February 21, 2007

Best Piano Concerto of the Year So Far

(hat tip, Helen in Wayne)

February 19, 2007

Return to Lower Manhattan

Not this, but...

Today, my company moved back to lower Manhattan.

We were there for a long time before September 2001. A number of years on Water Street, then the big move to the 103rd Floor of the World Trade Center, where we stayed for seven years.

The building had its faults, but we had our fun there. Hon and I used to play "golf" there--putting a ball around the floor, with the final hole being when we banked the ball into Maureen's office.

The best thing was the view. No building in NY had anything like it. We could see planes on the runway at JFK, Long Island Rail Road trains in Nassau County (no joke), processions of outbound cruise ships at a certain hour on a Friday afternoon.

Then, one day, gone. The building, and many good people, gone.


We found space near Grand Central that had been just freed up by a bankrupt dot.com firm. Then, a year after that, we moved to another place off Park Avenue in the 50s.
It was an attractive building in an upscale neighborhood, but every day I was there I missed downtown. For reasons that are many.

One practical reason is that most of the people I do business with are near downtown. Another is that the commute from Bay Ridge to downtown is 30 minutes each way, as opposed to 50-60 minutes to the east side of midtown.

But there are other reasons. I like the quirkiness of downtown, the dive bars and the small restaurants and the blue collar feel of much of it. The East Side of Midtown was jewelry, Brioni suits, and Belgian chocolates. While there's nothing wrong with those things, I'm more likely to be buying a Bud than a Brioni when work ends this Friday.

The last reason is that downtown Manhattan took a terrible blow five years ago, and I always felt bad that I could not do more personally to help it recover. Well, though things are far better than they were a few years ago, the recovery is not complete and from this point on, I will be downtown, a part of it, hopefully making it a better place.

I like my new building. Its on Water Street, weirdly close to the place we worked 12 years ago. My office, like my old one at the WTC, faces the water and the promised land of Brooklyn. If I look to the left, there's the Brooklyn Bridge, to the right, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

The World Trade Center days won't come back,but we're back home at last, and that makes me immensely happy.

February 15, 2007

Wales Invades Brooklyn!

Its colder than a politician's heart in New York these days. It was 13 degrees last night, warming to 19 degrees tonight. Doctor Gore, explain this to me.

I was riding the N train home tonight, and a group of about 30 teenagers, and two women, boarded the train. As the train crawled up the Manhattan Bridge,to Brooklyn, I saw some puzzled looks, and one of them said "we're going the wrong way".

My part time job is guide to lost subway riders. I told her that she only needed to get off at the next stop (DeKalb Avenue), cross to the other platform, and take the same N train back to their destination, Manhattan's 49th Street.

The accent sounded English to my American ear. I asked where they were from, and she said Wales. Then I noticed that they were speaking, alternately, in English and Welsh, of all things. Welsh is not heard every day on the N train.

The kids were high-spirited and a little loud. The older of the two women got up, and in a soft voice, said "Could you please stop making that noise. There are members of the public here and you're frightening them!! And, without any protest, these kids, who really weren't bothering a soul, became dead silent.

They trooped off onto the platform at DeKalb, to head back to Manhattan and a late dinner. Have fun, guys.

February 12, 2007

Dixie Chicks Win A Political Grammy

The Dixie Chicks won a slew of awards at last night's Grammys, including best song for "Not Ready to Make Nice".

Well, I love the Chicks, but "Not Ready to Make Nice" was not only not the best song of the year, it wasn't even the best song on the album. It was a sullen response to the country music community for the boycott of the Chicks that followed their anti-Bush statements in London. It's not a good song.

Giving the award to this song is meant to be a slap at George Bush and the Iraq War. Fair enough, but what's the real best song?

February 04, 2007

Let's Boycott the Super Bowl

Today, the NFL Championship game will have most Americans glued to their TV sets. But not me.

For a number of reasons. The NFL destroys the flow of the "post season" by having a massive two-week gap between the NFC/AFC title games and the overall championship game. That's way too long. About a week ago, whatever attention I had on this started to wander.

But I have a couple of beefs with NFL football in general.

First, an NFL player contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. In baseball and other sports, even if a player is cut from the team, he gets the full value of the contract for its entire duration. Not so in the NFL. If the team's plans change, they can cut a player and not pay him.

If the player is cut, or quits, for any reason, the balance of the contract is voided and the player receives no further compensation. In this most violent of sports, if a player is made a quadrapalegic due to a vicious tackle, he is owed nothing by the team. That is disgusting.

And its the overall issue of violence that bothers me the most about the NFL. This is one brutal sport. What concerns me is the damage these ferocious hits do to the players, over time.

Player Andre Waters recently killed himself this past November. But, the NY Times reports, a europathologist in Pittsburgh is claiming that Mr. Waters had sustained brain damage from playing football and he says that led to his depression and ultimate death.

"The neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading expert in forensic pathology, determined that Mr. Waters's brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer's victims. Dr. Omalu said he believed that the damage was either caused or drastically expedited by successive concussions Mr. Waters, 44, had sustained playing football."

Friday, the paper reported that Ted Johnson, 34 years old, and recently retired from the New England Patriots, suffering cognitive impairment and depression. He endured many hits over his career, but is unique in that he believes he knows the exact moment when he suffered brain injury.

"Johnson’s decline began, he said, in August 2002, with a concussion he sustained in a preseason game against the New York Giants. He sustained another four days later during a practice, after Patriots Coach Bill Belichick went against the recommendation of the team’s trainer, Johnson said, and submitted him to regular on-field contact."

If this is true, Bill Belichick should burn in hell for a hundred eternities.

The Waters and Johnson incidents are the very small tip of a very large iceberg of injuries that will come to light in the coming years. It pisses me off that the NFL does not respect the health of its players, and that they don't give the players real contracts.

So, NFL, go to hell, with your phony little Super Bowl. I won't be watching.

When did you say spring training begins?

February 02, 2007

Sarah Silverman On Global Warming

Hey, bet Al Gore didn't like this

More Sarah Silverman here

Don't know what to make of her. Saw her new TV show last night, and don't know what to make of it, either.

Latest Bay Ridge news from Matthew Lysiak (Yellow Hooker) of the Brooklyn Paper. He says that there's a Chock Full o'Nuts on 79th Street and Third Avenue. I can't believe this. Will have to check this out tomorrow. It's right next to the Blockbuster store, where I'll be returning "An Inconvenient Truth". See, we start and end with Global Warming.

February 01, 2007

Wake Up, Verizon Wireless-- Your System is Coming Apart

My mobile phone service is from Verizon Wireless. They have the best network in the US, and for most of the past few years, I've been happy with them.

But in the past few months, I've noticed a weird technical flaw with the service--voice mail messages left for me can take a long time to be delivered.

Usually, messages are delivered immediately. At other times, a message has taken 30 minutes to two hours to arrive.

A business visitor told me that it took two hours for a message to arrive in her Verizon Wireless mail box.

Recently, I left messages to two others, and was puzzled at the fact that I had not been called back. Soon found the reason why. One message took over four days to be delivered to the recipient's Verizon Wireless mailbox.

The second was not delivered until after a full week. This call had gone to an AT&T subscriber.

What the hell's going on? I called Verizon, and the tech rep said it had something to do with my phone. She had me do a bunch of useless things--take the battery out, enter a code to update the software. This was silly, as the problem was not and is not in my phone--its with their system, or with whatever system links the various cell phone companies.

I don't know if these things happen outside the US, but they'll keep happening here until companies like Verizon admit they have a problem.

And today? My phone beeped, advising me that there was a voice message. But when I logged in, there was no message. Either they lost a message that was received, or they sent an erroneous message saying that one had been received.

Something's wrong, Verizon.