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Mid-season thoughts July 9, 2017

Posted by Mike C. in Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Personal.
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The first half of the 2017 Major League Baseball season ends today. I have watched very little of it. Considering the way the New York Mets, my favorite team, have performed, that’s a good thing. As I’ve told my Facebook friends, ignorance is bliss.

As for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Miami, I expect the American League to win yet again. Thankfully, though, this will be the first time in 15 years that the winner doesn’t get home field advantage in the World Series. Starting this season, home field goes to the league champion with the better record, finally putting MLB on par with the NBA and NHL.

This was originally a Facebook post, but I revised it for the website.

Spyro Gyra at the Blue Note May 28, 2016

Posted by Mike C. in Basketball, Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel.

I was back at Blue Note on Thursday night to see Spyro Gyra‘s 8:00 show. This is a recurring expression in these recaps, but it was Spyro Gyra’s third night of a six-night engagement at the famous jazz club in Greenwich Village. It was also the first time I’d seen the band in nearly three years. This was the first time seeing them on land since June 2007 at the YMCA Boulton Center in Bay Shore.

My original plan on Thursday afternoon was to take the 4:27 westbound train from LIRR’s Wantagh Station (currently in the first phase of renovations) to Penn Station. But I was bored at home, so I left the house an hour and a half early. I walked 20 minutes to the train station and boarded the 3:09 train. I use a backpack, so I must have looked like a high school student to some fellow adults I passed. (Wantagh High School lets out at 2:19.) Wantagh Elementary School had a fire drill as I walked past it on Beech Street. I was glad to hear it was a whooping siren and buzzer instead of a ding-ding-ding bell. That’s why I dreaded fire drills as a kid. I don’t like surprises and I like those big bells even less.

The train ride was longer than scheduled due to a delay at Jamaica, but I still got to Penn Station within an hour of boarding. My girlfriend took Metro-North and the S and 1 trains, and we met at Penn 15 minutes after I arrived. We then took the A train to West Fourth Street. We walked up the stairs at West Third and killed time by watching basketball games at the West Fourth Street Courts. At 5:20, we decided walk up the block to Blue Note and wait for the doors to open. There was no line at first, but about 15 minutes, a line began to form.

Shortly after 6:00, the doors opened and my girlfriend and I chose our usual table at center stage. Our seats were the last before the stage.

Through dinner and dessert, 8:00 came, Spyro Gyra walked on stage, and the show began.

As he has been for all 40 years, Jay Beckenstein was on saxophone. He mostly played alto:

…but was briefly on soprano:

Tom Schuman, also with the band for all 40 years, played keyboards:

Julio Fernandez, with the band for 29 of the last 31 years, was on guitar:

Scott Ambush, in his 25th year, was on bass:

…and newcomer Lionel Cordew on drums:

Each night’s shows were at 8:00 and 10:30. Here is the set list from Thursday’s 8:00 show:
1. Catching the Sun
Originally heard on: Catching the Sun, 1980

2. Stolen Moments (Oliver Nelson cover)

3. Havana Moonlight
Originally heard on: Got the Magic, 1999

4. Morning Dance
Originally heard on: Morning Dance, 1979; Access All Areas, 1984; Road Scholars, 1998

5. Cape Town Love
Originally heard on: Original Cinema, 2003

6. Harbor Nights
Originally heard on: Incognito, 1982; Access All Areas, 1984

7. Good to Go-Go
Originally heard on: Good to Go-Go, 2007

8. Funkyard Dog
Originally heard on: Good to Go-Go, 2007

We’ve reached the part of the recap with various shots of each musician. We start with Jay Beckenstein:




Playing alto and soprano simultaneously on “Funkyard Dog”:

Tom Schuman:







Julio Fernandez:







Julio’s vocal intro to “Havana Moonlight”:

Julio was born in Havana.

Scott Ambush:






Lionel Cordew’s drum solo before “Funkyard Dog”:












Scott and Tom:

Julio and Lionel:

Scott, Jay, and Tom:

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful time. We couldn’t have asked for a better show. I can only imagine what the 10:30 crowd saw.

Spyro Gyra are still at Blue Note tonight and tomorrow night. So, if you haven’t seen them yet and you’re free either night, come on down to the Village and see them live.

Audiobooking 2: Listen Up! November 12, 2015

Posted by Mike C. in Audio, Audiobooks, Basketball, Blu-ray, Christmas, Comedy, Commentary, DVD, Film, News, Personal, Politics, Sports, TV, Video.
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Early last December, I listed all the audiobooks I had listened to while working out between June and the day I wrote the post. I said “there [would] be more audiobooks to come in the weeks ahead.” This follow-up post will list those books, all of which I listened to on Audible.

Since my misadventure with Dick Cavett’s left-leaning book collection of New York Times blog posts, I’ve only listened to apolitical or right-leaning audiobooks.

From last December to now, here is what has guided me through workouts, bedtime, and boredom:

I have many more audiobooks I plan on listening to between now and the next post, whenever that will come. Just today, I started Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes’ book on Jack Kemp. It’s called Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America. After that, I’ll move on to the another Rush Revere book: Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner. Then, a series of autobiographies should keep me occupied through the summer. Until next time…

Audiobooking December 2, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Audio, Audiobooks, Baseball, Basketball, Broadway, Comedy, Commentary, Film, Health, Media, News, Personal, Politics, Radio, Sports, Theatre, TV.
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While I may have indefinitely suspended photo album picture scanning, one constant since June has been audiobooks. What I’ve usually done is listen to a whole chapter while working out in the morning or on my portable elliptical machine in the afternoon. I only buy nonfiction and prefer that they are read by the author. I want to hear their words in their voice, not someone else’s, even if the author’s delivery is subpar.

This isn’t the first time I’ve listened to audiobooks. That goes back to a road trip with my parents and sister in January 1997, as we drove back from Florida. To show you how long ago that was, the audiobook was on cassettes. That book, The Hobbit, was the only time I’ve listened to fiction. It’s been all nonfiction since.

Between December 1997 – when I listened to The Big Show: A Tribute to ESPN’s SportsCenter – and June 2014, I would get an audiobook here and there, but I wasn’t a regular buyer. I didn’t exercise in the morning, either. That began in late March. It’s always best to get tough tasks out of the way early because your willpower drops as the day progresses. It helps to have something interesting to listen to while you’re working out, not something aggravating like politics and sports debate and discussion.

With all that in mind, I’ve listened to the following audiobooks, on CD or through Audible, since June:

  • President Me: The America That’s In My Head by Adam Carolla (via CD) – an outline of all the things Adam would do to improve the United States if he were president
  • Not Quite the Classics by Colin Mochrie (via Audible) – improvised stories based on the first and last lines of select novels and poems
  • I’ll Be Back Right After This: My Memoir by Pat O’Brien (via Audible) – Pat’s memoir chronicled his early life, television career, and struggle with addiction. Knock on wood, Pat has been sober for six years and counting.
  • Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (via CD) – This is the latest in Bill and Martin’s “Killing” series that factually recounts the events of historical figures leading up to their tragic deaths. Their previous books focused on Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus of Nazareth, respectively.
  • Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? by Billy Crystal (via Audible) – Billy’s memoir ran the gamut of emotions, from funny to heartbreaking, recalling major events in each decade of his life as of publication last year. I learned things I never knew and recalled fond memories of what I already knew. The only downside to the book is that Billy peppered his liberal ideology throughout it, outlining his liberal points of view and maligning right-leaning personalities and media. I’m not a lockstep conservative, but I do tend to take criticism of or jokes about people, places, and things that I like personally. But I didn’t let that completely ruin the listening experience.
  • Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large by William Shatner with Chris Regan (via CD) – When I was searching for the next audiobook to listen to, as Still Foolin’ ‘Em was winding down, I recalled William Shatner had a memoir out called Up Till Now: The Autobiography. But then I noticed that Shatner Rules had come out later than Up Till Now. So, I opted for Shatner Rules instead. The big message I took from the book was to say “yes” to as many things as possible. “‘No’ closes doors,” William said. “‘Yes’ kicks them wide open.” Shatner briefly drifted into politics, too, but the environmental kind. His doomsday scenarios were frightening. I didn’t let that completely ruin the listening experience. (ding) Rule: I highly recommend Shatner Rules as either the written book or spoken audiobook.
  • Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks by Dick Cavett (via Audible) – It was here that I did let politics completely ruin the listening experience. This is not a memoir. It is a compilation of Dick’s columns at The New York Times’ Opiniator blog. That structure is similar to that for Things That Matter, a compilation of Charles Krauthammer’s columns over his 30-year career to date. Charles is Dick’s polar opposite. But I didn’t know any of that until my second day of listening. And it was this rant of a column that Dick read for Brief Encounters – combined with frustration that the book was not what I expected – that led me to request a refund from Audible. Thankfully, they granted it. I did learn a few things, though, about Dick’s days writing for The Tonight Show. I also learned that Arthur Godfrey preferred to address only one member of the listening or viewing audience (“you”), not the entire audience (“everybody”).
  • Scribe: My Life in Sports by Bob Ryan (via Audible) – I bought this in place of Brief Encounters. I’ve been listening for nearly a week and I’m enjoying it.

There will be more audiobooks to come in the weeks ahead as I continue to try to keep myself in shape.

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 (dead link as of 6/17/19).

This concludes my obligatory acknowledgement.

NFL Network coming to Cablevision!!! August 16, 2012

Posted by Mike C. in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Media, News, Personal, Radio, Sports, TV.
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Effective tomorrow, NFL Network and NFL RedZone will be added to Cablevision’s lineup.  Via NFL.com:

BETHPAGE, NY and NEW YORK, NY — August 16, 2012 – NFL Network and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), the largest TV provider in the nation’s top media market, announced today that they have reached a multi-year agreement for carriage of NFL Network and the NFL RedZone channel.

NFL Network will make its debut in Cablevision homes beginning Friday. NFL Network will be available on channel 150 in both standard-definition and HD for customers who subscribe to iO Preferred, iO Silver, iO Gold or the iO Sports & Entertainment Pak. NFL RedZone, which airs on Sundays throughout the regular season, will be offered in both standard-definition and HD on channel 151 as part of the iO Sports & Entertainment Pak, which is now included in the new iO Gold package, which was launched last spring. …

Cablevision customers like myself have been waiting for this day since the network launched nearly a decade ago.  I learned of this from Steve Somers on WFAN twenty minutes before publishing this post.

NFL Network will round out a trio of channels devoted to professional sports leagues.  iO (Interactive Optimum) channel 148 is NBA TV and 149 is MLB Network.

Thank you very much, Cablevision.

8/18 UPDATE: Here is the Steve Somers monologue that tipped me off to NFL Network’s arrival on Cablevision.  After talking about the Mets and Yankees results, he got to the big deal at the 9:02 mark.  My transcript (listen along):

As you have heard [earlier in the day on WFAN], Cablevision has taken on the NFL Network, giving the face of the NFL Network, Rich Eisen, the opportunity to extol the virtues of the cable industry in general, and the NFL Network in particular, as we heard on his live infomercial, apparently sponsoring Joe and Evan this afternoon.  Rich will also appear with Joe and Evan sometime soon, where we will actually hear from him discussing football!  …

Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts filled in for Mike Francesa all this week.

Will Donato & Elan Trotman at Houndstooth recap March 12, 2012

Posted by Mike C. in Basketball, Hockey, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel, TV, Video.
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Saturday night, to coin a borrow a previously used term, was saxtacular!  Saxophonists Will Donato and Elan Trotman performed at Houndstooth Pub, a few blocks north of Penn Station.  It was the first time I’d seen Will in concert, but the second for Elan, who I saw last April with Brian Simpson.

But before taking the LIRR to Penn Station and walking those few blocks to Houndstooth, something noteworthy occurred in my neighborhood and another thing in my family.  It was my mother Lisa’s birthday.  My presents to her were two scratch-off lottery tickets, she won $2 with each, and a Chicago CD.  As for the noteworthy neighborhood event, a curbside tree by my neighbor’s house was taken down by a crew from what I assume was the Town of Hempstead.  They also removed a tree a block north and west away on Thursday.

Here are two before vidcaps.  This one is from February 5, 1995:

And from November 11, 2011:

The next three are after pictures that I took before going to Wantagh’s LIRR station:

I suppose the next step is to redo the sidewalk.

With that business out of the way, on to the show at Houndstooth.

Backing Will and Elan up were Jay Rowe on keyboards:

Kenny Harris on bass:

And Chris Marshak, brother of guitarist Matt Marshak, on drums:

I was on hand for the first set.  Elan went first.  Here’s what he played:

Elan Trotman:
Lil’ Too Late
2. 100 Degrees
3. Heaven in Your Eyes
4. Last Dance

Jay’s second solo on “Heaven in Your Eyes”:

Elan made way for Will Donato:
Will Donato:
New Life
6. I’ll Be Around
7. Jaywalking
8. Always You
9. Funkability

Guitarist JJ Sansaverino joined the band for Will’s portion of the set, seen here during his “New Life” solo:

Will went into the audience multiple times:

“Jaywalking” began with a bass solo by Kenny Harris:

And he had a simple “it’s you” vocal on “Always You”:

That song also had a wild guitar solo by JJ:

Back into the audience during “Funkability”:

He even went behind the bar!:

After “Funkability,” the set was complete.

And what a wild set it was!  Elan was exciting and Will was lively!  I can only imagine how much wilder the second set must have been.  Before I left, I got to meet Elan and Will in person for the first time.  Elan told me he liked my Brian Simpson show recap and I thanked him for the compliment.

On the way back to Penn Station, I remembered that the championship game for the Big East Tournament was taking place that night at Madison Square Garden.  Before walking into Penn, I took a picture of the tournament’s banner:

In the championship game, the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 50-44.  About twelve hours later on the same basketball court, the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers squared off.  Unfortunately, the Sixers won.  After the game, the court was taken apart and the hockey rink was set up as the Rangers faced the Islanders a few hours later.  The Rangers won 4-3 on a Marion Gaborik goal with six seconds left in overtime.

Back on Saturday night, the 10:45 Babylon-bound train was a few minutes late, but I made it back to Wantagh on time.

Thanks to Will, Elan, Jay, Kenny, Chris, JJ, Steve Butler, and Ed Tankus for another great night at Houndstooth.

11:47 PM UPDATE: After posting this recap and linking to it on Facebook, Elan had this to say:

Nice job – yet again. Really nice work.

Thank you again, Elan.  I’m very glad you liked it.

I also got this from Will:

Mike I really enjoyed your amazing blog. The photos really captured the night and I am honored to be reviewed with such passion and care!

Thank you, too, Will.