Monday, 31 December 2007

Summary of 2007

I doubt there are many people reading this today - for the few people who have ventured into work you've probably already retired to the bar. Anyway, for my last post of the year I though I'd try and list all the sporting events and concerts I've seen over the year - obviously this list is more for my record than any interest to you readers so come back on Wednesday when I'll be back with my view of New Year in Times Square.

Sports

- rugby wise I’ve had a couple of trips to Twickenham to see Scotland and France (I’m gonna stop going I’ve never seen England lose there), a Tri-Nations match in Sydney and a couple of games with the Japanese national side in Tokyo;
- Premiership football at Old Trafford;
- NRL rugby league in Sydney (a really enjoyable game actually);
- AFL Aussie Rules (still no idea what is going on with this game);
- the hilarious baseball in Tokyo;
- Sumo (more of a tourist attraction than a sport really);
- NHL ice hockey (the best of the North American sports by a long way);
- NFL American Football (I’m actually getting more into this than I thought I would); and
- NBA basketball (tedious and boring – why do people watch this crap).

Concerts

London: The Killers; The Horrors; The View; The Automatic; Kaiser Chiefs; and The Bravery
Tokyo: Editors; The Stranglers; Interpol; CSS; LCD Soundsystem; The Klaxons; Maximo Park; Travis; The Draytones; Reverend & The Makers; Hadouken!; Rooney; The Fratellis; Bloc Party; Manic Street Preachers; Kasabian; and Arctic Monkeys
New York: Gran Ronde; The Von Bondies, Razorlight; and We Are Scientists

Wow, that’s not a bad list of events - its been a pretty good year really.

Right to end out the year, here are a few links where you'll find mp3s of a few tracks from my favourite albums of the year:

NYPC - The Get Go

The Bravery – Time Won’t Let Me Go

Enemy – You’re Not Alone

The Klaxons – Golden Skans

Friday, 28 December 2007

Best laid plans

My plans for my five day Xmas break had been pretty simple: I was going to go to the gym every day and go explore a new part of New York each day. Unfortunately this plan fell to pieces on day two when my back gave out and I ended up laid up for the majority of my break.

So what was going to be a post on my observations on a few areas of New York has been postponed. The only area I did see was Broadway between Union Square (14th St) and Madison Square Garden (34th Street). Not an area to visit again either: weird people and weird shops.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

My Alternative Xmas

Xmas Eve…what to do. Well as luck would have it the cinema up the road had a new film opening for its first showing at midnight. The film, well that the joyous Xmas tale “Alien v Predator: Requiem”.

So I’m guessing you have one of two questions in your head. Either:

1. who the hell goes to see AvP on Xmas Eve? or
2. so what was the film like?

If your question was 2 then really, you’re doing it wrong – the whole of life that is. Of course its rubbish, the first one was mince and the second is, impressively, worse – we’re almost talking Robocop 3 bad here (and that’s about as low as there has ever been). I'm not even going to get into it but the Alien series has slipped irrecoverably into "B" movie territory now.

But that's beside the pint. The question you should be asking is number 1: who the hell goes to see AvP at midnight in Xmas Eve. That’s why I was there, to see what type of person goes to such an event (that’s my story and no-one can prove otherwise). Well the cinema was about 80% full and this was a big place - it'd guess around 2,000 seats as there was both an upstairs and downstairs. The people there - cretinous morons. Almost every single one of them would talk to the screen: "Don't go in there"; "I wouldn't have done that "; etc . Add to that the cheering /clapping which occasionally broke out (e.g. the Predator's first appearance, any particularly gore filled Alien kill - you get the idea). A real bunch of mouth breathers.

So what have we learned today: 1. AvP II is rubbish (no surprise there); 2. brain dead idiots abound at midnight cinema showings on Xmas Eve (no real surprise there either really I suppose).

Friday, 21 December 2007

Xmas in the city

Before I get to today's topic an update: "thumbs up to "Coldbuster Smoothies" as I've had one every day this week and they do seem to make me feel better. Unfortunately I've been out drinking every night this week too and that hasn't helped.

But to today's observations, unsurprisingly the Yanks are pretty big on covering the city in decorations so I’ve taken pics of a few of the more impressive efforts in the city:

Right, I’m on hols for the first three days of next week so will be back spouting irrelevant nonsense to anyone bored enough to look in on Thursday next week. Until then, Happy Festivus (just click the link - its classic stuff).

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Order out

Now I don’t cook – I never bothered to learn how and reading the time and heat setting for the oven on the side of a box is as far as I ever get. In this regard NY is perfect for me. Almost ever restaurant/cafĂ© delivers free of charge so you can eat a different type of food every night very cheaply (~$20 tops) without leaving your house (which is a good thing as its damn cold here at the moment).

Added bonus, to find these restaurants there is a great website called Menupages.com where you can identify whatever you want (by area and type of food) and the site includes the menus and phone numbers for every restaurant. Easy life.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Not your office holiday party

As I mentioned yesterday I was at a concert last night - but this one was a little bit different to usual. A couple of weeks ago I went through the websites of a dozen or so bands I like to see if any were due to play in NY in the near future - the only band with a gig in December were "We Are Scientists" who were playing a one off event called "Not Your Office Xmas Party". Looking into it, this event was being run by the "New York" magazine and tickets ($28) included a subscription to the magazine. Additionally, there were no actual tickets - your name was added to the guest list for the event.

So I rolled up to the venue at around 9pm last night - this was a rather trendy place called the "Canal Room". Not your typical concert venue. Also, upon entry a name badge was stuck to my shirt. This is not your normal concert.

At about 9.30pm a guy (about 40ish) gets on stage and introduces himself as the President of the company and proceeds to (borderline drunkenly) welcome everyone to the firms party. It was around about now that I though I had somehow got into the New York magazine actual holiday party...of course if you've clicked the "Not Your Office Xmas Party" link above you'll know that I was being a gullible idiot and that this was the beginning of a parody sketch of holiday parties - to be honest it was a bit hit and miss: the President guy was quite funny; the uptight office manager who was annoyed no-one had responded to her party confirmation e-mails was good; unfortunately the effeminate HR guy was rubbish; and the "stand up comedy" office intern wasn't great either.

Still that wasn't the point of the evening, that was to see "We Are Scientists" and they were damn good playing around 1hr 20min set finishing around midnight. Pretty much all their first album and a fair number of new songs (and they're probably overdue a 2nd album by now anyway). Anyway, you'll find a couple of their songs here and another couple here (I recommend: Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt; and Inaction).

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cold

Not just outside but I am full of it too. To that end my normal fruit smoothie I have for breakfast was replaced by a "Coldbuster" which includes: orange juice, orange sherbet, peaches, bananas, immunity boost and an antioxidant power boost. Hopefully it helps as I have a concert to go to tonight.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Knicks v Nets

So I took in my first Knicks basketball game on Saturday night - might be my last too. This really is a boring sport. I was surprised at how few people were at the game as well - much less than for a Rangers game and this was a Saturday evening game between the two local sides.

Anyway, I did remember my camera so here are a couple of pics from the game:

If you vaguely care, the Knicks won 94 - 86. Now, more interestingly, here are the cheerleaders:

Friday, 14 December 2007

Customs ruins Xmas presents

So I’ve been sending and receiving Xmas presents in the last couple of weeks and I’ve decided that Customs declaration forms ruin the whole thing – you have to declare on the form (which is attached to the package) the goods included and the value of these items...not much surprise left after that.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Lack of motivation

Now as you may have noticed during my time in Tokyo I was pretty good at going out and doing the touristy thing and it was pretty easy as it was so different to anyplace I’ve been before (and it was nice and warm). Now, in NY things are a bit different – I’ve been here a few times before an already done most of the main touristy things (even if it was 10 years ago).

However, even excluding that factor, I still don’t have the same motivation to go and see things here. I guess that’s because there isn't the same amount of history to see and it isn't as new to me as Japan was either - also because its pretty damn cold here too.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Sounds of the 80s

So Saturday night, after my works Xmas party and after the Hatton fight, a colleague and I find ourselves at a crossroads. On the one side of the street is a bar called The Naked Lunch where a group of my colleagues are drinking (but there is about a 20 minute queue to get in). On the other side there is another bar where I can walk straight in and get a beer. I have a pretty strong opinion on queuing to get into bars so we go for the easy beer option and see if the queue will go away.

I liked this bar and it was playing really good music (including my oft mentioned favourites New Young Pony Club) and had Samuel Adams Winter Lager on tap (I was a bit dubious about trying this stuff after the last “festive” beer I tried – see beer mistake post below – but this stuff is damn good). After a beer we decide on the plan of trying to bribe the bouncers at the other bar – suffice to say this does not go well so we reluctantly joined the back of the queue. After about 10 mins we did get in (and it wasn’t even that busy inside).

So this place, with the queue outside, has no draft beers and is playing what appears to be the greatest hits of the 80s – seriously, “highlights” included “Heaven is a place on Earth” and “Sweet Caroline” - I don't remember hearing "Living on a Prayer" or "Summer of 69" but I can't believe they weren't on the playlist.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Santacon

Walking back from the bar on Saturday afternoon I came across about 50 people dressed up in Santa Claus outfits crossing the street in front of me – I figured Stag Night and continued on my way. But there were more, and more, and more of them all over the streets – and one Easter Bunny?!?!!?

My flatmate had noticed this phenomenon too but was similarly confused as to what was going on. Same goes for a few of my colleagues when I asked them on the evening. By coincidence I noticed the answer on Fark.com – apparently this is Santacon.

The object of this exercise, nothing tangible that I can tell. Just dress up like Santa, go to a bar, drink, repeat...

These things are all over the world too: London (Saturday 15th December); and Tokyo (Saturday 22nd December).

Monday, 10 December 2007

Celeb Spotting No.1

I was in the Red Lion bar again watching the Llanelli v Munster game on Saturday afternoon. This was on at the same time as the Liverpool v Reading game which was also on in the bar. It was about 20 minutes into the game that I realised that the guy sitting 3 stools along from me at the bar was Alan Hansen.

OK, so its not an "A" list Hollywood type celeb but there you go.

Friday, 7 December 2007

NY subway

This seems to be one of the more confusing underground networks I’ve come across in the world. This is primarily for two reasons: there are a number of different trains which will stop at the same platform although some will be then stop at all the following stations and some will stop at only a few; and there are no signs indicating what the next train will be (i.e. fast or slow) or when it will arrive.

Also, when you are on the trains the signs at the stations to tell you where you are rubbish (twice I’ve gone past the stop I actually wanted)….and another thing, some entrances to the subway are for uptown or downtown only so if you go in that way you can then only travel in one direction (again pretty badly signposted).

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Pay-per-view

So I watched the Barbarians against SA in a bar on Saturday lunchtime – this cost $20 just to get in the door to the game thanks to Setanta. This money is cash collected on the door by Setanta: the bar doesn’t see any of it!

A bit of research tells me that this only occurs in some bars though? I guess that some only have the channel for internationals (and this is where Setanta pop up and charge) and some have a subscription so have already paid Setanta – back to The Red Lion for The Heineken Cup this week, no $20 fee to get in there.

I'm probably going to come across a similar problem on Saturday night when I try to watch the boxing - as it is pay-per-view there are only a few bars which are showing it and they are charging to get in. So not as easy as you might think.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Gym

So I signed up with a gym last week – buy one year get one free seems a reasonable deal. Still a bit more expensive than London (although to be fair it was the Greenwich Council run gym I used) but not to bad. A major attraction of this gym chain was that there is one about 5 mins walk from my flat, another about 15 mins with a pool and one about 5 mins from my office with squash courts.

After having gone to the one near my flat a couple of time – which is huge by the way (about 30 each of running machines, exercise bikes, etc plus weights rooms and various classes) – I decided I would check out the pool last night. This could not be described as huge, or even adequate. The pool was probably 10m long at best – what use is that?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Currency

Every time I come to Yankland I get annoyed with the currency here – why are they the one country on the planet that hasn’t worked out that it is quite useful to make your bank notes different colours and sizes.

Also, the largest bill in common circulation is $20 (i.e. about £10 at current rates) which is rather annoying. Apparently a lot of places won’t even accept $50 bills (let alone $100). I suspect this may reflect the countries obsession with credit and credit cards in that they expect everyone to pay this way for pretty much everything.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Snow day

I ended up in a bar around 31st Street on Saturday night - when leaving at about 3am I decided that I would just walk the 20 or so blocks south to my flat to sober up a bit. I only made it about 3 blocks before I decided it was far to bloody cold and got a cab.

By the time I woke up on Sunday the place was covered in snow: