Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wait For It

In the middle of yet another long wait - this seems to be the structure of my life, now.  You've done what you can, and now you just have to sit tight.

In the meantime, I always do my best to fill time with things to do.  And then I wonder why I always feel so down when I finish up.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cape May Memories

Sketch that I did when Yesenia & I went down to Cape May the week after Memorial Day.  My wife is a beautiful, sexy and very patient woman.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I Won't See

People keep asking me if I'm going to see Prometheus, Ridley Scott's new not-really-but-actually-yes prequel to Alien.  And I keep telling them that I won't.  There are a number of issues at play here, not least of which was that the original film was one of the taboo films of my childhood and established firmly that horror is not for me.

But now I'm an adult, and the type of horror that Scott dishes out is well within my tolerances.  So the real answer to the question of why I won't see Prometheus boils down to this: I think Scott is a lousy director.  He is simply not for me, and had made his way onto the list of directors whose films I avoid, simply because I know what he does and I don't think it's much good.

The main thing about his films is that they're astoundingly stupid.  Stylish and trying to talk about big issues, but talking about them in a brain-dead, half-drunk way, like a really handsome, well-dressed guy who got into college on a football scholarship taking his first Philosophy survey but only capable of processing the ideas as 'cool' on a stoner level.

Really, is there anyone out there that thinks Thelma & Lousie is an important feminist statement?  Or G.I. Jane?  It's quite telling that the lead player in most of Scott's films over the last decade has been professional belligerent manmeat Russel Crowe, a decent actor who clearly isn't nearly as deep as he desperately wants to be in real life.  Which is why he throws phones at people and threatens to beat up awards show producers who cut off his poetry reading.

There you go: an adult male who flies into a violent rage because he isn't allowed to finish reading a poem on a TV show in between the awards for best on-screen kiss and best sound editing.  That is pretty much the way I feel about Ridley Scott movies, in a nutshell.  When actual adults start making real science-fiction movies, maybe I'll go see them.  Until then, I'll stick with the kids films.  At least they know they're for kids.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Needed That

Ahhhhh.  Today is the last day of a week's vacation that Yesenia and I took off together.  Nothing major - started with a nice party at the house (our first party party in over a year!) on Sunday, then a lovely breakfast with John and gf Johanna on Monday - they took advantage of the guest bedroom... well, guest office with air mattress.  Then mostly lazy stuff, with a nice trip down to Cape May and a stroll down the nicely uncrowded Ocean City boardwalk on the way back.  Perfect weather, no crowds - almost a science-fiction version of the Jersey Shore.

Friday began the actual recording of the much-anticipated (only by me, but still) lost Copper Man album, Americana.  This is the project that's going to occupy much of my summer and at least a few hours of the summer of as many musicians as I know who are willing to do it.  As usual, great drummers are easy for me to come by, but guitarists are thin on the ground.  Still, given the more stripped down sound I'm going for with this, I can handle all of the rhythm guitar work and bass, and hopefully be able to drop in the ringers strategically for the three or four songs that could really use that extra guitar polish.

As mentioned, as one half of the pair of great drummers, Sean trouped in and delivered three outstanding tracks.  This being the first time Sean was exposed to the direct Dave Kopperman arrangement process - a mixture of snarky comments and completely indecipherable directives - the fact that he was able to turn in such great performances even with me as an obstacle is nothing short of miraculous.

Three songs down, twenty to go.

Saturday, Yesenia and I took a shortish-longish drive up to Highland Mills to visit a winery, one of our more favorite types of day-killers.  As we stood at the bar in the shop, making our way through the tasting flight, Yesenia asked me (not unbidden) when I had become such a wine snob.

Well, I said, it was the one-two punch of our trips together to Napa and Mendoza.  Would she want me any other way?  

She said no.  I wanted to follow up and ask her if she wanted me the way I already am, but I didn't feel like pressing my luck.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Here Comes Nothing

How does one prepare for the first paid vacation in years?  I'd like to know, as next week is such an event - really, the first time I've been able to take actual paid time off in so long that I hesitate to even say.  Let's say 2007, although given that the ad agency was already pretty spotty at that point, it never really felt like I was on vacation.

Now, I can leave and other people will pick up the slack.  How sweet is that?  I wonder if I remember how to relax...


Thursday, May 17, 2012

More or Less More

Been attempting to gear up for recording, which (if you'll recall) is a big part of this year's creative agenda.  That is, the agenda is to actually be creative, which can sometimes fall by the wayside when you're focusing on other things.  One of the things about recording, though - while I've done plenty of the 'one man band' types of things that multitrack recording allows, I find these days I much prefer producing music as a collaborative activity.

And there's the rub: all of my collaborators have schedules that I - and they - could only describe as 'insane.'  One of the predictable byproducts of the recession is how much more companies are trying to get out of their current stable of employees, and with Edz, the drummer for both the Tappan Sea and Dave solo stuff (same person, of course) currently working nights and Saturdays, the actual creative agenda for the year hasn't quite been able to get off the ground.*

I've been able to use the time to get my own stuff in order - polishing off songs that have sat with unwritten lyrics; sussing out the pool of musicians to get some nice instrumental overdubs when the time comes; etc.  But at some point, you need the energy that comes from actually starting work, and I'm itchy. No doubt about it.

Anyway, Edz will become available in a couple of weeks, and I'm also going to track a few of the solo songs with Sean on drums shortly, so that's sorting itself out.  Oddly, I've always found strong drummers easy to come by.  It's the lack of available guitar players that's always been my achilles' carpal tunnel syndrome. What's that about?


*A note of explanation, if you need: drums generally come first in multitrack recording.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Well Day

Took the day off from work this morning - was not feeling well, and figured that one of the benefits of being a full-timer is that I now don't have to risk getting other people sick.  Corporations like freelancers for the obvious reason that they save them money on benefits and the like, but a way that freelancers cost companies money is in the fact that since a freelancer gets paid hourly and doesn't get paid if they don't work - no paid sick days, in other words - a freelancer is way more likely to show up to work if they're sick, and then get all of their co-workers sick.

It's all about man-hours, people.

Back in 2010, there was a freelancer who came in complaining that her husband had some viral infection that wouldn't go away and doctors couldn't quite identify it.  Then she proceeded to come in for the next few days with an increasingly alarming cough that gradually evolved into a full-on hacking one.  And she was in the cube next to mine, which put me in a dilemma - if I got as sick as she was, would I also insist on coming in, seeing as how Yesenia and I were both working through spotty part-time work at that point?  The answer is a resounding yes.

Thankfully, I didn't catch it, and I didn't have to make that choice.  Today I can make the more ethical choice, which, if you extrapolate out to a silly degree, probably proves the idea that moral standards are a luxury of the rich, and everyone else just has to play along.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama Over the Rainbow

If this isn't an historical day, I'm not sure what would constitute as such: the President of the United States expressing support for gay marriage.  Yes, you can say that it's a long way from doing anything about it, and yes, it comes a day after North Carolina has amended their constitution to explicitly ban it.  But it's pretty impressive nonetheless.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Suckfest '95

Your Weekend Listening
"Empty House"
ca. 1995

A few entries back, I mentioned that I came across a treasure trove (well, some kind of trove) of old four-tracks, from 2000-thereabouts.  Sadly, this isn't from that.  I haven't yet gotten the energy together to spin up the old Tascam Porta-One and the Alesis Multimix Firewire 16-channel.  Also, I haven't gotten drunk enough yet.

Those recordings were pretty good - some interesting, quirky songs that showed the mix of influences I'd had on my writing in the last half of the 90's, decent enough playing and engineering that at least showed a minimal awareness of what EQ ranges might not curdle one's tympanic membrane.

Today's entry shows none of that.  It's a shitty song with lousy playing and engineering that checks every single box on the 'How Not to Engineer a Home Recording' list.  But I present it here as a reminder of how you can delude yourself into feeling that the work that you're producing at this moment - any moment - is worth your time.

The best weapon against not sucking for posterity is to find a way to apply some kind of objective criteria.  Measure yourself against it.  Is the beat iffy?  Is the guitar out of tune?  Are the lyrics insipid?  Is the mic, as they say, 'hot'?  You've got ears and a brain - use them, and don't be afraid to give yourself a hard time.

I don't really have anything of interest to say about the song itself.  I had completely forgotten or purged the memory of its existence until a couple of years ago, when I was importing a bunch of old four-tracks from Ansley and Bran from 1995 or so, and this turned up in-between a couple of their songs, buried deep in a decaying cassette master.

The only real shame is that whatever minor listenability the song might have had is completely hampered by the godawful engineering.  The reason that piercing electric guitar drowns out the mildly inoffensive acoustic is that they had been bounced onto the same track, and the effects were live to tape, so there's no un-crapping it.  Ditto the overdriven vocal.  Just basic issues of setting levels, not even dealt with.  I suspect that even when it was fresh, I didn't think much of it, given the half-assedness of it and the fact that I never mixed it down.

So, that's now rectified - but as a warning to myself, not a presentation for you.  Feel free to listen.  I challenge you to enjoy.


P.S.: Christ, but that bridge is awful.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Thoughts of Monday

Really don't have much on the brain today - Yesenia had drinks in the city with a friend, and when she got home, we had a late dinner of pancakes and sausage.  Pancakes and sausage at 8:30 PM on a Monday - it's the type of thing you only do if you're an adult or if you're a kid in a John Hughes movie.

Right now, we're tangled on the couch, with me blogging (obviously) and Yesenia crocheting yet another in her insanely good baby blankets.  When she does so, she occasionally sings and hums little snippets of Spanish music.  Add that in with the digesting breakfast/dinner, and it's all very good for feeling completely content, but probably not so good for spurring the mind into thoughts worth recording.

And, yes - the sausage was vegetarian, of course.  Even when I did eat meat, I never did like sausage, so I can honestly say that this stuff is way better than the real thing.  Mostly, meat substitutes fail when they try to be like meat, but let's face it - the stuff that's in real sausage is far enough away from actual meat for the most part that going that extra step and leaving meat behind altogether is a plus.

If you try it, I strongly recommend the chipotle.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday, Muddy Sunday

One of the things I like about life in the suburbs is the rhythm (or rut) that you fall into when you've managed to tamp down a lot of the bigger problems.  Yes, it's always nice to have a schedule, sometimes to distract from aggravation, sometimes to give form to aimlessness, sometimes to allow you to prioritize time when time itself is a rare commodity.  But there's a special kind of pattern that emerges when you don't have too much to do and you don't have to bury yourself in freelance work to make ends meet, or anything else that adds negative energy to your life.

Yesterday was a good case in point.  The master bedroom is certainly a major project that needs to be finished (for the record, initial demolition on the room started around this time last year, so it's been officially too long). We're at the plastering stage, and it's obviously the kind of work that's more tedious and time-consuming than it is difficult.  But tedious and time-consuming aren't a real problem for me - it's experiencing them solo. Standing on a ladder for hours ladling goop on the ceiling with only the radio for company is a drag.

So I finally thought to ask people to come and help me complete it.  Sean Scorsone was the first of invitees to donate his time, and there are currently two more lined up (Jim and Karl) - not quite enough to finish it, but enough people and man-hours to get over a big hump of crap.  And it was actually fun, in that whitewash the fence kind of way.

Afterwards, Bran came by and Yesenia cooked pizza and the four of us ate, and drank and kibitzed and then the three musicians jammed for a little while.  And it was just a good evening.  Homemade pizza is the new Saturday tradition, and I always enjoy eating, drinking and jamming, in no particular order.  And today is the laundry and housecleaning day - housecleaning and laundry float from Friday to Sunday, depending on what else needs to be done.

And everything is nice and relaxed and fun.  Soon, we're heading out to buy (among other things) new cushions for the porch chairs so that the Summerporch can begin.  Which is niceness and relaxedness and fun given physical form.

Summer breeze makes me feel fine, don't you know.  With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard - now, everything is easy because of, etc.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Wuz Here

So, I got this in the inbox, yesterday:

You are receiving this message because your email address is associated with an unmigrated legacy Blogger account. As we announced in April of last year, legacy accounts will no longer be accessible after May 30th, 2012 unless they are updated to the Google Account system. Any blog content associated with this account will also be unmodifiable after that date.

Etc.  Which is fine.  It's Google's free blogging software, and Google is primarily in the business of data-farming, and it's obviously much harder for them to farm data from email addresses that aren't provided by them - at least harder legally, if not technically.  They're Google, they can do pretty much anything on the internet that's possible to do.  They built the place, after all.

Thing is, the account the Rambler is currently tied to is my account from the old Copper Man website, which has since become my own website, for reasons having more to do with legacy and laziness than anything tangible and practical.  So when Google comes and says 'you can't login as Copper Man, anymore,' it seems like much more of a personal statement, if not an outright affront.

Is it silly to be more iffy about the idea of having my login change to a Google account for personal reasons than for issues of privacy?  Maybe.  There was a time when it would have been the other way around, but I guess I've started to adopt the millennial mindset about the new notion of privacy and online identity.  

If you need that spelled out for you, it's that people my age and older are generally more suspicious (and quite rightly) about both the blatant and subtle loss of privacy that comes with the age of digital/social networking.  People who are younger are more interested in finding ways to somehow stand out in the stream, and for people who are even younger, the idea of privacy, and increasingly, ownership of content, is falling into the past.  

One of the new tools that Google is offering - Drive, an online file-sharing/cloud service similar to Dropbox - has as one of its agreement points wording that implies that whatever you upload there, Google has the right to use.  Wording and discussion here.  It reads more like a Creative Commons copyright line than anything else.

This is the world we're in, now, rather than the world where everybody busts a blood vessel when John Lennon is used to advertise Nikes.  It's all grist for the mill, and I suppose Blogger, like Facebook and every other social networking site in which I participate can claim some sort of ownership of the content I've created over the years.  I've never not known this.  So why should I care if the name and the little creative avatar I've defined for myself digitally is no longer the literal key to this door through which I communicate with the world?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'll Have What I'm Having

The last two or three days have been highlighted - more like lowlighted - by a huge wave of enervation.  Which actually may be the result of an outside agency, and not just me getting mopey.  Most likely, it's the pollen.  Either that, or I've suddenly got mono, which would be really odd.  I can't remember - does mono leave you glassy-eyed and feeling like you're just one sneeze away from either waking up or going to sleep at any moment?

Yesterday, I woke up when I heard Yesenia leaving for work, but 'woke up' is far too strong and definitive a term for what actually happened, which was more like slowly seeping into my body from somewhere else and not quite being able to operate it properly.  I tried to say 'love you,' but couldn't even muster a grunt.  Now that's beat.

Hopefully, it will pass in time for the weekend.  Not that I've got anything going on, but I hate to be sick on a weekend just on principle.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shedding Skin

Today is a pretty eventful chapter in Spring Cleaning 2012 - to the point where this year's cleaning is turning out to be the largest decision pool of stuff being removed probably since we moved into Beadboard Manor a little under 10 years ago.

On today's docket is the cleaning of Yesenia's closet and dresser, which had gotten to the point where we could no longer find a place to put any of the clean clothes once folded and/or hangered.  Which isn't to say that my own wardrobe couldn't stand a purging, but while mine is merely bulging, Yesenia's was knocking out rivets and through drawer bottoms.

It's also a little easier for me to find space my stuff, since I do all the laundry.  With Yesenia's clothes, I'm already a a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to deciding where things go.  But that's moot, since there's no space left for things to go anywhere, anyhow, so even if I decided to start hanging t-shirts and wadding up corduroy skirts with the socks, I couldn't follow through.

We're at the completely emptied out point, with all of the keep/toss/donate decisions taken care of, and the donated clothes sitting in bags by the front door.  The shoes have gone back into the closet, and next up is the most tedious task of putting everything else away.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Hating to be Right

Well, the third major bit of malware in just a few weeks has turned up for Macs, and I'm philosophical about it.  It wasn't that it was necessarily hubristic of Apple to use the lack of viruses and virus-like things on the Mac to sell them, but in typical Apple fashion, the selling went beyond the obvious point and tried to make some universal, unchanging truth out about it.  "Mac's don't get viruses, and never will!", went the ad.  Okay.  I didn't believe it then, and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, presumably brought by the chickens when they came home to roost.

Oh, and the 'obvious point' being that the primary reason Windows machines were targeted while Macs weren't was that Macs only represented about 5% of the worldwide market at the time, and Microsoft was the big evil giant.  Now, even though Mac hasn't really gained much PC market share, Apple has become such a dominant tech leader and done enough of the other kind of stuff that pisses off hackers that we are a target.  Yay?

It's certain to drop off as Apple moves away from making computers to being a manufacturer of consumer mobile devices and similar things.  It's not a big surprise - they've created the market so they could dominate it, and it will be the close of a long game they were playing, starting with their release of iTunes in January of 2001.  In many ways, Apple was leveraging their hardcore supporters to bring in new ones, but what's the point of a business if it can't grow?  I'm largely unmoved by the as-yet realized potential of their iPhone/iPad things, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the complete brilliance of the decade-long set-up and pitch salesmanship that Jobs and Co. ran.  It's not the long con, since they delivered the future they promised.

Presumably the endgame features something close to a completely curated web experience, one that minimizes time spent outside of services and entertainment provided by the App Store and iTunes and iBooks and whatever else there is.  I think that's the part of the plan that won't really ever be realized, especially with Jobs out of the picture, and it also means that the mobile devices will be prime targets for hackers.

Sure, they'll still keep making computers, but their market will be focused on the core users that kept them going all those years, high-end creative professionals.  I actually maintain hope that they'll start breaking the iPads out into class, much like their current computers, with a consumer-friendly model and a maxed-out professional version.  An iPad will only be of use to me if I can create on it with the same tools and same ease as the current five-year-old laptop I'm writing this on, but I suspect it's going to be awhile.

In the meantime, I'll play malware dodge'em, and try not to click 'okay' on weird popups.


Sunday, April 15, 2012


Weekends heading into Spring are still an adjustment.  Away from the nesting instinct of Fall and Winter, but still not quite driven by the desire to get out and absorb all of the vitamin D and ultraviolet radiation your body can handle.  Being as I'm whiter than white and already have things on me that I should get a good dermatologist to look at, I try to stay as much out of the sun as possible even when I'm in it.  But we're not at that time of the year, yet.

So today is a day of more cleaning, inside and out, and a time when the two divided spaces seem to blend a bit.  The plants went out to the porch, and the windows were opened.  The laundry went up on the line for the first time this year, and were it not for the threat of possible rain and the clouds blotting much of the direct sunlight, they'd come in all completely dry.  As it is, the t-shirts and blouses and even the jeans all were dry to the touch after an hour - just those heavier clothes and some synthetics take more time to dry.  That's okay - a quick tumble in the dryer on what they call the 'touch-up cycle' and we're good to go.

Some people take Spring more seriously, I suppose.  Yesenia is having a last local visit with a couple that's pulling up and moving to Asheville, North Carolina.  Which, by the way, looks fucking beautiful.  I'll have to see if we can take a drive there sometime.  The South is kind of starting to open up in that way - as time passes, more and more friends and acquaintances have spread themselves out down the Eastern seaboard.

But that's a trip for a future Spring.  The time frame that Spring seems most in tune with is 'now.'  Fall is about the past, and Winter is about the future, but Spring and Summer have the retention and judgement of a small child - everything is happening for the first time, and it will only go on forever.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Cage Match

In preparation for the half-takeover of the basement by my father and stepmother, dad and I went a couple of rounds about how the space should be laid out and such.  Thing is, our differences aren't that great, but it feels like we're almost prepared to argue going in to it, so argue we must.  Anyway, the arguing was mild as such things go, and I'm pretty confident that everyone is going to get what they want out of this... which, paradoxically, is what I want.


Old Time Religion

I've often wondered why Christians don't make a bigger fuss about the portrayal of Easter in the public sphere, the way we always hear talk about 'The War on Christmas,' or endless rants about how the true meaning of Christmas is lost under all the tinsel and Santa stuff.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Easter more important than Christmas in Christian theology?  It's not like people are worshiping Christ because He managed to be born - no matter how that's presented in scripture, just being born isn't all that big a deal.  Sure, it's a miracle, but it's the same miracle that every single other person who ever lived has also pulled off.  On top of that, being born just kind of happens to you, whether you choose it or not.

The Easter holiday, on the other hand, features a whole slew of impressive bits, from stunning acts of heroism and self-sacrifice to outright resurrection from the dead.  And everything that the religion is all about is tied up in the three day window of Good Friday to Easter - Jesus died for the sins of all mankind and then actually came back from the dead to show His disciples that death itself had been conquered, and that all who believed in Him would similarly be granted an eternal life in paradise.

Without Easter, in other words, Jesus was just some guy. With it, He becomes the central icon in a religion that's gone two-plus millennia and counting.  After all, the symbol of the whole religion, regardless of sect, is the cross, not the manger.  So why don't Christians get more bent out of shape about the most holy day on their calendar being reduced to a fucking bunny delivering chocolate eggs in a basket followed by some mediocre ham?


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weekend Unlistening

I have a few things on deck that should make for cool listening/viewing over the next few weeks, but nothing ready to go just yet.  The video is still in edit mode, and the other stuff needs to make the jump from magnetic tape to the digital age, and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed to tackle that, right now - the big question is if I take the old mixdown as-is, or if I hunt through the poorly labelled archives to find the original 4-track masters?  Yes, the sound would improve somewhat, but I'm not even sure if I have a functioning Tascam left.

There's also the issue of it being more of a distraction from my current project(s), and I am so very good at distracting myself.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Clicka Clicka Clicka

This has been the day of cleaning, both analog and virtual.  We had originally planned for John and GF Johanna to come by for dinner, but they ended up canceling around 2 PM.  It worked out well, though: we used the 'oh shit, company!' energy to get the house cleaned up - including my office, hopefully for an arranging that sticks.  Plus, we still went ahead with the planned dinner for just the two of us - Yesenia made a kick-ass bread pudding from a Christmas-gifted panettone, and then we made our usual pizzas.  Our method is that I make the dough, and Yesenia makes the sauce and prepares the pies.  It's kind of our no-fail system, and indeed, the two pies were excellent as always.

In between all that - and while doing all the laundry, to boot - I decided that the time had finally come to work on a long-delayed project and set to gathering the necessary files.  Since it's a video file, I needed to clear space on the Manputer, at its usual high premium - about 15 GB left.  No problem, said I, I'll just back a bunch of shit up to my external drive.

Oho.  External drive turns out to only have about 25 GB free out of 500.  So, the video project morphs first into file triage - backing up very low priority files onto DVD and deleting from the external drive, and then organizing all of the files on the computer drive, moving to the external and then deleting the originals.

After that, it's just a matter of moving the video and audio files to the computer, and...

...hmmmph.  28 GB free.  Probably not enough space.  The problem is, the next step is digging into my iTunes and iPhoto to see that everything there has been backed up in both locations, and then deleting off my local drive.  That will actually only clear up another 32 GB, so I may have to start considering removing some applications from the Manputer.

Anyway, like all creative endeavors, there's seemingly and endless number of impediments to starting to work.  About the only thing I can use to console myself is that while the impediments are, as usual, self-created, at least they're real and not merely of the mental variety.

Okay.  Off to it.

BTW: Addendum on yesterday's Weekend Listening - turns out that I must have posted it at some point, and then taken it down some time after the fact (unless Christine found a way to make comments on an unposted blog, which, knowing Google, well...).  I can only guess at the reasons, but it's likely that either a) it was getting spammed like crazy, and I thought that unposting and reposting might take care of that, or, more probably, b) I took it down to upgrade the media player and hit technical difficulties and never bothered to deal with it.  Which would be JUST like me.

The Vacation Before Last

As promised, here's the unposted and unedited Weekend Listening from the archives.  Note that all references to dates are from July of 2008.

Your Weekend Listening • 8/2/08
Fearless • July,2008

Just to throw the last Weekend Listening (with its ultracrap and hypertense recording at an expensive studio) into sharp contrast, this week's entry shows what you can do if you're relaxed, among friends, and have just a MacBook with a pinhole mic and Garageband at your disposal.

As regular readers might recall, over the July Fourth weekend, I drove up to Durham, Maine, to spend the weekend with Putnam at his (actual) log cabin. Putnam is something of an inspiration for me - he's putting a lot of effort into promoting himself, and just recently finished a small tour of New England cafés and college radio stations, with just himself and his antique banjo, mandolin and guitar. All right - the guitar is new, but the banjo and mandolin were handed down from his great-grandfather, and that's pretty cool.

Honestly? I don't think I can even tell you my great-grandfather's name. On either side. And the most embarrassing part of that my middle name is my maternal great-grandfather's last name, so I should really be more up on that. But family history in my family is a mostly neglected category.

Putnam, on the other hand, comes from American longevity going back to - I guess - the Mayflower. Perhaps as a result, he's come to identify himself through the musical forms of the century before last - Old Time music, as it's properly called. Although he's really a singer-songwriter, he's part of a larger community of players, and even participates in a weekly old-time jamboree, which I joined in and thoroughly sucked eggs on before I drove back to New York.

A large part of what I envy in Putnam is that he's living the life, a pretty free life in which he's able to donate as much time to his music as he can. Another part is that he's doing it himself, and he's definitely earned it. It also doesn't hurt that he married a girl I had a serious crush on in college - which is actually how I know him. So, in a way, I have a small dream of being Putnam, sometimes.

I'm a songwriter first, and that even though I lack any kind of acoustic technique or stage-presence, I have that dream of getting up on stage with a guitar, keeping the crowd interested with my life set to music, and then moving on to the next town. So, when the idea first came up for me to go to Maine and accompany Putt at one of his shows, it reminded me of that and I began to noodle around on acoustic for the first time in a while. I spent a couple of hours here and there noodling around with songs from the entire Dave oeuvre - whatever I thought could translate well to just me and a guitar.

It wasn't that easy, because I tend to think in arrangements, and it's rare that any of the newer (read: better) songs that I've either written or co-written can just be banged out on acoustic and have the same impact. This is particularly true of the DeSk numbers, which are so perfectly balanced between the individual styles and contributions of the individual members that they practically cease to function as songs if any member isn't present. And the DeSk material is far and away the best stuff I've ever had a hand in writing, so it's kind of a drag to know that I can't get up on stage and just busk these songs, but they rely so much on the sound of the group to achieve their effect, which includes somewhat lengthy instrumental passages. Someone out there may be able to do it, but I'm quite incapable of playing a guitar, piano, bass and drum arrangement on a six-string acoustic.

I'm not sure where it came from, exactly, but while I was digging through the catalog, I started noodling around with a Lennon-style finger-picked version of Pink Floyd's Fearless, from Meddle, Floyd's 1971 album that I have a serious obsession with, and has Echoes on its flip side. As I played around with this arrangement - thinking of my ongoing half-assed project of randomly rearranging various Floyd songs - I couldn't quite get it to sound right. Then I recalled that the song was written in some kind of open 'G' tuning, but I had no idea exactly what, so I futzed with the tuning until I came up with one that didn't sound like ass with what I was playing.

After a couple of days, I lost interest and promptly forgot the arrangement and the tuning. But when I got to Putnam's, and we started busking the first night after dinner, I tried to recreate it. The picking was easy enough, but the tuning took me a little while to recall.

This time I wrote the damn thing down: G B D G D G (low to high). Note that I have no idea what the song's original tuning is, but I'm pretty sure that's not it. And even though he feels it's his least instrument, Putt obliged me with a little fiddle while I recreated the arrangement, and I thought it all sounded rather nice.

We didn't do it at the show* - in fact, I don't think I even thought of it as a possibility. But I did have the laptop and wanted to get something down, and listening back to this recording after a month, I find that it does capture something of the feeling of that cabin, and that weekend, that I really like. I pretty quickly laid down a double-tracked acoustic, and then the vocals, and then Putnam did one quick take at the fiddle,** and that's everything you hear in the final, complete with room noise, wonky vocals and flubs.

Well, okay, I did one quick vocal patch earlier today when I went to mix it down, but that was because Putnam's smoke alarm went off while I was singing on the original take. I do regret that I didn't get Putnam to sing the harmony, but it didn't cross my mind that this was going to be something that I'd like so much, so I just did it quickly myself. Also, in this final mix, I added a little effects here and there to open it up - a little EQ and reverb on the guitars, some echo on the vocals and a little flange on the fiddle to make it sound more like I felt, if you know what I mean.

I think the relaxed spirit of that weekend comes through. As well as the melancholy that I seem to so enjoy.


17" MacBook Pro
2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
OS 10.5.4
Celebrity Ovation Acoustic Guitar
Beat-up old fiddle
Recorded on Swamp Road in Durham, ME
July 3, 2008


*At the show, as mentioned here at the Rambler around that time, I actually ended up playing a DeSk song toward the end of Putnam's set after all... albeit the one song that's the most 'Dave' of the bunch.

**Don't call it a violin. Putnam gets very unhappy. I got snarky and called the Garageband track 'Fiddolin,' but I don't think he noticed.

P.S.: Coincidentally, the Floyd band I play keys in will be debuting Fearless at our show this coming Friday - that's the Floyd arrangement, not the rustic folk cabin version. Ace of Clubs, for those who are interested.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Awaiting the Lady

Yesenia's been in the tub for a couple of hours, and I've effectively done everything I wanted to do tonight - mostly cleaning the guestroom for Putnam's stopover tomorrow.  Now I'm just waiting for her to come to bed so we can finish episode three of 'The Story of India.'

And BTW:

Yep.  Something to look forward to.


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Pile

Having two posts in as many days not got up for one reason or another (technical glitch for the second, self-censorship the first), it occurred to me to see just what was lurking in the unpublished Rambler archives.  And?  A list of ten unpublished entries, including the two from this week.  About half of these are one of two sentences that trail off and clearly fail to spark.  A couple of unfiled entries are kind of sort of done, with a little polish.

And then there's exactly one that's completely finished, but not published - a Weekend Listening from the summer of 2008, a somewhat dull read detailing a sleep-inducing arrangement of Pink Floyd's Fearless, recorded at Putnam's cabin with his fiddle accompaniment.

There's no explanation as to why I didn't post at the time, so I'm going to assume it's the dullness of it. With the Rambler at its peak, I clearly had higher standards.   Now I have no standards.  So I'm thinking it might become the first post in the return of the Weekend Listening series, and what the heck - if it's boring, you can just skip it.


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sorry - had a nice long entry in the ongoing 'The Liberal Media' series, but Blogger is being buggy tonight and I'm having a deuce of a time formatting it.  So I'll try to wrangle that into shape for tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you're so inclined, feel free to read parts one, two and three.  It should be noted that it started as an actual essay with my observations about internet forums and then devolved into a more general 'you are there' series of notable interactions I've had in these forums.  Whether they support my initial thesis or not.  Part three is fairly off the path, and the (still in progress) part four is pretty much a sign that the container needs to be rethought.

If you're feeling really lazy, my thesis is one that I've referred to both obliquely and directly over the lifespan of the Rambler - specifically that the people we are online are not really who we are.  It's all about my fascination with by the way people interact with each other on these forums and with who I become/appear to be when I participate.  Whee!



In yet more proof of something I already knew but keep needing to be reminded of, I was able to actually make a breakthrough with a couple of really completion-resistant songs I've been futzing with for a while by suddenly seeing them as part of a larger work - the usual 'concept album' approach.  Of course, this is not saying that I'm actually writing another goddamn concept album, just that the only way I seem to be able to breathe life into a song as a solo writer (particularly with lyrics) is to have it reflect a facet of some larger theme and/or narrative.

Generally, my framework is like scaffolding that can be knocked away when the series of songs is complete, and the songs only function as a concept album if you're told in advance that it is.  The concept is essentially just an organizing principle so that I can get everything in order and see what bits are missing in order to finish writing particularly stubborn songs.  Figuring out where the boxes are is very useful in filling them.

It definitely came in handy on Selling the Downtown Dream, where I was able to step back and see a general theme emerging from the songs that were already written and figure out what connective tissue was missing and simply write to that. It actually produced a couple of the best songs on that album, so I've trusted the impulse ever since, sometimes to the great aggravation of my bandmates.

We'll see whether or not this particular new theme will have legs strong enough to allow me to write the lyrics/melodies for a decent number of the remaining proto-songs The Tappan Sea have in the hopper.  The piecemeal approach sure is taxing.  A whole new theme for each song?  Honestly, who has that much to say?


Friday, March 23, 2012

Substitute Blog

I just found myself in the middle of writing a long and cranky rant that I thought I would spare you all.  Perhaps I'll come back to it and trim the edges off and share with you.  Probably not; shame... it was pretty funny.  Someone flailing around drunkenly with an axe is always funny.

Anyway, the weird thing is that the redacted entry was all about how much I find myself enjoying my new perspective thanks to my newly-official employment.  But you know me - there can't be any actual life enjoyment without the concomitant weltschmerz that you expect.

But fuck that.  I'm in a damn good mood, and choose to continue to be.  How's that?  If you want misery, you'll have to make your own this week.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dust Cloud Settling

Today marked the first day of Spring Cleaning here at Beadboard Manor, meaning that not everything was cleaned that is marked for cleaning, but it damn sure will be over the next month or so.  Hey, this shit takes time.

Good brain-cleaning day, too.  Anyone following this blog regularly (or even having read it once, quite frankly) will know that the last few years have seen something of a downturn in my own fortunes, along with the economic fortunes of the entire goddamn planet. Well, here's the good news: tomorrow is my first day as an actual, official Benjamin Moore employee.  It's good news in that although I've been working there since June of 2010, it's been in a freelance contractor capacity - which is bad both for morale and also for practical reasons, like benefits and (no shit) loan applications and the like.  That's America - Everybody loves an entrepreneur, but who gives a shit about the freelancers?

In many ways, I'm considering this upgrade to be the official end to my time underground, which started roughly in November of 2008.  At some point, I'll collect a bulleted list of befallen crap, but today is a day to celebrate the new list of halfway decent news, which has been growing longer since last August.

NOW!  Now is the time to get busy.  Or at least get drinking.  I'll buy the first round.


PS: And Karl - if your good news tomorrow is also happening, then I'm going to insist you buy the next round.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Carter of Closter

Sort of a mish-mash day - got a haircut, saw a movie, went for a mini-hike, picked up Yesenia's car from the commuter lot, made pizzas and watched a few things on the Hulu.  None of which (beyond the general good feeling of spending a quiet, domesticated day with my wife) will stay with me beyond the time it takes to write and post about them.  Already it's fading.

Little details will remain.  The peanut butter frozen yogurt after the movie.  The Peroni with dinner, the Funny Bones for dessert.  The taste of the blackened sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives on the second pie, the chipotle Field Roast veggie sausage on the first.  Going off the trail to take a look at the odd man-made swamp in a chain-link enclosure.  Yesenia cold in her black raincoat, despite the sun being so warm that I had to take off my sweater.  Etc.

If I could have a life made up of just the little bits, and skip the big bits, I'd probably be quite content.


P.S.: John Carter?  It was pretty good.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Tools We Use

Best to remember that - unless you're having the dream career you've always wanted - the jobs we have are there to ensure that we can support the life we want.

So: what is the life we want?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tofu & Laundry

Just had a wonderful little dinner - Yesenia made baked tofu, marinated in ginger, soy sauce, plum vinegar and a few other like-minded ingredients.  We then laid it over mixed greens, threw a few other salad veggies in there and drizzled a little of the marinade as dressing.  So I guess I owe Alicia Silverstone some thanks, since it's her recipe.

And now it's almost 10 PM, and I'm writing this on the couch while Yesenia sleeps next to me.  I'm waiting for the laundry to finish drying so I can fold it and put away.  I'm guessing she's waiting for me.  So it's all about the waiting.

At least the cats are inside - one of them (Frida, the calico, of course) spent all night outside last night.  That's the real sign that Spring is actually here - the first cat rumspringa.  What she did or where she went, she refused to say when she came back in this morning.  Perhaps it was to do missionary work for poverty-stricken cats in Bulgaria.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend of the Sleepers

Got hit extra hard by the time change this year - mostly by not getting enough sleep in the first place, so I didn't have that 'sleep bank' effect that one usually hopes to have rolling into a few days of circadian adjustment.  Generally, I get seven - eight hours a night, but the last week, I've only been able to log six or so.  Add that to last night, where (due to circumstances beyond my control), I only ended up with five hours, and I'm not looking forward to being the caricature of a Dilbert strip, stiffly slogging into work Monday morning with my arms raised zombie-like before me with blindly flailing hands.

Had lunch yesterday with Sean & Jim, making us two members short of a Monkeyphat reunion.  No music was produced, although music was purchased (at Nyack's new used record store, Vinyl Lounge) and the sale of musical instruments was discussed (at Nyack's outpost of the Long Island Drum Center).  Also, musical instruments were purchased by Sean - drum sticks, at any rate - and comics and toys were purchased and the potential sale of them discussed by Jim at yet another new store in Nyack, Funny Business.  It's actually been a while since there's been a comic store in Nyack - but that means that Nyack now has the Dave Kopperman trifecta of music store, record store and comic store.

But time has caught up to these merchants.  The record store is nice, but the dollar and two dollar bin (my usual grounds) are thin and I don't quite yet have enough loose money to throw at the adult-priced records.  The comic store is actually comics, toys and Legos (they make the distinction between toys and Legos themselves), and they don't do new releases, only back-issues and trades.  Still, the vibe is great and the owner is enthusiastic and approachable, and I hope he's rewarded with a thriving business.

At some point, I'll have to spin some epic tales of my first job, working at the long-gone and mostly lamented M&M Comics in Nyack, but that's going to require hypnosis and a lot of alcohol.

Anyway, the lunch itself was first, at the Jamaican vegan place in town - also run by an enthusiastic (some might save overenthusiastic) fella.  We then made the rounds and went over to Jim's for the perfect capper of an afternoon marked by forty-something white male geek pursuit of fading memorabilia, an episode of The Aquabats and an episode of The Simpsons.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fall Down Go Boom

Yesenia wakes me up at around 7 AM.  "I'm restless," she says, "I'm going to go take a bath."  I run my hand down her back as she gets up, then roll over to fill her side of the bed and grab her pillow and prepare to grab another hour of sleep.

She fumbles around in the bathroom for a minute or so.  The cats have their morning energy level taken up by Yesenia walking around, and they bounce back and forth between windows, checking out the wildlife action.  They have good reason to be excited - yesterday, there was a flock of turkeys out there.  So I think (but don't say) that it would be good if Yesenia would let them outside.

Apparently, she's a little telepathic, because she immediately leaves the bathroom, and I hear her going down, the usual stair-by-stair pattern.  Step, step, step, step, step, step.  Landing, turn.  Step, step, step, tumble, boom, BOOM!

Pause, I'm already up towards the door and I hear her starting to cry.  "Ow!"  I make sure I don't run down the stairs, myself.  She's sitting on the very bottom step, tenderly checking her back.

"What happened, baby?"  "I don't know - I think I blacked out for a second.  I don't remember missing the step - just next thing I know, I'm sliding down the stairs on my back."

This is the bit that they find alarming a but later in the ER.  Yesenia & I both worry that the vagueness of her story has the attending nurses eyeing me with suspicions of spousal abuse.  Me, I'm kind of used to it - I've long ago stopped looking for specifics from the woman I love.  They can't find any reason for the momentary brainfart and focus instead on the aches and pains.

She's doing better, now.  Upstairs, bathing with epsom salts.  Never a dull moment at Beadboard Manor.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blink and it's Wednesday

Seriously.  I sometimes can't even believe how little time I feel I have during the first half of the week.

There's a bit in Cerebus where someone explains the secret of existence: 'as you get older, time goes by faster and faster.'  Yep.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Rambler

Once again, it feels like time to futz with the look of the Rambler.  There are, of course, about 15 more valuable things I could and/or should be doing with my time right now - but their assertiveness merely tires me, and the Rambler just looks at me with those big sad eyes, and, well...

Anyway, consider this particular look a placeholder while I toy around.  The fonts, I think, are good, now.  In fact, it was the readability of the post font (the smallish font that you're looking at right now) on Yesenia's Dell laptop that made me want to revise the template.  This new font is certainly much more readable, and I think the new header fonts is also more readable and more stylish.

Now it's just a matter of choosing color and background.  That will probably be happening later this week.  Right now, a temporary image from my sketchbook, a comic called 'Renunciation.'  Do I need to mention that the comic itself is unfinished?  Because it is.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012: A Year in No Movies

Looking over the list of films coming out in 2012, the fact that there's only one film I'd really like to see and a smattering of others that I'd be willing to see either speaks to it being a particularly weak year for film, or I've just gotten to a point in my life where I just can't work up the enthusiasm for much of anything diverting.  Let alone some movie.

The aforementioned film that I'd actually like to see is (no surprise, here) The Avengers, although I don't have the raging nerd hard-on for it that the 12-year-old Marvel Comics fan in me would have under other circumstances.  I'm sure it will be very fun, don't get me wrong, but the fact that Yesenia is looking forward to it more than I am says something about the way my interests - or is it interest, singular? - have changed.

But it's also highly possible that it's just a band slate of films, this year.  Even this Summer's Pixar film, Brave, seems like kind of a drag.  Now, I know that I'm still a hardcore animation fan - Yesenia and I have rewatched a few Disney movies from the 40's and the 90's over the last month, and if anything, I've my my love of the art form renewed.  But it's a love of the lost art of the hand-animated feature.  Even more specifically, the love of the Disney film, a very specific mix of music, drama and character acting that no-one else has ever been able to duplicate - even Pixar.

And as incredible (no pun intended) as Pixar's run has been, I've just worn out of enthusiasm for computer animation.  It's everywhere.  Computers themselves are everywhere.  Again, if you told the 12-year-old Tron fan in me that I'd eventually just be exhausted by omnipresent CGI, he'd be dumbfounded.  I was at one point probably only third behind George Lucas and James Cameron in my fervor for the new worlds that computer graphics could explore.  But what those two gentlemen have proven is that the best tools for exploration are only as good as the people planning the expeditions, as it were.  And, let's face it, what CGI has ultimately done, rather than freeing up filmmakers to tell the stories they always wanted to tell (as the line goes), is to make every single goddamn film look the same.  And who could be enthusiastic for that?



Okay, just decided that the Rambler will see its 1000th post this year - seeing as this is post #841, that gives me ten months to write one hundred and fifty-nine entires.  Not so bad when you break it down; that's 16 entries a month.  Or maybe it is bad - back in my Rambling heyday, when the world was new and bright, the entries poured out of me.  2008 was the peak, with 297 entries.  2011 was twenty.  Which is quite the nadir.  I'm already ahead of the count with 30 so far in 2012, but still, that's not enough to stay on pace.

Strange thing to obsess about, I guess, but - hey.  Everyone should have a hobby.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Treading Lightly

Poster for the 2010 film.

How do people feel about film adaptations of iconic genre novels or other properties?  I'm normally fairly immune to the nerd rage that seems to prevent those who have on some level waited their entire lives for the things they loved since they were kids to become massive film properties - furiously avoiding the 'Captain America' movie because the costume is the wrong shade of blue, or because some story or character detail or other was changed.

I'm not even particularly bothered when things are changed wholesale if the spirit of the original is retained.  Obviously, this works better when you're dealing with ongoing serialized properties - like 'Captain America' again, where there's no single canon or author.  It gets a bit thornier when properties are adapted that are the work of a single creative team - 'V for Vendetta' or 'Watchmen' for example, or the recent 'Tintin' movie.  I'm not enough of an expert on Hergé to say whether or not the latter was  successful as an adaptation, but on the former two, I think 'Watchmen' was a hollow son et lumière as an adaptation, while 'V' actually improved upon the source material.

I've thought long and hard about it, and realized that while I don't mind changes to a story, I really don't like changes to theme or meaning that end up completely bowdlerizing authorial intent.

The Book as I knew it, 70's style
The film that really started this train of thought for me was 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' which I finally watched last night.  The Narnia books are pretty sacred to me and 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' was such a misjudged misfire of a movie that I didn't even bother with the second film, 'Prince Caspian.'  But 'Dawn Treader' is among my favorite books of all time, and I pretty much had to see the film - dreading in advance that it would just be another bad adaptation along the lines of 'Lion,' which stuck very close to the story but was so off in tone and intent that it just depressed me.

The main thing that was wrong with 'Lion' was in the tweaking of the spirituality of the stories to move it away from Lewis' personal faith to a bigger, louder American version.  Lewis saw in Christianity the need for the good to act to protect the world from evil, yes, but he also saw in it light, love and joy - actual goodness, in other words.  For the film version, being Christian means just to fight evil, and that's it.  No fun, no happiness, no joy.

Santa Claus does show up in the film, but instead of providing a joyful feast for a long-delayed Christmas as in the book, they edit that out and move right on to him giving the kids their Christian Soldier weapons and solemnly instructing them to do their duty.  Ditto, the central scene of Aslan's sacrifice.  In the book, he is resurrected in front of the two young Pevensie girls, and he romps with them in joy 'like a kitten' at returning to life before he instructs them to climb on his back and they race across the countryside to turn the tide in the battle with the forces of the evil White Witch.  In the film?  Fuck the joy, just get to the battle.  So damn dour.

Again, no changes to affect the story, but the theme of the story is completely eviscerated.

'Dawn Treader,' on the other hand, futzed the story eight ways to Sunday and still managed to work for me, which surprised me, because my personal stakes were higher.  Certainly, part of it is just having a more competent director at the helm (Michael Apted, this time around), but they actually managed to capture much more of Lewis' spirit and faith than the sad first film.  There's joy!  There's (holy shit) fun!  So now I find myself hoping they manage to continue to make the series.

Lord knows what the seven-year-old in me would make of this.  I didn't even know that my favorite books were Christian allegories at that age.  Heck, I didn't even know what 'theme' was, then.  So I'd probably have loved it all.  That's the real pain of growing up and having your generation's taste dominate the market - you can get the films you wanted all along, only it turns out that the popcorn tastes funny.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Cat Safari

It's late - Yesenia's asleep and I'd also like to call it a night, but the cats have pointedly refused to come back inside and I just can't leave them out tonight.  Were it Spring or Summer, sure - I wouldn't have much choice, as Frida is one of those cats that disappears for three days at a time and then turns up and random on the afternoon of the fourth day, with no clue as to where she's been hanging.  But Winter - even one as mild as this one - I just don't have it in me to let them stay out.  So I'll keep going downstairs to check the door every fifteen minutes.

Damn cats,


Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Preparation for Preparing

Spending a good portion of my time over the last couple of days gearing up for a big life change.  I don't want to call down the Curse of the Don't Blog About It Gods, so I'll just apologize here for not telling you about it, and I promise that I will tell you all about it when the time is right.  That is to say, when the coin spins off its edge and lands heads or tails.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Tortilla'd In

These winter nights, I'm apparently the human water bottle, with Yesenia along my back and one or the other cat pinning me down on the other side.

Of course, I love it all.  Except when I have to pee.  Odd to feel guilty about needing to move and spoil everyone's comfort.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Liberal Media, Part III

Continuing my thoughts from a few months back about online forums...

Participating in a message board discussion (argument, depending on your POV) earlier today that started with the original poster saying that vegans annoyed them, and then other posters expanding on that to basically say  that everyone annoys them.  One poster was particularly annoyed by people who call themselves 'vegetarian' but still eat chicken and fish.  I chimed in with a thought on that, then went somewhere else that struck me interesting:

They call that 'pescetarian,' but the sheer number of terms to describe people's dietary choices is on the exasperating side of exhausting.  I've been thinking about it a little bit since this thread went up, and it actually has a lot in common with [what another thread on the board had to say about] rejecting labels.  

I completely understand the confusion and annoyance about what people call themselves versus what they'll actually eat.  I can only say it's cultural-specific and it runs both ways, much like sexuality and religious choice or any other thing that people do that's either a little or a lot different than the majority of people around them.  We've all met people who call themselves 'vegetarian' and have only really eschewed red meat.  There are also plenty who look at you blankly when you say you don't eat meat and then offer you pork instead.  Easy enough - for a lot of people, the only reason they could conceive of not eating meat is religious.  Since I'm Jewish and my wife is Catholic (and Puerto Rican to boot), I have that particular conversation a lot.

My sister has been various points along the vegetarian to vegan spectrum over the last twenty-five years, and I learned a lot about how not to handle dealing with it, particularly at social or family occasions.  The goal on my end is not to be a drag on people or make them put in ridiculous effort just to satisfy my particular choice.

For the record, the way it feels sometimes when I talk about being vegetarian with people reminds me a lot of when I'd be in a group of Christians growing up and get called out as a Jew.  People's reactions run the gamut from curiosity to barely veiled hostility, like 'how dare you be something other than what's normal?'  There's a great episode of '30 Days' where an atheist and an Evangelical woman switch families for a month, and the husband of the Evangelical woman simply cannot wrap his head around the concept of there not being some other kind of overarching pseudo-religious belief system that fills the presumed void left by turning away from religion proper.  He presses the atheist woman on what book she reads to base her life on.

What replaces the Bible when there's no bible?

Someone replied 'corn liquor' to the open-ended question, which I thought was funny.  The other poster - the one who was fuming at people mislabeling themselves - chimed in again and deepened their stance on it, to which I responded:

I don't disagree with you - words have a specific meaning and they're definitely not using this term correctly. Vegetarian means no animal flesh at all.  I have a friend who insists and persists on calling himself an anarchist, but his definition of the term is so far from what most people think of when then think of anarchy as to be useless.  Which may be part of his point, but I find conversations with him on the issue deeply frustrating.
It's just a lot easier to not worry about what other people call themselves or call you.

When message boards really do their work on me is when they force me to see all sides of an argument.  Maybe there is something to the idea that shared dialogue online can bring greater understanding.  Even if it just does it for me, I'll be satisfied.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Economics of Time Travel

Doc Brown's Secret Stash
A little side bit in Back to the Future Part II always fascinated me - just before 1985 Doc sends Marty out into the streets of Hill Valley circa 1955, he whips out a briefcase full of American currency from various periods and hands Marty a stack appropriate to the era.

For the sake of the film, we don't need to wonder how Doc got that money - he's from a wealthy family and can easily afford to pay the prices money collectors pay.  Plus, he's been preparing for it for 30 years.

But for the sake of argument - the only sake there is! - let's suppose that you are the inventor of a time machine and you have no large financial resources at your disposal and don't feel like waiting decades to accrue when you want to travel into the past.  The problem you encounter if you try to get all the period-specific currency you need by purchasing it from a dealer of antique money is that you pay vast current sums to get even one dollar.  I see that ebay has silver dollars from 1885 going for upwards of $350.  Highly expensive and inefficient way to fund your time travel safari.

Since the value for each dollar bill gets higher the older it is, inflation doesn't work in your favor.  That is, a street dollar has much more purchase power in 1955 than in 1985 - and even more in 1885.  But fat good that does you - unless you want to take advantage of time travel to make money as a currency exchanger.

Strikes me that the method of getting the period specific currency you need would be tedious and methodical.  You'd have to patiently spend time in the present day gathering enough paper money (let's ignore coins to start) that's still in circulation from a previous minting.  Say, 1977 bills in 1985.  The problem is that dollar bills generally wear out and are taken out of circulation by banks and destroyed after roughly 22 months.  This is a case where inflation works in your favor, because the higher the denomination (over $20), the less wear it gets and the longer it stays in circulation.  So you can grab just a few reasonably crisp $100's from the 1977 minting and then travel back to 1978 (say), walk into a bank and exchange them for $50s from a late 1960's-era minting.

Keep doing this in approximately six-year increments, always being careful to exchange denominations back and forth - simply because why would anyone walk into a bank and swap a newer $100 dollar bill for an older one?  Eventually, you'll end up in the target era with the legal money you need - and a vastly increased purchasing power without having to spend a cent.  In fact, you've made a serious profit.  A quick check of the old currency calculator shows that the value of a dollar in 1885 was at least $11.50 compared to 1985 - or a percent increase of %1150.

Obviously, it gets more difficult to casually exchange the larger denominations the further back you go - banks get fewer and further apart, you can't just drive your time machine to Chicago and you can't walk into a five and dime with a $100 bill in 1885 to buy some flour and then lay down the equivalent of $1,150 and expect change.  It's best to start caching $50's and $100's as you go, and occasionally grabbing a $20 or a $10.  That way, when you get to your target era, your supply of legal currency is flexible enough to use on the fly.

So in this way, you can live like a king for only a few hundred dollars a century ago.

In theory, you should also be able to make money moving forward in time by selling collectors your period money back in the present day, but I'm not so sure that works as easily as we'd like.  For starters, the money you have would be in suspiciously good condition if you just grabbed some 1885 money off the street of the Wild West era Hill Valley, hopped in the time machine and walked into Ray Marello's.  You'd also have the issue of it not being traceable by ever having traded hands from one collector to another, so on both counts you'd likely be either thought of as an idiot for trying to sell what's so obviously a forgery - or worse, arrested for forgery.

I guess the way around this would be to research a banking institution that's going to be around for long enough to allow you to open a safety deposit box in 1885, make your deposit and then come back to 1985, collect your antique money and then sell.  Two birds with one stone - properly aged with rock-solid bona-fides.

OR, you could cut to the chase and just invest your money and leave it to yourself.  And there's always the proven Tannen Method of betting on sporting events, but the true Tannen Method actually requires living through the entire period back to the present day to accrue your fortune.  Plus, it means you have to either spend a lot of time going to a bookie or, even worse, to the game itself - which, if you know the outcome, strikes me as even more tedious than the Super Bowl usually is.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fresh from the Subconscious

Part II of this morning's between-alarms dream.  Part I is a little too Freudian & obvious to write about here.  Suffice it to say that the crew of Terok Nor made an appearance.

In the surf with my (fictional) cousin at some gray, cold and dreary northeastern beach.  The water is crowded and there are other sorts of obstructions right along the water's edge - odd smallish rock formations.

Paddling in the shallows, I move down the beach to a place where it's less crowded.  My cousin prefers to stay where he is.  The coarse sand ends and I start to feel slimy stuff under my feet.  Like when awake, I'm repulsed and I try to pull myself tighter, both feet away from the bottom.  Then I feel what I presume to be a jellyfish next to me, and I start to worry about getting stung.

The tide pulls out and I see single shoots of some ivy-like green plant all over the exposed wet sand.  I can't float any longer, and where my feet and arms touch these plants, they sting badly.  I'm now fully down on my back and the plants start to grow and grab at me.  I tear them when I yank my arms forcibly, but there are many and they're growing faster.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Crunch & Plunge

Forgive me for being too lazy to post photos - there are images and they will be posted at some point - but the basement of Beadboard Manor has just undergone the most radical modification in its 90-year history (that I know of, at any rate).  The dry basement team came in and spent three days digging a deep trench all the way around the interior wall, then laid in gravel, slotted pipe, some military grade pumps, and fresh concrete to top it all off.

The foreman complained to me - contractors always seem to be the kvetchy type - that he pulled more soil out of here than on any other basement job he's ever done.  Thinking that's because they have to dig down to a certain depth, but our floor (having been poured in 1925) is a little thinner than most.

Anyway, one of the major side benefits of this is that the house no longer smells like cat pee, and now I have to figure out how to prevent the cats from rescenting the perimeter.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jailhouse Rocked

Waiting to meet Yesenia at the 110th Street #1 station earlier tonight, and on the opposite platform, there was a busker.  And not just any busker - probably the most awesome busker of all time.  Semi-elderly African-American man with an acoustic guitar, dressed in a cross between Sun Ra stagewear and a yellow track-suit.

It took me a few minutes to register what was going on, as I usually just regard buskers as part of the sound of the subway, and it becomes sonic wallpaper.  But sometimes the wallpaper forces you to notice it, like if it's a print of coked-up calico kittens driving Lamborghinis.  In this case, the coked-up kitten was actually a spectacularly monotonic - but not monotonous! - version of Jailhouse Rock.  He strummed away without ever laying a finger on the fretboard, hand just floating back and forth, up and down the neck like a pendulum.  And the guitar was in some tuning I've never heard before - possibly not even any actual notes.

The vocals also hung on one or two notes, sung with strength and a certain odd kind of conviction.  He played it over and over again, verse to chorus to verse to chorus to verse to...

It was frankly mesmerizing.  If he wasn't actually some garden-variety subway crazy - one of the types who this blog is named after - then he was making some deep comment on the repetitive life of the prisoner.  Minute after minute, train after train - the sound of the approaching subway would drown him out, the cars would roll in and obstruct my view, the train would pull away and as the echoes died down, everyone in the whole cell block would still be dancing to the jailhouse rock.  Mournful swaying is dancing, isn't it?

About fifteen minutes passed, and then Yesenia arrived.  I told her she had to stand and watch this amazing thing for a minute.  Another passenger with a toddler in a stroller came in on Yesenia's train, and I helped her up the stairs (which is my new policy).  When I came back from the street, Yesenia was staring in awe at the black Eilert Pilarm.

Fittingly, it ended as all iconic concerts must - after another minute or so, a downtown train pulled in and two subway cops got out and ambled over to the busker.  I'd like to think that he wanted that to happen.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Library Day w/Connecticut Native

Spending the afternoon redesigning the website for college friend / talented artist Kate Ten Eyck - so this particular blog entry is doing double duty as a Rambler update and as a way to show her how Blogger works.  Carry on. 

"Discs" - © Kate Ten Eyck, 2012
Speaking of Kate, I'm also showing her how to upload pictures and attach links.

See?  It's all so fucking easy.


Thursday, January 26, 2012


Amazing how far we are into the future.  2001 still seems like a year out of an unreachable, science-fiction datebook, and now it's eleven years past that.  Which I guess makes this the post-future.  No wonder we're building the Clock of the Long Now out in the middle of nowhere - once every single day of the present is actually the future, the entire concept of time becomes antiquated.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Canadian Spandex

A Comic Appreciated
Alpha Flight
Marvel Comics, 1983-1985

It occurred to me that it was time to start a new recurring feature here at the Rambler; enthusing about comics I have enjoyed.  I'm going to keep it flexible - an appreciation can be anything from a single issue to an entire series, and anything in between.

This inaugural A.C.A. is about Alpha Flight, specifically issues 1-28.  Alpha Flight was a group of Canadian superhero characters that first appeared in a 1980 issue of X-Men - specifically designed by creator John Byrne - himself Canadian - merely as a team that could 'survive a fight with the X-Men.'  The back story is that Alpha Flight is a branch of the military, and Wolverine was originally part of the team who went awol to join the X-Men.  The Canadian government, having poured untold resources into his creation, sends Alpha Flight to reclaim him.

Wolverine doesn't return with them, and by the time Alpha Flight's own comic premiered, the government funding had been cut off and the team was officially disbanded.

What followed was one of the oddest superhero comics of the 1980s, a decade where superhero deconstruction was the norm.  Alpha Flight preceded Watchmen (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons) and The Dark Knight Returns (by Frank Miller) by a few years, but was also part of the era's thematic shift away from the 'what' of superheroes to the 'why' of them.  The difference between Alpha Flight and the other two books (beyond their being substantially more famous to the general public) is that, while Moore and Miller on some fundamental level thought superheroes were silly, John Byrne unabashedly loved them.  But he also spent a lot of time thinking about the 'why,' and that's the fundamental core of this book about a 'team' that rarely met or acted together. 

My reasons for loving Alpha were that it was very different from anything else on the stands. Quieter, more introspective.  Most of the action took place in the middle of nowhere, making the stakes to bystanders minimal, but the stakes for the heroes much higher.  

It also looked different, with open space and forests - as close to a classic western as any superhero comic has ever come.  It was more serialized internally, less tied in to Marvel continuity, and there was real character growth and change.  White, anglo-saxon and even heterosexual men were in the minority on the team, and the views into other cultures and traditions were treated realistically and matter-of-fact, rather than some kind of curiosity.

Money problems were real, and the solutions were never perfect, permanent or effective.  Interpersonal conflict was an organic outgrowth of the characters, not tacked on to add flavor.

Tonally, with the longer character arcs and naturalistic dialogue, it shares a lot with the alternative comics of the early 80's, and served as a bridge to those titles for me.  In many ways, it's the book that changed me from an young adolescent reader of superhero comics to a fan of the form of comics, and the idea of comics as something that could be enjoy in much subtler and more 'adult' ways - and it did so without the gratuitous violence and sexual boundary pushing of Watchmen and Dark Knight.  In a lot of ways, the violence in Alpha Flight has much more consequence than in those books, and certainly more consequence than in any other contemporary title I can think of.

On top of that, it was a book with an almost zen stillness in places, which ran not only counter to the rest of the mainstream titles at that time, but seemingly the rest of American popular culture.

And it hasn't dated as a read!  If ever there were a self-contained title/run that can be re-experienced in comics, it's that.  It's like the Chronicles of Narnia of superhero comics, minus the Christian allegory (at least not one that I got).

I just realized that I wrote all that without once saying anything about the art, which is a testament to just how good the writing is. Obviously, the art was - to my twelve-year-old eyes - fucking awesome, and it's still stellar.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Night is Nacho Night

Apparently, Yesenia an I have both decided to live like bachelors together.  After getting home and telling  me she wasn't hungry - meaning that I stopped making plans for preparing dinner and went on to doing laundry - she asked me to make nachos.  Which I did, although one of my more soupy and ever-so-slightly disappointing plates of nachos.  

Since we were fresh out of jalapeños, I opened a can of Hormel's Vegetarian Chili and dropped about 3/4 of it on half a bag of chips, along with some decent salsa and a few handfuls of shredded Italian cheese mix.  Microwave on high for three minutes, and tell me that isn't the most bacheloriffic meal you can imagine?  I even left the chili can out with the spoon in it, contents dripping down the outside of the can to stain the counter.

My only concern is that I also had my dad's very bean-centric vegetable stew for lunch, so I feel I'm cruising towards a night of gas leaks that will have energy companies abandoning sites along the Marcellus Shale and coming instead to frack my ass.