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 caf├ęs 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.