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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.

My trip up Super Bowl Boulevard February 14, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in Broadway, Football, Media, News, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
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Last Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Seattle Seahawks resoundingly defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII by the score of 43-8.  It was the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

Two days before the Big Game, I headed to nearby Manhattan to walk the NFL’s Super Bowl Boulevard Engineered by GMC.  The “Boulevard” spanned Broadway between West 34th and West 47th Streets.  It was open to the public between Wednesday, January 29, and Saturday, February 1, the day after I was there.  I had my Nikon D5100 (and two lenses) along for the walk to take pictures with.

The pictures in this post were taken outside the remote studios of ESPN, NFL Network, and FOX Sports; inside the Xbox One tent; by the Super Bowl Toboggan Run; by Extra Points, where fans could kick footballs through a goalpost; and a few other landmarks along the way.

We begin at ESPN’s studio:




The Xbox One tent:



The CNN/Bleacher Report studio:

The autograph stage:


Super Bowl Toboggan Run:


NFL Network’s studio at West 41st Street:






The Vince Lombardi Trophy:

One block north of Super Bowl Boulevard was M&Ms World:

On the second floor, there was a massive array of tubes that contained milk chocolate, peanut, peanut butter, and pretzel M&Ms in a variety of colors.  Two of the tubes had milk chocolate M&Ms in the team colors of the Seahawks and Broncos.  I filled a bag of all kinds of M&Ms in all colors; 2.87 pounds worth.  It took me three days to eat it all.

The FOX Sports studio at West 46th Street:

Megyn Kelly hosted her Fox News Channel show, The Kelly File, from this south-facing desk hours after I took this picture:

The north side of the studio:




A later shot of the south side:

Extra Points:

This kick was good:


When I passed by NFL Network’s studio again, Joe Montana was on set with hosts Andrew Siciliano, Willie McGinest, and Heath Evans:

Here’s how that looked on NFL Network:

And when I passed by ESPN’s studio, NFL Insiders was on:

From left to right: Bill Polian, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, and Suzy Kolber:


Macy’s Broadway entrance:

Macy’s West 34th Street entrance near 7th Avenue:


Once inside, I bought a Super Bowl XLVIII polo shirt, cap (second from the left above), full size football with the Seahawks and Broncos logos on it, and program.

Despite the massive crowds and back stiffness that set in after an hour and a half, I had a great time walking Super Bowl Boulevard.

Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks on winning Super Bowl XLVIII two nights later.

Jessy J at Iridium recap February 11, 2012

Posted by Mike C. in Broadway, Hockey, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Travel, TV.

(2/25 UPDATE: Jessy has posted video of six songs from the 8:00 set to her YouTube channel, including two in one video.  They are embedded in the set list below the corresponding titles.)

I was at The Iridium jazz club Thursday night to see saxophonist/vocalist Jessy J perform.  There were two shows: 8:00 and 10:00.  I went to the earlier one.  It was the first time I’d seen her solo since I first saw her with Guitars and Saxes in 2008.

I had originally planned on seeing Jessy at the Daniel Street club in Milford, Connecticut back in late July, but I was unable to make it.  I was unaware she’d be at The Iridium until the previous Monday, January 30, when the date was listed in her latest newsletter.  Not about to let this opportunity pass me by, I immediately bought a ticket.  (6/22/12 UPDATE: Daniel Street closed one month before The Iridium show.)

Before we get the show recap started, I’d like to share a funny thing that happened after I bought that ticket.  The site I bought it through, TicketWeb, listed my hometown, with the 11793 zip code, as Briar Park rather than Wantagh.  I had never heard of that alternate name and a Google search was inconclusive.  I reached out to my Facebook friends from Wantagh or North Wantagh through a status update, but none of them commented.  A comment in this old message board thread helped slightly, but not much:

… While my neighborhood is served by the Levittown School district, I am 110% positive that my development is considered (for intents and purposes) North Wantagh. Just north of me is the “R” section of Levittown, and the Briar Park section of Wantagh; and south of the parkway is the “T” section …

I walked through that “T” section of North Wantagh earlier today, so called because most of the street names begin with the letter “T” (i.e. Twin, Tally, Toll Gate, Tumble, etc.).  So, apparently, Briar Park is a section of Wantagh, but I still don’t know where.  If anyone happens to read this and knows the answer, please leave a comment.

On to the recap:
I was dropped off at the Wantagh LIRR station at 5:30, 29 minutes before my Penn Station-bound train arrived.  I killed some of the time in the adjacent McDonald’s, buying a small meal, before returning to the platform.  The train I was on was an older model, an M1, the predecessor to the M7, which features an automated voice recording – which I do a good impression of – and synthesized bell.  When I arrived at Penn Station, I immediately walked to the 34th Street subway station to take the uptown 1 train to 50th and Broadway.  I barely missed one, but another arrived four minutes later.  Finally, I arrived at The Iridium, 45 minutes before showtime.  Since I was early, I got a great seat: a table on the left side of the stage.  After a spaghetti and meatballs dinner, it was finally time for Jessy J and the band.

Jessy was on the tenor sax:

Her pants look pink, but they’re red.

She was backed up by Jay Rowe on keyboards:

Mike Nunno (“NEW-no”) on bass:

Jon Roundtree on drums:

And Rohn (“Ron”) Lawrence on guitar:

Fiesta Velada
2. Sin Ti

3. Mas Que Nada (Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 cover) – Jessy, vocals; Rohn, background vocals
4. Tequila Moon

5. Tropical Rain

6. Remember the Night

7. Hot Sauce

8. Conga (Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine cover) – Jessy, vocals; Rohn, vocal solo
9. Oye Como Va (Tito Puente cover, arrangement similar to Santana version) – Jessy, vocals; Rohn, vocal solo
10. Baila! – Jessy, vocals

1-4 are from Tequila Moon (2008).
5 and 10 are from True Love (2009).
6 and 7 are from Hot Sauce (2011).

A few songs featured a call and response, wild at times, with Jessy and Rohn Lawrence.  Here’s a sample:

The view from the HD monitor behind me:

Jessy wore two musical hats for “Mas Que Nada,” “Conga,” “Oye Como Va,” and “Baila!”: saxophone and vocals. Here she is during “Mas Que Nada”:

Rohn backed her up:

Mike Nunno’s “Mas Que Nada” bass solo:

Rohn’s “Remember the Night” guitar solo:

Clapping in the middle of “Hot Sauce”:

Jessy switched to alto sax for “Conga” and “Oye Como Va”:

“Conga” vocals:

Rohn’s “Conga” solo:

Miami-style clapping:

Vocal solo…

…with audience participation:

Jay Rowe’s “Oye Como Va” keyboard solo, first seen from a monitor:

The end-of-solo glide:

Jessy switched back to tenor sax for the last song of the set – “Baila!”:

Jay’s “Baila!” solo:

Then, it was Rohn’s turn:

And finally, a drum solo by Jon Roundtree:

The last note:

The end!

Afterward, Jessy and I briefly caught up with each other and shot this picture:

She asked if I still had my blog and I told her I do.  I also met Rohn in person for the first time and caught up with Jay and Mike, who I’d previously seen on bass for drummer John Favicchia’s Dharma All Stars.  Outside of the band, I saw my friends Katherine Gilraine, who came for the 10:00 show, and Kat Sarracco who was at the 8:00 show, but I didn’t even notice during it because I was focused on the stage the entire time.

Going back to Penn Station, I was unable to find the entrance to the 50th-Broadway subway station’s downtown platform.  So, I gave up and planned on walking all the way down to Penn.  I didn’t realize it, but I would be walking through Times Square.  The tourists were out in full force and I was one of them, shooting these pictures:

My last picture of the night was the exterior of the Times Square station:

I was finally able to board the downtown 1 train, but had to walk a bit above ground before finding the LIRR entrance.  I ran to catch the 10:05 Babylon-bound train.  The New York Rangers hockey team had a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden that ended moments earlier.  (The Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.)  So, the train I barely made was packed.  I stood by the car door until Jamaica when one of the fold-out seats next to me was vacated.  I got back to Wantagh just after 11:00, ending a great night of music and travel.

Thanks to Jessy, Jay, Mike, Jon, and Rohn for a wonderful, exhilarating show.  It was a blast!