Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Teenagers

This weeks concert comes to you from the Mercury Lounge (which, truth be told, is little more than a back room of a pub - probably holds 150 tops). This weeks band - The Teenagers, who are from France.

But before that, first up was a band called Bear Hands from New York who I thought sounded a little like the Kooks (although this may have been because the lead singer looked and sounded like the lead singer of the Kooks). Not bad though.

There were only two bands on this bill so the Teenagers were up next. Actually, the whole show was a lot earlier than usual on New York. First band at about 7.30 and second on at about 8.15. Anyway, the Teenagers were pretty good, I wouldn't rave about them but quite good. I've been growing into their album too and you'll find a few tracks here (I recommend Sunset Beach).

Another song you'll find there, Homecoming, is a duet and last night to sing the female vocals the band pulled a couple of fans out of the crowd to sing with them:

This is all the funnier if you know the lyrics - listen to the song to see what I mean!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Office view

My companies NY offices are split over two floors – I’m on the lower of them and until last week hadn’t been to the other floor despite everyone telling me there was an amazing view of Central Park. Well here it is:

Bit different to the view out of my office on the lower floor:

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Tweed Courthouse

I’ve been rather unimpressed with the history of NY book I bought – its very dry and seems to just talk about the political movements and elections. However, last week I came upon what was an impressively corrupt NY government – the Tweed Ring.

Basically, this was a group of individuals led by William Tweed who held down all the positions of power in NY from around 1860 to 1870 and systematically stole a hell of a lot of money The most impressive scam involved the building of the New York Courthouse – originally meant to cost $350,000 when designed in 1962 the final bill came to $13m. That’s a cost overrun that the London Olympic Committee can only aspire to (although they’re doing a pretty good job so far).

Included in the cost were thermometers that cost $7,500 each but they were bargains compared to the brooms which were $41,190,95. The courthouse still stands today (and you’d hope so for that kind of money) and here it is:

In total the Tweed ring is estimated to have stolen somewhere between $30m and $200m from the city. That’s a hell of a lot of money by today’s standards never mind in the 1860’s (I was sufficiently curious to look this up and using this website $30m in 1870 is worth at least $450m now).

Final aside, I dragged myself out on Sunday to see this building while feeling awful thinking a walk might make me feel better – it most definitely didn’t.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Weekend starts badly…and goes downhill from there

I don’t think sobriety agrees with me as I’ve been unwell again all weekend – the annoyance value of this increased as I had spied what looked like an "interesting" show on my way home:

Sorry folks, I was asleep by 8pm on Friday night feeling awful…and that was me for the rest of the weekend – well almost.

Friday, 25 January 2008

What to do

Well, I have absolutely nothing to do this weekend - there isn't much rugby on, I'm on my last sober weekend, no ice-hockey (or even basketball), no American Football...so I'm struggling to know what I'm going to do. I can't even find any concerts to go to. Its also pretty cold so I don't really fancy wandering around too much either.

MSG, which has done pretty well for me in the last month is out too, nothing on Saturday as they are setting up for Sunday which is when the WWE Royal Rumble is on. Now, being honest, I would probably go along to this for a look but the tickets are at least $200 so I'm not that interested.

Suggestions welcome...

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Von Bondies

Anyone paying attention might remember that one of Razorlight's support acts from their gig here a couple of months back were The Von Bondies - well they were back in NY last night playing at a little venue called the Blender Theatre.

Even though I wasn't overly impressed with them last time round the venue was only about 10 minutes walk from my flat and it was only $15 a ticket. As seems to the case with concerts here there were three bands on over the evening at 8pm, 9pm and 10.15pm respectively:

Freer - first band up and only about 60 people in the place. Well the people who showed up late missed out as again I enjoyed the opening act more than the two following. Also, they were selling copies of there album for only $5 so I picked that up (you really struggle to go wrong with an album for £2.50).

SSM - I'm not sure what to make of this lot, at some points they reminded me of The Foo Fighters or even Status Quo but then they'd throw in a bit of electronica. Can't say was overly impressed in any case. By this time there were probably a few more than 100 people in the place.

The Von Bondies - Much improved from there last outing in NY although they only played for about 45 minutes (then again, what do I want for under a tenner). Say about 200 people in total at the gig which I think was about half full (maybe a little less):

An odd choice to me was, as a band who I view as one hit wonders, to play the big hit in the middle of the set. I would have thought they would either open with it or play it last. Anyway, I've found a website where "C'Mon C'Mon" is posted as an mp3 (here) - bonus it also has probably they're next best song too "Not That Social".

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Roy Jones Jr v Felix Trinidad

There was a fairly big night of boxing on at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night – the fact that I’ve written that should lead you to the obvious conclusion that I was there.

In all there were 8 fights on the night:

Main Event: Light Heavyweight - 12 RDS
Felix "Tito" Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs) vs. Roy Jones, Jr. (51-4, 38 Kos)

Heavyweight - 12 RDS
Andrew Golota (40-6-1, 33 KOs ) vs. Mike Mollo (19-1, 12 Kos)

Welterweight - 12 RDS
Roman Karmazin (36-2-1, 23 KOs) vs. Alex Bunema (26-9-2, 14 KOs)

Lightweight - 12 RDS
DeMarcus Corley (31-7-2, 17 KOs) vs. Devon Alexander (13-0, 9 KOs)

Welterweight - 10 RDS
Luis Collazo (27-3, 13 Kos) vs. Edvan dos Santos Barros (9-4-1, 7 KOs)

Heavyweight - 10 RDS
Emanuelle Nwodo (21-4, 17 KOs) vs. Ezra Sellers (29-7, 26 KOs)

Heavyweight - 8 RDS
Gabe Brown (18-7-3, 12 KOs) vs. Paul Marinaccio (23-3-1, 10 KOs)

Lightweight - 4 RDS
Angelo Santana (Pro Debut) vs. Deandre Johnson (Pro Debut)

So the first fight of the night was a Women's fight…the doors opened at 6pm and had we thought we could have got in and then back out again for a couple of hours we might have gone to watch it. In fact we arrived at the back of 9pm in time to see the end of the Corley v Alexander fight (which wasn’t great). The final three fights of the night were all pretty good though.

Karmazin v Bunema: A fair amount of action with Bunema winning with a KO in the 10th round.

Golota v Mollo: Wow, this went the distance but I’m not sure how. For about the last 5 rounds Mollo looked like he could hardly stand up and either somehow found a few punches or was saved by the bell. Both fighters looked like they were out on their feet and the crowd was on its feet to acknowledge this.

Golota won on points which was probably fair but his face (specifically his left eye) was a real mess.

Jones Jr v Trinidad: Not the fastest paced fight in the world and not as entertaining as the Golota fight but still good. Trinidad seemed to land a lot more punches (especially in the early rounds) but didn’t seem to have much power behind his punches. Jones Jr meanwhile occasionally let fly with a flurry of punches which would generally trouble Trinidad but this was only once or twice a round.

Coming into the final round although Trinidad had been knocked down twice we were debating whether it was possible he could still lose the fight on points as Trinidad seemed to have been making most of the running. At the end I reckoned Jones Jr won by one or two rounds – in fact Jones Jr won more convincingly than that with the judges scoring it 116-110, 116-110 and 117-109.

A final word on the fans at this event – a substantial proportion of the crowd (which was probably only about 50% of the capacity of MSG) were absolutely hammered early on. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t just my impression due to my completely sober state as I wasn’t the only one to comment on it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

...and another thing...

Something that I should have added yesterday but forgot - cinemas in Yankland never seem to sell tickets for specific seats regardless of how popular the screening is liable to be. This means that in order to get a seat which isn’t stuck right at the front or off to one side you need to get there way earlier than the film actually starts. Annoying.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Cloverfield

You see what not drinking for January has done to me – I’m reduced to writing film reviews: probably one of the lowest levels a Blogger can reach.

I’m not happy about this so I’ll keep comments on the film to a minimum – basically it was bloody excellent. I was thinking after the AvP fiasco whether I could think of the last film I saw in the cinema that I really liked and I couldn’t remember (after further consideration I think it was Nightwatch) but this is the first film I’ve been stunned by for a long time…it really was excellent (couple of slight issues that a pedantic git like me thinks are wrong but only someone always looking for mistakes - like me - would probably pick up on them).

However, as this isn’t a film review site lets move on to another part of the evening: F##KING RETARDED YANK F##KS ALL SEEM TO FEEL THE NEED TO DISCUSS THE MOVIE RIGHT THROUGH IT. I thought this might just have been an AvP phenomenon, as that was never likely to attract the more sensible element at midnight on Xmas Eve, but it was the same here. Unfortunate as it did detract a bit from an otherwise stunning film.

A last couple of observations on the film before I go, Cloverfield is probably a film you should see in the cinema. Also, not sure how well it will stand up to being seen more than once. But first time round – excellent.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Editors

Last night I went to see Editors who were playing a venue called Terminal 5 in New York - quite a big place and unlike any venue in London I have been to. The best way to describe it would be industrial: almost a warehouse with a couple of balcony levels where people could also watch from.

First band on were Louis XIV at 8pm but having listened to a few of their songs on their website it was decided to miss them. Next up were a band called Hot Hot Heat who, based on the songs on their myspace website, sounded as though they would be worth a listen - wrong. It may have been the awful sound quality but they really didn't come across well.

Editors rolled on at about 10.15pm and were excellent (no sound issues here). They were on for about an hour, which was quite short compared to a UK concert, but covered all their main songs. With the exception of "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" I thought the songs from their first album came across a lot better than their new stuff (although they did something odd to "Bullets" which I don't think quite worked) - "All Sparks" was probably my fave of the night.

The camera in my phone did a pretty good job so here are a few pics from the gig:

Seeing as I expect you all to own the Editors albums (if not why not) there seems little point posting any links to mp3s of their songs. However, I did come across a live acoustic session they did and you'll find that here.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Non drinking month

So as I was forced to admit yesterday I am once again trying to go through January without drinking - I hadn't planned to mention this until I had succeeded in a couple of weeks as this is just a little bit more pressure on me.

Anyway, this means my evenings aren't quite as interesting to report on a usual. For example, last night I was out to dinner at a restaurant called STK (I like the flash pictures on the website so I recommend you have a quick look at this one if you don't normally click the links I post) but wandered off home at 10.30pm rather than go on to the bar with everyone else.

So today's story is, like the majority of the rest of this month, pretty boring - as for the restaurant itself: can't say I was particularly impressed with the food (and no I didn't have the 34oz Cowboy Rib Steak).

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Brooklyn Bridge

Now I’d heard of the Brooklyn Bridge before I came here but had no idea why it was famous, so I’ve looked it up. Apparently, when it was completed, in 1883, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

Anyway, last weekend I walked across to Brooklyn and back so here’s a few pics of and from the Bridge (including - a very distant - Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building):


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Laundry

In New York no-one seems to have a washing machine in their flat – everyone uses the local laundry places (and there are plenty to pick from). My local place charges solely based on the weight of the bag so each week is only costing me about $8 and that’s being dropped off on Friday night and available for collection the next day at around lunchtime.

About £4 a week for someone to do all your washing for you – good deal I reckon.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Holistic Pet Care

Every day on my way to and from the underground station I pass this place:

Lets start at the beginning here by first looking up the definition of “Holistic” – in a major shock to no-one there are no accepted standard definitions for holistic, holistic health, or holistic medicine. Most usage apparently falls within two common definitions:

1. Holistic as a whole made up of interdependent parts. You are most likely to hear these parts referred to as the mind/ body connection; mind/ body/ spirit, or physical/ mental/ emotional/ spiritual aspects. When this meaning is applied to illness, it is called holistic medicine and includes a number of factors, such as dealing with the root cause of an illness; increasing patient involvement; and considering both conventional (allopathic) and complementary (alternative) therapies.

2. Holistic as a synonym for alternative therapies. By this definition, "going holistic" means turning away from any conventional medical options and using alternative treatment exclusively. This meaning mainly relates to illness situations, and sometimes is used for controversial therapies.

Or my own definition 3. a big pile of crap.

Add this to “Pet Care” and you have what is possibly the most ridiculous shop I’ve seen here (possibly only beaten out by the “Doggy Gym” I saw somewhere – people, if you’re having to take your do to its own gym then you’ve got it wrong).

Friday, 11 January 2008

Did you know...

…that New York was once the capital of the US? I didn’t.

In fact it was the first capital and George Washington was inaugurated as the first President in New York in April 1789. Not that New York held this position for very long as in August 1790 the national government was moved to Philadelphia.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Zippers

Which side should the zipper clasp be on a jacket? I’m used to the clasp being on the left hand side. However, in Yankland I’ve bought a couple of jackets and the clasp is on the right in both cases – its very odd to have to get used to doing this the opposite way round.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Wall Street

So I’m assuming that you’ve all heard of Wall Street – this is the main area of the financial industry in New York. What you probably don’t know is why it is called wall Street. Well I was reading a book about the history of New York and have come across what seems to be the answer.

In 1643, because of the constant battles with the native Indian tribes, the then Governor of what was then New Amsterdam (a town of only around 500 people at this time based at the Southern tip of Manhattan) ordered a line of defenses built which generally followed the line of today’s Wall Street.

Anyway, I took a walk along here a week or so ago and (unsurprisingly) there were massive Xmas decorations up here too:

Before anyone (Nick) points out that this is a street off Wall Street remember that there isn't anything interesting on Wall Street to take a picture of. Anyway, that's the last of the Xmas pics.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

American Football on Sundays

So unlike football or rugby in the UK, the majority of NFL matches are played on Sunday (plus one on each of Thursday, Saturday and Monday night). Also, they are staggered so that there are games kicking off at 1pm, 4pm and 8pm – its like the Heineken Cup days but with a rubbish sport!

Walk past any sports bar on a Sunday and it will be packed with people who have set up camp for the day. Now I’m not against such things (Heineken Cup and 6 Nations prove that) but every Sunday…

Monday, 7 January 2008

Pro Bull Riding

This weekend Madison Square Garden hosted a round of Professional Bull Riding (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) - a bit different, so I went along on Saturday night. Before I forget, there were about a dozen or so animal rights protesters outside MSG on the way in.

Now as you may know (or have picked up if you’ve been reading about my adventures for the last couple of months) the Yanks are typically completely over with most things but this was ridiculous. It took over twenty minutes for all the introductions to be made (riders, bulls, rodeo clowns, announcers, NYPD officers…) complete with pyrotechnics and light show:

We still had the obligatory singing of the national anthem – complete with 30ft American flag – and (a new one here) a prayer…seriously. I nearly had to leave at this point as I was laughing so hard but the Yanks took it so seriously, very funny stuff. Finally, there was the other regular, the “tribute to the troops” or as I’ve decided they will now be called “positive press for the oil wars”.

But enough of this, to the actual event – there were 45 riders each of whom had one ride that night on one of about 50 bulls (each bull only appeared once as well). Unfortunately my camera doesn’t seen to have been up to capturing action shots of this but here as a couple of the better ones I did take:

As far as I can tell a rider is required to hang on for 8 seconds to get a score – I’d guess about half managed that. I have no idea how the judges score (or even how many judges there were) but it seemed to be out of 100 – the top score of the night being 90.75. I have a couple of videos from my camera two although if the quality of my pictures is dubious the videos are worse – still, here you go:

video

Oh, and before I forget, there was one drunk idiot who scaled the fence and was making toward the bull enclosure - not sure what he was planning but he was dragged away by security before he could put his full plan into action. Really, how drunk do you have to be to do that? Actually, I suppose I should be able to answer that having run with the bulls in Pamplona a few years back...

Friday, 4 January 2008

C...C...C...C...old

It was ridiculously cold here yesterday - the temperature never went above -6ºC and fell as low as -11ºC. Add to that a fairly strong wind and it was pretty unbearable.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Happy Hockey-days

Before my back gave out I had booked in to go to the three Rangers home games over the Xmas break: Ottawa Senators; Carolina Hurricanes; and Montreal Canadiens. Three pretty good offensive teams so I was expecting plenty of goals.

Ottawa: amazing start to the game which was just going at 100mph with loads of big hits and end to end play. Ottawa ended up winning 3-1.

Carolina: v dull opening period which ended scoreless but the second period exploded with goals, hits and penalties – this was the big one. With the Rangers leading 4-2 this game then got really fun.

Canadiens: The first game I've seen which went into overtime with the Rangers scoring an equaliser with only a couple of minutes left to make it 3-3. They then went on to score early in overtime to win it 4-3.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

New Year at Times Square

I’m sure some of you have considered Times Square as a venue to visit for New Year at some point – well I can sum up my advice to you in one word: DON’T.

What a complete waste of time. Let me run you through my day. I got there at about 3.45pm and the centre was already packed. After making my way round a few entrances that had already been closed I managed to get in at Broadway and 48th Street - I was able to make my way down as far as 47th Street but that was it, for the next 8 hours...

You can probably see that this was ridiculously busy, somewhat similar to being at the front of a concert. Also, you may have heard about the famous ball which drops during the countdown to midnight. Now I was expecting typical over the top Yank style here and a 100 metre drop by a 20ft glitterball (like something you would see at a U2 concert). No, if you take another look at the picture above you'll see a small glowing ball at the top (over the Toshiba sign) - that's it, that's the great ball!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, each of the next 8 hours followed pretty much the same pattern, a band would do a sound check of a couple of songs. Then 5 minutes later play the same couple of songs again. However, the bands were all up on stages about 30 ft above the crowd so you couldn't see them unless you were miles away (at which distance what's the point). Also, which ever clown was in charge of the PA system wasn't even vaguely paying attention as typically a band would be 30 seconds into a song before they were turned on (this was funniest for the supposed crowd "sing-a-long" with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks - no I have no idea either - when she was on the screens singing away with no sound for about a minute, not that the crowd could have cared less).

Actually, the crowd got more and more bored throughout the night and all the people I spoke to and conversations I heard were basically the same - WTF have we done, this was a complete waste of time. Virtually the entire crowd was made up of tourists (New Yorkers have already worked out this whole thing is a bad idea). Even the normally reliable trick of pointing a TV camera at a crowd wore off as the early cheers wore off and in the last coupe of hours no-one cared. My mindset was at this time just set on counting down to midnight so I could get the hell out of there with the box "been there done that" ticked which I suspect was the same as the majority of the rest of the crowd.

I haven't even mentioned the other issues I have with this event so I'll try and list them quickly:
- there were only three big screens which were difficult to see and only one of them was always showing the event (seriously, how many screens are there in Times Square anyway they could commandeer!!!!!)
- at each hourly countdown they did the same crap run up by reading out a couple of New Year wishes of people in the crowd ("I want a dog" being the highlight of this sh!t)
- the fireworks were pretty tame (nothing compared to the lightshow in Edinburgh)
- the countdown timers at midnight weren't synced, seriously (my pic is a bit out of focus but you can see two countdowns at 5 seconds and one at 8 seconds - also you can see the "exciting" ball dropping...):

Any redeeming features...well the main band was The Bravery who I really like, that's about it. Just so you know other acts from the night were: Velvet Revolver; Lenny Kravitz; Kid Rock (comedy moment for this actually - the PA announcer shouts out "Times Square are you ready to rock" - about 5% of the crowd cheer, the PA announcer then says "Well please welcome Kid Rock" - about 10% of the crowd boos); a couple of American Idol nobodies (I list ended to LCD Soundsystem on my iPod at this point); Lighthouse (no idea who they were); Miley Cyrus (wow, that girl really can't sing); Jonas Brothers (another who I've no idea who they were); and Carrie Underwood (one song only). There was also the obligatory Yank tribute to the armed forces crap.

What else, let's see -well here's a shot of the fireworks:

I suppose one redeeming feature was that when it was all over it was pretty easy to get home - I was back by 12.40am. Apparently, one of my colleagues was watching on TV and he said the whole place cleared out in about 5 minutes - I'm not surprised, everyone was just sticking it out for midnight and then getting the hell away from there.