Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Here we are again.  Perhaps that's the royal we.

I think the time has come to write myself out of the funk I've fallen into over the last 18 months.  I had a lot of good reasons for falling into the funk.  Turning 40, marital woes, money and job concerns, school fright - you name it.  It all really boiled down to one thing, being a crisis of confidence.  Which is odd in some ways, since the reason I started the Rambler was to help rebuild my sense of self as an artist, and in that respect, it was an unparalleled success - I've never before felt the confidence I do now as an artist.  But I also have to admit that my confidence in every other area is lacking, as is my interest.

Interest is a crucial thing in maintaining a healthy and productive life.  'Going through the motions' is what they call it, otherwise, and that's as perfect a euphemism for masturbation as I've ever heard.

Anyway.  Time to get back into the grind of this thing.  Time to wrestle my brain back into shape and get my spirit looking away from its ectoplasmic feet.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom Day '11

Too nice a day and too much to do to add to the net-blather about What It All Means, today.  Sorry.

However, Yesenia is away for a week and classes just ended, so I'll no doubt have plenty to say, these next few days.  Stop on by.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Liberal Media, Pt. II

Very, very early on in the life of the Rambler, I wrote this as part of my manifesto for what the Rambler was going to be:

"1) I think the 'blogosphere' is going a long way towards demolishing what little remains of sense and politeness in political discourse that remains in our country ("What? A platform that instantly allows me to broadcast my drunken assertions across the worldinstantly? And ANONYMOUSLY?!? Fuckin' sign me up, dude!")

2) If there's one thing I've realized over the years, it's that there's nothing duller than listening to someone else's opinions as there is reading about them, at length. Especially mine."

All of which was my way of promising that the Rambler was never going to be a political blog, but also promising not to 'go negative.'  And I've held mostly true to that over the last four years and 800+ entries.  But the Dave that loves to opine about anything had to find another outlet, and forums were seemingly designed for that purpose.  The first part of "The Liberal Media" was getting to one of the core issues, that the personas we create online are exaggerated reflections of our selves, shaped entirely out of our opinions and assertions.

Almost as if on cue - because you know the universe does what it does only to make oblique comments about the observations in my blog - Osama bin Laden got whacked, and the internet was alive with the chatter of people disagreeing with each other, disagreeing with reality, and generally being disagreeable.  Myself included, wading into a couple of Facebook threads that questioned the truth of the news.

This is a 'thing' for me.  For reasons I can only guess at, I have a strong aversion to conspiracy theories.  That is to say, I know what it is that bothers me about them, but I don't know why it is.  But having someone repeatedly assert things (frequently in a pedantic manner, which behavior always seems to go hand-in-boot for people partial to conspiracy theories) that replace the historical narrative with a moonlit tale raises my ire like nothing else.  'Flames... flames...' as Madelene Kahn would say.  Seriously, it's embarrassing.  But there it is: I take it weirdly personally.

This didn't used to be the case.  Frank, the older brother of a friend of mine, used to keep me very entertained with his stories about how Clinton (Bill, that is) would use the Y2K disaster to have FEMA declare a state of national emergency so that he could remain in office.  True, this was a conspiracy theory about something that was going to happen, rather than a past event being questioned, but Frank generally played fast and loose with reality in a playful way, and it always seemed to me that his conspiracies, both past and future, were more lighthearted 'what-ifs' than dire dogma that needs to be told.

Of course, this was the 90's, and - let's face it - the stakes were far, far lower.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Liberal Media, Pt. I

Kurt Vonnegut at one point in one of his essays referenced the theories of a professor he studied with while in the anthropology department at the University of Chicago* was something called 'folk societies.'  The basic idea was that one of the reason that modern Americans (and given when Vonnegut was in school, 'modern' here probably means '1940') are so generally unhappy is that mankind evolved as a social creature, but one that is used to a small and manageable group.  Too many people in your tribe and suddenly you become disconnected and adrift.  Basically, modern society is a bummer and your'e always going to feel sad and alone.

Of course Vonnegut saw it in those terms.  He was wired to view things as pessimistically as possible and enjoyed being that way.  If nothing else, it was profitable.

But the real problem with a large society - 308 million of us here in America - is not the need you feel for yourself to be part of a group of sympathetic and friendly people (which is certainly a need I feel), but the need for others to find a group that they can easily file you away in and thereafter parse every action, reaction and emotion you display as being merely symptomatic of your 'type.'

Yes, I do this too.  Shorthand gets us through the day.  But it benefits no-one.  The internet, which is supposed to be the great uniter, allowing like-minded folk from Pascataway and Kalamazoo to spend all of their time socializing with each other and ignoring those real people around them who have nothing to offer save geographic proximity.

In the pre-Facebook days, forums and chat rooms filled the Folk Society bill.  Forums and chat rooms are generally set up around small and smaller slices of an already small demographic pie - that is, the pie of people who go on forums and chat rooms in the first place.  I've been a fully participating member (under my own name, no less) in three chorums over the years:

  • The John Byrne Forum (dedicated but not limited to discussions about mainstream comics and other geek culture);
  • The Comics Journal Forum (dedicated but not limited to discussions about why mainstream comics and other geek culture suck and also to flaming the living shit out of each other, now mercifully defunct);
  • The Walrus Comix Message Board (paradoxically dedicated to anything other than discussions about comics, mainstream or otherwise)

Of course, the logical hole in the middle of the forum/chat model is simply this: if everyone agreed with everyone else, there'd really be nothing to discuss, would there? "John was better than Paul."  "Oh, absolutely!" "..." "Great, well, nice meeting you."  So the smaller the demographic sample of the board, the larger the possibility that there will be people who participate merely to stir up shit.

On the Byrne board, which is policed pretty heavily, 'trolls' - lamest name ever, but there it is - are banned for violating any number of rules, sometimes on first offense.  On the TCJ forum, people were banned only very infrequently and after multiple violations/complaints.  On the WC board, no-one got banned, ever.  At least I don't think so.  Perhaps I will be corrected on this in the comments section?



*Please bear in mind that this is all straight from memory, so I'm sure that 95% of the facts are accurate, but I swear the gist is angled correctly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dusty in Here

That title is two things - both the usual meta-commentary as I come back to the Rambler after increasingly long leaves of absence, and also Dusty Springfield's follow-up to her 60's hit disc 'Dusty in Memphis.'  'Dusty in Here' turned out to not be nearly as good or as iconic, seeing as how - although it was outtakes from the Memphis sessions - it consisted entirely of the British chanteuse doing warm-up exercises and doing inaccurate and increasingly drunken impressions of Hubert Humphrey.

Be that as it may, the expanded Archival Edition CD comes highly recommended!  Five out of five, oh, let's say 'stars' and be done with this.

So, what's new in Daveland?  Not a whole heckuvalot.  Most of my time over the last few months has been dedicated to work and school, to the point where sometimes I look at a week ahead of me and get kind of daunted by the sheer amount of scheduling voodoo that I'll have to perform if I even want to do laundry.  Still, this past week I've finally started on the much-promised-to-Yesenia master bedroom renovation.  In any other house, it would be a simple (!) matter of throwing up some paint and changing the window treatments, but with the delaminating plaster ceiling and seriously, seriously drafty winters, everything must go!

Even then, I would have probably just patched the ceiling and let it be, but given that not one, not two, but three ceilings have collapsed in this house since 2007, I figured it was tempting fate to leave the clearly aching-to-fall 95-year-old ceiling over our bed alone.  So we've moved the mattress in the other room and are living like college students while I hack at things.

Then comes the insulation.  Then the drywall.  Then the plaster.  Then the masking.  Then the primer.  Then the painting.  Then the weeping.  Well, there's probably going to be weeping all along.  I'm so lazy.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ice Storm(s)

Sometimes I write these entries as a time capsule, just so I can look back at where I was and what was happening in the world around me on such and such a date.  Today, well - second day of a storm that apparently pummeled large parts of the country.  Yesterday was snow, and today it was freezing rain. We did our best to get the ice off the ground, and the weather was warm enough that we were able to get most of it.  But the corpse of all the previous snowstorms - one a week, seemingly every Wednesday - made it difficult to find anyplace to put it.  The ice had sealed up the mountains of snow on either side of the driveway, and the new stuff threatened to slide off without finding purchase.

I went into work around noon, and no-one in my department was there.  Very dreamlike, with the whole building only about one quarter populated.  I stole down to the kitchen just before it closed and had soup and sandwich, sitting alone in the corner of the empty cafeteria, alternately looking off into the snowy woods and back at the looped footage of whip-wielding pro-Mubarak supporters on horseback galloping through the crowded Cairo square, the mob parting biblically down the middle away from the breaking wave of the whiplash.  Twelfth-Century News via satellite.

Back upstairs, I wrestled with a few designs - one for an expo booth, one for a box carrying cans of touch-up paint.  The Rockland Community College website said I should check back at 3 PM to see if classes would be on this evening.  Last week's class - the first of the semester - had been cancelled due to snow.  And so was tonight's, as it turns out.

Yesenia was supposed to go back to work on the first, but the two-day storm kept her home, well past the point at which she was ready to get the hell out.  These extra two days were, as they say, a bummer.  But she's going back tomorrow, and thrilled to finally be let loose.  She made pizzas tonight, and then we settled in the living room in front of the fire and watched The Lovely Bones, which had been lurking in our Blockbuster pile for a couple of weeks.

And now the last embers of the fire are nearly gone, a dim red.  Yesenia has printed out her monthly rail pass, and is in bed, and I'm going to poke down the ashes and join her.  Goodnight.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

While Away

The 853rd snowstorm of the season is currently blowing through town - it's a two-parter, with snow today and ice tomorrow.  I'm still at the office, but it's emptied out like a ghost town and I'll be heading out shortly, myself.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reversal of Borg

I have to go back on anything I've previously written on the Rambler that might cast aspersions on the quality of the fourth Star Trek series (well, fourth-and-a-half), Voyager.  It had a rougher start than some of the other shows, and the ensemble had weaker links than the other series, particularly among the male actors - Garrett Wang and Robert Beltran are probably the most wooden actors in the entire franchise.

But the rest of the cast is excellent, with particular mention of Robert Picardo (as the doctor) and Jeri Ryan, who can seriously act.  Of course, Jennifer Lien, who played the previous blonde eye candy Kes, also had some real acting range, but the writers never seemed to know what to do with the character.  They saddled themselves with Kes from the start with the usual new-agey space chick that Marina Sirtis had as Troi on Next Generation, but Troi was at least an adult with a specific agenda, while Kes was three years old (her species only lives nine years) and written with a constant sense of awe that grated after awhile.  I should say that I liked the character a lot -and the actress even more - but they wrote themselves into a corner with her and couldn't seem to get out of it, no matter what they tried.

The Kes problem boiled down to giving her no real interests and zero potential conflict.  Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine, on the other hand, is a much more interesting character from the start, laced with classic lines and enough built-in conflict (thanks to about a decade's worth of Borg continuity from TNG) to keep her and stories that centered on her tight and entertaining.  The character also was able to embody the Kes traits that made her unique among the crew, with technobabble versions of new age abilities and an outsiders child-like take on human interaction, with Seven being emotionally arrested at the age at which she had been assimilated, around six.

At any rate, Yesenia and I have just completed the obnoxiously difficult-to-acquire* fifth season of Voyager, and it stands with the top seasons of any Trek series - I don't think there's a bad episode the entire season, and even the weaker entries are redeemed by nice character bit, vastly improved, cinema-quality FX (the FX on the series had been seriously weak for the first three years) that still hold up impressively, a strong set of background elements to work with such as Tom Paris' Flash Gordon-like holodeck adventure, filmed in black & white, no less.

Overall, the level of adventure, wit, invention and charm on the series reached a high point and then plateaued there for a full year.  I hear that seasons six and seven are equally good, so I very much look forward to getting seriously lazy in front of the TV with them shortly.


*While all of the original Star Trek and Enterprise are available to watch for free online (over at, none of the 90's era Treks are streaming anywhere.  A brief search online doesn't seem to indicate that it's currently being aired anywhere in syndication - which would be a moot point since we don't have cable anyway.  And our usual method of getting entertained is through Blockbuster Online, which completely failed to deliver on this season after getting us the first four.  Thankfully, I bitched about it one day at work and a coworker was kind enough to grab it from her local library - which may be one of the nicest things anyone has done for me without a previous history.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


After a really grand month of classic - vintage, even - fires, we seem to have gotten a bad batch of wood.  The kind that's more interested in smoking and glowing and slowly reducing to ash over the course of several hours rather than actually sending up flames.  Perhaps the fireplace is trying to tell us something?

I have to say that these days/nights in front of the fire have been some of my favorite spent in the house.  Admittedly, sitting for hours on end in front of a fireplace isn't exactly the most productive use of time - but the laptop allows for any number of inert activities, some of which are active (website construction, for example) and many of which are passive (we just spent our Friday evening watching various content delivered via Hulu, DVD & the WB site).  

Tomorrow, I have a split media day, with the bulk of the morning/afternoon given over to drawing the next David Greenberger comic, and the evening being a recording session.  I wonder if I can do all of that in front of a fire?  I can try.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Snow is Showing

Fuuuuuuuuh.  I can't be alone in thinking that we've already had enough snow for January.  I like me some snow, but I like it parceled out, like indian dinners.  Too much of either in too short a time and either your spine or your ass will be hurting.

But, anyway.  It's winter, and that's what we get: snow, or the dreaded 'wintery mix,' which sounds sort of like some godawful party snack involving Rice Chex and peppermint bark.

Yesenia and I have been meeting the weather in our usual January fashion - a Star Trek marathon.  Right now, we're about two-thirds of the way through Voyager's fifth season, which has been remarkably strong.  And I had a moment where I felt a deep pride in Yesenia: while watching a flashback in an episode detailing the adventures of a family of scientists about a quarter-century earlier - I had to pause it and ask Yesenia what was wrong with what we were watching.  She paused for a moment, and said, 'The Federation didn't know about the Borg, then!'

I do love my wife...


Sunday, January 23, 2011


Alright - it's literally like finishing the NYC Marathon sometime in mid-December, but this entry is the Rambler pulling itself past yet another (and increasingly abstract) milestone.  The 8ooth Rambler!  What does it mean?

- Chances are good it means nothing, but you might want to check your shoes
- That tickle at the back of your calf is impetigo
- HTML5 is done - welcome to HTML7 (HTML6 was still sleeping)
- Feel the heat, burning you up from inside
- Feel the heat, burning you up - ready or not!
- All those Rambler commemorative collector's plates you bought back in 2007 will stop dropping in value.*

*Not because the plates will increase in value, but because they are literally now worth $0.00, and therefore cannot drop any further.  There will be a quarterly 'ownership' charge that you will now be obligated to pay for continued ownership.  It is a federal felony to attempt to dispose or divest yourself of the plates in any way, including defenestration, regifting or drunken skeet-shooting.

Anyway, I'm back to coding for the next couple of hours, then going bowling, so I'll leave you to enjoy your soup.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coding by Firelight

Yesenia is crocheting herself a scarf, and I'm digging through the set up for the online store for a client, while a fire pulses and warms in the fireplace.  The cats are completely fascinated by this, of course, but since we've been throwing these displays pretty regularly over the last month, we've satisfied for ourselves that they know well enough to not actually go into the fireplace - like all animals, they like fire at a perfectly comfortable distance.

Yesenia and I take turns feeding and poking the fire (for that matter, we take turns feeding and poking the cats), but Yesenia is definitely the pro.  She makes a nice, classic fire.  Must be part of that cooking & baking skill set...


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rock Sucks, and Then You Die

Watched 'The Runaways' on DVD the other day, and talk about a missed opportunity.  Performances were good, and somewhere in there is a good story.  But the film was directed as if Floria Sigismondi saw Oliver Stone's Doors biopic and thought that every rock movie had to be an endless stream of drug-addled slo-mo and sound collage.  I would probably blame the scriptwriter, but she takes that role as well, so (as Tom Lerher would say), who deserves the credit?  Who deserves the blame?  Floria Sigismondi is her name.  Her first film, too.

I'd like to recommend it on the strength of the brave performances by the girls, particularly Dakota Fanning, but there's just nothing there for them to latch on to, no story, no emotional core, no nothing.  Pfft.

Great music, though.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Official Day of Nuttin

For some reason, my Sundays for the last couple of weeks have fallen into a sort of shadow state - like reset mode, or a living blue screen (although not of death).  Yesenia says it's because of the winter, and she may have a point.  True or not, I hope to rally shortly, since Sundays are the only day I really have to do what I want with, and I'm sure it doesn't say great things that what I want to do with them is veg out.

And I'm not even a football fan...


The Ides of January

Late night drive up the Palisades Parkway - late night for me, at any rate.  Funny how, as you get older (or busier), the concept of 'late' seems to get earlier and earlier.  Probably 15 minutes for every year of your life.  When you're 18, 'late' is 5 a.m., whereas now, I start to get itchy at around 11:30, if I know there's even a slight drive ahead of me.

Admittedly, winter adds its own handicap to the schedule.  I hardly want to leave the house in cold weather, much less be social and have to cross state lines.

Had a pleasant day, though.  Got a little bit done around the house.  Cleaned up the recycling, which had fallen behind by a week because of the storm and was taking over both the front porch and the kitchen counter.  After that, headed over to Amy's (The Tappan Sea singer) house to do a little recording which was a lot of mellow fun, then home and into the city for dinner with friends, which was also mellow fun.  Mellower than usual, since those dinners tend toward the drunk and loud end of the spectrum, but circumstances, shall we say, have changed.

And now I'm home, and it's time for me to get into a warm bed with my wife (or is that climb into bed with my warm wife?), and maybe watch us some TV, snuggle for warmth, and fall asleep.  Winter does have its compensations.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tron 2.0.2

I've now caught Tron Legacy twice, now - first time midnight Imax showing to a packed house, tonight in a multiplex over in Port Chester.  What can I say?  I really dig this film, which to me is a tightly constructed and thoughtful piece of filmmaking.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peppermint Infusion in a Budweiser Mug

That pretty much sums up the spirit of these January evenings.  Picture me sitting in the living room, hunched over the laptop with a mug of not tea, trying to sort through code and just sighing often at the mass delusion that is the concept of the absolute superiority of open source.

I'm about a week out from the full resumption of my scheduled rounds, with class beginning on the 22nd, so I've been trying to take advantage of the time I have now to finish up a couple of larger freelance web projects.  Currently, I'm in the process of trying to install a shopping cart on a client's site.  Actually, I have installed it, but it won't let me log in to the installed site, which renders the installation somewhat moot.  I might as well have installed gold bars into a safe and then dropped the safe into Mount Doom, for all of the use this is.

I realize that an increasingly large percentage of the Ramblers over the course of 2009 - 2010 were about this subject - the basic annoyance-tinged ennui that coding fills me with - and I apologize.  What it reflects is the vast increase in web construction I've had to do in that time.  Weird to by default find yourself at least partly in a career you have no real fealty towards.  Like most things that I've stumbled into - pretty much my entire life, including marriage and home-ownership - I've found the only way to make things work is to double down on the aspects you do well and try not to fuck up the things that don't come naturally.

With web design, that means helping clients organize their site under clear and accessible navigation (so many more sites are poorly structured than poorly designed, and it's in knowing the difference that's important).  Oddly, I'm better at architecture than design - I feel my designs are 'there' about 60% of the time, but my instincts for what makes a site navigable are strong.  It's odd not just because I'm a graphic designer, so you'd think that would be the bit I was good at.  It's odd because I'm such a disorganized slob in real life.  But I do have a knack for web architecture.  If only we really did live in the matrix, perhaps I wouldn't have such a hard time finding things in my house.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Although the snow itself was done before we got up this morning, I actually had the day off from work - but I did and do have some work that I brought home.  Most of the day was given over to sitting on the couch and trying to work, and discovering once again that a laptop in a living room in front of the fire is not nearly as conducive to a good work ethic as one would hope.  Really, I blame the laptop.  Good for typing, not for heavy-duty design.

That makes three fairly substantial snowfalls in as many weeks, which is a step up from last year's paltry winter showing.  We shoveled out pretty quickly today, which at least gave the feeling of having accomplished something.  If you have to shovel over a foot of snow, it's best that it's the light, dry kind.

That sounds like it has some kind of hidden meaning, doesn't it?


The Wind in the Door

232.  297.  171.  82.

Those numbers represent chronologically the rise and fall of the Subway Rambler, my own contribution to the blog space.*  They pretty much also chart the trail of my emotional life over the last four years - probably the most eventful of my life, in many ways.  Although that '82' is somewhat misleading, since it makes it seem like 2010 was the most dire of the years, which isn't true - 2009 takes that crown handily.  2010 was mostly a time of - I'm not going to say 'healing,' but my ass was certainly sling-bound metaphorically for much of the latter half of the year - and that's where things really trailed off.

September through December 2010 was pretty much the busiest I've ever been in my entire life - engaged in full-time work, a raft of freelance and a semester of Calculus.  As is the case with work and school, things got tighter and tighter on both fronts.  Also, I turned 40 in November and rather egotistically insisted on rehearsing three of my own bands to play at my party. Bear in mind that the band with no name had lost our singer back in February, which made that a big if.

And the Rambler - which, in the past, was the release valve - ended up getting the short straw.

But much of what 2010 was about was laying groundwork for the future - and here we are in the future.  I made it through the gauntlet of critical work overload and everyone was mostly happy (the two freelance clients I wasn't keeping happy I opted to simply cut loose, which goes against my ethical code but was necessary for my sanity); I managed to get through Calculus - 'THE Calculus,' if you please - with a seemingly impossible B+ (it took a small army of mathematicians to drive the material into my numerically resistant brain); the birthday party bands (and the party itself) went far better than I'd hoped - and there's video to prove it.

Of course, the groundwork is about what's coming up.  I continue to work, which had been in doubt for some parts around the middle of 2010.  Having passed Calculus, I can now get back to Physics, with classes beginning on the 22nd.  And, miracle of miracles, as a by-product of my drive to have some version of my actual band - now named The Tappan Sea - play at the party, we ended up finding probably the most perfect fit for a singer.  Meaning that all things that I thought were big, gray question marks last year are now answered to my great satisfaction.  And all three will be less difficult to manage individually, and as a whole.

Which means that - hopefully - the Rambler can now come back online in something resembling a regular schedule.  Looking back over some of the 782(!) posts from the last four years, there was a point where I'd gotten polished enough to have the Rambler be genuinely entertaining.  I don't know that I'll be able to get back to those heights any time soon.  But I consider it enough that I write here - my original mission was just to write and not worry about what came out.  Above, I described the Rambler as a release valve.  So we're back to mostly steam while I get my mental house in order.  Apologies, and please bear with me.

If there are any of you left out there: welcome back.


*Note that I refuse to use the term 'blogosphere,' if only because I think that describes the ouroboros of politically themed blogs.  The Rambler is just my brain eating itself.