Sunday, November 30, 2008

Automotive Wife Retrieval System

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


Studio 40

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

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

Ah, well.

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


Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Strong Showing From Hulu

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

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

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


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now We Are Thirty-Eight

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Blog About Anything

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 21, 2008

Live from New York

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


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fascinatin' Rhythm

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


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

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


Monday, November 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stomach Noises

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living Nightmare (Redux)

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

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

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



And just as fresh as ever!

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gasping and Wheezing

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

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

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

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

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

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


Living Nightmares

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


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apparently, All Their Dime Dancing Was Through

Steely Dan - Gaucho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Discourse & Rhyme

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

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


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roll of the Die

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shep Smith, Master of Weary Annoyance

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


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chest - Weight = Me

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Things Move and then You Crunch Some Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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