Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Rangers v Capitals

Back to NYC and back to ice hockey. I decided to go and see this game as it featured a guy called Alexander Ovechkin who is probably the best attacking player in the league and on the face of last night you can see why - he did stand out for speed, skill and having a ridiculously good shot.

The game itself started well for the Rangers with them racing to a 3-0 lead (on 6 shots) in just over 11 minutes. They then scored again in the second period to make it 4-0 and seemed to be cruising.

However, just after halfway through the 2nd period a freak deflection flew into the Rangers goal and the Caps had a goal. That was it for the 2nd period and the Rangers seemed comfortable with a 4-1 lead (can you guess what happens next?).

Within a couple of minutes of the restart the Caps had another goal from a powerplay and it was now 4-2. It was 4-3 5 minutes later so it was a one goal game with about 13 minutes to play. Tr Rangers held out for another five minutes before Ovechkin scored the equalising goal so the Rangers had blown a four goal lead.

That was how the game finished and going into overtime the Caps had all the momentum so it was no surprise when they scored a minute in to take the win 5-4.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Fun on flights

You won't like me for this but when I flew from JFK to Heathrow on Tuesday last week that was my first long haul flight in cattle class for a couple of years...and as I was given an upgrade to business on the way back it will stay that way...until next week anyway.

However, I was within minutes of missing my return flight from Heathrow as my flight from Edinburgh had all sorts of issues. It was due to take off at 3pm and land and I had to check in for my other flight at 7pm latest so shouldn't have been a problem.

The Edinburgh flight was delayed by 45 minutes before I even checked in, then (and this was a new one) two passengers decided that they weren't going to fly after all and their bags had to be unloaded, this meant the flight missed its take-off window and was stuck for another half hour. Next was the inevitable circle above Heathrow for half an hour and finally (another new one) when pulling up to the gate someone had parked a vehicle in front of the gate so we had to wait for that to be moved...

After running from Terminal 1 to 3 check-in I made it with 6 minutes to spare...first and last time I'm flying BMI.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Tough Tour

It was after the first night in London that I realised that I may have set myself a rather tough schedule on my trip round the UK. In order these nights consisted:

Wed - got in at 4.30am (ish) after being out in Soho with Pete and TC (Pete made the 8am train while TC phoned in sick)
Thurs - Steakathon VII which went on until 1.30am
Fri - a potentially quieter night in Edinburgh but actually closer to 2am
Sat - a final push and about 2am in Hawick

Completely unrelated but I see that my Visa expiry countdown in under 100 days!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

As I walked into work this morning...

...the snow was falling. As I looked out the window at lunchtime the snow was falling hard. Do I really want to look at the JFK departures board?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Endurance Drinking

No me this time but my flatmate - I was having another quiet(ish) weekend before I head back to the UK and so was only out for a few on Saturday evening. My flatmate however deserves a mention for his exploits on Saturday.

He headed out to Santacon (a bar crawl in Santa outfits) at about 1pm and wasn't back by the time I went to sleep around 1am. Then, when I got up to watch the Wasps v Edinburgh Heineken Cup match online at 8am he was sitting drinking whisky playing online poker (which he continued to do through this game and the Perpingan v Leicester game). He then decided that he only had just under one more hour to go to make it 24hrs straight so got a beer from the fridge and settled down for that last push. Haven't seen him yet today but I can't think he's having a good day.

I doubt I've done that since Prague in 2004 (and thinking about it that was a lot longer than 24 hours).

Friday, 12 December 2008

2008 - I'm basically done with it

I really have pretty much switched off for the rest of the year - 2008 is done for me (with only about 5 more days left in the office and nothing much going on here either). In fact yesterday I shoved off at lunchtime and went to the gym for the afternoon instead.

Tonight is the office Holiday Party (not to be confused with a Xmas Party obviously) but I have virtually no desire to bother with it to be honest. Better show face for a few hours at least.

This weekend - well it is both cold and wet here at the moment so I doubt there is much interesting to get up to. It is Santacon here tomorrow which will mean loads of amateur drinkers dressed as Santa falling about by mid afternoon. At least there are a few Heineken Cup games to get me through the weekend.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Holiday Party

Tomorrow night sees my companies Holiday Party. It doesn't seem quite as formal as last year which was a full sit down dinner on a Saturday night but apparently I still have to wear a tie. This seems wrong to me that I have to be more formal at a company party than I am in the office on any normal day.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

WRXP Holiday Extravaganza

...or as I could have called it - The Ting Tings yet again.

This time it was Blender Theatre on 23rd Street where the local radio station was putting on a holiday show featuring four bands: Mike Doughty, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Duke Spirit and The Ting Tings. Unfortunately I was in a meeting that overran somewhat so I wasn't able to get there until 8.45pm so only caught the last two.

The Duke Spirit
- I'd heard of this band before but have no idea why, I don;t think I've seen them live before so it must have been NME I guess. Anyway, either they weren't very good or they should shoot the sound engineer - normally I'll get into most live bands I see within a few songs (or decide they are terrible) but this lot just seemed to be noise. AT the moment I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and blame the sound engineer but maybe they are just crap.

The Ting Tings
- they seem to be down to about a month between visits now and announced that they plan to move to NY next year. Might as well, they seem to spend all their time here. I think have now seen they live more than any other band (maybe challenged only Feeder or the Stereophonics but they've been around for 10 years or so). They did seem to have slightly changed the live versions of a couple of songs again from last month - watching the evolution of the live show has been quite interesting this year.

Anyway, you'll find an mp3 of The Ting Tings cover version of "Happy Birthday" by Altered Images on this site.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Rangers v Flames

After one of the best ice hockey games I have seen here on Wednesday last week I was back to see the Rangers play the Calgary Flames - and it was about as bad a game as I have seen. The Rangers had one great chance in the first 5 seconds and after that never really looked that threatening.

To be fair Calgary had very few shots on target but managed to win 3-0. I think this was the first time I have seen the Rangers shut out.

Monday, 8 December 2008

USS Intrepid

A few weeks ago I headed out on a sunny Sunday afternoon to visit to USS Intrepid - this is a decommissioned aircraft carrier which is now an air/sea museum. Unfortunately it was closed at the time having only recently returned to the city after recent refurbishment so I couldn't get on board.

As I was trying to have a quiet (virtually beer free) weekend I went back to the now reopened museum (on a somewhat colder and darker Saturday).

On the deck there are about 20 or so different warplanes from various countries. However, I found that exploring the aircraft carrier to be much more interesting (which may have something to do with the temperature on the deck).

It certainly proved to me that this would be an awful place to live and work. There is no space and even the officers rooms were tiny grey rooms with no natural light. Highly depressing stuff I imagine.

There are a couple of other things to see here as well, a submarine (which disappointingly you can't get on) and one of the remaining Concorde aircraft which you can walk through.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Answer

OK, for the majority of you who probably have no idea who is in yesterday's picture (and still didn't get it when Jeff said Dante) the answer is that he is Brian O'Halloran and he starred in Clerks (and pretty much all the other Kevin Smith movies). Most of you still saying who? Well, its not my fault you have no taste in movies.

You'll find a short film with Dante and Randall (the characters from Clerks) here where they are discussing the merits of a flying car while stuck in a traffic jam.

Very nice guy though, not at all annoyed about some random guy asking him dumb questions. In fact we chatted away for most of the rest of the game - apparently he gets recognised 3 or 4 times at each game he attends.

As for this weekend, I'm looking forward to not having to go to the bar at 9.30am and stay there all day - that was really starting to hurt. A quiet weekend with a few Heineken Cup matches streamed online will do me fine.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Rangers v Penguins

Last year I went to see the Rangers play the Penguins in the hope of seeing Sidney Crosby (generally accepted to be the best player in the league) but he was injured and missed the game so I was back last night and this time he was playing.

This was possibly the best game I've been to, it really had everything: a fight in the first couple of minutes; Rangers coming back from two gaols down to tie the game; Crosby being hammered with a hit when he almost broke away in overtime; and the Rangers scoring all three of their shootout attempts (very unusual).

There is also another story from last night as well, when I got to my seat for the game I thought I recognised the guy sitting next to me. By the end of the first period I was sure and got speaking to the him - I don't expect that many people to know who he is but he is the star of one of my favourite films:

Answer tomorrow if you don't know.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

UK tour

I know I've mentioned this to a few people but I will be running round the UK later this month as follows:

17th - London
18th - London
19th - Edinburgh
20th - Hawick
21st - Hawick

Now, to find a feed with the Baa-Baa's v Convicts game...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Beer Pong

I can't remember if I've written about beer pong before. Anyway, after spending Saturday morning in the Red Lion watching the rugby (as usual) we wander off to another bar at about 1pm to play some beer pong.

This is a game where 10 plastic cups with beer in them (no shock there) are set out in bowling pin formation and players take it in turns to throw ping pong balls at the opposing teams beers. Get a ball in a cup and that beer must be drunk. First team to make the opposing team drink all their beers wins. That's about as you need to know to play.

There are of course a number of other rules all displayed on the wall including one we added ourselves that Light Beer was not allowed - much to the annoyance of all the Yanks who wanted to play. In fact that caused more arguments than any other rule all day.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Thanksgiving weekend (Part 1)

On the positive side I did manage to go to the gym for three days in a row (Wed to Fri) but there wasn't much else healthy about my long weekend. I found an "Arrested Development" marathon on some obscure channel for Thanksgiving itself and ended up out until 2am watching a U2 cover band on Friday night.

The band was actually pretty good and played for about 2 hours and it only cost $10 to get in. The venue however was different matter. I've long known that going out anywhere in the vicinity of Times Square is a bad idea and we were a bit too close here (about 3 blocks). As stranger collection of individuals would be difficult to imagine - maybe the Cantina in Mos Eisley...

Oh, I was also going to mention a story I came across in the news which didn't get much coverage. Friday is a HUGE shopping day in Yankland with people queuing up in the middle of the night to get into sales - here's the story:

"A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. worker died after hundreds of customers jammed into a Long Island, New York, store, knocking down the man and stepping on him shortly after doors opened early, the New York Daily News said, citing a witness. A woman also miscarried as hundreds of shoppers rushed through the doors, which were taken off their hinges to accomodate the surging crowd, the newspaper reported, citing another witness. Nassau County police said there were several injuries without elaborating, and wouldn't confirm witness accounts, the New York Daily News said."

Idiots.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Another short week

I seem to have had a few of these recently - this time it is the National Yank holiday of Thanksgiving which is tomorrow and then Friday as well (which is the National Yank day of shopping as far as I can tell).

Actually, the office closes at 3pm today as well so only really a half week.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Random music

The thought occurred that I haven't written about any new bands I've been listening to for a while - the main reason being that I haven't really come across anything that has been particularly great really but here are a couple you might want to try.

Los Campesinos! - despite the odd name I think this band is actually from Wales. Anyway, slightly odd pop sound to them but try "You! Me ! Dancing!".

Hunter S. Thompson
- the "Gonzo Tapes" were recently released and cover the recordings made during the work which would become his books on the Hells Angels and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - one of the tracks can be found here. OK, so this isn't music but looking down my iTunes it is the only other new stuff I've added recently that is worth checking out.

That's it - that's all I can find. This has been a bad year for new bands.

Monday, 24 November 2008

We Are Scientists

After a long day of beer and rugby I did mange (contrary to many predictions) to make it to the "We Are Scientists" concert on Saturday night. OK, I missed all the support bands but I was in nice time for the main band.

One thing these guys are good at is the banter between the band members and the crowd. Unlike a lot of bands they don't just get up and run through their set list and leave - they actually seem to make an effort to make the crowd feel involved.

Anyway, still unconvinced by the second album but the first gets better almost every time I listen to it.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Getting dressed in a rush on minimal sleep can cause problems

Slight addendum to yesterday's story, I didn't get back until past midnight from the AC/DC gig (although this was partially my fault as we got on a train going the wrong way and by the time we got off and got a train going the right way it was 40 mins later) and had to get up at about 5am to fly to Chicago at 7am. In fact I only woke up at 5.45am and was running around frantically in order to try and make my flight. Now I don't in any way claim to know anything at all regarding fashion but I have to suspect that a striped suit, checked shirt and spotted tie are not a combination to go for...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

AC/DC

So if The Ting Tings represent one end of the music I listen to AC/DC is probably at the other extreme. I suppose I view them as one of the bands that given the opportunity to see you definitely should - but I can't really figure out why. Maybe its just because they've been around for years.

Anyway, to the Izod Centre (which is next to Giants Stadium in New Jersey) and last nights concert. Well, they were actually really good.

I actually surprised myself with how many songs I knew (other than a couple from the new album there were only a couple I didn't recognise). Additionally. even though the event was indoors they had the full AC/DC stage show props you would expect - a giant bell for "Hells Bells"; giant inflatable "Rosie" for "Whole Lot Of Rosie"; the cannons for "For Those About To Rock"; flame throwers for "TNT"; and a hydraulic platform in the middle of the crowd for Angus Young to play on:

Definitely one to check out even if you're not much of a fan - you'll know more songs than you realise and see one of those bands that you really should see (even if I can;t work out why).

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Bermuda Rugby Classic

After a pretty heavy Friday night we managed to resurrect ourselves enough to explore the bay area of Hamilton during the day (manging to catch the Scotland v SA game too). This culminated with a wander up into the island to the rugby ground. Actually, the rugby ground is a temporary structure set up on the cricket pitch.

Having settled ourselves on the half way line with a stack of Corona we awaited the first match which was the Plate final between France and Argentina. The ethos of this tournament can be summed up with the story of the first try of this match which went to France in the first few minutes. France were pressing on the Argentinean line and when the ball was fed out from a ruck on the right it was inadvertently passed to the referee who proceeded to pass the ball on and award the resulting try under the posts...

France missed the conversion and the game continued. Over the rest of the game Argentina became more and more dominant but it took until the 2nd half for them to score and convert to go 7 - 5 ahead and that was the final score.

The main event was The Classic Lions v South Africa (as expected) - what was not expected was the Lions scoring two tries in quick succession and leading 12 -0 at the half.

The South Africans got on the score board midway through the 2nd half with a try by Deon Kayser to make it 12 - 5 but another Lions score from Anthony Foley settled the game at 19 - 5 for the Lions.

We then headed to the after match party in the beer tent for several hours...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Friday Night

Let's go back to the beginning with this - having arrived on Friday afternoon and after a swim in the hotel pool we headed off to the big Friday night rugby party in Bermuda which was held in a park next to the harbour. Actually, we hit a few bars first and arrived at the party at about 9.30pm.

This event seemed to be being run by the local rugby club as it was a case of buy drink tickets and exchange them for whatever you liked at the drink tents which had been set up. As these were being manned by the rugby club it was free pour (so rather large measures) - I fairly sure we spent the majority of the night on vodka & Red Bull...

I'm going to guess that there were about 800 people at this party which we think went on until about 2am. This included a rather good cover band playing exactly what you would expect: U2; Franz Ferdinand; Coldplay; etc (including the obvious "Living on a Prayer" & "Summer of 69"). These guys probably played for about 2 hours so earned their money:

We think we went to one more bar after leaving this party (although it may have been more) and rolled back into the hotel at about 4am. I'll run through Saturday tomorrow.

Monday, 17 November 2008

No voice

As a result of:
- a rugby related party until 4am on Friday
- the Autumn internationals and Bermuda Classic matches on Saturday
- the after match party until 3am on Saturday

I wasn't in great shape come Sunday morning - luckily, this was next to my hotel:


This was all I could manage on Sunday and my voice has completely gone today.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

(Short) holiday

No post tomorrow as I'm off on holiday for the weekend - it turns out Bermuda is only a couple of hours flight from NY so I'm off there to watch the World Rugby Classic (basically a World Cup for over 35s I think)...having said that the Safa's are taking it too seriously and have sent a ridiculously strong team including Skinstad, Paulse, Fleck & Kayser

All the squads are listed here.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Strange way of commuting to work

I noticed something last week that I meant to mention but forgot about. However, I saw the same thing yesterday which reminded me - there's a guy in NY (at least I assume its the same guy) who commutes to work in his suit on a unicycle.

To be fair he makes pretty good time along the street. Thinking about this, I'm not sure what he does when he has to stop at a junction - does he balance on the spot or have to get off and then start again? If I see him again I'm going to find out.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Calzaghe v Jones Jr.

OK, I'm back to about 85% of normal now so let's recap the fight from Saturday night. First of all the entire top tier of MSG (where I'd watched the Trinidad v Jones Jr fight in January) wasn't open and the lower tiers weren't quite full - so nowhere near a sell out.

The undercard had nothing too exciting on it, I caught the two fights prior to the main event (Dmitry Salita v Derrick Campos and Zab Judah v Ernest Johnson) which both went the distance neither of which were particularly interesting. Actually, the undercard has been heavily criticised in all the reports I have read.

However, to the fight itself - Calzaghe v Jones Jr:

Well, as I'm sure you all know, other than a knockdown in the first round Calzaghe was never in any trouble in this fight and it was one way traffic virtually all the way. It never really looked like he would knock Jones Jr out but he never looked like losing either.

I think the punches thrown/landed statistics tell the story fairly well:
- Calzaghe threw 985 and landed 344
- Jones Jr threw 475 and landed 159

To be honest, I think that is it for me and boxing - I don't find it particularly interesting and it is not a cheap night out.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ouch, still hurts

Saturday was a long day - 9.30am to about 6.00pm in the Red Lion on Guinness would have been more than enough but I then had the Calzaghe fight to go to...this meant I was still going at about 2am when I finally rolled in home.

Yesterday was a complete write-off. I was only awake for about 6 hours and felt awful for the whole day. Still not 100% today being honest. Still no evenings out planned this week until Friday so plenty of time to recover.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Rangers v Lightning

I saw a few things I'd never seen before at the ice hockey last night- a goalie fighting, a 6 on 3 powerplay and a hatrick (all of which occurred in the last couple of minutes of the game).

Up until then it had been a pretty good performance by the Rangers who were leading 4 -2 (the second Lightning goal was one of the most skillful I have seen but I can't find it on Youtube yet). With only a couple of minutes left Tampa started taking a load of penalties and ended up with only 3 skaters against the Rangers 5 - at this point they took another penalty which allowed the Rangers to pull their goalie and have 6 on 3 which is rarely seen. The Rangers got one last goal in the last few seconds tro make the final score 5 -2.

There then followed several beers until about 2am and a hangover for me today. Luckily I'm not planning anything tonight as I have all the rugby to watch tomorrow (starting at 9.30am) and then I'm off to the Calzaghe fight - a long day...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Giants v Cowboys

I'm still working my way through all the sports teams in NY but this is another one ticked off the list. I had planned to try and go to a Giants game as early in the season as possible before it got ridiculously cold and suppose I managed that - although it was still damn cold at the back row of the top tier. This wasn't helped by the fact that it was a 4pm kick off so it was dark by the start of the 2nd half.

As for the game, well the Cowboys have lost a couple of their star players in the last few weeks so what was expected to be a close game was a bit of a blowout really. The Giants led 14 - 0 after the first quarter and never really looked like losing.

They proceeded to score another touchdown in each quarter with the Cowboys only responses an interception touchdown in the 2nd quarter and another score in the 4th quarter. The final score being 35 - 14.

Now the stadium is really in no-mans land in New Jersey - apparently its location was decided upon as it is next to a major highway. That may be true but it isn't near anything else (i.e. bars, restaurants train links). Therefore, at the end of the game it is a mad scramble for people to get out. I (along with about 50% of the crowd) headed for the exit with about 5 mins left to play and made for the bus which I needed to get to the train station - it actually went relatively smoothly but really - not a clever place to build the ground.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Ting Tings (again)

There are plenty of bands I have listened to for years that I have never seen live or only seen once. Then we have The Ting Tings, who only really appeared this year and this is their third gig in NYC in the last six months. I'm not complaining as I'm still listening to their album more than any other at the moment. They've moved up too - the first gig was a Bowery Ballroom (capacity 550), the second was as a support act and now they are headlining at Webster Hall (capacity 1,400).

Yoav
- I highly recommend you check this guy out, he was easily one of the best support acts I have seen here. Basically it was just him, his guitar and a sampling machine. He taps to guitar and replays that, then plays a couple of chords and plays that over the top, sings into the guitar and plays that over the top and so on building up a backing track over which he will then play and sing - probably not the best description in the world but very talented and very good. Definitely worth checking out.

The Ting Tings - Its quite interesting to see how the show has changed over the year with a couple more songs added to their original set and a couple of changes to the way some songs are performed - notably "Traffic Light" which (although it still stands out as being very different to the other songs) is a lot more fun now.

Otherwise, it was the same tunes I've been listening to almost solidly for the last six months - "Shut Up And Let Me Go" is still their best live song.

I've found a live session they recorded here which has four tracks available for download as mp3.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

US Election

Having outlined my solution to airline security queues a couple of weeks ago, today I'm going to set out how to fix democracy (because it doesn't work). I used to subscribe to the view that everyone should vote and thought that the various schemes to entice people to vote were a good thing - this is completely and utterly wrong. Why bother trying to get people with no clue as to what is going to vote...the whole thing just degenerates into a popularity contest. A good example can be found here in Yankland where, in the last few weeks, the Republican Party has descended to having both McCain and Palin appear on Saturday Night Live and all the political advertising on TV is about why the other guy is wrong and what they have previously voted for...

Basically, in order to fix this system, I suggest that in order to qualify to vote you have to be able to show at least a basic grasp of what the candidates polices are - a multiple choice test. Fail the test - no vote for you, try again in 4 years time. As this will never be allowed, how about a toned down version where, before you vote, you have to answer questions on your views on various topics (i.e. the war, climate, income tax, economy) which indicates which candidate is closest to your view (actually there are a few sites like this on the internet already). I'm not just saying this is needed in Yankland - I suspect every country should do it.

Maybe Blackdder had it more right than wrong (can;t find the video so you'll have to make do with the script):
Edmund: Well, Mrs. Miggins, at last we can return to sanity. The hustings are over, the bunting is down, the mad hysteria is at an end. After the chaos of a general election, we can return to normal.
Mrs. Miggins: Oh, has there been a general election, then, Mr. Blackadder?
Edmund: Indeed, there has, Mrs. Miggins.
Mrs. Miggins: Oh, well, I never heard about it.
Edmund: Well of course you didn't -- you're not eligible to vote.
Mrs. Miggins: Well, why not?
Edmund: Because virtually no one is: women, peasants, (looks at Baldrick) chimpanzees (Baldrick looks behind himself, trying to see the animal), lunatics, Lords...
Baldrick: That's not true -- Lord Nelson's got a vote!
Edmund: He's got a *boat*, Baldrick. Marvelous thing, democracy. Look at Manchester; population 60,000, electoral role, 3.
Mrs. Miggins: Well, I may have the brain the size of a saltine...
Edmund: Correct...
Mrs. Miggins: ...but it hardly seems fair to me.
Edmund: Of course it's not fair -- and a damn good thing too. Give the like of Baldrick the vote and we'll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning, and dung for dinner.
Baldrick: Oh, I'm having dung for dinner tonight.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Halloween Parade

The biggest Halloween event in NYC seems to be a parade in the West Village which runs from 7pm to 10pm. I ended up working until 6.30pm (better an extra couple of hours on a Friday evening than on a Saturday morning) so didn't actually get there until after 7.30pm so was nowhere near the front of the crowd.

Additionally, as you'll see from the pictures below, I couldn't find any setting on my camera which allowed me to take any particularly good shots.

To be honest this isn't a major miss as it was all very amateurish - did I really need to see 100 people doing the "Thriller" dance? In fact the rest of the night is 2nd only to Guinness Day with the bars filled with amateur drinkers dressed like idiots.

To steal a line from Peep Show, "I'm Louis Theroux, I'm Louis Theroux!"

Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween

This is a really big deal in Yankland as I've had to endure numerous discussions of what costume people will be wearing...I wasn't going to bother mentioning it today but this morning on the tube I noticed that there was a woman (probably about mid-50s at least) who was dressed as a witch.

I did briefly consider that this was just her normal style but couldn't get past the pointed hat!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Devils v Leafs

Another of the NY area sports teams knocked off my list last night. Having missed the Maple Leafs game against the Rangers (due to my Chicago trip) a couple of weeks ago I made the effort to go and see them play the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils play in Newark which is relatively easy to get to although it does take about an hour door to door. They play at the Prudential Centre which is only a year old and really makes MSG look old - it was a disappointing crowd though as I estimate it was only about a third full:

In the game itself the Leafs were 2-0 down after the first period and looking pretty bad. However, they came to life with 3 goals in just over 4 minutes in the 2nd period to take the lead. Back cane the Devils with 2 more goals to take a 4-3 lead into the final period.

The Leafs scored another two goals in just over a minute to take a 5-4 lead with just under 10 minutes to play but the Devils quickly equalised and that was how the third period ended.

Of course Yanks don't really like draws so 4-o-4 overtime followed with no scoring and finally a shootout. Even this was tied at 1-1 after each team had taken their three shots so it was down to a sudden death shootout...and the Leafs won with the next Leaf scoring and Devil missing.

A late night as with the overtime and shootout it was midnight by the time I made it home.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Immigration Laws

The museum at Ellis Island covers two main topics, the first was the history of the place itself and the other is the evolution of immigration laws in Yankland.

To begin with it was a complete free for all with anyone able to get here allowed in. That began to change in 1875 when the government began bringing in laws to restrict who could move in. There was a list on the wall in the museum which sets out the main law changes as follows (click the image for a readable version):

So by 1907 they had stopped allowing lunatics, idiots, the insane and imbeciles...I'll admit, that all made me laugh.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Ellis Island

I was back being a tourist again on Saturday morning when I went to visit Ellis Island in NYC. Ellis Island was THE major immigration processing site for Yankland from 1892 to 1954 during which time 12 million people passed through.

The Island itself, which is just off the south end of Manhattan (before you get to Liberty Island) started out as a small sandbank where a fort was built. Over time the island size was increased and the immigration facility was built.

Although it first opened in 1892 a fire in 1897 destroyed the whole place (although apparently no-one died). The replacement building was opened in 1900 and that is the building that is still there today.

This place lay dormant for 30 years after closing in 1954 with the restoration beginning in the mid 80's and the museum opened in 1990.

Also, anyone with relatives who passed through Ellis Island can possibly track down those records and get copies - one of the guys in my office managed to find the records of his great grandfather.

Monday, 27 October 2008

The Killers

A new venue for me on Friday night - The Hammerstein Ballroom which is a heck of a lot bigger than the normal concert halls I go to here. I suppose that is because the Yanks have actually heard of this band rather than the few expats and hardcore music fans who see the UK bands I'm normally seeing.

Going to this gig broke my normal rule that I don't go to concerts I can only get seated tickets too - I had only managed to get mezzanine tickets when they went on sale and the tout value online was closer to $300 a ticket so seated it was.

The Envy Corps - Just the one support band and they were ok, I can't say that I can really remember any of their stuff to be honest but it definitely wasn't terrible. Probably not the best review they will ever receive...

The Killers - This was the third time I have seen The Killers live and to be honest I've been pretty underwhelmed by them in the past. Another average show and I was going to put them in the same box as Kaiser Chiefs and The Charlatans - should be better live than they actually are. However, this was probably the best show I have seen from them. As I was on the mezzanine level and only had the camera on my phone the few pictures I did take are pretty useless...this is the best of the bunch...

The new songs they played were all pretty good Killers stuff which bodes fairly well for the new album. They also didn't try and sound exactly like their albums which was my criticism of them previously. The lead singer still has zero personality or vibe with the crowd but I doubt that's something he can fix.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Cool Chicago Pic

I had a few hours to have a look round the middle of Chicago last Sunday before the Blackhawks game. This was actually my fourth visit to Chicago but they have all been pretty short so I have rarely had any time to look around.

One of the places I walked through was Millennium Park which includes something known as the Cloud Gate sculpture - to me it is a giant metal doughnut which lets you take cool pictures:

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ginger Man

I was out on the beers last night in a bar I had been recommended by several different people called "The Ginger Man" - this place has about 40 different beers on tap as well as many more in bottles. It scored bonus points too, as one of the beers on tap was DogFish Head 60 Minute IPA. Unfortunately those points were immediately revoked as they had run out!

I think I made my way through about 8 different kinds before heading off for the night - my hangover suggests about 8 anyway...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Airport queues - my solution

I have a very limited idiot tolerance threshold and this is almost always reached in the airport - now checking in is generally fine now thanks to online check-in and the self check-in at the airport but that just brings you to the security check...

...you know you are going to need your boarding pass and passport so HAVE IT IN YOUR HAND, not at the bottom of your bag. Then, for the security screen realise that you will need to put your laptop in a separate bin so pack accordingly, you will need to take off your jacket, shoes, belt and watch - DON'T KEEP WALKING THROUGH AND BEING SENT BACK!!!!

Finally, at the gate, when it is announced that Zone 1 is boarding don't go and try and get on with your Zone 3 ticket, and don't go up again when Zone 2 is announced. MORONS!!!

So, my solution - each airport has a couple of express lanes for people who are not complete f##kwits. If you use this queue and mess up you get a stamp in your passport, three stamps and you are no longer allowed to use this lane...and stamps will be issued for any of the above behaviour and probably a few other things I've missed. Rant over.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Blackhawks v Canucks

So as I was working in Chicago on Friday I missed the Maple Leafs game against the Rangers which I was supposed to be at. However, as I had to go back to Chicago for another meeting on Monday I was able to fly out on Sunday lunchtime in order to go to the Blackhawks game against the Canucks on Sunday evening.

The United Centre is probably bigger than MSG but isn't as easy to get to - the nearest train stop being about 10 mins walk away and no-one uses this to get to the game (other than me) - everyone else drove.

The game itself was excellent with the Blackhawks winning 4 - 2 and more fights than I have ever seen in game I have been to before.

Added bonus was the cost of the ticket which meant that for what I would normally pay in MSG to see the Rangers I was only a few rows from the front instead of in the 2nd tier about 50 rows from the front.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Under Pressure

Partially because I've been listening to a lot of David Bowie this weekend and partially because the flight I had back to NY on Friday had the pressure a bit off in the cabin so it was a rather painful flight. Its been a while since I had one of those but they still suck

Short post today as I ended up having to come back to Chicago on Sunday afternoon for another all day meeting today. I'm actually writing this at 5.30pm in a bar at Midway airport as it is another hour and a half until my flight boards - missed the earlier flight by about 15 mins annoyingly...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Bloc Party - WHAT ARE YOU DOING

This is just going to be a music rant today I'm afraid.

I was working late last night so finally got round to listening to the new Bloc Party album (Intimacy)...and its as bad if not worse than "A Weekend In The City". How can a band who made the brilliant "Silent Alarm" have followed it up with such dross.

Anyway, I'm off to Chicago all day tomorrow for meetings so I doubt I'll be posting anything new until Monday.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Rangers v Blackhawks

It was the first home game of the season for the Rangers last Friday night and I had the use of the season tickets from one of the guys in the office. There was more going on than usual before the game with a band playing outside MSG and the whole team being individually announced before the match:

Unlike the pre-season game I went to the Rangers were damn good this time winning 4 - 2. In fact they have won their first 5 games and have the best record in the NHL at the moment.

Only problem with the evening, I had to walk all the way to the opposite side of the arena to get any good beer (Anchor Steam and Sam Adams) as it was all Bud or Bud Light on my side.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Columbus Day

Yesterday, not that I even realised, was a holiday for a lot of people in Yankland. Not for me though.

It was Columbus Day - this one is pretty obvious as it celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America. It seems that a lot of these holidays here are optional and different states recognise different holidays as being more significant than others. In NY it seems that most people were working as I didn't really notice much difference to my normal day (although there was a parade up 5th Avenue but that happens fairly often anyway).

Monday, 13 October 2008

Life on Mars

This is one of several UK TV shows to have been recently remade by the Yanks and their version has just started over here. To coincide with this, BBC America showed a marathon of the original series.

Now I never watched this when it was on in the UK but remember it got good reviews so set the DVR to record them all. I started making my way through the series over the weekend. Now I've noticed in the past that a few of the UK series shown over here are subtitled in places (Coupling springs to mind) and Life on Mars has gotten the same treatment. But it isn't like they have subtitled the whole show - it is just occasional lines here and there - possibly only one side of a conversation as well.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Four seasons - naw, try two

Seriously, it was only a few weeks ago I was still wandering around in shorts and t-shirt complaining about the humidity and now I'm back to needing a jacket to go out. Winter is all but here.

Several people told me that the best time to be in NY is either spring or autumn as these avoid the cold of winter or the humidity of summer. Well, they both seem to last about a week each! Speaking to a few people about this they seem to think that this has been the case in the last few years here and that maybe nice spring/autumn days no longer exist here. I certainly haven't seen many.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Franz Ferdinand

I thought I had just about got to the point where bands wouldn't be able to slip by me in NY without me noticing. However, I found out yesterday morning that Franz Ferdinand were playing a secret show in Brooklyn last night. After a bit of scrambling around I managed to get a ticket for $40 (which was only $10 more than face value so not bad).

Cause A Commotion - only one support band last night and they were dreadful. I'm not even sure I have their name right as I can't find their website but I wouldn't recommend looking too hard. One thing I will point out is that the bassist played the entire gig with his back to the crowd - I came up with three possible reasons for this: 1. he gets bad stage fright and this is the only way he can go on; 2. the real bassist was a no show and this was just a random who was miming so didn't face the crowd so they couldn't see he wasn't actually playing; or 3. this is just his "thing" (if this is true I'd suggest he doesn't have to worry about it as I doubt his band are going anywhere fast).

Franz Ferdinand - I always think FF have a pretty unique sound (I was thinking about it last night and could only come up with Maximo Park as being similar). Also, they aren't exactly prolific when it comes to new material with a two years between albums (third album apparently just finished). That was the point of last nights show where they played one new track followed by an old one and the new stuff held up rather well to be honest.

"Dark of the Matinee" and "Take Me Out" were still the standout tracks from the gig. As I expect most people have their albums I've had a look for some non-album tracks on the net and have come up with these: "Love and Destroy"; and "Hallam Foe".