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My 2014 NFL Predictions September 4, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Football, Personal, Sports.
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For many years, right before the start of the NFL or MLB seasons, I have predicted seasonal results.  It started out as a personal hobby in 2006, then grew to Facebook in 2012.  This year, I’m going public and posting my predictions at MikeChimeri.com.

Before we start, you should know that pessimism plays a role in my predictions, meaning I expect the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIX.  With that in mind…

Here are my predictions for the 2014 NFL season that starts tonight (playoff seeding in parentheses):

In the NFC: The Seahawks win the West (1), Eagles win the East (2), Packers win the North (3), and Saints win the South (4).  The 49ers (5) and Bears (6) will be the wild cards.

In the AFC: The Patriots win the East (1), Ravens win the North (2), Colts win the South (3), and Broncos win the West (4).  The Bengals (5) and Chargers (6) will be the wild cards.  The Chiefs will finish last in the West, making their 9-0 start last season a distant memory.

In the postseason:
Wild Card: Packers, Broncos, 49ers, and Chargers win
Divisional: 49ers, Broncos, Packers, and Patriots win
Conference Champions: Packers (NFC) and Patriots (AFC), setting up a Super Bowl XXXI rematch.  Only this time…
Super Bowl XLIX Champions: Patriots

Each year I predict the Patriots to win it all, I am relieved to be wrong.  Will that happen again this year?

Locally, I expect the Giants to finish last in the NFC East and the Jets to finish third in the AFC East.  Due to the Jets’ underwhelming season, Rex Ryan will be fired as head coach.

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Slow summer for web posts August 11, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Personal, Photography.
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Most of my posts this summer involve looking back at the past, whether ten or twenty years ago.  There isn’t anything new to write about.  Even scanning 35mm pictures is a look back.  I did that last Thursday and Friday.

I promise there will be more to write about in the months ahead.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience.

20 years since my first home video recording July 25, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Comedy, Media, Personal, TV, Video, Weather, Wrestling.
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On July 25, 1994, my father came home with a brand new JVC VHS-C camcorder; or “Palmcorder.”  It was intended for him, but I ended up using it more often.  After nine years of appearing in front of Dad’s previous camcorder – a VHS one – as an awkward child with a still-unnamed disorder – Asperger syndrome – I finally had control behind the camera.  Most early video was regimented and experimental, recording the same areas and rapidly zooming in and out constantly.

Here are the first 48 seconds I recorded 20 years ago today at twilight, shortly after a thunderstorm came through Wantagh:

This was followed by close-ups of license plates on my mom’s, dad’s, and aunt’s cars.  Then, my sister Lauren had her turn with the Palmcorder, recording our cousin Rebecca watching WWF (as it was known back then) Monday Night Raw on TV with her in her bedroom.  But she didn’t stop there, heading to the den during a commercial break to record our parents and great-grandparents, with a rerun of Murphy Brown blasting on the TV.  Becca was also in the den, making a funny expression with her hands on her hips.

A side note: Thanks to a shot of the TV included in Lauren’s recording, I noticed Tom Poston was in the Murphy Brown episode.  A trip to IMDB confirmed that the rerun episode was “Crime Story,” which originally aired five months earlier.

On the two humid mornings that followed, until the 31-minute VHS-C cassette reached its end, I walked around the house, panning around nearly every room and every corner of the front yard, back yard, and driveway.  I even experimented with flipping the Palmcorder upside down and flipping it back to the correct way.  I did that a few more times between then and September.

In the years that followed, my video recording skills gradually improved.  Including the first camcorder, I went through three different JVC VHS-C camcorders, each one more technologically advanced than their predecessor.  I captured over 70 hours of material and dubbed them onto a combined 30 VHS tapes.  I still have some of the master VHS-Cs.  I converted the videos to AVI computer files back in 2010.

In October 2000, I went digital with a JVC MiniDV camcorder.  And in June 2003, I was given a Canon GL2 MiniDV camcorder to use for my college senior project.  I recorded here and there with the two camcorders, logging another 13 hours of video – not counting the senior project – until my last recording on July 25, 2007.  Since then, I’ve only recorded special events.  I converted the MiniDV tapes to the computer, as well.

When the GL2 broke down in 2011, I switched to a JVC Everio AVCHD camcorder with internal memory and an SD memory card.  And that brings us to the present.

I hope someday soon to get a professional HD camcorder with an internal hard drive.  Until then, I’ll stick with the Everio.

4:35 PM UPDATE: Five hours ahead of the time I recorded 20 years ago, I went outside with the Everio and retraced some of my steps from the original recording.

Unfortunately, the skies were devoid of airplanes, which meant I couldn’t retrace that step.  Meanwhile, there’s a plane flying overhead as I type this last sentence.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, Mandatory Fun July 24, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Comedy, Media, Music, Personal, Technology, Video.
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Album cover scan

My CD copy of Mandatory Fun by “Weird Al” Yankovic arrived in the mail on Wednesday afternoon.  After ripping the tracks to my computer, I listened intently to all of them, following along with the lyrics in the liner notes.   There are 12 songs on the album: a mix of parodies, original compositions, and a medley.

I usually listen to contemporary jazz and jazz fusion, especially if there aren’t vocals.  So, you may be wondering why I would own a “Weird Al” Yankovic album.  I’ve admired “Weird Al” for years, dating back to Bad Hair Day, which my sister Lauren received back in 1996.  And since I’m not into mainstream pop and rock, Al’s parodies are as close I choose to get.

Here are my three favorite original compositions on Mandatory Fun:

  • “Mission Statement,” a Crosby, Stills and Nash pastiche a la “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” filled with corporate gobbledygook and cliches (i.e. “synergy!”)
  • “Lame Claim to Fame,” an homage to Southern Culture on the Skids, wherein a man shares his tangential connections to celebrities

I can relate to the line about having the same birthday.  I share my birthday with several public figures.  Off the top of my head, there’s Lorne Michaels, Danny DeVito, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  There are others.  I don’t consider this my lame claim to fame.  It’s a series of prideful coincidences.  My lame claims to fame are my radio shows, photo recaps of events I attend, and occasional reviews like this.  (That was self-deprecation.)

  • “Sports Song,” a deeply honest fight song that lays out what the opponent is in for

As for the parodies, my three favorites are:

  • “Word Crimes,” a parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, which includes verses on the misuse of “I couldn’t care less” and “it’s”

Listen for the intentionally-placed split infinitive.  I loved the time-compressed definition of “contraction.”

  • “Handy,” which parodies “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea, a nearly three-minute handyman commercial

What can’t he do?

  • “Foil,” a parody of “Royals” by Lorde, which describes two uses for aluminum foil: to store leftover food and as a hat for conspiracy theorists to block governmental mind control

I laughed my way through the conspiracy theory part.

There are video equivalents to each of my favorites:

“Mission Statement”:

“Lame Claim to Fame”:

“Sports Song”

“Word Crimes”:

“Handy”

“Foil”:

A “Weird Al” album wouldn’t be complete without an accordion-driven polka medley.  The one on Mandatory Fun – “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” – was superb.  These medleys are the second way I prefer to hear mainstream pop and rock.  (The third way is through covers by jazz artists.)  The segues between lyrical excerpts were seamless.  And I got a kick out of the sound effects and spoken interjections.

Facebook deserves credit for motivating me into buying Mandatory Fun.  If the first video from the album, “Tacky,” hadn’t been trending last Monday, I wouldn’t have seen that video or the seven videos that followed.  I wouldn’t have listened to excerpts on Amazon.  I wouldn’t have bought the album at all.  But I bought it, I listened to it at least once, and I’ve shared my review.

I hope I haven’t written “like a spastic,” and that you’ll forgive my Oxford commas.

Bill Heller, “Find the Way” July 21, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Internet, Jazz, Music, Personal.
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Keyboardist Bill Heller makes his solo debut with Find the Way, available now at CD Baby and iTunes.

Bill’s Rippingtons and Jazzaphonic bandmates are peppered throughout the album, in addition to Carl Fischer, Luis Bonilla, and Ronnie Gutierrez.  Except where noted, Joel Rosenblatt played drums and Dave Anderson was on bass.

Tracks:
1. Guaraldi (5:19)
This is a tribute to the late jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.  Jeff Kashiwa, Bill’s Rippingtons bandmate, plays soprano saxophone and flute.

2. Down & Loaded (5:32)
This has a Les McCann “Compared to What” feel to it.  I first heard Bill perform this at Eric Marienthal’s Boulton Center show (and masterclass) in March 2011.  Eric, who was also with the Rippingtons, is featured on three other Find the Way tracks, but Jeff Kashiwa handled tenor sax on “Down & Loaded.”  Jeff can also be heard on tenor on “Blackbird on a Fence” and soprano on the title track.  This is one of three songs to feature Frank Bellucci on drums and Jim Cammack on bass, Bill’s Jazzaphonic bandmates.

3. Bill’s Bop (4:34)
This is the second song with Bellucci and Cammack, but the only one of the three where Jim plays electric bass.  Eric Marienthal plays lead alto sax along with backing saxes and flutes.  This bop made me swing from side to side in my chair as I listened to it.

4. Blackbird on a Fence (4:22)

5. Find the Way (5:06)

6. Hanna (4:51)
Eric Marienthal returns on soprano sax and flute in this song that takes me back to when I regularly saw Bill perform with drummer John Favicchia‘s Dharma All Stars.

7. Alone (5:28)

8. Latinesque (5:53)
This wild Latin tune features Carl Fischer on trumpet, Luis Bonilla on trombone, and percussion from Ronnie Gutierrez.  It’s the first of three tracks with Dave Karasony on drums and Rico Belled on bass.  This also reminds me of the Dharma All Stars.

9. 5 for 1 (5:34)
This is the last song to feature Eric Marienthal, who plays alto sax here, as well as for Frank Bellucci and Jim Cammack.

10. Afrikaan (4:40)
This South African homage is the second to feature Dave Karasony and Rico Belled.

11. My Thing (4:56)
Karasony and Belled’s last track.  Each part of the song is played in a different keyboard setting.

12. Trottoir du Musette (1:05)
Bill shows off his accordion on the final track.  The translated title is “Sidewalk Musette,” and it makes you feel like you’re walking the streets of Paris, albeit with drum programming.

In the two weeks since Find the Way arrived, I’ve listened to it at least five times.  “Down & Loaded” is my favorite, with “Bill’s Bop” and “5 for 1″ close behind.  I love Find the Way, and I hope you do, too.  Pick up a copy today at CD Baby or iTunes.

Planting Fields Arboretum pictures July 3, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Travel.
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I didn’t say anything about it here, but last August, a few days before the Spyro Gyra Smooth Cruise, my girlfriend Kelly and I went up to Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay.  It was the first time either of us had been to the park in over a decade, years before we met.  We only went there for concerts, not touring the sights.  This time, we went solely to look around.

Here are select pictures from our sightseeing:
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I hope this has inspired you to visit Planting Fields Arboretum.  As long as the weather is dry when you go, you won’t be disappointed.

June 17, 1994 June 17, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Basketball, Education, Golf, Hockey, Media, News, Personal, Sports, TV, Video.
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I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the white Bronco in the room (as opposed to an elephant).  Many things occurred 20 years ago today, as the June 17, 1994 ESPN 30 for 30 film – which is not affiliated with this post – documented:

  1. The New York Rangers’ ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes and ceremony at New York City Hall, three nights after winning the Stanley Cup
  2. Arnold Palmer’s last round at a U.S. Open, held that year at Oakmont Country Club (the last U.S. Open carried by ABC; covered that day by ESPN)
  3. Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals, in which the New York Knicks defeated the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden to take a 3-2 series lead (they went on to lose the last two games in Houston)
  4. O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings in a slow-speed police chase in O.J.’s white Ford Bronco

Also that day was:

5. One final exam for me at Wantagh Middle School (I’m not sure what subject; probably Social Studies)

For more on #4, I refer to video of ABC News’ coverage of the chase and a retrospective report from Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith Reporting.

This concludes my obligatory acknowledgement.

New header June 15, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Internet, Personal.
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After 2 1/2 years, I have finally changed the website header.  Here it is:

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The Jeff Lorber Fusion at Blue Note June 14, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Travel, Weather.
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Monday evening marked my first trip to the famous Blue Note Jazz Club in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan.

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Blue Note is not far from Zinc Bar, which I was at in June 2011 for Lisa Hilton.

The band I saw at Blue Note on Monday was the Jeff Lorber Fusion, who were originally scheduled to appear on April 7.  It’s a good thing the show was moved because I would have had to deal with moderate to heavy rain on the original night.  The sky was equally overcast on this rescheduled night, but it didn’t rain, at least not while I was outside.

My girlfriend Kelly and I arrived nearly two hours before showtime, 15 minutes after doors opened.  Our early arrival paid off as we were seated at a table right next to center stage!  It was great.

The Jeff Lorber Fusion was made up of Jeff on keyboard:
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…and piano (seen here playing both):
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Eric Marienthal on soprano sax:
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…and alto sax:
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Jimmy Haslip on bass:
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…and Lionel Cordew on drums:
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There were two shows that night: 8PM and 10:30 PM.  Kelly and I chose the early show.  The set list was as follows:

8PM SET LIST
1. Chinese Medicinal Herbs
Originally heard on: “The Jeff Lorber Fusion,” 1977; “Now is the Time,” 2010

2. Hacienda
Originally heard on: “Hacienda,” 2013

3. He Had a Hat
Originally heard on: “He Had a Hat,” 2007

4. Singaraja
Originally heard on: “Galaxy,” 2012

5. Montserrat
Originally heard on: “Galaxy,” 2012

6. Horace
Originally heard on: “Galaxy,” 2012

7. Rain Dance
Originally heard on: “Water Sign,” 1979; “Now is the Time,” 2010

8. King Kong (Frank Zappa cover)
Originally heard on: “Hacienda,” 2013

9. Surreptitious
Originally heard on: “He Had a Hat,” 2007

NOTE: Eric Marienthal played soprano sax on #1, 4, and 7, but alto otherwise.

With flash photography disallowed, and fearing that my camera’s AF-Assist light would be mistaken for a flash, I didn’t take that many pictures.  But it was an exhilarating show with wild solos by each member of the band.  This was my first Jeff Lorber concert, and I doubt it will be my last.  Thank you to Jeff, Eric, Jimmy, and Lionel.

I’ll leave you with pictures from two solos.

First, Lionel Cordew’s “Chinese Medicinal Herbs” solo:
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And Jimmy Haslip’s “Hacienda” solo:
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I suggest a Triple Crown retool June 8, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Horse Racing, Media, Music, Personal, Sports, Thoroughbred, TV.
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After what transpired at yesterday’s Belmont Stakes, next year will mark 37 years since the last Triple Crown winner – Affirmed.  Since then, thoroughbred racing has had close call after close call after close call, as three-year-old horses will win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but fall short at Belmont.  It doesn’t happen every year, but it’s still heartbreaking and frustrating.  I suggest the Triple Crown format be retooled.  Before I explain how, there is a backstory.

I first became aware of the Triple Crown races in 1997.  That year, Silver Charm was the unlucky horse to lose at Belmont Park in Elmont.  Then there was Real Quiet a year later.  He barely lost to Victory Gallop.  The year after that, Charismatic fell short.  Three years later, there was another three-year stretch of horses to win the first two legs and fall short: War Emblem, Funny Cide, and Smarty Jones.  In 2008, there was Big Brown.  He came up far short at Belmont.  In 2012, I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race!

That brings us to this year and California Chrome.  I was at a second birthday party and watched the Kentucky Derby on TV, like I always do.  His win gave me an opportunity to allude to the Mamas and the Papas hit, “California Dreamin’.”  The announcers on TV did the same.  Two weeks later, I was in an Italian restaurant as the Preakness Stakes was run.  The sound was off on the TV ahead of my booth, but the closed-captioning was on.  When California Chrome won that, I knew we were in for another three weeks of hype that would only be followed by heartbreak.  When you see the same thing play out over many years, you know what to expect.

On Facebook, I floated a ridiculous idea:

If California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes, thereby winning the Triple Crown, NBC should send a check for $36 to each Nielsen household tuned to them during the race. That would be one dollar for each year since the last Triple Crown winner: Affirmed in 1978.

In the comment thread, I amended that to $3.60, but perhaps 36 cents would have made even more sense.

I floated that idea because I knew California Chrome would lose.  I would have loved for him to win, which turned into thinking he actually would win.  So, as I watched the Belmont Stakes on my iPhone yesterday at another restaurant, I closed the NBC Sports Live Extra app in frustration after Larry Collmus said in the home stretch that there wouldn’t be a Triple Crown winner this year.  I don’t even know who won and don’t care.

Now for my suggestion: Horses that win the Kentucky Derby should not be allowed to run the Preakness Stakes.  That will avoid future heartbreaking Belmont Stakes.  If they can’t run in the Preakness, they can’t possibly win it to set up Triple Crown talk.

It’s another ridiculous suggestion, I’m sure, and one that is born out of sour grapes, but I would love to see it happen.  The days of Triple Crown winners ended in 1978.  I don’t see it ever happening again.

6/9 UPDATE: A rebuttal by Jeff Kroll:

These ideas for change are generally coming from the generation that has not seen a “Triple Crown” win.  Those of us who were around in the ’70s and saw 3 of them know it’s special, and that it can happen.  It will take a very special horse and a lot of luck.  The winning time yesterday on a fast track was still 4 1/2 seconds slower than Secratariat’s world-record 2.24 Flat in 1973.  This group of horses is just not that “special.”

They’re certainly special enough to win two legs, but unfortunately not all three.  I wish I was alive to see Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed win.  Archived video is all I’ve had to go on, particularly of Secretariat’s dominant Belmont win that Jeff mentioned.

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