was said, we lay still with our fears.
Occasionally, you showed a smile - but what was the need?
I felt the cold far too soon in a room of ninety-five.
My friends are lying in the sun, I wish that I was there
Tomorrow brings another town, another girl like you
Have you time before you leave to greet another man
Just to let me know: how do you feel?

Goodbye to you.
Childish bangles, too.
I've had enough for one day.

Richard "Rick" Wright, Summer '68

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Now Maybe Arriving at Gate 43

Feh. Blogger is slow this evening, and since I don't have anything particularly pressing to say, and it won't upload the picture of all of my friend's son's Star Wars action figures marching, I think I'm just going to go over to Fox and watch the season premiere of Terminator.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Try Me

I've basically done nothing but schoolwork for the majority of my waking hours for the last two days - Jim was kind enough to give me a tutoring session that at the very least, showed me how much I really don't understand. I guess that means I'm learning physics via the Socratic method. But I seem to be acing my algebra thus far - hey! I can add, subtract, multiply and divide real numbers.

Thankfully, I was able to get a little non-thinking work in, pitching in to help (or hinder, depending on your point of view) construct Jim's new basement office.

Everyone's either moving or building, marrying or birthing. These are the days of our lives.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Big Numbers

Working on my first physics lab report tonight, based on measurements taken in class on Tuesday. Most of the information was already there, and it was left for me to work out the density of three objects. Since the three objects in question were an aluminum rod, a brass sphere and a small block of indeterminate wood, the equations varied.

It's important to the rest of this story that the exact type of wood was unknown.

Firstly, the equation for density is mass divided by volume. Mass was determined in the lab, by simply weighing the things. The volume is a little tricker, as each shape has its own equation. The block was the easiest, with the volume found by multiplying the length by the width by the height. The cylinder gets a little crazier, with the volume found by squaring the radius, multiplying it by pi, then multiplying it by the length. And the sphere rolls all the way to crazytown, with the volume determined by cubing the radius, multiplying by pi and multiplying that by 4/3, or 1.333.

Our measurements (I was in a group of four) and my calculations weren't so bad for the sphere and rod. The percent error against the accepted density was small, less than 3% in both cases, attributable to the fact that both rod and sphere had big holes in them.

Of course, the wood density was off by over 300%. So I'm going to triple-check my math tomorrow (the first and most obvious culprit), and then bring in the professionals (Jim and my dad), and then just assume that the percent error was because the only two types of wood with accepted densities listed in the lab book's appendix are oak and pine, and that this piece of wood was neither. Oak and pine also have pretty wide densities, with oak being around .75 g/cm3 and pine being about .43 g/cm3.

Mind you, even if the wood were special Jupiter-bred dwarf star petrified ebony, it wouldn't account for the fact that I ended up with a density roughly three times greater than the accepted density of either stated woods. The reason they picked those two to state is that they're pretty far apart, as wood density goes.

The professor said right at the beginning of class that we can't simply attribute error to 'human error.' But does that mean that I can't blame the idiot lab mate sitting across from me, who sighed and said 'whateverrrr,' a lot? Because I'm pretty sure it's his fault. He's a living and breathing human error if ever I met one.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday is Sunday at Beadboard Manor

Now that my class schedule has really kicked in, my week is feeling a little schizophrenic. I have class Monday and Wednesday at 7:40 AM, and a Tuesday lab from 11 AM to 2 AM. Add to that the fact that I had band practice Monday night (PCMA, here, low pressure) and Tuesday night (Floyd/Not Floyd, NYC high pressure), and you may understand why when class let out this morning at a quarter to 9, I felt a sudden sense of decompression. And it wasn't an unpleasant feeling at all, given how much info I've been trying to cram in to my brain over the last - jeez, has it only been ten days, already?

So, feeling footloose and fancy free today, and having been on top of all of my work-work (doing it mostly over the weekend and at night), I was able to put some time today towards two outstanding comics projects. One was the final (and now approved) draft of the layout for Kalliope's comic, which is going over to the print house tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on the remaining oomph I have in me tonight. The other was a single page sketchbook>Comic Life layout for a music pub that I'm doing a strip for. Since everyone who reads the Rambler has no doubt already seen the draft - as I sent it to a few friends for feedback - I won't bother posting it here. Which is good, because based on the last round of KPMG comics, I think the 'Don't Blog About PCMA' rule holds for my unfinished comics work, as well.

And seeing as how I now have the rest of my week kind of sort of free - there still is homework and my virtual class to contend with - I'm relaxing a little. Internet porn all around, I say!

Speaking of Floyd/Not Floyd, my (supposedly) final show with the band will be next Thursday night - I'll post more specific info as the day approaches, but any Floyd fans might want to come out for this one, since we're doing all of Animals. Maybe it's not quite as esoteric as the time Copper Man did all of Meddle, but it's still kind of an out of the way album when compared with the juggernauts it was wedged between, being Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall. The show is downtown at a place called the Underscore. More info as it arrives. In the meantime, feel free to listen to Copper Man's rendition of Echoes* from 2005, still something I consider a nice high point of my life - except for the vocals, which I'd swear sounded better in the room than on the desk mix.

And heck, if you're in an archive mood, feel free to revisit my lengthy-yet-shallow reviews of Animals (part 1, part 2), Dark Side (part 1, part 2), and The Wall (part 1, as yet unfinished), part of my response to Pitchfork's lame review of the Floyd album reissue back in November. I know my series has stalled, and it will be completed. You all can understand that I find it hard to dedicate time to writing about Floyd while also playing all of their music in a tribute band?


*Copper Man Mark VII line up: Me, keys; Edz O'Leary, drums; Bran Lancourt, bass; Ansley Lancourt, rhythm & lead guitar, vox; Eric Santaniello, lead guitar.


I'd be remiss if I didn't observe this date in some way. The forming tradition seems to be observing four moments of silence. Observe and reflect, as you will, and remember that you are allowed to interpret the meaning of this day in 2001 and every day that followed in any way you choose.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Been going since 6:30 this morning on less than three hours of sleep, so let me just take a moment to acknowledge yet another Rambler milestone - they seem to get less impressive, but we're just about two months away from 500, so boo-hah me!


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Vox Haul

Slept in a little this morning - 9 AM! - and then Yesenia suggested that we head over to the Nyack* street fair. Beautiful day for it, too - the storm yesterday took itself and all of its horrible heatmidity with it, leaving today beautiful and bright. Perhaps too bright - I neglected to put any screen on, and could feel myself baking as we worked our way through the jewelry craft tables, the student orchestra and the simply insane number of baby strollers.

I had a good time, although only two stalls had anything that I wanted to buy (Yesenia picked up a few things for herself, such as an incense box and a funky pair of reading glasses). The first stall was the record dealer, which I passed up on the way up the fair because I knew a stop there too soon would drain all my energy. The fair itself ran at least a half mile up Broadway and then around the corner to Main, so a lot energy was needed to push through the crowds while deftly avoid the various smiling pushers of charity organizations from both ends of the political spectrum.

The second booth was a soapmaker, and in the last couple of years, I've developed a loathing of all mass-produced soaps, and instead prefer small-brand oil and organic soaps. I know, Ghod help me, I'm turning into a fucking poodle, but there it is. I could say it's because of my eczema, but you and I know the truth: I'm a flaming liberal, and my soaps must match my political agenda.

On the way back, I rushed ahead of Yesenia and took about fifteen minutes digging through the record man's wares. And he was a man after my own heart, having four large bins dedicated to old prog records among his very limited sales space. About the only comment I would make is that he was a little heavy on the Brit stuff overall, with the other side of his booth being Brit-rock A-Z in four bins, and two whole bins in the front dedicated to Beatles. American music got lumped into two small bins, with all genres and eras mixed together.

Anyway, specifically for Ansley's sake, here's a list of the results, with limited commentary.

Listened to:
Anthony Phillips, The Geese and the Ghost
Graham Nash/David Crosby, Graham Nash/David Crosby

The Anthony Philips record is quiet and shimmering, as expected, with a lot of 12-string textures (supplemented with flutes and cor anglais and the like) with Mike Rutherford, a call back to the early Genesis sound they forged. Nice but not indispensable, although a visiting Phil Collins does give two of the three vocal tunes some depth. I think I may really like his duet with Viv McCauliffe, 'God, if I Saw Her Now,' quite a bit. Interesting topic for a song, too - the lyric is in the form of a married couple conversing, the man reflecting on his first girl and his wife growing more insecure as his reminiscence becomes a lament of loss.

I've only listened to side A of the Nash/Crosby, but it's vintage and good. Crosby has really been running the dark horse race for me of favorite composer of the singer-songwriter era, and this is more fuel for that particular fire. Nash isn't at Crosby's level of harmonic interest or sophistication, but he can at least write a decent melody. Their voices together are probably the best blending of the entire rock period - although they cheat a little by doing their best singing over a minimal, introspective instrumental bed.

Already posses on CD:
Gentle Giant, Octopus
Traffic, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Although my Traffic and Gentle Giant phases are both about fifteen years in the past, I still enjoy both of these records when I listen to them.

Octopus, while not my favorite GG album (that would be Acquiring the Taste), is an impressive studio production that manages to capture all of their ambition while minimizing their increasing tediousness. They'd finally settled on their permanent drummer with this album - a very straight-ahead thwacker named John Weathers, who, in my estimation, locks the music down a little too much for its own good.

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, on the other hand, is high Traffic, pretty much the only truly seamless album the band ever produced. Although the early Dave Mason era quartet had a lot of energy and writing power, the material is too much a part of its hippy-dippy/hippy-trippy** time to really sound like anything thing other than an interesting artifact. The trio-era one off John Barleycorn Must Die boasts their strongest collection of material, but is marred by some lame musicianship, due to Winwood playing all the instruments (including drums) on some tracks.*** But Low Spark... finds Traffic's sweet spot and keeps pressing it: a decent collection of sketched out songs, with room for the full and expanded line-up to stretch out on some of the best rock jamming of that era (1971) or any other.

The title track features my favorite single chord of all time, wrapping up a climactic jam section with a low, horrid and tense cluster of Farfisa notes that sustains for long enough to produce mild panic, then resolves into something only marginally less anxiety-inducing, just before the fade.

Have previously heard excerpts, liked enough to want to hear more:
Jon Anderson, Olias of Sunhillow
Nektar, Remember the Future
The Moody Blues, The Other Side of Life

Unowned & unheard, by artists I have familiarity with:
The Rascals, Freedom Suite
Chris Squire, Fish Out of Water
U.K., U.K.
The Souther/HIllman/Furay Band, The Souther/HIllman/Furay Band
Justin Hayward/John Lodge, Blue Jays
Robin Trower, Twice Removed from Yesterday
Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights
Donovan, Donovan in Concert
The Rascals, Freedom Suite
Renaissance, Turn of the Cards

The Souther/Hillman/Furay Band answer the question, 'what happens when you put together journeymen from The Byrds, Poco and The Eagles?' Probably a huge slab of 70's SoCal ennui, but I still wanted to find out for myself.

Shoot Out the Lights is perennially at the top of critics picks of albums of the 1980's. Legendary album that I've never heard note one from. Critically lauded, but probably more for the fact that the couple was breaking up at the time of recording, with the stress wreaking such havok on Linda's voice that she had to record some songs line-by-line... which is just the kind of stupid thing critics prefer over actual quality, it sometimes seems.

While I'm not a huge Donovan fan, I find a lot of these artists work much better in a live context, once away from the overbearing producers who made their records fit a particular niche.

Bought Blind:
Lake, Lake
1977, CBS Records. And that's all I know. I'm even going to resist the temptation to look them up online until I hear the record - which I'm going to do now. Judging by the credits, they could be a Scots-born Kraut-Rock band, for all the sleeve has to offer.


*Nyack: local river town that moves up and down the economic scale over the years, from slum to chic and back again.

**Hippy-dippy/hippy-trippy: apologies to PCMA.

***I believe John Barleycorn... started life as a Winwood solo album in the wake of the first Traffic line-up imploding, but Capaldi and Wood joined in later in the proceedings, making it the next Traffic line-up - basically, Traffic minus Dave Mason.

P.S.: Day ended up with Yesenia making one of the best all-time salads: red leaf lettuce, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, green olives stuffed with gorgonzola, holland pepper, baked tofu, diced jarlsberg, sun dried tomatoes, sliced apple, red onion, and stuffed grape leaves. I do love that woman of mine...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Casual Sects

You can tell when the puns begin to turn up as the Rambler titles that the writer is a little at a loss as to... uh... what to write. It's not as though there's nothing happening - I spent the day helping Kalliope get her book ready for the printer, and then did my first round with the virtual algebra class I'm taking. Both went well: Kalliope's book looks terrific, and my virtual course teacher has many advantages over my flesh and blood physics teacher, not least of which:

1) being a clear, patient and personable speaker,
2) displaying a firm mastery of his material,
3) easy-to-follow introductions to equations, and,
4) being able to stop or even go back through time.

Well, #4 is obviously kind of much to ask of my real teacher at RCC - even if he is a physics teacher - because my algebra teacher is on DVD. But, still. The first 40 minutes or so that I spent with the DVD this evening went a long way towards helping me get a little more confident about this major whiplash of a life change I'm heading into. I'm sure that once the coefficients start flying, my native math anxiety will kick in, but for now, I just want to bask in the glow of having paused the presentation and solved the problems before the teacher did.



Friday, September 5, 2008

Put Your Ya-Ya's Back

Hoped to finish up the driveway this weekend, but it looks like the weather has other plans. In the meantime, I suppose I could do some homework.

Mmmm. Homework.

One of the drawbacks of working from home is that your entire life becomes 'homework.'


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A few random synapses

1) My First Day of School/Clean up
Got to class about five minutes late - it's going to take me a little practice to get myself up and out the door by 7 AM! - but didn't miss much of anything. Slipped right into my seat, and - well, let's just say that I think the teacher knows the material, but what he knows, he ain't saying. And what he ain't saying, he ain't saying in his very quiet, mumbled, accented and slightly broken English. This class looks like it's going to be wall-to-wall equations without any connecting tissue, so I'm strapping myself in. I can master this material. With or without help.

I asked one question, as he was demonstrating... well, when he thought he was demonstrating dimensional analysis. Basically, he introduced the concept of a constant, without explaining what a constant was or the need for it. He said he'd get to it. He never did.

That was the only question asked in class.

On a positive note, after class, I had an hour to take care of all of my RCC problems before I had to attend a 10 AM client meeting on Montebello Road, about five minutes away. So, in order, I:

- looked at the Physics syllabus and noted that 30% of my grade would come from the labs. Of which I'd missed the first the day before,
- went to the math & sciences office and got the name of the lab teacher,
- found out he'd be done with a class at 9:40, and I could find him in room 1209,
- went to the bookstore and got my texts (a bargain at $350!),
- looked at the syllabus for my virtual math class and saw that I would need a student I.D. to check out the DVD materials from the library,
- went to find out where I could get a student I.D.,
- went to the security station to get a student I.D.,
- went to the library and got the DVDs,
- also got a few books they were giving away, including Pynchon and Theroux in hardcover,
- went a little early to room 1209 and talked to the lab teacher,
- was greatly relieved to find I hadn't missed much of anything, and it wouldn't affect my grade,
- walked back across campus to my car, checking out any hot young things, in my official role as the D.O.M.O.C. (that's Dirty Old Man on Campus, to you).

2) Two Days in Paris
Not an actual event in my life - my last trip to Paris was with my college girlfriend over one very, very cold Christmas week, when she got the flu and I got lost on my way to the Eiffel Tower. No, these two days are part of the eponymous film written, directed by and starring Julie Delpy, and it proves something I've always suspected: I like Woody Allen a lot better as an adorable French woman.

Actually, this film is better than anything Woody has made in a long time. It gets a little flat at the end, but I was surprised as to just how well she kept the thing aloft, in spite of a fairly mundane story. The dialogue, pacing and her deft touch with actors made the thing work, and work really well. A really strong first feature, and I'll definitely be on board for anything she makes to follow it up.

3) Some Brief Political Hackery
I know I maintain a policy of not getting political on the Rambler, but I just have to make this totally obvious and oft stated observation here: the Christian Conservative wing of the GOP is fucking goofy.

Just thought I'd put that out there.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A nickel and a wish

Spent almost all of the day at the printers - which wouldn't have been so bad, except that:

a) I went at 10 AM thinking that I only had to sign off on a proof that, in truth, wasn't ready until 2:30,
b) Since I'd planned to go to the gym directly from the printer, I showed up unshowered and in my gym clothes - and I of course did not get to the gym,
c) and guess what else I didn't get to? Turns out my first Physics lab was supposed to have been today (Tuesday, that is), so instead of embarking on my new learning venture, I sat on my ass waiting for the varnish drum to lose its red cast.

Anyhow, that was just(?) the lab, and the first class is tomorrow morning. In the meantime, for the rest of this evening, I'm finishing up a couple of smallish things for work - another dreaded radio spot! - so this Rambler will be brief. Hey, aren't they all?

Anyhow, I did finish a nice new Vomit Comic, which will likely be up Wednesday or Thursday, so I direct you over to Walrus Comix for pictures and words and words explaining the pictures. So, enjoy, and wish me class luck.