Tuesday, March 27, 2007

messed-up evening commute

It took me over an hour and a half to get home tonight. A late morning building collapse at 116th and Lexington screwed up the East Side subways. I'd heard about it at midafternoon but forgot by the time I went home. I got stuck on a slow-moving 5 train that sat or crawled for about half an hour between 14th St. and 42nd St. During this time, a guy standing a few feet away alternated between cursing the train operator and loudly rapping along with the music playing in his headphones. By the time we got to 42nd St. and I could get off the train I wanted to give him a beat-down. Also, the tourists were out in full force today. I think they just materialized when the temperature went above 70 degrees. I was stuck on the train between amateur rapper and annoyed out-of-towners.

At Grand Central, I switched to the crosstown shuttle, then got on an uptown 1 to 86th and Broadway. Tired and hungry, I waited about 10 minutes for the crosstown bus and finally got home around 7:45. I'd left the office at 6:15.

I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hoya Saxa!

When I picked Georgetown to go to the Final Four two weeks ago, a small part of me doubted that the team could get that far. 11 years ago, when Georgetown started the NCAA tournament as a #2 seed, I had them losing, and, not that I'm the great prognosticator or anything, my instincts then were correct. Georgetown lost to UMass in the regional final in 1996. This time around, I saw a team that had all the right pieces for a deep tournament run. I put them in my bracket as the champions with confidence. But as this year's games have been played, my confidence has eroded just a little. The Hoyas had to come back against Boston College last Saturday. Then, on Friday night, they were down late to Vanderbilt before getting a last-second shot to win the game. So when Georgetown was down by 10 with six minutes to go against North Carolina today, I prepared myself for the worst. Then the Hoyas cut the lead, and all of a sudden it was tied at 81. I couldn't believe what happened next, when UNC couldn't get a basket in overtime. We won. We won the damn game.

Georgetown is back in the Final Four, for the first time since 1985. I've waited a long time for this. I remember the 1985 championship game against Villanova. I'm still bitter we lost. Now we've got a chance to get a championship for a younger John Thompson, and a younger Patrick Ewing, and Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green and the rest. We play Ohio State on Saturday night. That's going to be a tough game. The worst part for me is that I have my next concert that night, so I won't get to see much of the game (if I get to see any of it). I may wear my Georgetown cap on stage at the concert. If nothing else, I'll have it under my chair. Gotta support the team.

Peyton Manning's dark side

I haven't watched SNL all season, but I gave last night's show a chance because Peyton Manning was the host. The show still sucked, but this United Way ad was hilarious. I've said it before and I'll say it again: watching someone get hit in the groin is always comedy gold. And when it's a little kid, it's even better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

downloading music from legitimate vendors

For years I've sworn never to pay for music downloads. Even when I bought myself an iPod last fall and moved my entire MP3 collection to iTunes, I resisted the Apple Store's siren's call of cheap downloadable songs and albums, and stuck to buying CDs and finding music online from less-reputable sources. But when it came to finding recordings of the music for my upcoming NYRO concert, I didn't want to shop for CDs and my usual gray-market sites didn't have what I needed. That's when I turned to eMusic.com. I'd bookmarked an eMusic page a few months back because they had a recording of a viola concerto for which I bought the music many years back. The same CD had the Martinu Rhapsody-Concerto that we're playing next week. Seeing no other option, I broke out the credit card and became an eMusic subscriber. For $10 a month, I can download 25 MP3 files that are blissfully DRM-free (DRM being the big reason I never got into iTunes downloads). I found all the music for the concert, plus some other classical works I've been putting off buying for a while. I'm happy with the service, and my only complaint is that the search feature for classical music is either too broad or too narrow. I haven't figured out the right combination of search terms to find some of the music I want, without having to click through a four-page list of results.

The other reason I didn't get into online music downloads for so long is the physical media factor. I like buying CDs and getting the liner notes in the package. Plus, should MP3s ever become less viable as a file format, I've got the CDs so I can re-rip them into whatever format I need. But subscribing to eMusic is an admission that I listen to most of my music on my iPod or at my home PC, and not on my living room stereo. One of the things I'm looking for in a new home theater receiver is the ability to hook it up to my PC or my iPod so I can play MP3s in the living room. Which reminds me yet again that I need to get moving on my home theater upgrade. I don't want to be watching analog TV forever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'Oh, Messieur!' - Deadspin

I've watched this video three times, and it gets funnier every time. If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to take a gate to the groin, this is the video clip for you.

Monday, March 19, 2007

NYRO's next concert: Debussy, Martinu, and Diamond

We are now less than two weeks away from the next NY Repertory Orchestra concert, on March 31. Here's the announcement from the music director about the program, which this time is all 20th century music. I wasn't familiar with any of the works before we started rehearsing them a few weeks ago, but they're all interesting pieces worth hearing. I haven't seen any of them individually on a concert program, so it will be a unique experience to hear all of them on one night.

***Rarely-heard 20th Century Masterpieces to be performed by the New York Repertory Orchestra on March 31, 2007***

Dear Friends of the New York Repertory Orchestra,

First, thanks to all of you for making our February 10th concert such a success! It was wonderful to see so many of you and to see and hear your enthusiastic response. We are extremely grateful for your ongoing support for NYRO and we hope to see you soon.

Our 2006-2007 season continues with great music, fantastic soloists, and the exciting music-making of the New York Repertory Orchestra - New York's leading all-volunteer, community-based orchestra! We look forward to seeing you at our next concert. Here are the details:

  • When: Saturday, March 31, 2007 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Where: Good Shepherd-Faith Church @ 152 West 66th St. (between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.)
  • Admission: FREE

  • Debussy: Symphonic Fragments from “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian”
  • Martinu: Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra – John Dexter, viola
  • Diamond: Symphony No. 2

About the program:
  • The major work on the program will be American composer David Diamond’s landmark Symphony No. 2. Diamond, a true “modern romantic,” and one of America’s great composers, writes accessible, yet profound, music that is by turns elegiac, rousing, haunting, and, finally, extremely exciting and inspiring! You won’t want to miss this important piece by an important American composer.

  • Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu wrote his Rhaphsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra towards the end of his life and the piece bears a burnished autumnal tranquility that is very beautiful. Written at the height of his musical creativity, the nostalgic Rhapsody-Concerto is rich in folk-like melodies and lush harmonies.

  • Opening the program will be Claude Debussy’s haunting Symphonic Fragments from “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian.” Originally written as incidental music for a mystery play in 1911, these pieces offer transparent textures, mysterious harmonies, and plaintive melodies – Debussy at his best!

About our soloist:
  • Appearing with NYRO for the first time, solo violist John Dexter has been accorded high praise by the critics for his virtuosity and musical poetry. As a sought-after soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player, recording artist, and teacher, Mr. Dexter has traveled all over the world. He is a member of the acclaimed Manhattan String Quartet and has performed as principal violist with the New York City Opera, Philharmonia Virtuosi, Joffrey Ballet, American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

So...it should be a wonderful concert and we hope to see you there.

Best regards,
David Leibowitz, Music Director
New York Repertory Orchestra


And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our final concert of the season!

Saturday – May 19, 2007
“Prince Igor” Overture
Barber: Violin Concerto – Michi Wiancko, violin
Nielsen: Symphony No. 2 (“The Four Temperaments”)


Friday, March 16, 2007

The Dennis Moore sketch

It's not the complete sketch, but you get the idea. You get my favorite version of the Dennis Moore theme song and you can see the costume and modifications I'd need to make to my bike.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

bike upgrades for '07 cycling season

Last weekend I took my bike to the shop for some much-needed maintenance. And I followed through on my long-threatened plan to switch to clipless pedals. I had to invest in a new pair of cycling shoes and pick out the pedals I wanted. On the recommendation of the bike shop guy, I went with Shimano SPD pedals. I picked up the bike last night, and they put me on a bike trainer with my new shoes on so I could practice getting clipped in and out. I spent about 15 minutes trying out the new setup, but a trainer is not the same as riding on the street. I have to plan to practice again in a sparsely populated area, like Carl Schurz Park at 9 AM. Clipping in isn't too difficult. It's the clipping out at a stoplight or in a hurry that worries me. It's the biggest change in my cycling setup since I got my Trek 7500 six years ago.

Speaking of which, the repairman at the bike shop praised my bike several times, saying it was a beautiful bike and that he'd given it careful and loving attention. Or something like that. I wouldn't have things any other way for "Concord." Yes, I've given my bike a name. My brother named his violin, so I can name my bike. It's named after a horse in a Monty Python sketch, specifically the "Dennis Moore" sketch about a mixed-up Robin Hood character who keeps robbing the rich to give to the poor until he realizes that the poor are now rich instead. Based on the sketch, my bike won't be complete until I get a rear rack with a storage bag marked "SWAG."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I was there: Georgetown wins 1st Big East championship in 18 years

I watched Friday night's Big East semifinal game between Georgetown and Notre Dame at a bar near my office with some of my co-workers. If Georgetown won, I'd planned to watch the final at a bar or some other place with James. But a few minutes after the game, I got an e-mail from another guy at work, who had been at the ND-GU game. He had two extra tickets for Saturday night's final game and offered me one of them. I had to think for about two seconds before I said "I'm in."

I got to MSG around 8 PM on Saturday night and met another colleague who had claimed the other extra ticket. We went into the Garden followed by both pep bands, which had staged a quick band skirmish just outside the doors. Since we were there so early, we walked around the Garden for a few minutes, said hi to the guy who'd sold us the tickets, and got some food. Meanwhile, the big screens above the court showed highlights of Big East tournament championships from years past, including several close GU losses in the early 1990s. By tip-off, the Garden was packed and we were in a Georgetown-friendly section. There were about ten GU students sitting and standing behind us, several of whom jeered Pitt's Aaron Gray for the entire game.

At first the game was close and I was nervous, but as the Hoyas built a big lead I began to relax. At halftime I texted James, and got a few curses in response. As the clock wound down I got excited again. With about five minutes to go I thought it was safe to tell my friend that I was planning to stick around to watch Georgetown cut down the nets. The last minute of the game was the sloppiest, as all of the starters were celebrating on the bench and GU had its scrubs out there finishing. One guy got a pass from a teammate and nearly dropped it; he looked surprised to have gotten the ball at all. When it was over, we walked down closer to the court and I took many, many pictures of the team receiving the trophy and cutting down the nets. I also kept photographing the scoreboard, as if it wasn't real. Georgetown hadn't won their conference tournament since 1989, despite having some excellent teams in the final. I wasn't going to miss any part of the celebration. The students chanted "JT3" for the coach, and "six more wins!" for the team. I have a great feeling about this team going into the NCAA Tournament next week.

Friday, March 09, 2007

a concert announcement of a different sort: Johnstown Symphony Orchestra performs Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto

I learned about this weekend's concert not from my mother, who plays in the orchestra, but from Google Alerts. I received a link to a story in the Daily American, the paper of record for Somerset, PA. This weekend's JSO concert features the winner of their annual concerto competition, and this year it's a young tubist named Justin Beish, a student at Indiana University of PA. He's performing Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto, which was premiered by my grandfather in London in 1954. The article set off the Google alert because it mentions my grandfather and that his grandchildren (me and my brother, natch) grew up in Johnstown, PA. I talked to my mom the other night about the concert and she said the piece is difficult but fun to play. I wish I could be there to hear it. I've actually never heard it performed live.

So if anyone reading this blog is within driving distance of Johnstown, PA, check out the concert tomorrow night. Because there's not much else to do on a Saturday night in that part of the state.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

too many bloggers in one place at the same time

Last night was another Varsity Letters night at Happy Endings, again featuring some of the top sports bloggers in and around New York. I got to meet Will Leitch of Deadspin (again) and Matt Ufford of With Leather and Kissing Suzy Kolber, and hear some excellent blog posts, book excerpts and stories read by the original authors. You can see my photos of the event at the usual location. I didn't get a photo of myself there, but someone else did.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

please don't scare me like that again

I've covered apartment building fires on my block twice before, but I never wanted to write about one in my own building. Now I get the chance.

Last night, around 8:30, someone started ringing my apartment from the buzzer downstairs. This happens more often lately, as the numbers and the names on the door don't line up, so delivery people press my button by mistake. I didn't answer at first, but then I tried talking back to whoever was there. They wouldn't respond. I looked out my living room window and saw the manager of the Indian restaurant downstairs talking to a delivery guy and pointing at something in my building, upstairs from me. Next, I got a knock on the door. It was a woman from the restaurant, telling me that there was a fire in one of the apartments on the other side of the building and that they could see the smoke from the back of the restaurant. They'd called 911 already, so I tried not to panic. I put my shoes on and left a message for my super. I also got out my cat carrier just in case I'd have to evacuate for a while with my cat. I checked the hallway again and a woman from the apartment across the hall opened the door. She said that they'd had a little fire on the fire escape but it was OK now. Meanwhile, grayish smoke was drifting into the hallway from her apartment. I heard the fire trucks pull up outside and someone rang the door buzzer again so I let them in. By this time the women who live upstairs and across the hall were standing in their doorway, so I walked up to talk to them and another guy who lives upstairs. We watched the FDNY come in and check out the place. They carried out a large piece of charred wood that looked like a cross between a stool and a piano leg. A few of the firemen came up the stairs and one of them asked me "are you with them?" indicating the women. I said that I lived downstairs, across the hall. He said that the fire was out and that they were going to open the door to the roof for a while to vent some of the smoke. Then he asked the women if they smoked, and I think they said no. At this point, with the excitement over, I went back to my apartment, which of course now smelled like smoke. I opened one of my living room windows and turned on my kitchen fan to try and vent the smell.

It got a little more interesting. My apartment door was closed, but I could hear the FD and one of the women from the apartment arguing. She was complaining that the FD had broken one of their windows. A fireman turned on his radio and said "you'd better get up here. The tenant is complaining that we broke one of her windows, but she won't let us in to check it because it's a Japanese apartment and you can't wear shoes." I think my super and one of the firemen went inside, because I didn't hear the end of the discussion. I went back to my original plan for the evening: practicing the viola and watching "Heroes." After an hour my apartment was freezing, but only my clothes smelled of smoke.

When I first heard there was a fire in that apartment, I assumed it was a kitchen accident. They're always cooking something over there, though they usually have the door open to vent the smell when they do. Once I saw the blackened stool-like thing, and after the FD asked whether anyone smoked, my theory is that someone was smoking on the fire escape and somehow lit the wooden stool on fire. I'm glad no one was hurt, and the only damage was a few hours of smoke and cold air in my apartment. But let's not go through that again. I don't ever want to leave my apartment in that kind of situation, especially not when it's 25 degrees outside with a wind chill of "colder than a witch's teat." And I don't want to think about having to put my cat in his carrier in an emergency. I think it's time I invested in a small fire extinguisher for my kitchen. I've never had a fire while cooking, but I should be prepared just in case.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Five long years

I always planned to keep this blog going, but I'm not sure I thought I'd still be posting things here five years after I started it. It was Tuesday, March 5, 2002 when I made my first-ever blog post. Initially, I planned to use the blog as a way to keep family and friends up-to-date on my travels and my mundane life in New York. If you're one of the hardy souls who's been reading this blog since then (or one of the few people I've met in the past five years who's gone back and re-read every post), I think you'll agree that I've stayed true to that concept. I've tried to branch out and write about some other topics over the years, and I intend to keep doing that. This is an all-purpose blog.

I've also noticed more recently that many new bloggers hide their identities online to a certain extent. Some use just their first names, while others use complete pseudonyms. It never occurred to me to conceal my identity until it was too late. It would have helped on the few occasions I've wanted to write about something intensely personal, or something at work that could make life unpleasant if someone at the office read it under my real name. But my name is on the blog, so I've tried to keep my personal life and my rants to myself. One of these days I'll create a blog just for my anonymous posts so I can express my true feelings when I have the urge.

I'm looking forward to five more years.

In honor of this occasion, here are some of my favorite previous posts:

A profile-type quiz from December 2002

Musical musings

The 2003 NYC Blackout

A trip home in the spring of 2004

Touring Tokyo

More musical thoughts

The Bike Ride to Nowhere

New CDs in 2006

Riding diary of the NYC Century

I coulda been somebody

Friday, March 02, 2007

Prepare for glory!

The Swiss Army accidentally invaded Liechtenstein last night.

I'd bet that with the help of alcohol, this sort of thing happens more often than national powers let on.