Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Rocket Man" duel

I heard the audio of William Shatner's "Rocket Man" years ago, but it wasn't until a few weeks back that I finally saw the video of it. The footage comes from a 1978 sci-fi films awards show. It's grainy but you get the idea.

More recently, Family Guy's Stewie Griffin performed a tribute to Shatner's version in an episode. I hadn't realized that Stewie's performance is a nearly identical parody of Shatner's song until I saw both videos.

Both of these links appeared in Gene Weingarten's chat last month, and I kept forgetting to post them. They're SFW but turn your speakers down a little or plug in your headphones -- both songs start playing as soon as the pages load.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A tribute to hockey hair

In honor of the start of the NHL playoffs, ESPN.com asked famed mullethead Barry Melrose to rate the top mullets in NHL history. I'm a big fan of Jaromir Jagr's hairstyle from the early-to-mid-1990s. I fondly remember Jagr's long hair flowing behind him as he streaked toward the net on his way to score another goal. Those were the Penguins' best days, when they won two Stanley Cups. I never grew my hair long enough to have a mullet that righteous, unfortunately. My brother had a much better mullet back in the day; if I can find a photo of it, I just might have to embarrass him with it. His was a mullet worthy of a hockey player.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

not much news lately

I spent last weekend in Maryland and Virginia, visiting family and friends. I took some pictures of my friends' 13-month-old son, which you will find on the Flickr site. He was cranky but mugged for the camera every time I came near him. James, Jess, and I rented a car for the trip. While we had to take multiple forms of transportation just to get to the rental office (subway and bus to Penn Station, NJ Transit to Newark Airport, AirTrain to parking lot 4, Ramada shuttle van to Ramada Inn/Payless Car Rentals) we didn't have any car theft issues this time around.

While I'm not leaving New York for the next month or so, my brother is in Busan, South Korea this week on a business trip. Unfortunately, his office didn't spring for business-class seats for him and his boss, so he had to spend 15 hours in "steerage," as he puts it. I'm a little jealous, though, since I haven't been out of the country in almost two years and I've let my passport expire. My office doesn't have any overseas trips planned for my group, so there's no urgency to get it renewed. I'm always hopeful that someone in the London office will screw up and break something, requiring my assistance to fix it. And if I had to stay at the St. Martin's Lane hotel again and drink a few pints at the Bishop of Norwich pub, well, that's necessary to keep me in the right frame of mind to fix the problem.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stick to sports, Whitlock

Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star sports columnist and weekly writer for ESPN.com's Page 2, has used his space this week to write about "The Sopranos" instead of his usual thoughts on Jeff George, race relations, or Hollywood hotties. He opens with a quick mention of Knicks coach Larry Brown and compares him to David Chase. And for the next few hundred words, it's all about HBO with only an occasional aside about sports to remind the reader that Whitlock's a sportswriter. At the end, he compares Tony to Shaquille O'Neal and himself to Stephon Marbury. Page 2 already has Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons to cover pop culture. We don't need Whitlock doing it too. Besides, I thought it was cool that I had to check out a TWoP message board the day after this season's second episode aired to get some insight into the extended dream/coma sequence. I LIKE a show that requires more from me than just mindless acceptance. I thought the most interesting parts of this season so far were when Tony was in a coma and everyone in his crew started looking out for themselves. I was actually disappointed when Tony didn't die -- I would have loved to see how the rest of the characters reacted to the massive power vacuum his death would create. And I don't know what show Whitlock is watching, but the "Sopranos" episodes I've seen in the past five weeks have had plenty of "mob stuff," including people getting killed, beaten, and intimidated.

I really like Jason Whitlock's sportswriting, and I've enjoyed his guest appearances on "PTI." I just think he's way out of his element this week.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

old photos posted to Flickr

Since I paid for my Flickr account a few months back, I decided I should get some use out of it. Last night and this morning I uploaded some of my photos from past trips to faraway places like London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Niagara Falls. If you feel like seeing where I've been, check out the Flickr photos link over there on the right. I'll upload more photos tonight.

Also, this afternoon I got my new camera, a Canon SD550. It's last year's model, so it's not bleeding edge, but it's new enough for me. Considering I was willing to buy a new camera when I was in Tokyo two years ago, I think I waited long enough to get one. Look for new photos soon, most of which will probably be of the cats.

Monday, April 10, 2006

two baseball links for Monday

I missed this story on last night's SportsCenter. Apparently Darren Daulton, the former Phillies star, is completely insane. He thinks he's a time traveler and he's especially attuned to "Higher Powers," among other things.

Also, here's a mash-up of Vin Scully's commentary from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and a replay of the game on the video game RBI Baseball. It's about eight minutes long, but even for non-baseball fans it's fun to watch.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

solo furniture shopping

I spent my Saturday afternoon browsing through different furniture and home stores in Manhattan trying to find a coffee table for my living room. I don't think I've ever gone furniture shopping by myself before, and it's not much fun. At most of the stores, especially Crate and Barrel, I was surrounded by couples, so I felt weird being alone. I also hadn't measured the space in my living room, so I had to guess at what would fit in it. I've figured out that a rectangular table will be far too big, but there aren't many square tables at the proper height for a coffee table. I looked at several "side tables," but those are a little taller than coffee tables and most of them would look out of place in front of the couch. In addition, I need to think about the tabletop. I'm likely going to use it as a foot rest as much as for eating or working, so I need something sturdy. Many coffee tables have glass tops, and I'm not sure I want one -- I'd have to clean it all the time and watch that I didn't put my foot through it. Maybe I should get an ottoman instead. I found a few possibilities, so maybe I'll have one picked out and in my apartment in the next few weeks. And there's always the chance I'll find a gem sitting outside someone else's apartment in my neighborhood.

I also looked at dressers and found a few that were affordable and would look good in my bedroom. That's another purchase that will allow me to get rid of some of the "poor man" plastic drawers I've had forever, and might be even more important than the living room table. I'm getting along OK without a table, but the lack of a dresser is going to hurt in a few weeks when I break out my spring and summer wardrobe. I'll need a place to put all my polo shirts and shorts, and I don't think there's enough room on the shelf in my closet.

My reward for finally getting out and at least looking at furniture was a trip to the Virgin Megastore in Union Square, where they're having a $10 CD and DVD sale. Here's what I picked up:

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Radiohead, OK Computer
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
Queen, Classic Queen
Moulin Rouge
Stargate

I had hoped to do better, but there wasn't as much that I actually wanted as I thought when I stopped in the store last night. But that way I kept my spending in check. If I'd bought everything I considered buying, I'd have spent two or three times as much. And I'd probably have needed another CD rack at home.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

my evening routine

This is what Vladi does to me anytime I sit down to watch TV. I don't think he's drawn blood yet but he does leave little red claw marks on my stomach, no matter how many layers I'm wearing. I'd trim his claws if I could get him to sit still for the procedure.

Now THAT'S a spelling bee!

Two kids in Billings, Montana dueled in a marathon spelling bee for the privilege of moving on to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. It took 16 rounds to eliminate the rest of the field, leaving just two contestants, and then they took turns spelling words for another 25 rounds. The entire spelling bee lasted 4 1/2 hours. I remember a few long spelling bees from my junior high days, but nothing that took 25 rounds between two competitors. That's like a 4-overtime NHL playoff game. When it's over, it's not so much about who won as who survived.

For the record, the closest I got to the National Spelling Bee was finishing fifth in a Pennsylvania regional bee in 1988. I won a dictionary for advancing from the district bee to the regional one. I think my prize as a distant runner-up was a medal and a free pizza lunch.

And before anyone posts it in the comments, I haven't seen Spellbound yet. It's on my Netflix list.

Monday, April 03, 2006

my weekend in Podunk

A few weeks ago, one of my old friends from high school, Avirat, invited me to visit him for the weekend at his house near Harrisburg, PA. I decided that a weekend outside of New York might do me some good, so I took him up on the offer. He invited some other friends from high school to come in as well, so the plan was that it would be a little reunion. I hadn’t seen Avirat since his wedding five years ago, so for that reason alone it was a good idea to go visit him.


I took the train to Harrisburg and got in around 6:30 Friday night. Avirat picked me up at the train station and we talked about what we wanted to do that night. He’d already suggested going to see dirt track auto racing at the track near his house, and since I’d told a few people that that was one of the things I’d be doing, I agreed. The track is a giant oval strip of packed dirt and mud on which they primarily race sprint cars. The track is surrounded by massive fields for parking, on which Isaw all manner of SUVs, motor homes, and pickup trucks. The track was also a BYOB site, so we brought in a cooler full of Miller Lite. Avirat said he normally stands and watches the races from the infield, but we met some of his friends there who were sitting in the main grandstand, so we went up there instead. I’ve never seen so many rednecks in all my life. I felt out of place in my leather coat and a plain gray t-shirt – everyone else had on racing shirts and jackets, flannel, even overalls. The racing was fun to watch. Sprint cars are basically just engines with a seat for the driver and a safety cage, and a giant fin sits on top of the car. And these are huge engines, so the cars make an incredible amount of noise every time they go past. We watched the qualifying heats and the consolation race, and we saw the start of the feature race (the final), but two cars got in a wreck just at the start of the race, and there was a long delay while they cleaned and then dried the track (it had also started to rain). It was late and we weren’t sure when they were going to get the racing under way again, so we went back to his house and hung out for a while, catching up. Since the track is only a mile away, we could hear the final race, about 45 minutes after we left.

On Saturday morning we ran some errands and went shopping at guys’ stores: Best Buy, Lowe’s, Circuit City, and Linens & Things. (OK, on the last one, in my defense Avirat had a coupon and I needed some small kitchen items I’ve been putting off buying for a while.) We still had some time to kill before our other friends came in from Johnstown, so we went back to his house to play Guitar Hero. It’s a Playstation 2 game with a special guitar controller where you listen to a song and play along using the colored frets on the guitar neck and “strumming” the notes with a up/down switch where the strings would go. The “notes” scroll by in “Dance Dance Revolution” style, and you have to press the frets and strum in time with the music. It looks and sounds ridiculous, but it’s surprisingly fun to play, and addictive to boot. About half the songs in the game were ones that I knew (“Cochise,” “Iron Man,” “I Love Rock & Roll,” “Crossroads,” “Take Me Out” are just a few) and I really enjoyed playing the game, trying to fumble through some of the tougher songs. In particular, I played “Bark At The Moon” three or four times until I was able to “beat” the song, like getting through a level in a FPS. By this time our Johnstown friends had arrived, and we headed out for the evening.

We went to a BBQ joint near Avirat’s house for dinner. It wasn’t a chain restaurant, but someone had evidently been to Red, Hot, and Blue and Corky’s, or other similar BBQ restaurants, because the d├ęcor was photos of blues artists and posters from blues festivals. But the food was excellent.

Our first stop was a microbrew bar in Yocumville, somewhere outside of Harrisburg. This bar had about 40 small brews on tap, so each of us got something different and we just stayed long enough to have one. Before long we were in downtown Harrisburg, at a place called The Hardware Bar. It’s a three-story bar: the ground floor has a live band and the female bartenders dance on the bar, the second floor is a lounge with beds and couches, and the third floor is a dance club. We spent the whole night on the ground floor listening to the cover band and watching the show from a small balcony that overlooks the stage. The band was better than I expected for a cover band, and the crowd really got into the music. We had planned to go bar-hopping to a few other places on the same street but we were having too much fun to leave. When the show ended at 1 AM, we fortified ourselves for the drive home with a slice of pizza (I haven’t done the late-night post-bar food run in years) and got back to Avirat’s house around 2 AM. Somehow we remembered to change the clocks so I wouldn’t be late for my train on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday we got up late and didn’t have time to do much besides stop for a quick lunch on the way back to the train station. I spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon relaxing on the train reading Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, which my college friend Jon sent to me just before the Super Bowl. The cats were excited to see me safely home again after I abandoned them for the weekend (I did have a friend check on them yesterday).

And tonight, Robot Chicken returned. The “Superman” reference in the opening was hysterical.