Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow Day

The snow today came as a complete surprise to me. Not because I'm a weather watcher - I'm not - but because Yesenia is, and she usually notes me about any possible inclemency days in advance. This time, however, not a word from her, and I suspect she was as surprised by this morning's snow as me. More so, since it started to come down during her commute.

Not sure what this does to our New Year's plans, but we will see, we will see. Looks as though it's actually stopped as of 11:30 am, and accumulations for the entire day aren't supposed to go over 3 inches.

At any rate, here's hoping you all have a good night, and a great year to come.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Oddly Sad

Just rewatched The Beast With a Billion Backs, the second Futurama film. Among the voice cast is Brittany Murphy. Her character arc ends with her leaving the universe to live in heaven alone with God. Weird and sad, like a dream.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

That Was Nice

Of all the possible ways I could spend my weekend, I can't think of a better reality than what actually transpired: me and Yesenia, on the couch, under the blanket, Christmas lights on, watching DVD after DVD while snacking on leftovers.

Hope your pre- and post-Christmas were as lovely as ours.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Covers is Bad for Business

Your Weekend Listening • 12.26.09
I Won't Back Down • May, 2008

Here's something strange and vaguely pointless - my multi-tracked solo acoustic version of Tom Petty's mid-career hit. A song I don't particularly even like, although I do have a begrudging respect for Petty's ability to build songs out of thin air and not much else.

The backstory, as far as it goes, is that a childhood friend of Yesenia's (José) was learning how to play guitar. To that end, he was taking classes at some New York guitar school (on 30th Street). At the end of the semester, the students would give a solo performance, and José asked me to join him on a couple of numbers. The Petty was one of them, and I think Desperado was another, so you can see the general area of material.

At any rate, when we played, it turned out that the original key was a little out of Jose's vocal range, so I transposed it and very quickly threw together a Garageband version - literally sitting on the porch in about the time it takes to listen (not, of course, counting the overdubs).

The cover itself is pretty disposable as well, but when I stumbled upon it in my iTunes the other day, I found that I liked the way my low-energy playing and nearly tremulous vocals give the song an air of desperation that the original never had - Petty doesn't sound much like backing down is even an option, but the above version sounds like I'm bleeding on the mat, weakly waving off the referee.

I make no claim for greatness with this, but sometimes, I like the sound of confident half-assedness that comes with experience, and I'm pleased that I have enough ability at this point to convey that.


PS: Apologies for the return to the embedded QT MP3 player instead of the SWF. For some reason, the SWF decided to stop working - indeed, all previous Ramblers with the SWF MP3 player now feature nothing, so I'm using this temporarily until that gets back up and running. I'd be tempted to blame Blogger, but it always seems to be some weird thing with my host, so we'll see.

Friday, December 25, 2009

So This is Christmas

Had the family over today, and it really was a very nice, fun day. Rather than do a big sit down meal, we did more of a buffet style eat-what-you-want-when-you-want-where-you-want, with a Puerto Rican vibe (in addition to the turkey, Yesenia made empanadas, fried plantains, rice with pigeon peas, etc.

Really nice day, what can I say? Hope yours was just as enriching.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pretty Lights

Bout of insomnia and I'm down on the living room couch - trying to allow Yesenia her beauty rest. It's a slight problem and always will be, but she's a morning person and I'm a night person. Hopefully, that will change somewhat when I start teaching, since I'd have to be up and out at the same time. Whether or not that means I'd go to bed earlier is another story; in past experiments with getting up early, I still stayed up to the same late hours, pretty much against my will. I can easily see myself rotting my brain on long weeks of four hours of sleep a night. Just the way I'm wired.

Anyway, the living room is super nice, now, since Yesenia got all of her decorating moxie up on it. If I have to be awake now, no reason I can't be awake in style.


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Rambler Just Got Roomier

Believe it or not, after two straight years of posting seasonal threats that Copper Man - the site which hosts the Subway Rambler - was finally going to be getting a complete overhaul... well, Copper Man has gotten a (mostly) complete overhaul. In what I'm tiresomely calling the 'beta' version, if you go HERE, you'll see a complete layout, admittedly with some holes when it comes to actual content, like an Entenmann's box with only one plain donut left.

The Rambler itself will be folded into the larger site, although the address won't change. What will change is the look, however - it's probably going to get a lot more stripped-down looking, which may be kind of a drag to look at. On the other hand, I've had this billiard room look going for almost two years (after I changed from the original hunter orange), so it's time for a graphic clean-up no matter what. I'll try to strike a balance between what will look nice on the main site (where the Rambler will appear in an iframe in the site layout) and what won't be distressingly bland when viewed away from the site, the way I expect most regular readers will continue to do.

Actually, I'm fairly certain that a batch of you follow me on RSS feeds, which are the most dispiritingly dry-looking way of viewing content on the web imaginable, like reducing everything under the sun to the status of a stock ticker. So there won't be much of a change for you, either way.

As far as the revamp to the main site, rather than run the risk of repeating what I've written over there about its current state and future implementation, I direct you there and, as always, invite you to make feedback.

And Christine: that graphic on the home page is an animated gif, about as old-school as such things get. Let me take this moment to say that although I still kind of miss ImageReady, the animation menu in Photoshop is nicely done - straightforward and intuitive, which is something that Adobe has been having a harder and harder time with as their applications grow more massive and unwieldy.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

The 700 Club

Your Weekend Listening, 12.19.09
Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pt. I-X / Us Not Them, Live @ the Bruckner Bar, May 2008

Although "Echoes" is my favorite song (both by Pink Floyd and in general), "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" seems to be appropriate for me this weekend. Flashback to the day that my childhood cat (Janet) was buried back in 1998, Edz and I were jamming with a guitar player, and when I came back down from burying her in the side yard - my parents were there, too - we launched into an impropmtu but heartfelt version of the song.

This is not that version, which probably wasn't recorded. For the bulk of 2008, I played keys in a Pink Floyd cover band named "Us Not Them," before I made the decision to return to school and realized I wouldn't have the time to continue it. While it's true that the band's focus on later material was not mine and their approach to the earlier material (which I love) wasn't quite the feel I thought it should be, the band was full of talented and dedicated musicians. I felt badly about leaving, but as it turns out, my financial circumstances in 2009 would have warranted it inevitably.

This particular set featured all of the Wish You Were Here album, but I've just edited together the two halves of "Shine." I'm not 100% thrilled with some of the keyboard work, here - I didn't have quite as much time as I would have liked to get my parts together - but what the heck. It was my first real experiment with playing three keyboards at a time, in the progressive rock fashion, a fetish of mine ever since I first saw the inner sleeve image of Rick Wakeman from The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth. It's stressful and fun to add that layer of bouncing around from setting to setting and from keyboard to keyboard, suddenly adding the Y-axis to what's normally the straight line of keyboard playing. Like the equivalent of Spock's 3D chess, only I was a novice, rather than a grandmaster.

At any rate, with yesterday's death and subsequent burial of Kiko, this came to mind. Enjoy.


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Longest Day

I'm not even going to pretend I have the strength for this afternoon. At 4 pm, I'm taking beloved cat Kiko to the vet to be euthanized. As it turns out, it's not the kind of thing you can prepare for - it's just the type of thing you have to go and do. In a way, I've either been blessed or led a sheltered life thus far, because this is the first time I've ever had to do anything like this - both make the decision to end her life and be the one to take her for it.

It is a kindness, I know, but the problem with animals is that they never see it that way. Kiko has always been a stress-case when it comes to visits to the vet, more so than any other cat we've ever had, and the thing I most hate to think of is that she's going to spend her last moments deeply stressed and anxious on the car ride and in the office itself. But her condition now is such that yesterday, I even wished that the vet could take her earlier. Not for my sake, for Kiko's.

The one relief from the feeling of guilt is knowing that Kiko - like a lot of animals - is (was) an eternal optimist. Sure, bad stuff has happened to her; trips to the vet, having a paw stepped on, having to deal with large crowds in her house, having to share space with other cats. But she never failed to forgive, and she always had faith that if she was fed once under a certain circumstance, then she could always be fed again when those circumstances recurred. But more, she always seemed to have faith in Yesenia and me, and the trusting faith of an animal is just a wonderful thing.

Whenever the vet would send cards to remind us to call for an appointment, the message at the top read 'Kiko loves you,' with the 'loves you' printed in and the name handwritten over a line (________________), making for a silly and insincere looking statement. But the thing is, I always believed it - the only people Kiko ever really bonded herself to were me and Yesenia, with all others viewed either at best as inconveniences who would occasionally feed her, or at worst objects of disdain.

Thankfully, it turns out that Yesenia is going to join me for this. Thankfully for me, at least. I guess the sight of two adults weeping in a veterinarians office says something about who we are as people, but the truth is that the core of ourselves as a couple - our favorite, most relaxed moments - were lying in bed, watching a movie, with Kiko there curled up next to one or the other of us (or smack between us). If I write as if we were losing a member of our very small family, it's because we are.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zeno's Paradise

According to Blogger's Dashboard stats, this is Subway Rambler number 698. The number is probably a little off, since there are a few Ramblers sitting in the draft phase, and I did finally go ahead and delete the entry with the ultra-cheesecake photo of the pneumatic woman. It was a silly struggle with myself to do so, because I really do believe in standing by what I write - and keeping it in the 'public' record even after I've been proven wrong, either factually or morally. Of course, that was the most popular entry, months and months after it had been posted, and I finally decided - thanks to the continued contentious replies - that it went against one of my core blogging principles, which is not to write negatively about people. Maybe the tone of my original post wasn't 'negative' per se, but it certainly wasn't a Nobel Prize moment on my part, either.

Nonetheless, I'll take Blogger's count as the official one - unless someone out there has been keeping score at home? - which means that even with the depressingly sporadic posting this year, I've still racked up almost 160 entries. Not quite the equivalent of one Rambler every other day, and certainly far off the intended original mark of a daily Rambler, but, still: like everyone else, I've had the impression of the Rambler as being pretty much not even existing this year, and the idea that I've gotten it together enough even through the haze in my head to crank out 160 entries makes me feel a little better.

It's perhaps too soon for a postmortem on 2009 - I'll save that for the end of December or early 2010 - but it's safe to say that I've pretty much been in a funk so deep and drawn out this year that it has, at times, been indistinguishable from a state of shock. I've long struggled with anxiety and depression in my life - not to mention the maternal gift of an acerbic and pissy outlook and demeanor - so I've been taking a lot of extra energy just to maintain focus through this year, which has pwned me like no other. That energy first comes out of extraneous things, of which I considered the Rambler to be one.

Silly me, I forgot that writing the Rambler is actually an energizing exercise, so to not do it is to just feel that much lamer. That's not a promise to anyone that I will henceforth bring back the standards of quality and quantity that the Rambler set back in its halcyon days of 2007 and largely maintained through early 2009 - I've made such promises before and never seem to maintain them. But I can promise that there will continue to be... something here on a more than semi-regular basis, and that until you hear a statement otherwise, the Rambler shall sustain.

It should be noted that it was an email exchange with Walrus editor Ansley yesterday that spurred the theme of today's Rambler, to wit: "and if you're not rambling anymore... you can do a blog on walrus.. maybe
you can focus it to one theme.. like music or something.. specific to you."
My initial reaction was, of course, the usual mix of Kopperman guilt, denial, and offense, but then my brain started cycling and I wondered just what types of things I would write if I knew I had a larger audience. Turns out, pretty much the same kinds of things I write here, only (hopefully) more polished. Over the course of 700 entries, there's a few dozen that are essentially articles that are masquerading as journal entries. Or not - sometimes editing a piece for readability is far more difficult than just blurting it out in the first place. But it's nice to think that the Rambler has been good enough to have generated something like a 'best of,' so whatever Ansley and I both agree is worth reviving and revising, I'll let you know.

"Keep you posted," as it were.

The first resurrected piece - a ReRambler? - is already over at Walrus Comix, in their much nicer brand-new Wordpress relaunch. Through a comedy of errors, the piece went up unedited - Ansley thought I was saying "HERE! Publish THIS!," and I thought I was just saying, "Hey, this one might work if I polished it up." Anyway, it's such a minor entry that it's fine as is. Oh, what is it? A semi-review of Jack Kirby's comic adaptation of Kubrick's 2001. You'll find it HERE.

Also, a brand-new article - well, an unpublished and heavily revised 18-month old article - on the fairly recent phenomenon of comics being sold in bookstores and generally having a much higher and more positive cultural cache, which I proceed to find the grey cloud behind. (Excuse me, did I say 'comics?' Surely I meant graphic novels.) It's long and dry and essentially written as commentary on a situation that I'm presuming most readers would already be familiar with. But it does contain the phrase "nerdier than Bill Gates getting a handjob from a Honda Asimo while watching a Powerpoint presentation on 3D Hentai porn at SIGGRAPH," so there's a little something in it for everyone. Go HERE.

Also don't forget to visit the main page for lots of great content by people who are not me. I recommend Ansley's (Walrus and/or Hermit) Top 100 Songs of the 2000's and Bran's (Zeitgeisty) takedowns of pop-culture 'icons' (the Fame Hype articles, also on The Faster Times). Chances are good I'll keep that going for awhile, and I hope hope pray hope that I'll get the kroompst together to revive the Vomit Comics over there as well.

Curiously, I also wrote an expanded version of my brief Christmas Carol review from a couple of weeks back for the local paper (the one I provide layout for), and it's in this week's issue. Walrus did repost the original tossed-off version, so I'll see if they want to put up the extended remix.

At any rate, here we are, two Ramblers away from the semi-mystical number 700, and that seems like a nice milestone to reflect on, especially as it dwindles in the rearview mirror.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Okay - my last class was originally supposed to be this coming Monday, the 14th. Which means that the final exam - the big megillah - was going to be on that day. It was certainly going to be tight, and the professor crammed a lot of stuff in to the last three classes. But I was prepared to be prepared.

But last night, we found out that RCC had added another Monday to the schedule. Meaning that each student in class now has the option of either taking the test on the 14th (after an hour's review), or taking it on the 21st.

I'm honestly not sure what course of action I should take. I throw it to the room, then: opinions?


Friday, December 4, 2009

As if you cared...

...I'm just gonna say it: I think that Bing is the superior search engine to Google. It returns more on-topic searches, has a more intuitive refinement process, and it just looks better. In fact (and bear in mind that I write this using Google's "Blogger" tool), I generally think most of Google's products are kind of half-assed, that just barely do what they're designed to do, just to keep the Google brand alive to keep their core business running, which is in developing a monopoly on web advertising.

This is the failing of the economy of free - things look like shit and have minimal - one might say 'begrudging' - functionality. Welcome to the age of cloud computing. Fuckin' hooray.


Smooth-Talking Afghan

"There was order, yes, but there is order in a graveyard." - Said Jawad, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., on NPR's Morning Edition, responding to a question about the Taliban's ability to keep domestic peace vs. the chaos under the Karzai administration.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Blocking Bernanke

Interesting - I note that Bernanke's second term is meeting some resistance in the Senate. While I don't necessarily have all the tools to judge his performance one way or the other, I have to say that this is largely and obviously just a symbolic gesture. (Really, aren't they all?) This has much more to do with assuaging populist rage (a rage which I admittedly share) against the excesses of Wall Streeet than whether or not the man has done the correct things to sustain the type of Capitalist marketplace we supposedly favor in this country.

And while much has been made of the hypocritical behavior of the large financial institutions both wanting and needing Federal funds to stay afloat - 'Socialism!' scream the pundits - very little has been made of the similarly non-Capitalist idea among the general population that People. Need. To. Be. Punished.

Look. I have less than no love for the people in charge of these investment banks and the bloodthirsty culture they embody. In fact, I have no idea why anyone was surprised this has happened - if you've ever met an investment banker of this type, you know that the idea of jamming a room full of them could only result in and endless series of stupid and short-sighted decisions. But greed and idiocy aren't crimes in and of themselves. And it doesn't appear as if anything in the way of actual law-breaking occurred here. In fact, what was really proven to us yet again was that the idea of a marketplace as free as possible from 'Government Interference and Regulations! (scream the pundits)' is a danger to these institutions and to the economy as a whole.

So: this need for divine retribution is - while understandable - counterproductive and entirely misfocused. Much in the same way that the anger, fear and patriotic fervor post 9/11 was used to push the Iraq War through a Congress afraid of losing their seats on the populist tide, the anger and essential mistrust of 'Wall Street' that Americans feel is once again driving Congress to act rashly in response. And rather than looking inward for the strength to impose the strong regulations that our economic system needs to survive and thrive, they're instead once again burning a straw man in effigy. I guess, if I were to continue the Iraq analogy here, that Bernanke would be Hussein, and AIG would be Al-Qaeda, except in this case, Bernanke and AIG actually were working together after all.

Why I find all of it hypocritical on the part of the American people is in the weird application of morality to Capitalism. Look, it's pretty simple: Capitalism in it's rawest form is about as amoral as things get. You cannot hold those who operate within its structures accountable for doing things wrong that were not, in fact, 'wrong.' My friend Jim, when losing at Risk, has been known to declare a "nuclear strike!" and drop a heavy object on the board from a few feet above, scattering all the pieces and effectively ending the game. That's what the Bernanke confirmation kerfuffle is, really: the American people are a bunch of sore losers at the game of Capitalism and we want to completely ignore the rules and just have our satisfaction of watching other people squirm. Thing is, we're largely sore for the same reason Jim was when he was losing: we're lousy players.

As for Bernanke himself: very lucky for you that Bank of America announced early repayment of their stimulus funds today, sir. Yes, very lucky.