Friday, 27 February 2009

6 Nations (Week 3)

It has been agreed that the session after the 6 Nations a couple of weeks ago was in no-ones best interest so tomorrow we will try and maintain some sort of order through the afternoon. This may be aided by me still feeling awful.

As for the Friday night game in Paris, well that kicks off at 3pm here so I'll be finishing work at 2pm today I think.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Tokyo Police Club at Webster Hall

I was rather glad last nights show was at Webster Hall - not because it is a venue that I particularly like but because it is only 5 mins walk from my flat and I felt pretty terrible. I think my body has finally rebelled against the healthy living I've been aiming for this year. To the show:

Harlem Shakes - underwhelming to say the least. I struggle to remember what they even sounded like but I do remember thinking that it was instantly forgettable which is what appears to have happened.

Born Ruffians
- remember The Levellers? Well so do these guys as that is what they sounded like.

Tokyo Police Club
- here's a band who do generally sound better live than on their records, the exceptions to this rule being my two favourite songs - curious. Anyway, a good hour and a bit set from them last night (which is good for a band with only one full length album and whose songs average well under 3 mins each). Bit of a dead crowd though.

You'll find a couple of mp3s here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Rugby on Yank TV

Sunday evening and abc (one of the bigger TV stations here) had one hour devoted to highlights of last weekends San Diego 7s - actually it got cut down to 45 minutes as the basketball game on before it overran...

Anyway, I was waiting for some really basic commentary trying to explain even vaguely what was going on but no, they just used the normal commentary. What it did prove is that it is impossible to show a whole weekends worth of 7s in 45 minutes (and 15 minutes of that was most of the final) and try to make any sense of it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Atlantic City (Part II)

I'm not a gambler - had a few tries in Vegas and never really found it particularly interesting. So what else is there to do in Atlantic City?

Well people watching in this place is pretty good and although I don't get anything out of gambling I can stand to watch it for a while (especially when I have no idea of the rules of the game and try and pick them up along the way). Each of the hotels has its own theme as well with the Wild West casino probably trying the hardest.

Also, AC has a big outlet shopping district. Again, shopping not something that I generally have much interest in but the prices here were ridiculous. Even with the current FX rate I think the US is cheaper than the UK and here the normal US prices were generally 50% off. As if I didn't have enough stuff to transport back to the UK anyway.

Finally, I found a couple of good bars - The Tun Tavern was a micro brewery with some pretty good beers and also Firewaters which was a bar in the depths of the Tropicana hotel. This picture will tell you why I liked this bar:

Monday, 23 February 2009

Atlantic City

When I'm discussing my trips in the office the Yanks quite often have pretty strong views on what the places I'll be visiting are like - this is especially true if the place is in or near NYC. For example, going to Times Square for New Year was the worst idea possible.

The overwhelming view of Atlantic City was that it is worth a look but you probably don't want to spend much time there. When you look at a list of the top attractions you can see why as this includes the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey (not North America, not the US, not even the East Coast but New Jersey...).

So what the hell was I doing there. Well, if you've never heard of it Atlantic City is a gambling city with about a dozen or so giant casino/hotels on what is actually quite a nice looking beach.

Watching the clientele as I made my way around the casinos this place caters to the lower end of society and no wonder. It costs $35 for a bus ticket from NYC and takes just over 2 hours. On top of that the casino's refund part of the fair when you arrive (I got $20 cash form Bally's - not $20 voucher to spend in the casino but just cash...). If Vegas was as easy to get to I'm sure it would be overrun in the same way.

Best description of this place - its somewhere between Las Vegas and Coney Island (and that isn't a good place to be). I can't imagine what type of hell this place must be in the Summer when it is flooded with people.

Anyway, I'll tell you what I actually got up to with my day in AC tomorrow.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Katz's Deli

I was watching the Travel Channel or Food Network a couple of weeks ago and came across a show which featured "Katz's Delicatessen" and the ridiculous sandwiches they serve there. Turns out this place is only a few blocks away from my flat so I went for a visit on Monday after working up an appetite at the gym.

It was busy (but I expect it always is). Having finally made it to the front of a sandwich line I ordered the Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing). These sandwiches include 1lb of sliced meat. Having finally managed to grab that I moved to the separate queue for chips and another queue for drinks (I think there is at least one other queue for soup).

To be honest the picture doesn't really do it justice. There are two things that are very big in Katz's: the sandwich and the bill. Now this is a really good sandwich but (even on its own) it costs about $16...for a sandwich!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Los Campesinos!

Sunday's ice hockey match was an afternoon match which meant I had enough time to get back home and changed before heading out to see Los Campesinos! at the Bowery Ballroom that evening.

Titus Andronicus - this band seemed to spend a lot of time just trying to make as much noise as possible and the lead singer was pretty dreadful. That said, when they did actually play music the band seemed quite good. The final song of their set was a duet of Green Day's "Time of Your Life" between the lead singer with his guitar and the violin player from Los Campesinos! which was good too.

Los Campesinos! - I put this band in the same sort of area as British Sea Power for a few reasons:
1. their are loads of them (7 members here);
2. they have a violin player;
2. their music is a bit odd; and
3. although they have some really good tracks overall I find them fairly average.

The set was pretty good and they do have some fantastic songs to play live. Overall, I doubt they are a band which will get much more success than British Sea Power as their sound is a bit odd. Check out and mp3 of "You, Me Dancing" (which is fantastic live) here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Devils v Sharks

With a fairly major hangover I headed out to Newark on Sunday afternoon for a Devils game. They were playing the San Jose sharks who have the best record in the NHL at the moment and have another one of the leagues top stars in Joe Thornton.

This turned out to be probably the best ice-hockey game I have seen. The Devils opened the scoring on their first shot of the game after only 30 seconds and that set the tone for the first 10 minutes with goals flying in at both ends resulting in the Devils taking a 3-2 lead and that was how the 1st period finished.

Into a tight 2nd period and it looked like there would be no scoring but late on the Sharks scored two goals (including one on a 5 on 3 powerplay with only seconds left in the period) to take the lead 4-3.

Into the 3rd period and It was the Devils who started to get on top with a couple of powerplay goals early on to retake the lead 5-4. With 10 minutes left and the Devils on yet another powerplay it was San Jose who grabbed shorthanded goal to tie the game at 5 all. However, with less than 5 minutes to play the Devils scored their third powerplay goal of the period to go ahead 6-5 and that was the way the game finished (although not before they had to withstand a period of 6 on 4 play with a man in the penalty box and the San Jose goalie having been pulled from the game for an extra skater).

Hectic stuff - nearly enough to get rid of my hangover. Added bonus, there was a free cap giveaway for all spectators at the game.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lost Saturday

Things started with good intentions - I was the first person in the gym at 8am and stayed for an hour before heading off to the bar for the 6 Nations games. Still in a reasonable shape that took me to about 1.30pm I suppose.

The next bar was Peculiar Bar next door as it has a much better selection of beers. I think we were probably only there for a couple so call it between 2.30pm and 3pm we moved on from there.

Now, I remember going into "Off the Wagon", I remember playing beer pong, I remember the barman telling me I wasn't allowed to play whisky pong and I vaguely remember being told that my sidekick had just been thrown out. I have no recollection of leaving the bar, walking home, going to McDonalds on route (apparently around 8.15pm) or getting home...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Weekend of beer II

Another Yank holiday crept up on me without me noticing - its Presidents Day on Monday so I won't be here.

As for the rest of the weekend, as well as the 6 Nations games to watch I've also got some ice-hockey and a concert. Although none of that is on Monday so I'll have to see what I can come up with for then.

As I write this I'm reading about yet another plane crash, as well as the two out of NYC there is one in City airport in London...at least my flights aren't for another 6 weeks (I'm sure Caribbean Air is really good too...).

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Starting to think about packing

With a little under 6 weeks to go until I leave I've started to think about packing and how to transfer all the stuff I have accumulated back to London. When I left I had two suitcases full of clothes and that was it. Even allowing for the stuff I dropped off in December I still think I have more than I started with as well as a number of books etc which are rather heavy when you add them up.

At the moment it looks like I will be shipping a few boxes back (takes about 3 weeks I think). Certainly better than trying to drag it all through the airport which I'm not even sure would be physically possible.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Razorlight

Back to where my NYC concert going started in late 2007 - Razorlight at The Filmore. Having checked the website for the venue during the day it said that doors opened at 6pm and the show would start at 7pm - a bit early I thought but not impossible.

Anyway, I ended up getting stuck at work until 6.30pm so by the time I had got home, changed at to the venue it was closer to 7.30pm and I assumed I would have missed the opening act. Not so, the website had been lying and the opening band didn't actually come on until 8.15pm.

Diane Birch - the normal drummer, bassist and guitarist were stuck at the back of the stage as this music here was dominated by the lead singer playing either a piano or an organ. Add in a trumpet player next to her and it was a bit different to the norm. It was perfectly listenable but sounded like lounge music before heading off almost in a country & western direction...not really my sort of thing.

Razorlight - now I like Razorlight's first two albums but the latest didn't survive on my ipod for long. It really was pretty bad. So I was rather hoping that they didn't play much of the new stuff and stuck with their old albums.

To be far the few new songs they did play sounded better live than I remembered them from the album so I might give it another chance. Also, they did change the tempo/style of a few of their older songs which I always quite like bands trying out.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

NYC Comic-Con

Most people who know me will know that I am a pretty big science fiction fan - therefore, when I saw that there was a comic book convention in NYC I figured it would be worth a look.

Now I should clarify here that I have always tried to avoid getting into comic books as the stories are never as good as books (yes, even Watchmen would have been better as a real novel) and it is ridiculously expensive. That said, these types of shows typically include things on TV, movies and computer games so not just comics.

This event ran for 3 days over the weekend and I'm pretty sure there were some people who were there every minute of every day. As it was 6 Nations weekend I was only there on Sunday afternoon. Those would include the people who dress up for such things as their favourite characters (typically from Star Wars or Batman as far as I could tell).

Now these people are in the minority (about 1 in 50 at a guess) but still, what is the mindset you have to have...beyond me.

The place was huge with hundreds of stalls and was pretty damn packed. Sunday afternoon seemed to be bargain day with most stalls having marked stock down to half price as far as a I could tell - if you were a comic book fan then I suppose I could see how it would take all day to get through everything.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Monster Jam

I've got some real Yank culture for you today. On Friday night I made the 2 hour treck out to Nassau Coliseum to see "Monster Jam" - yes, that is monster truck racing...

Now this event was rather cheap ($30 had me in the front row in the middle of the stand) but I'd guess that of a capacity of about 15,000 there were only about 5,000 people there. Maybe people were scared as there have been a couple of fatalities at such shows in the least few weeks including a kid in the crowd being hit by flying debris - maybe being front and centre wasn't the best seat after all, maybe the expensive seats are way back away from the action?!?

Anyway, to the show itself. These trucks are ridiculously loud - I can't believe that every driver isn't deaf. The first event was a straight race round the arena and over a couple of rows of cars. There were 8 trucks so four first round races followed by semi-finals and the final:

video

In between the trucks there were also BMX trick riders and motocross bikes making ridiculous jumps. To be honest, after the initial 5 minutes interest value of the trucks these other sights were probably more interesting - certainly very impressive (although I did think that I really shouldn't be spending my Friday night watching BMX riders...).

Other than the initial race the trucks also had what they called a cyclone contest, basically a doughnut contest and then a freestyle round where they just did whatever they liked for 60 seconds. You can tell that they are struggling a bit for ideas if these are considered events.

Incidentally, I had my first beer of the year on Friday night. Wasn't planning on breaking until Saturday but I found a bar in the venue which had DogFish Head on tap so decided to break 12 hours early.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Last day of no beer

Well, my dry January (which has run an extra week this year) is almost over. Combined with a slightly improved diet and 5 gym visits a week I have lost 11lb (5kg) from my first gym visit (7th Jan) to my last (5th Feb).

This news of course may completely mess up the betting if Hutch actually got round to running a book on my weight for when I return to the UK. Anyway, I expect that I'll net about half of that after the 6 Nations are over. The problem with having to watch the games in the morning you see is that it rules out being able to go to the gym for the rest of the day.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Speed The Plow

OK, so my two forays into the world of theatre in NYC this last week were both more stand-up comedy than what would probably count as full on theatre. Well, after these warm-ups I went headfirst last night into "Speed The Plow" - a play by David Mamet which is on Broadway at the moment.

This play currently stars William H. Macy but when it opened in October last year it was headed by Jeremy Piven. Reading the news stories about this change it seems like Piven wasn't great and didn't like reading that so quit at short notice.

Anyway, this play is to do with a film producers who has to decide whether to push the movie with the big star or the film based on a philosophical book to his boss. The other two characters being a junior producer who stands to make it big from the "big star" film and the temp secretary who pushes the book idea. I don't intend to write a full summary of how it all plays out as there would be too many angles to cover.

However, the show itself was really good, the character of the junior producer (played by Raul Esparza) is the best of the three by a long way. Also, added bonus, although my seat was actually at the very back row of the mezzanine as the upstairs was nowhere near full everyone in the upper mezzanine got to move forward about a dozen rows so I got a much better view for the same price as the cheap ticket.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

No movement after all

After a couple of fire-drills at the end of last week I haven't gone anywhere and probably won't for at least another couple of weeks. That just about suits me as I have a few concerts etc to see in the next couple of weeks - also I'm off too see something very different on Friday night but you'll have to wait until Monday for the report on that one.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Sleepwalk With Me

If you've been paying too much attention to my Blog over the last year and a bit you may remember I went to see a stand-up comedy show soon after I arrived in NYC. Well when I was looking through the list of shows in NYC last week I noticed that one of the comedians I saw that night had written his own show called "Sleepwalk With Me".

Although this is predominantly a stand up comedy show it is based on the sole topic of the comedian's real life bouts of sleepwalking and how it has affected his life over the years - including a story of jumping out of a closed 2nd floor window of a hotel to escape a missile that was about to blow him up.

As such it is not as fast paced as a normal stand-up show and is focused on one specific issue (with a few tangents I suppose) and is pretty entertaining. As it was just in a small theatre and cost half as much as last weeks Will Ferrell show it was probably better value for money. From the show:

"...I think the funniest thing that can happen to a hypochondriac is you get cancer because it confirms every fear you've ever had in your life. You're like, 'See? I told you! Remember when...I thought I had rickets? I was probably right about that too...There's gonna be a lot of changes around here!'"

Monday, 2 February 2009

Superbowl

I made a bit of a poor decision last night, with the score 20 - 7 to Pittsburgh and the game into the 4th Quarter I decoded that it was all over and I couldn't stand any more ad breaks so turned the game off.

As some of you may have noticed Arizona staged a big comeback to snatch the lead with less than 3 minutes on the clock (I was going to say less than 3 minutes left but that 3 minutes probably took about half an hour at least)...and it wasn't over then as Pittsburgh scored again to with in the last minute.

S0, what is now being considered one of the best Superbowls ever and I missed out on all the excitement as it had been amazingly dull and I switched off...