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".

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Religulous

There's a comedian/talk show host over here called Bill Maher who has just released a documentary on religion - he isn't a fan. Now this film is only getting a very limited release (I could only find two cinemas in NY which were showing it) so I went along on Sunday to make sure I got to see it.

The film is called "Religulous" and basically sees Bill Maher travelling round trying to get anyone to be able to explain how they can believe in anything in the face of massive common sense/lack of evidence/scientific fact...and as you'd expect without getting very many sensible answers back.

I did learn a couple of things that I hadn't heard before though:
1. Mormon's are absolutely batshit crazy almost to the same level as Scientology;
2. the whole Jesus story bears a remarkable resemblance (and when I say remarkable resemblance I mean its almost identical to) to an Egyptian God called Horus about whom stories were circulating about 400-700 BC.

I think I've managed to embed the trailer below:

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Merzbow mistake

One of the problems with getting my new computer was that I had to reload all my music into itunes - I then couldn't be bothered to make any specific selections from the list to fill my iShuffle so just hit Autofill - if you're familiar with Merzbow you can guess the rest but let me tell you exactly when I found out some of this noise pollution found its way onto my playlist.

In the gym and quite happily cycling away listening to Editors with the volume turned up as high as it will go. As "All Sparks" comes to an end I'm waiting to hear what the shuffle comes up with next - answer, Merzbow at full volume. Luckily I was on a bike as if I'd been on the treadmill I would likely have fallen off.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Glasvegas

After a fairly quiet summer for concerts in NY I have about 4 coming up in the next month. First up was the new Scottish band "Glasvegas" in the smallest venue I've been to in NY - the Mercury Lounge is like the back room of a bar.

I've been listening to the Glasvegas album all week and to be honest hadn't really been that impressed by it. There's not much wrong with it but at the same time the isn't much to get that excited about either.

Back to Glasvegas in a minute, there were the two support acts first:

Wild Light
- the first band (who didn't come on until 10pm) really weren't up to much. The music was just too light on any substance to be any good. A couple of their songs started really well but just died off after about 10 seconds into the same turgid mess. Next.

Angela McCluskey - this was a bit different from the norm and was actually pretty good. The singer was supported by either acoustic guitar or piano and that was it - basically just concentrating on the vocals and this girl could sing. Now it isn't the sort of thing that I'll be sticking on my ipod but she was definitely talented.

Glasvegas - I was hoping that this was a band who would be a lot better live than recorded and maybe they were a bit but it still wasn't great stuff. The lead singer sings in a very strong Scottish accent (thing "The View") which is a bit different but if that's the best comment I have to make then you can probably tell that I wasn't to impressed.

I've found a couple of sites with mp3s of a couple of songs that I have grown to quite like: "Geraldine" and "Daddy's Gone".

Friday, 3 October 2008

Political Drinking Games

I wasn't planning on doing anything last night but at about 7.30pm got a text from a couple of guys I know that they were going to be in a bar round the corner if I fancied a couple of beers...so I wandered along.

Turns out they were part of a large crowd who had gathered in a sports bar to watch the Vice-Presidential Debate. This bar has three rooms with two of them showing the debate and one showing the baseball play-offs...about 150 people watched the politicians and about 20 watched the baseball...rather odd.

However, to the game - I has given the following sheet of paper (click on it and you can probably read the larger image):

There were a couple of people who had obviously memorised the whole thing as they shouted drink every couple of minutes. Either that or they were doing very poor impressions of Father Jack.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Baseball playoffs

The start of the hockey season coincides with the beginning of the baseball playoffs (which along with the American Football which restarted a couple of weeks ago) means that there is loads of sport on TV at the moment.

Last night was the first night of the playoffs and I was in a bar in Greenwich Village to watch the Chicago Cubs (99 years without winning the World" Series) play the LA Dodgers with a couple of girls from the office who are Cubs fans. The bar was fairly evenly split between the two sets of fans although I was chastised for not supporting the Cubs - I declared neutrality and stated that I really didn't care who won these minority sporting events.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

War with technology

I got a new laptop at work a couple of weeks back and it is having issues with my external hard drives which I use to backup mu iTunes and pictures. Unfortunately, the new computer won't let me write any new files to the drive even though it isn't even half full.

I've spoken to my companies IT desk, the makers of the laptop and the makers of the external drive and no-one can solve this. More annoyingly, another guy in the office who uses an external drive has no problems at all with his.

It seems to be something wrong with my new computer as the drives work fine on older machines. I even took the radical step of reformatting the whole drive but although that appeared to have solved the problem it is back today. I'm stumped on this one.