Monday, February 28, 2005

All of my senses

Solid workout, considering I didn't expect to actually go to the gym since it started snowing around 2 p.m. Feeling tired but good; highs on the elliptical and solid on the treadmill. Pretty good, considering I haven't been active for a week. I kept wavering about whether or not I should just go home, but I'm glad I flexed the muscle of discipline.

Right now, it's coming down and it's a misery outside. Glad I made it home before it started to stick.

Hmmm... can't really seem to think or concentrate. Too many chores left to do this evening; I'd be better off not trying to write if the flow isn't there.

Bon nuit.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Needle hits "E"

We love the subs, 'cos they are good to us... they got a pepper bar... Where are those spongemonkeys when you need them?

You know it's a great feeling when you look at your "to do" list and see all but one item checked off; that all your planning went like clockwork and everything that needed to be done was. I'm taking today off from the gym (in agreement with Liz) to let my body rejuvenate from the stresses of being ill all week (and the prior week of pushing myself when I should have been resting). So I sit with the windows open, the sun pouring in, blueberry bagels, coffee and blog time. A fine Sunday start. In about a half hour from now, I'll do the laundry.

Stopped in Castellano's (for the first time since he moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island) to pick up that replacement B string and saw THE sexiest guitar in the world. I want it. I will have it. Soon.

Tied up some loose ends yesterday; down time and a chance for Liz and I to unwind and watch bad T.V. and laugh. This coming week has "busy" written all over it, including a return to the doctor for my father, having the taxes done next weekend and getting back in stride at the gym. Hopefully, it clears the deck for another recording session in two weeks. Can't help but think that with the weather getting better, the possibility of more recording time is not such a stretch, nor is the notion of going to a studio and starting to play as a band (again). I'm just thinking out loud right now.

Okay, time to pour another cup of coffee and gather the clothes. I may treat myself to time in Synchronic East this afternoon. We'll see. Too many options for a completely "free" day.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Where diamonds were halos

Woke up early this morning; a lot of errands to run. Feeling as near to normal again as I have in the last two weeks; my horoscope says I shouldn't have to worry about my health, so I'll take that at face value (at least momentarily). It doesn't hurt that the day begins with the sun shining, good coffee and blog time.

A lot of you know me; have worked with me and travelled the same road of ups-and-downs in the music industry. Read this letter on Coolfer; it mirrors so much of my own experiences; the things I would have liked to have said after being caught in the crosshairs of "downsizing" and my calling the "executives" on their so-called "open-door" policies. Uncanny how the letter's author is also now a former employee of Warner Music Group (where I spent my 5 1/2 best years). To me, what has taken place at that company over the last four years is not only a travesty but a crying shame. Talk about destroying the (genuinely) good (and respected) name of a company. A big shout out to the author of the aforementioned epistle.

A friend asked me recently if I would ever think about or actually return to working in the music industry; while I don't qualify resurrecting a disbanded rock group as a return, but rather working a full-time career job with a record label or booking agency, et al., my answer was a firm (and somewhat emphatic) "no". Simple reasons:

a) why return to an industry that is at its' most uncertain and unstable?
b) everyone I worked with has also left the industry behind and moved on to greener pastures (myself included)
c) where could I go? Nearly all of the record labels that you could want/hope to work for have all dissolved in corporate mergers or bankruptcy court
d) I'm now 40 years old. It's was the dream job of my youth. Enough is enough. Time to grow up
e) there's isn't anything of even remote interest happening within the industry (for me). It's a big empty nothing--like the Emperor's New Clothes.

As many of you do know, working for the various labels was like a religious calling and yet now, I couldn't care less. I still keep an eye on things, but it's more for the necessity than the desire. Finding a niche market where an "old" band can play a show or sell their wares is pretty much my target/scope. And by logic (which I've said before in a prior posting), most musicians (read that: musicians) now prefer to have their own websites so they can sell their music, etc. directly to their audience without the middle man (the record company) robbing them blindly. Comeuppance, perhaps, for the presumptuousness, arrogance and short-sightedness of the labels? The question becomes why would I want to work for a record label?

I'm fortunate; I did it all--lived every dream and cliche that I had and didn't know I had. Now it's over and I don't miss it. I treasure the memories but life is about progression, not remaining on a treadmill.

I'll keep my Atlantic Records varsity jacket, though.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Fit and working again

Considering there was a minor snowstorm and I've been down/at home for the last two days, it's nice to be back at work. I'm sure many people find that an odd sentiment, especially coming from me, but it's no secret that I actually like my job, enjoy what I do and most of all, appreciate the people I work with. So why not get back to it as soon as possible? The sun is shining; the snow wasn't a hindrance and staying home, doing nothing except being ill is boring and taxing. Two days of Chinese food and Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey may be "comfort food", but I take no pleasure in feeling like a Land Rover ran roughshod over me.

Being that it's Friday, I've already compiled my list of things that need to be tended to this weekend. Apart from taking my dad to the doctor, it's the standard chores. Glad that I don't have any musical plans on the agenda as I don't physically feel up to it. Part of me is in agreement with Liz to skip the gym on Sunday and let ourselves fully recover by not overdoing anything, but I am chomping at the bit to get back to working out. Truth be told, I'm feeling the effects of "feeding a cold" and I'm not at all pleased. But we'll see--I may actually kowtow this one time because I sure don't want to wind up ill yet again.

BIG shout out to a new blog page that I came across:


One of the best music (and other various topics) blogs I've had the pleasure to read. Stumbled upon this gem while venturing through The Undertones' message board. Welcome, friend.

Somebody please take this new Musician's Friend catalog AWAY from me. Thank you.

This week's Rob Ross/Punch Line play list for iPod:
"Crisis Of Mine" - The Undertones
"Fragile" - Wire
"Rain On The Roof" - The Lovin' Spoonful
"I'm Only Sleeping" - The Beatles
"Can't Stop" - That Petrol Emotion
"Race You To The Grave" - Jake Burns And The Big Wheel
"It's Not You" - The Cure
"Bargain" - The Who
"Mouth Crazy" - That Petrol Emotion
"Wiser Time" - The Black Crowes

Mull it over, then go listen. It'll enrich your musical diet.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Coffee and t.v.

Another morning at home, with Liz and not at work. So be it. The sun is shining again, as I savor this coffee and blog time. Funny; another snowstorm is expected by this afternoon. If that's the case, I'd rather we were here instead of having to traipse home in a wet, freezing mess while ill. Another day of recuperation is only to our mutual benefit.

We were talking last night about how frustrating it is to keep getting sick. This is now twice in a month's time; aside from the fact that it is the season for colds, etc., I do still believe it's because of the lack of flu shots. Add insult to injury, we've been very conscious about our health--obviously, going to the gym, monitoring our diets and getting ample rest, I take vitamin supplements daily, constantly wash my hands (especially after being on the subway)--yet, no peace nor avoidance from whatever this is. Okay, enough griping. Hopefully, we'll both be well enough by Sunday morning to pick up where we left off last week, as I haven't been to the gym since then.

While in this illness-induced fog, I haven't given too much thought to The Punch Line or music, in general. It's nice to be able to have this time away from thinking about it; as the album reaches its' final stages, I can slowly transfer my attention to the post-production elements as opposed to being fixated on the recording. Being in a band doesn't take great depth or intellectual skill, but it certainly is an exercise in discipline and (at moments) psychological warfare. Nonetheless, it is nearly done (I will be fair and maintain that yes, last Saturday was a great leap forward) and there's still work ahead, but nothing that I don't have complete control over. As Uncle Ted once told me, "We're all cravemen, Rob and you're the alpha male. Don't you forget that". Fair enough--I'll defer to him. I'll set thinking about the band, the (tentative) upcoming acoustic gig and even listening to anything aside.

The one good thing about being home (if there is a "good thing" about being sick) is that I have plenty of reading to do and catch up on. XP class readings aside, I still have to get through this week's The Nation and the latest Utne Reader. There are moments when I feel like I'm forgetting to keep my mind trained on reading and knowing and keeping aware; too many superficial distractions seem to crop up and I wind up not clearing out the nonsense to make room to read. Disgraceful. Also found (by happenstance) a copy of Psycho-Cybernetics, which I've been dying to read for years, so I'm set for the immediate future.

Okay, the juggling act comes down to two things: the SG Special or the iBook. By getting the latest Musician's Friend catalog and MacWorld, it's like porn for me. I have a feeling I know what the answer/winner will be, so I'll creatively visualize my new toy...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Here in suburbia

An early entry on a sunny morning. I've yet to pour my first cup of coffee (which I will do momentarily, at the commercial) and I'm sitting here, watching one of my favorite shows of all time, "Nigella Bites" with the delicious goddess, Nigella Lawson. It's a good start to a morning (and my preferred setting for blog time) when I didn't expect to be at home with Liz. She came home from work early yesterday with a severe flu; I left work at 3:30 to be with her and do whatever necessary. Subsequently, I had to forego my usual Tuesday night at the gym. Not a trauma, as I have yet to feel 100%, but her being this ill was too important for me to even stay at the office any longer. Thankfully, after a good, long night's sleep, she's feeling much better (it was a very hard afternoon/evening for her) but we're here so she can recuperate her energies and (hopefully) be back at work tomorrow.

I did manage to get myself a solid night's sleep on the sofa, which explains why I'm here, refreshed and writing this early. While I'm glad to be home with Liz, I will be missing the XP class today; I'm sure once I get the reading for next week, I'll be alright. I'm thinking of taking this to a further step and signing on somewhere for an actual class to learn writing/coding. It (like everything else) can only benefit me and since I'm getting more into Mac Life, it will (undoubtedly) help me at home--especially since I work with Mac pros/fans.

In talking with some of my friends at work, it seems like we're all in the same mindset of finding a house in New Jersey. I don't think there's anyone who's even slightly enamored by the notion of living in Manhattan--how could you, especially after you're past the age of 25? There is nothing cool, hip or valuable about living in the city--it's too fucking expensive, too loud, too clustered and New York City has lost all the charm and mystique that made it New York City. You know, the areas that were once verboten are now tourist attractions and the people who made "city life" (sic) worth exploring has either grown up and moved on or died. It's a sad but simple fact. Time changes everything and the city is no different. There are moments when I get a little weepy and lachrymose about "the old days", especially when I pass by or even stop in at some of my old haunts, but at the same time, that was then. It was all about youth--now the city is old and the cliches are tired. You'll get more animation out of me talking about wanting a lush, green lawn and my preference for Frigidare chrome refrigerators in the eat-in kitchen (with the French sliding-glass doors that lead to the yard).

I think I'll finish this entry here; sit back with my (now) second cup of joe, close my eyes and imagine writing this on my iBook in the kitchen of the house, before I go out to wash the Mini.

A middle-age fantasy or a nice projection of a reality to come?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Detonate my dreams

Some thoughts, random or otherwise on a Tuesday in a quiet atmosphere...

A friend of mine (who is a well-known/successful musician) was asking how The Punch Line's album was coming along and if I was happy with the way the songs are turning out. He asked because we were reminiscing over his debut album and the thrill it gave him (and his bandmates). I had to remind him that while his first album was released when he was much younger, I've lived with some of these songs for (nearly twenty) years. I'm happy to hear them come to life, but there are moments when I feel a sense of loss. Keep in mind, not in a melancholic or empty manner (nothing as serious); just that something's missing.

As it's been wisely stated (and I'm paraphrasing here), a first album should be a momentous occasion--where all your ideas finally come to light. Some of the songs are quite good--certainly the first one that springs to mind is "Beauty Lies", by virtue of the fact that it wasn't written until '98 and I had conceived this album in '88 (more or less). The performance is stellar and the vibe is there. "Train Of Thought", which of course, has been raised to a new height of pride and compliment (by others than myself) is as near to perfect as I could have designed. "Second Time Around", which is a song that I admit to being quite fond of, is coming along--for a first attempt, again, the feeling is there. Yet, some of the others seem to be lacking a certain spirit or power, if you will. Granted, reality dictates that not every song is going to be as much of a knockout as the next or previous one, but every time I listen to "Someone" and "Puppet Master", they're missing an excitement that the other tracks generate.

Everyone knows that I've never been in love with "Let It Go", as it's an old Carl Treboschi/Rob Ross carry-over from the previous Punch Line era, which Carl sung and was always something of a throwaway. Yet, as much of a concession as this song was in adding it to this album, it has drive and bluster and energy. It has that verve that the two aforementioned tracks are lacking. I like the two songs a great deal; they fit this triumvirate for the album ("Bitter Sweet", which has yet to be recorded, being the third) and for some reason, they aren't achieving the necessary feel that they should have. I'm not sure why; it could be because they were the last things recorded before the disaster with "Synchronic West" occurred (which still plagues us); it could be the fact that on two separate occasions, the vocals had been done when none of us were physically well or that they were done in an uncomfortable fashion--it really could be any number of things. The point is, the songs need that special something and I'm glad I've decided to eschew (for the moment) going back to try and "get it right" during the next session. I want to move ahead and start working on "Inside" and then to "Bitter Sweet". Once those tracks are completed, then we'll return to "Someone" and "Puppet Master". The time and space from those songs, I think, will allow us the ability to re-attack the vocals with a refreshed passion.

I'd explained all the above to my friend (who will remain nameless as I don't like name droppers; say what you will--it isn't cool nor impressive) yesterday and his response was "I'm glad you're taking the reins again. I thought you were getting a bit soft", which surprised me. Not in a bad way, mind you--he just felt that I needed to keep the band on track and focused in getting this album recorded and then moving on to do the other things that bands do in the aftermath of a release. "The strength of your leadership is what will keep the good ship Punch Line sailing smoothly through rocky waters" had to be the line of the night. Funny as it is, I'm inclined to agree with him--and I like the seafaring metaphor. Focus, strength and belief in those songs is what will make this ultimately come together the way I want, as at the end of the day, it's all about the songs. The extraneous bullshit is just that--bullshit--and I will easily shoot it down.

It's a good feeling to be able to step back from your own music and look at it from as much of an outsider's point of view as possible. I intend to maintain the same position I've had from the very beginning. At the end of this record--when it's complete and in my hands, with art and physical disc--if I listen to it from start to finish and feel a sense of satisfaction, then I'll be happy. I want to know that the songs turned out the way I perceived/conceived and that I would be proud of this record. I don't want to feel about this the way I do about the Smile e.p. or to a lesser degree, some of the earlier Punch Line/Two Minutes Hate releases. It's all down to pride in the song and subsequently, in the performance.

Having said that, I can now turn my energies to some of the other moments of pleasure in my life.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Don't bother me

Fast entry.

While I managed to wake up with Liz and see her off to work, then get the laundry done, I didn't get anything accomplished in Synchronic East. Okay, wait--I retract that: I started to record "The Sweetest Revenge" and after getting the 1st guitar track down, I broke the B string on the new Strat, which is the first time in at least 13 years that I actually broke a string. I took that as a sign that I just wasn't up to the task and that maybe a day of actually resting would stand me in good stead. I'll pick up a new string on Saturday when we're out doing our errands. I'm not chafed by not doing any "work"--I'm still feeling under the weather and with this one day, a little peace and genuine quiet is welcomed.

I did go back and listen to the new track and the re-done vocals on "Someone" and "Puppet Master"; I don't love them and yet, I'm not upset about it. I e-mailed the guys and said we should just forge ahead and do the next new songs and when all the music is complete, then go back and tackle the vocals after some time and distance from those songs. "Second Time Around" is good, overall, but I was sloppy with some guitar parts and I want to re-do them. No tearing my hair out at this stage.

That's pretty much it for me. I'm tired (relaxed?) and hoping for a good night's sleep. I'm off to prepare my lunch for the balance of the week.

More when I've regained a clearer head.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Storm warning

Now that the heavy day of this weekend is over, I figured I'd take some quiet time to clear my mind of the previous weeks' events, et al. The TV networks are interrupting every few moments to remind us that a "snowstorm" (read: 3 - 5 inches) is heading this way--as New Yorkers, are we a bunch of pussies? For fuck's sake, it's February and that means snow is always a possibility. So suck it up and dress warmly. You've seen it before. Stop bitching and acting like it's the end of the fucking world.

Yes, I made my Sunday jaunt to the gym; felt great during and afterward, which helped counterbalance the discomfort in my throat and chest. Once again, hit new highs on the elliptical; balancing the heart rate on the treadmill and increasing my program with the free weights and (now) some of the weight machines. A quick lunch afterwards, then off to our favorite quality-on-a-budget store, Target. Picked up the necessities; stopped for coffee and then grocery shopped for my dad and ourselves and finally home. A long day; a busy day and I am very happy that I have tomorrow off from work. Liz doesn't, but I'll take care of the laundry and then sequester myself in Synchronic East with at least two of the "new" songs to have for the guys. It's work (especially while still feeling not-great), but it's relaxing and a labor of love, as it's been a long time since I've worked on demos--especially demos for a purpose.

Off to watch my favorite new piece of escapist fluff, "Desperate Housewives". I'm not above it and Teri Hatcher is such a piece of ass.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Doctor's orders

I'll keep this brief, as I'm physically tired and my throat is still bothering me. Obviously, I'm still not at 100%, try as I might to help speed this cold along and out of my system.

The Punch Line did indeed forge ahead with our planned recording session and I sit here, proud to know that we accomplished not only the items on the agenda but there is a new, completed track ("Second Time Around"), which now leaves two to go for the album to be done (and then time to mix). I can honestly say that I'm still happily agog at the fact that we not only took care of the "older" songs with as much love and vigor as ever but that "Second..." fell together so easily. It was all literally one take for each element of the track. It took me the most tries to get what we call the "chick'n-pickin' " guitar line right--my fucking up was the most time consuming and the guys were kind and patient enough to bear with me. Amazingly, I think we started the song at about noon or thereabouts and finished it by 2:30/3:00. Either way--done and done well---with time to spare for us to grab a pizza and sodas. I think I can speak for the band and say we're definitely proud of this song.

With that little bit of satisfaction put down for the record, I'm going to write a check and lie down as I still don't feel great. Now if the malaise would disperse from within me, this will have been yet another great weekend.

Hockey anyone?, thanks; spring training is starting and let's face it--the Rangers would be a misery to watch, anyway. I'd rather suffer in warmth with the Mets.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Point me at the sky

Okay, so while not at 100% firepower just yet, I don't have that underwater feeling anymore. Worked out hard last night to try and fight through this crud. It did help; certainly, it replenished my energies. Part of the drive to work out was to not only do my body good but to freshen my mind for tomorrow. Leap the hurdle of Friday at work and tonight, prepare for the session. Go here:

Welcome to Sahaja Yoga New York

This is (and has been for nearly three years) the answer for me. Sahaja Yoga will put me where I want and need to be for recording. Amongst other things. When I feel mentally, physically, emotionally depleted, I do S.Y. and I am refreshed. Try it.

As I've said before, the main thing for tomorrow is focus and being ready to go from the minute we're assembled. A lot of work--a lot of it being the proverbial catching up, which is a bad thing when recording. Brings me back to the original frustration of "this should have been completed some months ago". Okay--enough said about that, but as many of you know, the demos for the next one are in the beginning stages, so whatever time (or worse, impetus) was lost with this record can be made up with solid preparation for Always Bridesmaids. My main goal now is to get these last three songs completed by the beginning of May, since we're at the tail end of February and the time available to record is scattershot (at best). If that target holds up, then we'd have an early summer release and be able to play some shows behind the album during June, July and August. After that, we'll see. Another obviously worst kept secret (yes, I know, folks--stop chuckling): I have no intentions of playing outside the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut/Pennsylvania perimeter (if it came to that), but to play a handful of local gigs would be acceptible on a Friday or Saturday night (forget any other time; I'm too old for that kind of nonsense. Period.)--as was demonstrated last summer, we have the capability to deliver the goods (and that was under the worst possible kind of duress). With some disciplined rehearsal, the suitable songs from this record plus some of the new songs give me the belief that we'd have quite a formidable set. In an unguarded moment of projection, I could see songs like "The Sweetest Revenge" alongside something like "Tearing Me Apart" and being quite the one-two punch. So, yep, yep--we'll see.

A new documentary I'm keen on seeing--even though I'm not at all a fan of rock documentaries--is about The Minutemen and confessedly, they are the one band that I truly loved and the only band (at this stage of my history) that I never did get to experience live--tragically, Boon's death negated our tickets. Nonetheless, I'd been listening to them a lot (again) recently before I'd even heard about this film, so the timing couldn' t be better. Go here:

They were a major influence on me in my late teens/early 20's and if you don't know, it's because of them I christened the band The Punch Line. D., God bless you and thanks.

"...We strip our tunes...we jam econo...makes us stench"

Can you call it the big foist? I'm fucking overwhelmed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Ill again--ugh. Not a great way to begin a posting but I'm feeling the effects of un-wellness and over-the-counter cough medicine. Dreadful. I'd like to go to the gym after work and perhaps sweat out this feeling--I do have my bag--but I'm not sure. Still a bit early in the day and premature to blow it off. Of course, in typically cruel and ironic fashion, I'm sick again two days before a recording session. Psychosomatic? I doubt it. It's nothing more nor less than an inconvenience and a drag.

Getting to the notion of the recording session--this uneasy feeling is interfering with my mental preparation for the "studio" (sic). I've been getting into the appropriate mindset (especially after last Friday with Bob) and trying to focus on the order of the session so we can achieve all that's on the agenda. I'd dearly love to walk away from this week knowing that the 2 songs that are still lingering for reworking are done and that the new songs are (at long last) underway. I'm cautious that I'll be feeling as near to 100% as possible. Seems like the operative phrase here is "we'll see".

About those new/final songs. Still have the same warmth for them when I wrote them (summer '87 for "Second Time Around" and autumn '93 for "Bitter Sweet" and "Inside"). I'm glad that we saved the most convoluted (if you will) tracks for last. "Second..." isn't that difficult, but it is a departure and the other two are just built for detailing. Once this album is finished/mixed and ready for release (I've already sequenced the tracks), it will read like a book--there is (was?) an unconscious thread that ran through all these songs seamlessly. I've consciously avoided listening to what we have now, as I didn't want to begin feeling flustered that it's not done and I didn't want to grow tired of the songs. As we're approaching the end, I can see the (until it took "shape", so to speak) concept of the album and from the preliminary reactions I've been getting, this should be good. I'll reserve judgment for now.

Being that I'm feeling under the weather, I'm not going to offer up any social critiques today; everyone can basically fuck off as far as I'm concerned. You know what I mean. I was thinking about B.'s suggestion about a book--some of these postings would serve well as chapters, as long as they were aligned properly. From the musical ruminations to the waxing philosophical and the sociological observances, it could work. I'll debate it, mentally, later.

Well--okay, I'll retract something I just said above (about no critiquing), as it came up in conversation last night. The compulsion some people tend to have about needing "validation". "LOOK AT ME!", "LOOK WHAT I DID!"--oh, please. I'm not a fan of having to say "nice job" every time these idiots manage to turn on a light switch or throw an empty soda can in the bin marked "recyclable"; don't try to impress me--you'll only be disappointed. And don't sit/stand there, watching me and waiting for me to talk to you and give you an audience. I don't care. If you've done something, you've done it for its' merits and nothing else. My opinion doesn't matter. So leave me alone; I'm not seeking attention. You aren't a child (even though you act like one).

Onto brighter topics--finding so many wonderful houses gives me no end of hope. There are these exhilarating moments where I can envision the house set up the way Liz and I have discussed (complete with that stunning new Kenmore cobalt blue washer/dryer) and I can't help but look toward the immediate future and planning the move. I know I'll feel a great sense of relief when we get my father out of his apartment and we're all settled in. Until then, due diligence must be served in looking for the right house. After that, we finally buy the Mini. Plans that come together (especially long-range ones) please me more than anything else.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A public service announcement

I jinxed myself yesterday by saying how good I was feeling and how much restful sleep I'd been getting--naturally, I've been bothered by this weirdness in my throat and last night, I dozed off, then woke up and couldn't fall asleep again until about 1 a.m., at which time I slept on the couch. I feel that strange semi-ill discomfort, which I'll hopefully shake off by class, which is at 1 p.m. About that, I've been doing my reading and getting a feel for what the illustrious Heow is trying to get across about XP programming. It would be something if I actually can learn and be productive at something other than music and writing.

At the same time, writing (in general) has been a reawakened love. Be it here or jotting down bits of verse, etc., it's given me a sense of pleasure all over again. I was reading through some of the blogs that I regularly visit and came across my comrade and fellow-forward thinker, Le Fig, whose sense of prose and wit are a rare commodity in this day of self-indulgent wanking off and downright obnoxiousness. Her writings are a breath of fresh air and once again, I found myself in complete agreement on a public nuisance that I will expound upon one step further.

She commented on parenting and kids in crowded stores--let's take that one step further. This morning as I got off the ferry, a man picked his daughter up (I'd guess she was 3 years old) and carried her as passengers began to disembark. Absolutely the right thing to do. Why is it such an act is rare? Why do so many of these insipid/ill-mannered/dumb-as-a-shit-sandwich fuckwits always let their brats push their own strollers and take their time going up the stairs or block the way when you're simply trying to get to and fro on crowded public transportation? Why do these foul-mouthed yobs have these awful children who run rampant in every public forum/facility possible? Because they keep having children. Idiots breed idiots. And as long as these recalcitrants, visigoths and subhuman cretins continue to pollute the Earth with their wretched progeny, we will continue to suffer for it. Dirt-eating little turds grow to be stupid, uneducated couch jockeys and future mothers-at-14. This is why I am a proponent of forced sterilization. Stop the madness. End idiot-breeding. Oh, and your kid isn't special. Whether the little brat uses a big word (it's called "mimicry", you stupid piece of shit--all little children do it) or your teenager actually didn't get a "D" in study period, I don't care. You aren't the first and only people to spawn these monstrosities. This is why I keep company with those who are (currently) childless. With the exception of my beloved Sydney and Zach, I just can't stand kids, because I can't stand their parents. The last time Liz and I were trapped in one of those situations, it was this awful woman babbling on and on about her (dear God, ugly isn't the word) little bastard (correct use of the term here--if you don't know, buy a fucking dictionary and look it up) hell-spawn starting to read and gushing about how wonderful it was--except that the fucking kid is nearly 3. If your kid can't do the ABC's by then, put the kid down. For the love of God and the good of humanity.

Deep breath. Okay. I am back to center gravity. Go here:

Timbuk 2

Some of the coolest, most stylish bags I've seen in years. And yes, I can't help but be partial to a bag that shows a bunch of Mods on scooters as part of its' ad. I just bought one at The Apple Store and it's just right. Liz has said more times than I can count that I am a bag whore. In my defense, while it was true in the past, I've kept it limited to maybe two over the last two or three years.

Much as it pains me to say it (although I will not act upon it), I'm jonesing for one of those Starbucks Java Chip Frappaccinos. Either Java Chip or the coffee-free Strawberry Creme. What the hell is happening to me?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Is Granny spry?

Jesus, it's mid-February and supposed to hit 59 degrees today. Why, God, why am I (why are we) cooped up in this office when we should be out communing with the warm air and walking streets in the abject joy of freedom? Maybe I'll come down with bubonic plague to get out of working the rest of the afternoon--you know, the 24-hour kind. Actually, I've no reason to kvetch (this is a Yiddish word which New Yorkers frequently use for "complain"); I'm planning to go to the gym after work, but I wouldn't mind blowing off the afternoon and hitting the gym early. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer getting back to Staten Island and going for a drive or maybe out for a nice, late afternoon cafe jaunt. My place of preference? Cafe Le Figaro on Bleecker Street. Has always been my personal touchstone of escape and space for clearing my head of all mental cobwebs. It's also been the proverbial home-away-from-home for both Two Minutes Hate and The Punch Line since 1984. Whiled away many hours; writing songs, planning strategies, drinking cappuccino, smoking cigarettes (in another lifetime) and pretending we were The Style Council. How wonderfully, warmingly adolescent of us. But I still prefer that particular cafe as it's the only one not yet scathed by the now-constantly-changing landscape of the Village. It's one of the last vestiges of my youth that I'll cling to until it changes decor or closes or I move and never venture into the Village again. Either way, it's where I'd like to be at this particular moment.

Feeling pretty good physically. I noticed this morning that yet again, I've been able to wake up with no sluggishness and a fast burst of decent energy. Been getting solid, restful sleep over the last week or so (this past Friday into Saturday notwithstanding) and with getting more bang for my buck at the gym and my diet being balanced, I feel better than I have in a very long time. I think this physical well-being plays hand-in-hand with my seemingly positive frame of mind and this clarity that I've regained in recent weeks. Now all these good vibes, I will hope, should translate itself into this coming Saturday--the next Punch Line recording session. Cleaning up/tidying up vocals and some minor percussion on two of the already-completed tracks and then we start the basic tracks for the last three "new" songs. The joke, of course, is that it's our monthly session--just as if we were having our period. And God knows, it's been cramping my style. I suppose on the good side of it, it hasn't made me bloated or weepy.

B. suggested that while I'm on this kind of a mind-to-fingertips tear, I should seriously think about, if not actually start, writing a book. A thought; an aspiration, certainly, but I do often wonder if I have the discipline to do so.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

For those of you who have love--enjoy it. Savor it. For those of you feeling empty--you aren't. You ARE loved. The best love you will ever find is within yourself.

Chocolates--flowers--teddy bears. However trite or saccharine-sweet, sometimes we all need an uncomplicated reminder.

Laundry, yoga and preparing lunch for tomorrow is how I will be spending my evening while Liz is at her gym. Doesn't matter if our day is spent apart. Sorry to rub it in, but after 6 years of marriage, every day is still a Valentine's Day (if you will).

If you have to sell it, it doesn't exist.

Much love to you all.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Weekend wrap-up

A great weekend yet again. Hit the gym this morning with a lot of energy, which made the time spent there go quickly. New heights reached on the elliptical; increased work in the weight room and my heart rate seems to be holding steadily now as I work out. Had a quick lunch at Wendy's--say what you will about fast food, but their "Value Menu" is pretty great (I know what you're thinking, about it being low-brow of us)--the chili is hearty; I love baked potatoes with sour cream and chives and after a hard workout, you need to replenish energy. We drove up to northern Jersey afterwards to look at various areas for a house; on a beautiful (almost early spring-like), sunny afternoon, I don't mind driving one bit. Had a quick chat with my cousins in California and now a chance to unwind and put myself back in the work mindset for tomorrow. If I'm feeling as energetic as I (still) do now, I'll do the laundry tonight.

About those houses--to say that I'm chomping at the bit to move and to move into a house is probably understating it. The recurring fantasy I have is the "first barbecue", where Liz and I are comfortably situated in our new home as friends and family start to arrive for our first barbecue on a beautiful June Saturday. The blue Mini is in the driveway and I'm setting up the grill as Bob (as far as I can see in this scenario) is the first to arrive, followed by B., etc. Yes, I know it isn't exciting, but it's thrilling enough for me as it's something we're working toward. Just the idea of a quiet neighborhood; tree-lined streets and not being in Staten Island anymore is a spirit-lifter. I don't hate it here; I just don't feel a sense of home or community any longer.

Granted, this particular entry doesn't have much depth of thought, aside from giving the breakdown of the day's activities, but my mind is still juggling with many ideas, projects, thoughts and plans. The fact that I'm here for the seventh consecutive entry pleases me as it keeps me in a disciplined state of writing for the sake of remaining fresh. I have a feeling next Monday (day off from work), all this will translate itself into working in Synchronic East.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

When the hangover strikes

Woke up this morning with a hangover, which is something I'm not familiar with--at least not in the last 8 or so years. Had a fantastic night out with Bob at Maxwell's; good food, fine wine, hilarious and great conversation. Could not ask for better. Was thoroughly inebriated singing random Kiss songs while The Jam played over and over in the background. Got in at 2:15 a.m. but didn't remember to take Advil before going to sleep; subsequently, I woke up with my head caved in.

Went out to breakfast with Liz before grocery shopping; the cold, fresh morning air helped bring me back to life somewhat, although I felt shaky until we finished at the supermarket. Liz and I spent quality time with the computer so she can re-learn various programs and have been laying low for most of this day.

Talking with Bob about the next Punch Line album (since next week's sessions bring the start of the last 3 songs to be done for this one); it's nice knowing that he wants to rock as much as I do. Much as I'm proud of get to the other side, I think the next album should be much more of where I want to take The Punch Line musically--heavier, louder, faster. It should be a much more stripped down record. No Rickenbackers--SG's are on tap. I know he's pretty keen on "The Sweetest Revenge", which is riff-laden, machine gun etiquette guitars; with that kind of vibe, I'm ready to lock into working on the demos formally. Plus, with 19 songs at the ready, I'd better start cracking my own whip.

Most often played on the iPod Mini this first week:
"Something's Missing" - The Chords
"Frustration" - The Purple Hearts
"Hide And Seek" - Secret Affair
"Circles" - The Who
"So Says I" - The Shins
"Crackin' Up" - The Caesars
"Stop, Look And Listen" - Belle And Sebastian
"Totally From The Heart" - The Buzzcocks
"Puppets Don't Bleed" - Time U.K.
"Picking Up On Audio Sound" - Flag Of Convenience

Okay, more later--I still have a residual headache.

Friday, February 11, 2005

And the punch line is...?

A beautiful, crisp Friday morning. Nothing could be a better prelude to a good weekend ahead. Meeting Bob tonight for dinner at Maxwell's; breakfast out in the morning as well as tomorrow's chores and a tutorial for Liz on the computer and (naturally) the gym on Sunday morning. Like I've said so many times, it's a wonderful life.

An addendum to my observations of yesterday:

I'm waiting for the elevator and a woman I know says to me, "Have you been losing weight?" (giggles...annoyance #1)
Me: "Yes, I have"
Her: "Wow, it's noticeable. How did you do it?" (now getting physically in my face, which is annoyance #2, while giggling)
Me: "By watching what I eat, when I eat and by exercising three to four times a week at the gym"
Her: "Really?" (giggling-to-laughing)
Me: "Yes" (not laughing, ready to push her down the elevator shaft)
Her: "That's so cool" (bursts in to peels of laughter)
Me: no reply. I ignored her as she kept babbling on about some incoherent garbage that seemed to concern only her, as I couldn't have cared less.

The point I'm making--what's the fucking punch line here? Where's the joke? What's so funny? Christ, if it's one thing that I TRULY hate and WILL become vocally critical to downright confrontational is "what are you laughing about?". You asked a question; I answered it. Where's the humor in the above exchange? People who incessantly laugh when you talk to them genuinely get me riled up. It's like dealing with a retarded/hyperactive/ADD-afflicted monkey. And do people have to get so physically close that you can smell the cigarettes and coffee on their breath or the stink of their unwashed attire? Fuck! Of course, I'm pretty sure this particular woman is on the charlie or at best, tweaking one way or the other. Regardless, I don't care about her but stay the fuck out of my z.o.c.

If you're going to speak to me and ask me questions, don't laugh afterwards because my punch line won't be so charming.

Okay, now on to better and more normal things (versus irritating and NOT-forgivable human foibles). While I can see finally wrapping up a song I've labored over for the better part of a year-plus, I actually have been putting together new song ideas, which I think will kick me into full gear again as a songwriter. Once again, I attribute this new-found wealth of lyrical gymnastics due to the freeform of blogging. It's all about flow.

iPod Shuffle doesn't do anything for me, aesthetically or logically, but glad to hear that Apple's using The Caesars' "Jerk It Out" as their campaign song. Check out their album from last year, "39 Minutes Of Bliss (In An Otherwise Meaningless World)", which I bought for the track "Crackin' Up".

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pre-judgment at dawn

Dreary grey skies seem to spark the ease to write, even this early. Had my mind rife with ideas for lyrics and a few thoughts I'd put down here. Admittedly, I love the flow of excitement in thinking, writing, creating and learning again; I feel like I'd been out lingering in the wild wood somewhere for ages. The emotional and artistic coma/stupor/call-it-whatever-you-want has lifted and I'm where I should have been all along. It makes my coveting the new iBook even more daunting--(thinking out loud here) if I had one, I could get everything down in order, instead of writing notes and then going back later, etc. So I have something else to look forward to. Short list, you know--iBook, house, car. That's all.

No greater a feeling than having a small pile of periodicals, books and net articles (the Washington Post, the Daily News, etc.). The greatest crime a person can commit is to not read; to not expand one's knowledge. I don't mean that in a pompous way, either. I remember an incident where a dear friend said to me, completely straight-faced, "I don't read unless I'm in school and since I'm not in school, I don't read". What made that statement so horrific is that he wasn't (isn't) feeble-minded or uneducated. So I do look down on people who choose not to nourish what God gave them--a blank canvas mind to fill in with colors and words. Of course, that also means (fill in the contradiction now) I would have to give a shit about the human race in general, which I don't...

The fact that I am an out-of-the-closet misanthrope who couldn't give a flying fuck about people (who I think are generally self-absorbed, self-congradulatory and willfully oblivious/ignorant twats) doesn't prevent me from appreciating whole-heartedly the people I do call my friends. More often than not, I just smile benignly and nod and pretend to care when I have to listen to someone prattle on about their life's miseries or their fabulous new car. Uh, yes, I could care less. What gives me the endless laughs is when some hapless bastard goes on with their New Age/Dr. Phil/EST-styled homilies and horseshit-fests. Liz, B., J.W. and several others along with myself have had THIS discussion and oh my, do they wind up looking even dumber than when they actually started sermonizing. You know, they climb up on that wobbly moral high horse of theirs and start dishing out the spiel... It reminds me of that passage in the book version of High Fidelity, when Rob visits one of his former girlfriends and she and her husband roll out the couples' cliche carpet. It's like The Swan said yesterday "If they have to talk about how much they love their spouses and tell you how you can make your marriage work, then you KNOW things really suck for them". Naturally, I agree with him. I don't talk about my marriage because Liz and I are happy and that's all. People always seem to be waiting for the ellipsis and they try to pry it with "...and?". And what? Don't look for an answer--you'll only be disappointed.

Another topic of recent coffee chat has been the idea of someone's misperceptions from the get-go. I'm sure you've come across these assholes once or twice. They meet you and immediately:
a) Have an automatic/set image of what they think you are like/what you are about
b) Think they "know" you because they think you're "like them" (egocentric projection)
c) If they knew you in the past but have only recently reconnected with you, they think you're the same person as you were then.

This, in a nutshell, is the main reason why I so despise most people. The ignorance. My favorite (please note, tongue firmly in cheek) line is:
"You know, you look like the kind of guy who...(fill in the blank)"

How would you know? You just met me. You know nothing about me, you stupid cunt.

And yet this seems to happen more often than any other reason for personality conflicts. It used to bother me--now it makes me laugh as it gives me great verbal cannon fodder. Really is a strange phenomenon at its' core. Some people think I'm some kind of jokester--automatically ready for hi-jinks and yuks; some people think I'm weird because I have a thick beard and I don't smile (wow!) and some people--well, I don't know what they think and don't care what they think because they're meaningless in my orbit. For my part, I automatically wait for a reason to like or dislike a person and then I can either embrace you or unleash the venom. I always have a healthy supply of contempt and scorn at the ready. I don't need to get into shouting matches or histrionics--I just ignore you. The shut down on people I don't want to be associated with is unnoticeable--my weapon. Thus, my aura is pretty regularly becalmed and my countenance is near beatific when in said mindset.

Of course, I've known many who would read the above or discuss the above and would say "if you didn't care you wouldn't write about it. It must bother you". No. On the contrary, it's simply reportage. It's perspective and by not caring, you can look at it all objectively. Like I said--insignificant because it's those kind of people I wouldn't entertain the notion of spending any time with except when it's absolutely (unfortunately) necessary.

The idea of "fake genteel" is hideous. I'm only saying what most people think. It's not to be taken as bombast or grandstanding but just part of the topic of conversations that you do have with like-minded, socially-mature and bullshit-free individuals. And as it's been well-documented, if I was this hateful or truly strange being, then I wouldn't be married and wouldn't have the close friendships and relationships with my family that I do have. Almost all of my relationships aren't ephemeral; they've been (for the most part) very long-term. Sometimes there are amputations and sometimes there are additions, as that's what keeps life moving along.

As Brother Roland tends to say...what a bunch of fucking knuckleheads.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

So says I

A day away from the gym; I need to genuinely rest my muscles so they can rejuvenate. And since I began this regimen, I can say I don't mind. A night at home in the calm and quiet is well-needed. Long days--not bad, just busy. No complaints nor irritations. Attended Heow's introductory programming class, which was interesting (and I do have a lot of reading for next week) and now I'm just unwinding.

Talking with B. and the Wolfeman at points about when we'll be able to have another afternoon with our wives, to sit and enjoy one another's company away from the office. It's something I know Liz would welcome; it's something we've discussed before--the realization that some of our former friends, colleagues and acquaintances simply needed to be jettisoned (and this has been the topic of conversation, certainly between Jason and myself). Sometimes friends stay in the past and don't progress along with you. Or their negative vibes are a yoke of unhappiness foisted on you. Or they're simply not the kind of people you can relate to. Whatever the case may be, sometimes, you have to end the old relationships or otherwise (in the Wolfeman's words) "the friendship jumps the shark". Couldn't agree with him more. But there you go--conversations with serious, yet nice, focused, unpretentious and good people. That's all we want. And so we've seemingly found. Out with the old and all that. Dinner parties and barbecues--that's what we're about.

The funny thing is, the conversations I've been involved in and the thoughts I've had as of late seem to translate into my outward appearance and approach. Numerous friends, colleagues and co-workers have all said pretty much the same thing (and I'm paraphrasing here, naturally): "You seem so relaxed and calm and laid back. You seem happy". That sounds about right. It's no secret I feel good since I started working out, but by the same token, I don't need to explain, advertise or try to sell people about how good my life is on the whole. It just is and I'm pleased. Who wouldn't be?

Just saw this very sad news item; it's a major loss for me:

Jazz Organ Pioneer Jimmy Smith Dies

By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organist Jimmy Smith, who helped change the sound of jazz by almost single-handedly introducing the electric riffs of the Hammond B-3 organ, has died at age 79 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his record label said on Wednesday.


A spokeswoman for the Concord record label said Smith died of natural causes.

Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 8, 1925, Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 in the 1950s and 1960s and blended jazz, blues, R&B, bebop and even gospel into an exciting stew that came to known as "soul jazz" -- an idiom that produced imitators, followers and fans.

"Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve -- you always remind someone of Jimmy Smith," jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco said in an interview with Reuters last year.

"He was the big pioneer, not only of the organ but musically. He was doing things that (John) Coltrane did in the '60s, but he did them back in '56 and '57," he added.

Paired with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in the 1960s, Smith first made his mark as a soloist on Blue Note Records where, as one critic noted, he turned the Hammond B-3 organ "into a down and dirty orchestra."

Among his best known albums on Blue Note were "The Sermon!," "Back at the Chicken Shack" and "Midnight Special."

Critic Gene Seymour writing in the "Oxford Companion to Jazz," said, "Though he was not the first player to bring the electric organ to jazz, Smith gave the instrument the expressive power that Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker gave their respective saxophones."

The pipe organ had been used in jazz in the 1930s by such famous players as Fats Waller but it was obviously too big and too heavy to be lugged into jazz clubs. Smith was able to take his electric B-3 on the road and created a jazz trio of organ, drums and either guitar or saxophone.

Smith himself provided the bass lines with the organ.

Smith initially learned piano at home and then went on to study bass at music schools in Philadelphia.

He began playing the Hammond organ in 1951, and soon wound up playing in some of New York's most famous clubs, including Cafe Bohemia and Birdland.

Smith's Blue Note sessions from his 1956 "New Sounds on the Organ" to 1963 when he left the label included work with some of the major players of the day, including Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec, and Stanley Turrentine.

On Verve from 1963 to 1972, he played with Montgomery and in big bands conducted or arranged by Oliver Nelson.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The changingman

Okay, just a rumination. I was reading an interview with an old "hero" of mine from late last year. Paul Weller (who else?). Never ceases to make me laugh--and that isn't a knock against him, either. Just reading how he goes to a gym (!), smokes less and was wearing Prada and carrying a very fashionable handbag (!) (?)--has the world finally been knocked askew or is The Style Councillor finally entering the modern world? I bought his last album and I think I can finally, truly say I couldn't care less anymore. Liz had one word to say, which summed it up nicely--boring. I felt the same way when Julian Cope started releasing nothing but those noise-trance-wah-wah albums. It's depressing to be a "fan", pay good money for these releases and get nothing for it.

I won't get up on the soapbox here and I won't start bashing Weller; it was just an observation--not a mockery nor a criticism. If anything, it's pleasing to see him catch up with even me (!). And I thought I was slow...

And speaking of gym--I'm still wiped out from last night's workout. While I managed to equal last week's high on the elliptical, there were no treadmills available, so I did a half hour on the bike--a standard of 95/100 m.p.h. and finished up with something like 11 or so miles. Yes, I am a bit sore and not feeling all too energetic today, but hey...

Rob E. is nearing the end of piecing together the credits, etc. with the artwork. Still need Bob's and Chris' credits--then we'll really be close to completion. We're also planning the photo shoot. Thinking about the album less seems to bring more of it actually coming together.

Loaded the iPod Mini with another 300 songs. Have to bring my Northern Soul comps to complete the 1000. I have to admit, I am enjoying the convenience of an mp.3 player. So I'm a hypocrite--sue me.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A quick one while I'm not yet away

HELP! Get me out of here--it's just too beautiful to be indoors, even with all these windows in the perimeter. Soho is truly amazing when the sun shines as it's doing now and the warm air has that certain excitement to it. I think a small bout of spring fever has me in its' teasing grip.

Once the work day ends, it's off to the gym again, since I can't go tomorrow night. Now THAT's commitment. Want to hit the same plateau I did on Thursday night with the elliptical, if not surpass it. Feel energized by the salad I had for lunch--this week is a free food week, so I didn't have to go crazy grocery shopping this past Saturday.

And still I'm on the high from the weekend. Even though I've been in the office all day, I loaded in 300-plus songs worth of music and set up my new iPod Mini; I am ready for the gym with all this fantastic music. I'll use the Walkman tonight for the last time, since there isn't any Northern Soul on the iPod yet, but Wednesday night (next workout) will be me jumping with both feet into the modern world (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

I wonder if I am having that mid-life crisis now?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Sunday... uh, what?

Hit the gym hard this morning. I admit, working with the weights was a little difficult, as I hadn't done it in two weeks, but no big deal--if anything, I need to get in a regular lifting groove. Felt great afterwards; a good meal and a drive on a beautiful day. 2 days of 60 degree weather in February--how can one be indoors?

Been a fabulous weekend. As promised, I did indeed pay a visit to The Apple Store in New Jersey and bought the iPod Mini and the external hard drive for the iMac. Oh, and I threw down for a new, really cool bag for my stuff (there is nothing wrong with wanting to accessorize) and an iPod Mini for Liz as her surprise Valentine's Day gift. Since the beginning of last year was so bad and financially tight, this year, I wanted her to have something frivolous yet special. Met up with B. in Hoboken and had drinks and great conversation, along with our lovely wives and was sound asleep before midnight.

I have to say (and some of this is part of last night's talk), I forgot how nice it is to have what one could consider a full and "normal" life. The idea of getting up and out, doing the groceries, a bit of shopping and then meeting friends--it seems like all we do is work and work and by the end of the week, we're so drained, that there's no drive or desire to get out and do anything beyond the necessities. It's a wonderfully liberating feeling to go out and socialize; to buy some little gadget that although not essential, is a well-deserved, well-earned reward. To talk about square footage of houses and cars we're interested in and what salad to serve when we get together at our place--everything I'd scoffed at in my younger years and said "oh, no, never--not me". I was wrong and I love it.

Okay--off to do the laundry, clean up the studio desk and figure out if we want to get anything before the Super Bowl ( Jets, no care)...

Friday, February 04, 2005

Early morning blues and greys

While the air is not as bitter cold as it had been, an annoying mixture of snow and rain interfered with my trek into work this morning. Nothing can put me in a bad humor faster than being wet as soon as I leave the apartment. Ugh.

I've seen the first mock-ups of the album artwork and I already love it, even in this embryonic stage. Rob is a complete pro; one of my most trusted friends, and took this project on as his own, with all love and respect to the music and the ideas I've been trying to convey. He gets it and his vision of the complete package works in tandem with mine on every level. The most exciting thing about it is that what he's doing is the work of a true art director; unlike when we were at Atlantic together, most of the "art directors" we worked with were handcuffed by "outside forces" (namely, the assholes in marketing and product development who didn't care about the quality of a project's visual presentation). They were all basically relegated to "graphic designers"--you know, take a photo, find a font, stick them together and trust your luck. A very cold, cookie cutter approach. There was no way I was going to let this one album with The Punch Line slip from my grasp in terms of art, design, etc.--it's what I've done, it's what Rob does so it only made sense that he helps bring this to life. As far back as '88, when we were doing the original " get to the other side", the images and designs were taking shape in our minds and on paper, when Marc and I would actually discuss what it should look like. Like everything else surrounding this project, it's coming full circle.

I'm obviously feeling pretty good about the design factor; I'm also pleased that I increased my regimen on the elliptical last night and reached a new height on the fat burn/weight loss program. I never would have expected to take such pride and pleasure at the notion of exercising. Sounds childish, perhaps, but having been sedentary for so long, you wind up in a completely different mindset once you make the decision and actually begin the process of training. And as overstated and cliche-laden this may be, after a long day at work (not necessarily bad or stress-filled), you feel completely rejuvenated with a workout. Good things all around. I still hold fast with the notion of should The Punch Line play live in the coming months, then I intend to be comfortable on stage in a black t-shirt and not looking like my guitar rests on my stomach. A simplistic goal, but one that's completely reachable.

Signed up for a programming class, here at work. It's time to start learning something completely new. All these wonderful resources at my fingertips--why not say "yes" and be a true team player? It's apparent to me that I work with some pretty amazing people. Not just in terms of their capabilities and professional backgrounds, but in their human qualities. It's a welcomed pleasure and a revellation to find people that I can have genuine, interesting conversations with. Not the usual stupid bullshit of past acquaintances, et al., but being able to ruminate about life, politics, marriage, houses, which brand of coffee is really best and so on. There have been so many times when I want to run screaming from listening to the nonsense of some of my contemporaries; being here with this particular group of co-workers is a joy and a refuge from the usual suspects. Plus, this company has given me so much more than I've had at prior jobs--taken in the context of now being 40 and not living in the goldfish bowl existence of life at a record label. When I add it up, the perks here have been far greater. Realization that I really like this job is like many other recent discoveries.

Okay, time to start loading today's CD's on my hard drive for the iPod mini. I need to get one. I want to prepare myself in advance. Had an amazing library already loaded in on my laptop, but that's a moot point since it was stolen on my birthday. Have to start over from scratch. Going over to the Apple Store at lunch to check it out and to price an external hard drive for the iMac. I may throw down and buy both tomorrow when Liz and I are in New Jersey.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dear diary...

Talking with B. a few days ago about the whole idea of blogging. Most people think it's surprising that I would take to it with such ease or that I'd embrace the concept at all, let alone be an active participant (or "blogger"... hee hee hee). I would agree that it's out of my norm, so to speak, but I have found this process to be a welcome addition to my days for a few reasons. Here's what I came up with while we were talking and dissecting the logic:

a) I think many of us have an idea that we'd like to keep some kind of journal or diary. I've tried several times in years past, but when I've done it and read my entries back, it always sounded so fake/false/forced. The whole idea of writing as if you fully expect someone to read the damn thing--the "on stage" effect. It's the most egregious form of self-indulgent and verbal masturbation you can commit. Thus, I abandoned these poor attempts almost as quickly as I'd undertaken them.

b) Writing by hand was always a chore, by virtue of a self-editing process. Not knowing what to say or how to say it made me filter everything I did, thus taking away the purity of what I was writing (see above).

c) By blogging, the actual writing is coming out as I'm thinking. There is no bullshit here, no on-stage fake "ooh, read my blog" nonsense. This is all very stream-of-consciousness, which is highly therapeutic (re: relaxing) and honestly, easy, since I type as well as I do.

d) As a writer, it's the perfect exercise. By blogging, I've been able to keep my mind fresh with ideas on songs, short stories, articles, etc. This has opened a new window for me to finally let in more artistic air in what was a pretty stale studio. It also keeps my fingers nimble--I'm not kidding. Write, play guitar, etc. It's inspiring.

e) It's cleansing. If I'm aggravated, I write. If I'm feeling contemplative, I write. If I feel like jotting down a thought about something mundane, I write. See "c" above. It's a quick, coherent purge. And that's key--coherency. Writing in a traditional journal never seemed like it made any sense, even to me.

Overall, it's made me a better writer immediately.

I am--therefore, I blog.

Back to the gym tonight. Changing the diet a little. Easing up from the blandness of yogurt, grapefruit, trail mix and peppermint tea to raw veggies, cheese, bread, fresh fruit and a small piece of organic chocolate for energy's sake. Have to start increasing the fat burn/weight loss program on the elliptical--want to lose at least another 5 pounds by the end of a short month.

On we go...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I get frustration; I wear it like a suit

And as quickly as I attempted to firm up the next recording session for The Punch Line, I was wrong, as yet again my prior "tentative" date suggested was misconstrued as being definitive and without confirmation, I looked beyond it (as you do). I think I speak/write pretty coherent English; I know that I keep it simple and direct, so to be blunt here, it just makes it easier and clearer for me to say outright "why am I wasting my time?". It's reached a point of for all the bombast and "how great the band is", we haven't accomplished anything. If you say you're going to do something, then do it. I look at this as having become a chore that I don't want. I didn't need it before; I allowed myself the flexibility (if that's a diplomatic way of putting it) of seeing if this was something I wanted to do one last time for fun. Now, I can say "no it isn't". Not at this rate.

All my friends and family know that this is not "the dream" or a return to past glories (that we'd made up in our minds); that playing in The Punch Line again was supposed to be an amusement and a chance to finally bring the songs that many people know/knew completely to life via a fully-recorded album that they could "own". The Punch Line would be the vehicle for this. I have no delusions of long-overdue rock stardom, accolades, sales--anything--and I couldn't really care one way or the other. I'm not looking for ego-gratification; I'm not trying to impress anyone (if anything, there's a certain amount of embarrassment in doing this at 40). I just wanted to create this album, have it out and present it to my loved ones so we could all feel the sense of satisfaction that I delivered the goods as promised. With this being now such an arduous process, I can't even see it becoming a reality. Part of my disgust stems from it still being recorded--after a while, you can't help but say "please--let's just have done with this", but I refuse to record anything I deem substandard. That was the problem with Smile, The Punch Line in our original incarnation and prior to that, in Two Minutes Hate. Why spend the time and energies (not to mention the costs) of recording and rushing it if at the end of the day it sounds like absolute shit?

Will I grin and bear it and see it through to completion? Yes. I won't grin (I'm not going to lie about this; enough is enough) but I'll bear it. I want to see my musical child born. It isn't going to set the world alight and it isn't going to put me in the annals of rock history, but I'm sure it will give some of my friends, family and closest confidantes a smile. By knowing that; by knowing what Rob E. and I are creating for the packaging (and whatever other visuals, etc. in the post-release process), then I can validate that I did put my heart into it, even after I unplugged my guitar when the last note faded away.

Am I angry? No. Am I frustrated? Somewhat. The truth is, I'm just bored with the game, but I will see it through to its' natural conclusion.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dozen beats eleven

Time to schedule another Punch Line recording session. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; it's a distance away, but it is there. Only three more songs to record and we're ready to start mixing. It just seems to be such a never-ending process. I love recording and seeing my songs take shape and life beyond the demos I'd done for them, but the completed project needs to finally stand and breathe as a whole. The plans for the art layout are coming together--Rob E.'s visions have been executed the way I had imagined them. He sees it the way I do--a complete entity--the songs fitting the art and the art fitting the songs. It's been one of the most rewarding aspects of doing this album: serving the music with the justice of equal visual elements. Thank God both of us are trained professionals and did our apprenticeship in the best forum possible (and yes, we do both miss Atlantic). Of course, I still want the entire project to be completed and completed right (re: perfect).

Going to the gym tonight will help clear my mind of whatever negative vibes I've been feeling about the band and the questions of validity, tedium, etc. It'll also put me back on the path of discipline since Liz wasn't feeling well enough to go on Sunday morning. Two weeks missed with the weights, but okay--onward and upward. Lost 5 pounds in under a month by changing my dietary habits and working out. Obviously, I would like to have taken off more, numerically, but the physical change has manifested itself (i.e. the fit of my pants, etc.) and the visual sign that I'm losing fat. Nonetheless, the goal hasn't diminished one iota; the novelty of joining the gym hasn't worn off--if anything, I'm only more enthused about feeling well and healthy.

Obviously, I'm not feeling all that inspired, but hey, isn't February about the doldrums anyway?