Friday, 30 January 2009

Looks like I might be moving on...

...although where seems up for grabs at the moment.

Yesterday I was all set to spend two months working in the Caribbean (would have been good with the Eng v Windies games currently on the go) but that didn't pan out so now the latest potential in Switzerland but I won;t find out anything more until next week.

This weekend - well I've found another show to see but that's about it.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You're Welcome America - A Final Night With George W Bush

Didn't take too long to find something to go and see at the theatre here - Will Ferrell has just started a show where he plays George Bush recounting his life:

Firstly, the entry into this was less organised that a concert - they didn't open the doors until about 15 minutes before the show was due to start so plenty of people were still trying to get to their seats when the lights went down.

As for the show itself, some of it was hilarious - one long rant about trying to set up a crack platoon of harpoon wielding monkeys to fight terrorists was great. I can roughly remember one scene that made me laugh so here you go:

"So its the night of the 2000 election and there is nothing to watch on TV but election coverage - which is really dull. Anyway, late at night I get a call from Gore to concede the result so I tell him - Sweet, I'm gonna go and set off the M80s I bought last time I was down Mexico way. He says - What? I shout Nerd down the phone and hang up.

So about an hour later, just after I've finished taping the M80s to a hellboy figure, he calls again to take back his concession. I tell him he can't do that. He says he can. I say he can't. He asks why I think he can't? After a bit of a think I tell him because of the Geneva convention and hang up.

Apparently I was wrong on that one, turns out the Geneva convention is mostly to do with what happens when we colonise the Moon."

A few times when statements are made the screen at the back of the stage will say "True" or "Real Quote" to emphasise that Bush really did what was being talked about - it wasn't just made up by Ferrell's character - e.g. he proclaimed June 10, 2000 to be Jesus Day. To be honest he could have used a lot more of these are there are only about half a dozen through the show.

Overall, the show doesn't rely as much on real life events (of which I think there are more than enough to get an hour and a half's show out of) as it could. The show instead relies primarily on random stuff Ferrell has made up rather than on real life events. Still, an entertaining show nonetheless.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Snow

When it snows in NYC (and there is rather a lot of it this morning) it isn't like the UK where the salt trucks drive around all over the place to get rid of it (in fact I haven't even seen any such trucks) - here they just get on with things. This means that the only snow that is cleared from the pavement is where a shopkeeper has taken the time to do it themselves and the roads become one major mess of, the best word I can think of is, sludge - not good to wander through on the way to work.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

What's left?

I have only 8 weekends left in the US before I leave - discounting this final weekend of non-drinking and the 5 Six nations weekends this only leaves 2...

I've been asking a few people in the office what is left in NYC that I haven't seen/done - to be honest I'm not getting that much in response although one common suggestion has been to see a show on Broadway, not really my kind of thing but I'll have a look at the listings and see if anything sounds interesting (musicals are definitely out before I even start this).

Monday, 26 January 2009

Notes from the gym

I'm spending a lot of time in the gym this month (14 visits since 7th Jan) so here are a few things I've noticed:

1 . on Friday afternoon/evening it appears to be model day - I say that because there are always about half a dozen girls about my height who look like they weight about as much as one of my legs. My only other theory is that this is an anorexic group outing in which case it would probably be better to go somewhere other than the gym!

2. Sunday mornings on the other hand, is when the guys who wears vests and spend their whole time lifting weights while staring at themselves in the mirror turn up. The good thing about this is that the running machines are always free.

3. There are always 2 or 3 guys in the gym who are wearing baseball caps - why????

Friday, 23 January 2009

Still 2 weeks to go before drinking resumes

Another weekend of Heineken Cup rugby and visits to the gym beckons - there aren't even any American Football playoffs to watch this week as they are having a break before the Superbowl next week. I would head to the cinema but I can't find a movie I even vaguely want to see.

At least the weather has improved (i.e. it is no longer well below 0C) so I might head out to do something cultural - if such things exist in Yankland...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Could someone fix the exchange rate please

Its a good thing I'm not spending too much money at the moment as the £ to $ exchange rate continues to go through the floor - apparently it has hit a 7 year low this week. This is actually having an effect on my plans for the next couple of months as I was thinking of going to Austin for the SXSW music festival in March but unless things improve I might do without.

I don't actually need to transfer any cash across at the moment and I'm hoping that as it becomes clear that Obama can't just click his fingers and fix everything in the US things will improve...I hope...sometime in the next month would be nice.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Rangers v Ducks

There aren't even that many good hockey matches to see this month but this was one game 'd been planning to go to for a while. The Anaheim Ducks (they dropped the "Mighty" a few years back) have been one of the top teams for a while now and as they play in the Western Conference they rarely play in NYC.

I expected the Ducks to win and the opening 5 minutes suggested this would be the case with the Ducks controlling possession and creating all the chances.

However, it was the Rangers who scored first although this was almost immediately cancelled out by the Ducks and that's how the 2nd period ended. The Rangers went ahead again in the 2nd period but the Ducks equalised again.

Into the third and this time when the Rangers scored the Ducks couldn't find an equaliser despite the Rangers taking a penalty with only 1.57 left in the game and the Ducks then pulling their goalie (i.e. playing the last couple of minutes with 6 skaters to 4). In fact the Rangers managed to get an empty net goal to win 4-2. Add that to a couple of pretty good fights and this was a good game.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Inauguration

One of the things I've leaned from living in Yankland is that it is possible to go through life without ever watching the news or being vaguely aware of current events. A lot of US TV channels don;t seem to have news at all so it is rather unsurprising that Yanks in general are a clueless bunch when it comes to what is going on in the world.

This deficit does have its uses however - take today for example, I have absolutely no interest in watching 10 hours of coverage of the inauguration of Obama and I can easily avoid it. Actually, I've no idea what is going on in NYC with regards to this. I'm sure that Washington would be a nightmare to be in today though - the concert a couple of days ago was just cringeworthy.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Nets v Celtics

OK, before I say anything about this game let me first try and justify why I was actually there after I had sworn off ever going to basketball again:

1. as I'm not drinking I have a lot of free time to fill
2. I got a deal on a cheap ticket
3. the Celtics are the reigning champions so possibly a team worth seeing
4. it was an afternoon game so easy enough to get to the arena and back

To the game itself:

This ended up being nothing but a training run for the Celtics who motored out to a 18 - 2 lead and never looked back. In fact by half time it was 68 - 39 and a real hammering.

The Celtics apparently have three main star players (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen - no, I've never heard of them either) and with the game over by the half they made limited appearances off the bench in the 2nd half.

The Nets did bring the score back a bit playing against the Celtics second team but not that much with the final score 105 - 85.

There wasn't a massive crowd there either - I'd guess at best it was about 60% full (as I've said before American sports fans are massively fair weather fans and the Nets are pretty average) and by the end probably only 20% full.

Basketball - definitely the worst Yank sport (and that is a pretty big achievement).

Friday, 16 January 2009

Unimpressed with prototype seaplane

SO obviously the big news in NYC was the plane landing on the river yesterday - it seems to have "landed" at about level with 57th St - which is the same street my office is on. However, as it was v cold and about a 15 minute walk to the riverside I decided I would (like almost everyone else) follow the news on TV - mainly watching the plane float down the island.

Apparently it is now moored at the south of the island. If it is still there over the weekend I'll maybe go and see what I can see. Its not everyday you get to see a plane in the river.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Pavement writing

As I walked back last night I saw a group of people huddled round one area of the pavement in the distance. Given the area I assumed someone was selling something as that is not uncommon on this street - what is uncommon would be any sort of crowd round one of the stalls.

As I passed I saw that I was wrong. What was actually going on was people were crowded round a freshly cemented area of the pavement (about 2m square) to write in the wet cement...sure enough, as I passed this morning the whole area was covered in names etc.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

New Music

Last year was a pretty poor year for music in my opinion - very few new bands who I thought were any good and poor albums from returning favourites (ahem...Bloc Party). However, I'm fairly optimistic for 2009 - why? Well Interpol and U2 are due to release new albums sometime this year.

Also in the next few weeks there will be a new Franz Ferdinand album and an album from a band called "White Lies" which sounds good too. In truth both of these have leaked all over the internet already as far as I can see so here are a couple of links to try out:

Franz Ferdinand and White Lies

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Tedium

This is not shaping up to be an interesting month at all. Some of you may remember that this is my month off drinking - in fact I am aiming to be dry until 7th February which is when the 6 Nations starts so an extra week on the end.

Other than watching the days creep past this month I'm trying to go to the gym a bit more regularly than I was at the end of last year but that generally grinds to a halt after the first week I go about four times and I completely seize up! However, that's where I'm off to now for a lunch time visit - after Friday, Saturday and Sunday visits this could be the one to finish me off.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Weather Comparison

For quite a while I have meant to look up how different the weather is in London compared to NYC - predominantly because every Yank seems to think NYC is vastly superior and that it is cold and constantly rains in London.

I finally got round to this last week and was rather surprised by the results, in summary:
- average monthly rainfall in NYC is 105mm which is more than DOUBLE the 49mm average in London
- average temperature is 17C in NYC and 15C in London so not much difference there
- NYC is generally warmer than London for 8 months of the year

That doesn't even take into account the ridiculous humidity you have to live with in NYC in the summer. Basically, it seems like Yanks have a somewhat distorted view of how much better NYC weather is than London.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Continental

A quick recommendation for this airline for long haul - the food wasn't up to much but the TV system was great. It had over 250 films on demand so even I could find a few I liked - including a couple of my more obscure favourites in Swingers (which still has the most cringe worthy scene ever made) and Clerks (which is just odd).

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Top League

Even though I was only back to Japan for a week that was enough time to fit in two matches from the professional rugby league over there - actually it was a double header at the national stadium with IBM v Toyota and Suntory v Kobe Steelers.

Actually, each team had a player I had heard of playing for them:
- IBM (Mike Hercus, the US stand-off who has previously played for Sale and Llanelli)
- Toyota (William Ryder, a long time member of the Fijian 7s team)
- Suntory (Hale T-Pole, Tongan flanker who I thought was on the Ospreys books)
- Kobe Steelers (Pierre Hola, Tongan stand-off who player in the World Cup)

IBM 20 v 47 Toyota

Although Toyota did eventually run away with this game it was a different story in the first half with IBM scoring a couple of breakaway tries to lead 17 - 5 at the half.

They held on for about another 10 minutes into the 2nd half before the bubble burst and Toyota ran in six tries. To be fair Toyota were blatantly the better team and had all the territory and possession for almost the whole game.

Suntory 67 v 3 Kobe Steelers

This was supposed to be a close game between the teams who were second and third in the table...and to be fair it was very competitive for the first half hour or so. In fact coming into half time Kobe were pressing for a try with Suntory leading 17 - 3 but down to 14 men. After pressing for several phases a 50/50 pass went to ground and was picked up by a Suntory winger who ran the length of the field to score and make it 24 - 3 at the half.

The second half again started quite close but Suntory started scoring at regular intervals and pulled further and further away. In fact Suntory scored three tries in the final three minutes (two by a 2nd row) to really pile the points on - they only missed one conversion as well.

There was a reasonable crowd in attendance too, I'd guess not too far off 15,000 there. One last thing, as this was Japan some of the teams had very Japanese mascots with them:

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

New Year at Zojoji Temple

Only a week late but I'm finally up to writing about my New Year which I spent in Tokyo. Specifically at New Year I was in the Zojoji Temple which, although I used to pass it almost every day on the way to work, I had never previously visited (as you can see it is pretty close to Tokyo Tower).

There were a couple of things going on here. Firstly, people write their wish for the New Year on a note and attach it to a balloon which they release at midnight. This was all well and good but a lot of peoples wishes ended up getting stuck in the surrounding trees...

Another attraction of the temple is the Great Bell which was constructed in 1673, at midnight the bell is rung 108 times.

108 represents the 108 sins of man according to Buddhist belief. I was curious so I went looking and here's the list:

ostentatiousnessgrudgegamblingingratitude
dipsomaniaambitiondominancefaithlessness
manipulationstinginesspessimismhostility
abusedebasementsexual lustsarcasm
humiliationjealousygluttonyunruliness
hurtcrueltyunkindnessobstinacy
envyindifferencenegativityfurtiveness
sadismenviousnessderisionfalseness
high-handednessknow-it-allrageaggression
rapacityeffronterydisrespectfulnesshard-heartedness
eagerness for powerlyinginsidiousnessself-denial
inattentivenesscontemptwrathhaughtiness
greed for moneyseducementvindictivenessinsatiability
voluptuousnessexcessivenesscensoriousnessdissatisfaction
egoismignorancehatredgreed
impudenceimposturecursingimperiousness
lecherousnesscallousnessmalignancytorment
intoleranceblasphemyshamelessnessirresponsibility
obsessionprejudicearroganceviolent temper
garrulitydogmatism presumptionintransigence
oppressionprodigalitylack of comprehensionobstinacy
prideconceitednessdelusionquarrelsomeness
self-hatredviolencevanityhypocrisy
stubbornnessbasenesspretencemercilessness
disrespectridiculemasochismtyranny
capriciousnessdeceitangerdiscord
calculationunyieldingdesire for famedeception

I suspect I score pretty badly on this one...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

WWE

A further slice of American culture today as just before I left for my New Year holiday I was at MSG to see "Raw Live" - for anyone who has no idea what the acronyms relate to it is professional wresting.

First comment, it was ridiculously busy trying to get into MSG, I never have this problem at a Rangers game but the queue was massively backed up on the way in. As a result of this I would say that about a third of the audience was not into their seats by the time things all started at 8pm.

The whole event ran for about three hours and included 8 matches split between singles, tag team and a grand finale of a cage match. I did manage to get some reasonable pictures of the action:

To be honest it was getting pretty old by the time three hours was up. It was interesting to see the crowd get wildly excited by some matches and be almost completely indifferent to others.

The "wresting"itself is pretty formulaic and I found it was pretty easy to pick the winner after the first 30 seconds of each fight after you had seen the standard build up from a couple of matches. Each match takes about 15 minutes but they are all pretty tedious up until the last couple of minutes when the tempo increases fairly dramatically.

Still, probably better value for money than going to see boxing.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Islanders v Maple Leafs

Been a while hasn't it. In case you didn't guess/know I've been away on holiday over New Year. I'll get to that later this week but first of all I have a couple of other NY reports to write before I tell you about my New Year.

First up, on Boxing Day I made the (long) journey out to Nassau Coliseum to see the New York Islanders play the Maple Leafs - that's ice-hockey folks. With this trip I think I'm done with the New York area pro sports teams (I'm reaching this conclusion as I refuse to go out to New Jersey to watch the Nets basketball team as that sport is dire and the NY Dragons Arena Football season has been suspended for 2009 so I can't see them).

Back to the Islanders, to get there is a one hour train ride from Manhattan onto long island and then a 15 minute bus ride which still leaves a 5 minute walk to the stadium - so not the easiest place to get to. One thing that was good was the ticket prices - I was 4 rows from the front for the same price as about 40 rows from the front at a Rangers game.

The game itself was anything but a glamour fixture with both teams being pretty bad this year - the Islanders currently have the worst record in the NHL.

It was 1-1 after the first period but after that (despite being outshot) the Islanders scored another two in the 2nd period and one in the 3rd period to win 4-1 (I think this is the first time I have seen the Maple Leafs lose).

Having seen home games for all three NY area teams now I recommend the Devils as the best for value, arena and price overall. Its also pretty easy to get to from Manhattan (about half an hour away on the train).