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My experience at Day 1 of 2019 New York Comic Con October 5, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Animation, Art, Blu-ray, Broadway, Comedy, DVD, Internet, Media, Personal, Photography, Technology, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
4 comments

Previous New York Comic Con recaps: 2012 Day 22014 Day 1, 2017 Day 1, 2018 Day 1

Thursday marked my fifth time at New York Comic Con, and third year in a row. It’s become tradition to attend, meet actors, and tour the show floor. NYCC is held annually inside the Javits Center in Midtown West.

I waited by my computer for about two hours back on May 5 to buy my Thursday badge. I didn’t know what guests would attend, but I found out a month later. The ones I was interested in meeting were Paul Reubens, James Arnold Taylor, Laraine Newman, Jennifer Hale, and Tom Kenny. Once again, this was my sole reason for attending because there weren’t any panels worth seeing.

One day removed from record heat, the weather that greeted me when I left my Wantagh home at 8:30 was cool and cloudy. As I stood on the LIRR station platform waiting for the 8:47 train, I briefly wished I brought gloves. Keeping with my train travel routine, I chose to sit in the first car. There were a few people seated ahead of me that were also on their way to New York Comic Con, but I didn’t want to bother them. I just listened to David Benoit and Friends and ate my protein bar with a can of orange seltzer.

The ride to Penn Station took about 45 minutes. When I exited at 8th Avenue and West 33rd Street, I greeted by persistent drizzle. It followed me all the way to the Javits Center. It took a while for the massive throng of attendees to get through security, but my search was quick and scold-less. After I was checked, I walked toward the entrance and then zipped my backpack compartments back up.

Once inside, I made my way to the autographing area:

It turns out there were two autographing areas: 1C and 1E. I was looking for Paul Reubens’ table in 1C, but he was actually in 1E. So, I walked toward there and waited in line at his table. Thank you to the staff members who aided me.

Like most 1980s children, I grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I didn’t realize Pee-wee Herman was a character created and portrayed by Paul Reubens until the mid ’90s. That was the first time I saw Paul out of that character, on Murphy Brown.

I rediscovered Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2006, then rediscovered it again ten years later on Netflix. Watching it there wasn’t enough. I had to buy the series on Blu-ray, especially for the bonus features. I sometimes find myself quoting not just Pee-wee, but other series characters like Globey, Mr. Window (particularly when I see Lynne Marie Stewart [Miss Yvonne] on TV), Jambi, Pterri, Conky, Randy, and occasionally Clocky.

So, it was a thrill to meet Paul, albeit briefly, on Thursday morning. I told him I met Phil LaMarr last year. Phil played Cowboy Curtis in the Broadway run of The Pee-wee Herman Show. I had noticed Paul was making a surprised face while posing with attendees ahead of me, so I tried to do the same:

I look more shocked than surprised, but I still like it.

I returned to 1C to meet four voice actors:

First up was James Arnold Taylor:

I discovered James through Johnny Test, but learned more about his illustrious career through his website, JAT Vlogs on his YouTube channel, and appearance on the podcast Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsen. I told him I liked how for his Fred Flintstone voice, he combined Alan Reed’s original portrayal with Henry Corden’s subsequent version. I also expressed my love as the voice of Fox’s Sunday primetime promos, to which he said he recorded the latest set of promos in his hotel room the night before. There was one thing I neglected to discuss. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, but I am aware of an infamous cutscene he voiced as Tidus in Final Fantasy X. In the cutscene, Tidus let out a loud, wooden, staccato laugh: “haaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha!” James explained that scene in a March 2016 JAT Vlog:

I chose a character collage at his table to sign, and he wrote:

Mike – You’re awesome!!
James Arnold Taylor

5:05 PM UPDATE: James recorded another promo from his hotel room yesterday, as he shared on Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

More promos in my makeshift padded room in my hotel while at @newyorkcomiccon

A post shared by James Arnold Taylor (@jatactor) on

After James, I moved one table to the right (his left) and spoke to Laraine Newman:

You may know Laraine from her days on Saturday Night Live, and I’ve seen a handful of sketches from that time, but I’m more familiar with her voice over work. She was Queen Jipjorulac, Mark Chang’s mother on The Fairly OddParents. Mark Chang was voiced by Rob Paulsen as an energetic surfer dude with awkward syntax (pronouncing assistance “ah-sis-TAHN-say,” for example). When Rob interviewed Laraine for Talkin’ Toons, she mentioned Histeria!, the Warner Bros. edutainment animated series they co-starred in. I was not aware of the series when it originally aired, but my curiosity was piqued after that interview. Unfortunately, unlike the other ’90s WB series, Histeria! was not yet on DVD. When it was finally released years later, I bought it, watching for the first time over the 2017 Christmas vacation. I loved it! So, it was that DVD that I brought to NYCC for Laraine to sign. She was thrilled. I told her how much I loved the show and loved her characters: Miss Information, a bubbly Southern tour guide with a penchant for getting things wrong, and Charity Bazaar, a sad girl who frequently lamented, “I’m not happy.” I said I sometimes find myself saying that in certain situations.

Laraine signed the following on my DVD:

To Mike (Heart)
Laraine Newman

Laraine and the aforementioned Paul Reubens, Lynne Stewart, and Phil LaMarr are all alumni of The Groundlings improv and sketch comedy troupe. It’s where Paul created Pee-wee Herman.

Jennifer Hale was next:

Jennifer has a wealth of video game credits, but I know her mostly for her work as Ms. Keane on The Powerpuff Girls, various characters on Johnny Bravo, and T.U.F.F. Puppy. Someday, I will play some of the games she appeared in.

As with James, I chose a collage for her to sign:

To Mike!
Jennifer Hale

And finally, Tom Kenny:

Of course, Tom is the titular character on SpongeBob SquarePants. I love that show, but also love Futurama, where Tom’s credits include the all-purpose commissioner Abner Doubledeal and Leela’s bland eye doctor boyfriend Adlai Atkins, and the aforementioned Johnny Bravo, where he played Johnny’s (Jeff Bennett) nerdy friend Carl Chryniszzswics (“cruh-SIN-uh-wits”). He was glad to hear Carl get some love at the convention, as one attendee ahead of me had a drawing of Carl. We talked about his co-star, the late Larry Drake, who voiced Pops. I even imitated Pops (“Hey, Johnny!”). Tom told me about Larry’s horror film background, which I wasn’t aware of but glad to learn. Prior to Johnny Bravo, I only knew him from L.A. Law.

I thanked Tom for taking the time to meet with everyone in line, as the line extended down to one of the panel “chutes,” requiring security to let people know which side was the panel chute and which was the line for Tom (or “SpongeBob,” as the guard said). I brought my copy of the eighth season of SpongeBob SquarePants for him to sign:

10-3-19
Mike Ahoy!
Best fishes from “SpongeBob”
Tom Kenny

Thank you to Paul, James, Laraine, Jennifer, and Tom. It was a pleasure to meet all of you. Thanks, as well, to Anissa and her eldest son James, who I met in Tom’s line. It was nice to meet you, too, and I hope we can stay in touch.

After nearly four hours in autograph land, I was ready to head for home, but not before touring parts of the show floor:

Within 20 minutes of walking the show floor, I exited the Javits Center:

25 minutes after that, I was back in Penn Station where I boarded the 3:03 Babylon-bound train, which was packed with commuters. The crowd thinned a little at Jamaica, then further at Rockville Centre, but a handful of passengers exited with me at Wantagh one hour later. I was once again in the first car, which meant that I was on the east end and exited above Beech Street. (The first car westbound is just west of Wantagh Avenue.) After walking 20 minutes in the mist, I was home.

Once inside, I unpacked and photographed my autographed merchandise and my badge (with the codes blurred out):

I hope to be back at New York Comic Con next year. In the meantime, thank you for viewing this post.

Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library September 13, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, DVD, Internet, Technology, Video, Video Games.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far


A cropped photo of my copy after returning from day 1 of this year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo

Pat Contri was a name I’d heard of since I started regularly watching YouTube channels a few years ago, but I’d never seen his videos, listened to his podcasts, or bought his merchandise. My only exposure to him was the Angry Video Game Nerd episode he appeared in, which he wrote with series creator and star James Rolfe. My unfamiliarity dissolved after visiting Pat’s table last month at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. I got to meet him and his friend and colleague Ian Ferguson…:

…and I bought early episodes of the Pat the NES Punk YouTube series on DVD along with Pat’s comprehensive 2016 book: Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library.

As with Leonard Herman’s Phoenix IV last year, I vowed to read the Guide to the NES Library after the expo. After reading a couple of preface pages on the Uber ride home on August 10, I held off on the rest of the book until 12 days later, August 22. I had another day of the expo, photos to edit, a recap to write, cousins to hang out with while they visited for a few days, and a photo editing project for a friend. In my downtime, I worked my way through the three sets of DVDs. As I neared the end of the third set, my photo editing project was complete, which meant I could finally commit to Pat’s guide.

Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library is as big as an educational textbook and just as heavy. It’s 437 glossy pages long, but the last five pages are a list of the book’s financial backers. So, I read two more preface pages, then moved on to the main 432.

The book chronicles each and every game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, from the numbered titles like 1942 and 8 Eyes to Zoda’s Revenge and Zombie Nation.

Pat is not alone in reviewing each game, as he is joined by Ian Ferguson, Asheton “Ashi” Phinney, Brett Weiss, Jim Evans, Joe Pingree, Karen Niemla, and Joey “Roo” DeSena.

Most pages are devoted to two games. An image from one of the two games is in the background while four images from each game are on the bottom. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, whether the game is licensed or unlicensed, availability (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 11 ratings ranging from bomb (“awful and/or broken”) to 2 1/2 stars (“average”) to 5 stars (“classic”). Below that is the review, which can be a few short sentences in medium type or several paragraphs in small type. Then the reviewer, identified by their initials (i.e. PC, IF, JD), will add their “reflections.”

The landmark titles get their own pages with additional images. Such titles include the three Super Mario Bros. games, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, the unlicensed Tengen version of Tetris, and Tecmo Super Bowl.

Following 387 pages of North American releases, the book concludes with PAL exclusive games, HES (Home Entertainment Suppliers) games, special and promo cartridges (i.e. Nintendo World Championships 1990), test cartridges, label variants, the NES console and its major accessories, supplemental articles, and images of unreleased games.

It took me 21 days to read 432 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library. Along the way, I kept a journal of how many pages I read each day. I started with 12, then 14, 18, 20, 24, and 50 and 53 pages on two of my last three days. For some games, I imagined certain public figures in my head reading in their voice. I thought of Bob Costas for baseball games, Mike “Doc” Emrick for hockey games, Ahmad Rashad for basketball ones, Jim Lampley for boxing, Liev Schreiber for football, David Feherty for golf, and even Matt Ezero for some games he evaluated in his LJN Defender videos. For reflections, in the case of Pat, Ian, and Roo, I imagined them reading for themselves.

When I wasn’t reading on the first 11 days, I finished Pat Contri’s DVDs, watched all ten episodes of The Video Game Years on Amazon Prime, and caught up on most of Pat’s non-podcast videos from 2012 to the present. That included all later Pat the NES Punk and Flea Market Madness episodes.

It was neat to read about games that I previously saw in Punk episodes, like Baseball Stars, Dance Aerobics, Sqoon, and Wall Street Kid. It was also satisfying to know that some games in my collection were uncommon, such as Wario’s Woods.

The tone of the book’s reviews range from clinical to overly critical. I was satisfied with all but three reviews: Tetris 2, Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, and Yoshi’s Cookie. I liked those games growing up, getting plenty of mileage out of them. I treated Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie as endurance tests, playing until a game over. For Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, I played solo, hitting select during the puzzle selection each round until I finally got a big one. That meant more money to win on the wheel. In …Guide to the NES Library, Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie were dismissed as lousy cash-ins. Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White was considered a step down from the Rare-developed games that preceded it. “Pat Sajak would not be pleased,” wrote Pat Contri in the reflections.

There were sporadic typos or word omissions, and (counting Console Wars author Blake Harris’s foreword) six instances of my pet peeve phrase “at the end of the day” (thank goodness there weren’t more), but ultimately, the book was a great read.

If you grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or you just want to learn about the console that revived the video game industry, buy this book, available for $59.99. You’ll love it. And when you’re finished with that, be sure to pre-order Pat’s next book, a Guide to the SNES Library, which will focus on the Super Nintendo’s games. It’s also available for $59.99, or you can buy the special edition for $79.99.

Lastly, there’s a $4.99 app called Ultimate Game Guide – on Android and iOS – which contains all NES games from all regions, as well as accessories and console variants. If you select a game, it includes the statistics and review from the book, though not the reflections. You can even keep track of the games you have in your collection, and go to Amazon or eBay to check listings for the ones you don’t.

11/13 UPDATE: The special edition of Pat’s Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch yesterday. I will begin reading today and will dedicate a post to it when I’m finished, likely sometime next month.

12/3 UPDATE: Here is that post.

Lisa Hilton at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall: 2019 edition January 12, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Animation, Blu-ray, Comedy, DVD, Hockey, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Politics, Sports, Travel, TV, Video Games, Weather.
5 comments

Previous Lisa Hilton recaps: June 2011January 2014January 2015January 2016, January 2018

Thursday night, for the fifth time in six years, I made my way to the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall to see jazz pianist Lisa Hilton perform.

Unlike last year, I didn’t leave the house early so I could eat dinner before arriving at Weill. I went about my typical Thursday routine, including eating a pasta dinner around 5:00. At 5:40, my mom drove me to the Wantagh LIRR station. It’s a good thing I chose to leave at that time because unbeknownst to me, the 5:59 train was moved up to 5:55 starting on Monday:

The other arrival times are unchanged.

It was cold and windy on the platform, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t there long.

The train arrived two minutes late, at least on clocks set to the official U.S. time:

Just like the snowy night I saw the Bob James Trio at the Blue Note, the Rangers and Islanders were playing each other. Then, the game was at Barclays Center, current home of the Islanders. This time, it was at Madison Square Garden. Thus, Rangers and Islanders fans were prevalent on the train. Ordinarily, I would have stayed on all the way to Penn Station, but getting to Carnegie Hall isn’t as direct as Blue Note. I could have taken the 1 train from Penn to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, but I would have to walk a few blocks south and east from there. In the afternoon, I consulted Google Maps to determine what subway line I should take instead of the 1. They suggested I exit at Woodside and take the 7 train to Queensboro Plaza, then transfer to the N or W trains to 57th Street and 7th Avenue. That’s what I did.

I arrived at Woodside at 6:46 and proceeded to the adjacent subway station:

I lost my sense of direction and stood in position for this Flushing-bound train:

I figured out where I was facing when the doors wouldn’t open on my side.

The correct 7 train arrived at 6:52:

12 minutes later, I stood in Queensboro Plaza:

Google Maps suggested the N train on the way and the W train going back. I ended up doing the opposite. The W train arrived before the N, two minutes after I got off the 7:

By 7:15, I was at 57th Street:

I took the southeast corner stairway:

The stairway faces south, so I had to turn north and then east:

It wasn’t long before I reached my destination:

Foolishly choosing the stairs over the elevator, I (somewhat) breathlessly arrived on the fourth floor and stood in the lobby until the hall doors were opened:

The audience was allowed in at 7:30.

After finding my front row not-quite-center seat, I took a few pictures of the stage, knowing I’d have to put the camera away until afterward:

A security guard reminded me there was no photography during the show, and I assured him I was only taking before and after. I know the rules and willingly play by them. (I didn’t tell him that.)

Lisa and her two bandmates walked on stage at 8:04. Yes, for the first time, this was a trio performance. Luques (“lu-KEZ”) Curtis was once again on acoustic bass with Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Mark alternated between sticks and brushes depending on the song.

The first nine songs were all from Lisa’s latest album, Oasis, released on December 7. The concept is similar to that of her previous album, Escapism: escaping the craziness of the real world. At the Oasis, you can take your mind off the political turmoil and extreme weather dominating the news. A case of extreme weather is the Woolsey fire in Southern California, which forced Lisa to evacuate her Malibu home. She eventually returned home to no damage, but others weren’t as fortunate.

I’m right-of-center politically, but I can’t stand politics’ insane tribalism. It’s our way or the highway, whether “our” is Republicans or Democrats. And don’t get me started on the politics of personal destruction. One wrong move will destroy your life. I also have a pessimistic view of my party’s chances in elections and I take hyperbole from left-leaning politicians and pundits personally.

Since late September, I have paid little attention to the news. I know what happened on November 6, and that my left-wing friends gloated triumphantly, but that’s mostly it. Some news comes to my attention by overhearing what someone is watching in another room, from newspapers on display at the supermarket if I fail to avert my gaze, or reading Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards at the end of episodes of his sitcoms. I keep my head buried in music, sports (but not sports debate or news magazines), documentaries, cartoons, sitcoms, tech reviews, and video game or console reviews and retrospectives. Ignorance is bliss.

I used to occasionally post political links or videos, such as for Prager University, on Facebook, but I stopped a year ago. Now, I don’t talk politics at all on any of my social media (I seldom did on Twitter since my account is public) or with family and friends, unless we agree. I’m a people-pleaser; I want to be everyone’s friend. I don’t want politics to come between us.

Lisa promised that the songs we were about to hear would be uplifting. There wouldn’t be any songs with titles like “F U Donald,” as John Scofield had with Combo 66 in November.

The set ran about 70 minutes. Here’s what Lisa Hilton’s trio played:
1.
Adventure Lands
This made me think of the times I went to the Adventureland amusement park in Farmingdale when I was growing up.

2. Oasis
Mark Whitfield Jr. provided a swing beat at times. At one point, I followed Luques Curtis’s fingers on the bass.

3. Twists of Fate
Lisa credited Count Basie and Thelonious Monk among her inspirations for this song.

4. Watercolor World

5. Vapors & Shadows (also on Horizons, 2015)
In a quiet moment, Mark lightly clacked the drums. Lisa and I seemed to lock eyes briefly.

6. Lazy Daisy
This brought to mind a hippie daisy floating downstream or lying in an inner tube in a water park lazy river, like the one at Splish Splash in Riverhead. That was another park I frequented growing up, but I haven’t been there in almost 20 years.

7. Just for Fun (also on In the Mood for Jazz, 2003; Nuance, 2010; and Getaway, 2013)
Lisa’s gliding up and down the keys made me laugh.

8. Sunshine States
There was a Latin flavor befitting the two Sunshine States, California (officially the Golden State) and Florida. It was reminiscent of Chick Corea, and the end felt like “Tequila” by The Champs, just as “Hot Summer Samba” did last year.

9. Sunday Morning (also on Midnight in Manhattan, 2006)

10. Waterfall (from Cocktails at Eight, 2000)

11. Meltdown (from Sunny Day Theory, 2008; later on Nuance, 2010; and Escapism, 2017)
This song is a comment on a hectic life, being driven to a meltdown or breakdown. It had a frantic, heavy metal-like pace, and also brought to mind boss music in a video game. There were occasionally staccato Morse Code-like notes.

12 (Encore). Zero Gravity (from Escapism, 2017)
Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I watched the fourth Futurama film, Into the Wild Green Yonder (2009), on Blu-ray. One of the special features involved series executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen talking about their recent Zero G flight. They and their fellow passengers, including Matt’s son Will, experienced periods of weightlessness.

As it turned out, no one else was seated in the front row, not even in the handicap seats. I could have moved, but chose not to.

1/18 UPDATE: Lisa posted a picture from the set (taken by photographer Ryan Nava) to Facebook, her website, and her newsletter last night:

Here’s the Facebook post, which ends with a link to her web post:

1/29 UPDATE: Lisa posted two more of Ryan Nava’s pictures to social media yesterday:

When the house lights went back up in Weill Recital Hall, and the audience began to leave, I said aloud, to no one in particular, that was a great show. Steve, who was seated one row behind me, agreed. I told him it was my fifth time, he said it was his first. We spoke a little more, then went our separate ways. I proceeded to the lobby to meet and greet Lisa and Luques. I didn’t see Mark, though. As I let other audience members talk to them for a while, I shared my enthusiasm with Adam and Vicki. Adam was seated a row or two behind me and told me he noticed that I was taking notes. I let him know it was for the recap you’re reading right now, and shared some of the notes with him. He was nice enough to take a picture of Lisa and me before I left:

I rightly took the elevator back down to the first floor.

By 9:46, I was back in the 57th Street subway station:

My N train for Queensboro Plaza arrived at 9:54:

Ten minutes later, I was among a massive throng of passengers (whom I didn’t photograph out of privacy) waiting to board the 7 train:

It took another ten minutes for that 7 train to arrive, and a couple more minutes before the doors were opened. I barely fit into the cramped car I walked into. There was little relief between stops as few people got off. Flushing was likely the majority destination.

The late arrival of the 7 train at Woodside meant I missed my LIRR train for Wantagh.

The good news is I would only have to wait about 20 minutes for the next Babylon-bound train:

The bad news is it was an express train that only stopped at Woodside, Jamaica, Valley Stream, and Freeport, with no other stops before Babylon. My dad was nice enough to drive 15 minutes out to Freeport to pick me up because I wasn’t about to wait until about 11:15 for a train that would stop at Wantagh.

After waiting upstairs out of the wind for 15 minutes, I proceeded to the track 4 platform and waited for my train:

Brrr! Each gust was tough to endure.

I was relieved to board the warm train at 10:47:

Once again, there were Rangers and Islanders fans aboard. And once again, the Islanders won. This time, 4-3. As a Rangers fan, this has been a tough season. (8:20 PM UPDATE: The game was part of a home-and-home. The Rangers won 2-1 at Barclays Center earlier today.)

The train was scheduled to arrive at Freeport by 11:15. Instead, it was there at 11:23. My railcar was a few blocks from where Dad was. Once inside his car, the drive back to Wantagh took 15 minutes, the same length it took to get to Freeport. Home sweet home.

Thank you to Lisa Hilton, Luques Curtis, and Mark Whitfield Jr. for the fifth great night of music in six years. (I couldn’t make it in 2017.) Thanks, as well, to Steve, Adam, and Vicki from the audience; and of course, to my parents for transportation to and from the train stations.

Guest reading at my old elementary school a fourth time March 5, 2018

Posted by Mike C. in Books, DVD, Education, Personal, Photography, TV, Video, Weather.
5 comments

Previous guest reading posts: 20152016, 2017

Friday was March 2, Dr. Seuss‘s birthday, which meant it was time to read his books at Leo F. Giblyn School in Freeport. It was my fourth year as a guest reader. I finally learned what this day is commonly known as: National Read Across America Day.

I read to seven classrooms and two remedial reading classes. For the latter, which were taught by my friend Lori Downing, I read Green Eggs and Ham. As the other seven classes, I read The LoraxIf I Ran the ZooHop on PopDr. Seuss’s Sleep BookMr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and Gerald McBoing Boing, the book that started my guest reading journey.

What separates me from other readers is I incorporate voice acting into my reading. I even take cartoon character requests. My throat grew scratchy after doing certain voices, but it was worth it to entertain the kids.

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book has a newscast tone, so I read it like a news anchor. For The Lorax and the end of Green Eggs and Ham, I based my delivery on the acting in the 1970s CBS specials. Green Eggs and Ham was part of Dr. Seuss on the Loose in 1973 while The Lorax was a full half hour the year before. I first saw them on VHS in the late ’80s and then again on DVD about a decade ago.

As I read, I had the teachers take candid pictures. I combined those, and one Lori took of me, into a collage:

While I was inside Giblyn, a nor’easter was raging outside. A mix of rain and snow fell as coastal flooding affected streets around the school, at least in the morning at high tide. I didn’t grasp how bad the storm was until riding home and then arriving home. A few small tree limbs were in the driveway while a bigger one fell in my neighbor’s backyard. Power went out twice around 3PM, based on my mother’s DVR recording of General Hospital and the time flashing on the stove clock.

I may not be able to guest read next year. My South Florida-based cousin is getting married on March 2. If that’s the case, I had a nice four-year run with so many great memories.

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.
1 comment so far

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…

2014 WCWP Hall of Fame Ceremony April 12, 2014

Posted by Mike C. in DVD, Interviews, Media, Music, News, Personal, Photography, Radio, Sports, Technology, TV, Video.
7 comments

Other Hall of Fame ceremony recaps: 2012, 20132015, 2017, 2018, 2019

Last Saturday, the WCWP Hall of Fame welcomed four new inductees in a ceremony in the Goldsmith Atrium at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.  This year’s inductees were Rita Sands, Frank D’Elia, Ted David, and the late Bill Epperhart.

You can see videos of the ceremony at the end, but first, the pictures:

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Pete Bellotti welcomed the audience shortly after 1PM:

Images from the intro video, voiced by Jim Cutler:
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The ceremony was hosted by Jeff Kroll:

Bill Mozer assumed the co-host position:
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Rita Sands could not make it to the ceremony, and instead pre-recorded an interview with Bernie Bernard:
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Bernie:

Bernie and Jeff posed with Rita’s plaque:

The second inductee of the day was Frank D’Elia:

The view from my camcorder:
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Frank receives his plaque:
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Like Rita, Ted David was unable to attend the ceremony.  But he did record an acceptance speech:
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Dan Cox, WCWP station manager, spoke next:
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Dan brought up ceremony audio engineer Zach Parker to share the news of a generous donation to WCWP by Zach’s father:
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Then, reflections of Bill Epperhart began.  Dan shared his memories first, then Frank, Bill Mozer, and Jeff joined in.

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Dan Epperhart, Bill’s son, accepted his father’s plaque:
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And gave an eloquent, emotional speech:
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Then, Jeff Kroll and Bill Mozer tossed to other alumni in the audience to share their memories:
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Phil Lebowitz was first:

Then, Mike Phillips:

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Neil Marks:
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Bruce Leonard:

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Roberta Epperhart O’Neil, widow of Bill’s brother Mike:

Pete Vogel, Bill’s cousin:

The last stroll down memory was provided by Jay Elzweig:
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Jeff wrapped it up:

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The only thing left to do was pose for pictures:
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Ceremony Part 1:

Ceremony Part 2:

As you can see, this year’s WCWP Hall of Fame Ceremony ended up running for a little over two hours.  Memories were shared and praise was heaped.  It was a day I won’t soon forget.  Congratulations to Rita Sands, Frank D’Elia, Ted David, and Bill Epperhart.

My Sandy experience November 10, 2012

Posted by Mike C. in Audiobooks, DVD, Health, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, News, Personal, Photography, Radio, Sports, Travel, TV, Weather.
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The nightmare known as Hurricane (or Superstorm) Sandy was thrust upon my attention on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 24, hours before seeing pianist David Benoit perform at the Iridium Jazz Club. The first report I read about the storm had a few scenarios, which included turning east out to sea and taking a sharp westerly turn toward the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S and combine with an approaching cold front. By the second report, the latter scenario became more likely. With each passing report until it made landfall in South New Jersey on the evening of October 29, more and more models showed that worst case scenario. And with each passing report, I grew more and more paranoid and fearful of what would happen.

Sandy was so large that its effects were first felt through cloud cover on Saturday, October 27. The following day, October 28, showers and minor wind gusts began.  I couldn’t stand hearing the wind plowing into the windows and wall from my Wantagh home’s east-facing bedroom. So, I slept in the basement that night.

When I woke up early on October 29, the worst still hadn’t arrived, but the wind was still strong, around 30 miles per hour with gusts in the 50s. Somehow, the power did not go out during the morning. But by 1:30 PM, the power began to flicker off and on. And at 1:45, the power went out to stay and wouldn’t return until nine days later. As the wind continued to howl upstairs, now approaching sustained winds of 45 mph with gusts to 60, back in the basement, I used my Sennheiser studio headphones to listen to audiobooks on my CD-playing Walkman. But spoken words were unable to completely drown out the sound of wind. So, rather than waste battery power on my iPod, I used the Walkman, which runs on AA batteries, to listen to music. I took two pairs of CDs that I used for my two recent WCWP Homecoming Weekend shows and a dozen albums. When I wasn’t listening to news radio for the latest on Sandy, or sports radio to forget about Sandy, I was listening to my CDs.

My parents, sister, and I were prepared with plenty of bottled water, bags of food, canned goods, AA batteries, C batteries, D batteries, and a generator. We didn’t use the generator until after the height of Sandy, which came around 8PM, shortly after it transitioned to a post-tropical cyclone. As the worst winds pummeled the house, gusting as high as 85 mph, we congregated in the living room where an extension cord ran from the generator in the back yard to the middle of the room. There, I plugged in a power strip and we plugged in a table lamp for light, and all our rechargeable electronics.  For a little while, we watched DVDs on my sister’s laptop. After a couple of hours, my dad turned the generator off and we all went to sleep. I returned to the basement for that.

Outside of a tree falling in my next-block neighbor’s back yard, two shingles falling off our roof, a toppled-over garbage pail on the side of the house, and branches and leaves on the grass, I was clueless as to the extent of damage in my area. But a tree fell a block east of our house, which is why our power went out, and a few trees fell one block north and west.

At around 11AM on October 30, I walked around the exterior of my house to take aftermath pictures.

I began at my front patio, worked my way around the house, and then to the curb:

The pails on the west side of the house:

I fixed the pail that blew over about half an hour before taking pictures.

The container that covered the gas cans for generator fuel blew off:

When the power strip wasn’t connected to the extension cord, either the microwave or coffee maker were plugged in.

I turned this table upside down on Sunday and removed the tiles, stacking them on the ground near the wall:

The tile-less table was moved slightly by the high winds.

There had been a tree in the center of this empty space:

Part of it fell into our back yard:

Or it may have been from this tree which fell at around 6:00 the night before:

I was in the basement listening to a CD on my Walkman and could hear my dad in the kitchen saying “Tree down!”

You can barely see a tree down up the road to the east:

To the west, a utility poll was slanted (not visible in pic):

A week later, my sister took the following pictures on our street from east to west:

But the absolute worst hit areas were waterfront communities. Main floors and basements were destroyed. House and building fires that started after flooding began couldn’t be contained and had to burn out. Knowing all this gave me survivor guilt. I felt guilty that my house was hardly damaged and all I lost was power, while my friends in places like South Freeport, Baldwin Harbor, Island Park, Long Beach, Lido Beach, and Massapequa lost everything that wasn’t on the second floor or higher. The Rockaways and Staten Island were hit just as hard.

An example of how hard Freeport was hit can be seen in this video of damage to the Nautical Mile (Woodcleft Avenue), via The Weekly Freeporter YouTube channel:

Guilt aside, I developed cabin fever after two days at my powerless house (outside of generated power). So, on the night of Halloween, after riding out Tuesday night in my increasingly cold bedroom, I made the trip to a family friend’s house in Rockville Centre (power had just returned after only two days). I went on to spend the next week there while power was out at home. Of all the times for power to come back, on the afternoon of November 7, it was as a wet snow-producing nor’easter began to affect the Northeast. But unlike Sandy, the center of this nor’easter was far offshore and the winds were not very strong on Western Long Island. Somehow, the wet snow bent but did not break tree limbs and it gradually melted or fell off the following day.

While power returned on November 7, cable did not come back until two days later.

After experiencing the March 2010 Nor’easter, Irene, and now Sandy, I can only hope that it’s a very long time before another major storm of Sandy’s magnitude hits the East Coast.

We’ll conclude this post with a few pictures in Rockville Centre on November 7 as snow began to accumulate…

…and a picture on November 8, hours after shoveling the driveway at home:

Also:
Laura Donovan: The Domino Effect Of Hurricane Sandy: Why One Natural Disaster Changed Everything For Me (dead link as of 10/29/18)
Peter Hoare: How Hurricane Sandy Ravaged My Town (Long Beach)

11/13 UPDATE: Yesterday, I walked my street from east to west to get a close look at the cut-up downed trees, and the damage caused by them:

As I took this last shot, Town of Hempstead sanitation trucks were making their way up the street to remove debris:

Irene, Five Days in Freeport September 8, 2011

Posted by Mike C. in Comedy, DVD, Internet, Jazz, Media, Music, News, Personal, Photography, Radio, Technology, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
6 comments

After 26 years of barely missing hurricanes, or at least direct hits, Long Island’s luck ran out last weekend.

On a Friday afternoon, September 27, 1985, Hurricane Gloria, a fast-moving Category 2, made landfall near Long Beach.  25 years and 11 months later, it was Irene’s turn.  Though Hurricane Irene was barely a Category 1 when it made landfall on Coney Island last Sunday morning (immediately weakening to a tropical storm), it wasn’t moving as fast as Gloria and it came during high tide rather than low tide.  The south shore of Long Island got pounded.  Over 500,000 Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) customers, including myself, were without power at the height of the storm.  Either giant limbs or uprooted trees fell on power lines or transformers caught fire.  I lost power at 1:30 AM Sunday because of the latter.  (Also, the sub-station in Plainedge that we were linked to was badly damaged.)

I prepared my bedroom for the worst by covering up some belongings, including CDs, and putting them on the floor:

I spent Saturday night and much of Sunday in the basement and on the main floor, only going to the top floor in the afternoon to take a [cold!] shower.  While preparing my room on Saturday, I found a lucky rabbit’s foot.  I kept it close by or in my shorts pocket.

I don’t know if the rabbit’s foot was the cause, but our house was spared.  The only damage for us was smaller branches and twigs, and leaves falling around the house.  I took these pictures Monday morning in the front and back yards under a partly-to-mostly sunny sky:

I put everything I had put on the floor back where they were before on Sunday night.  This picture was also taken Monday morning:

More pics from Monday near my house:

I stayed home without power until Monday afternoon when a family friend in Freeport was nice enough to let me stay with them until power was restored at my house.  Villages like Freeport that have their own utilities didn’t lose power for long.  If only that were the case for LIPA customers.  Some didn’t get it back until early this week.  I got it back 3:30 PM Friday.  The family friend was without FiOS (for reasons I won’t get into), so I was stuck with radio, wireless internet (on my laptop), and mobile web (on my cell phone).  I also passed the time by going for walks, listening to music on my iPod, and playing video games.  I hadn’t played Game Boy or Game Boy Advance games in ages until last week.  I brought my camera on one of those walks and stopped by my late grandparents’ old house and Cow Meadow Park (swatting mosquitoes along the way):

Before getting to the old house and Cow Meadow, I saw a sad sight walking up the block where the friend lives.  Curbs on both sides of the street had flood-damaged carpeting, couches, and appliances waiting to be picked up.  I used to live in southwest Freeport.  So, I know what it’s like to get flooding from the bay in the bottom floor of the house.  I got that during the aforementioned Gloria, and Nor’easters in December 1992 and March 1993.  Within months of those last two storms, I had moved to a part of Wantagh that’s a few miles inland.

Back at the friend’s house, she had the complete run of I Love Lucy on DVD.  I got into that show years ago when it was on Nick at Nite.  My love for it was rekindled.  I watched the latter seasons while the friend had them on.

The ride home late Friday afternoon was great.  I knew I’d be returning home to electricity and cable, albeit with an empty refrigerator.  Before leaving, I thanked the family friend for putting up with me for five days.  I returned the favor this Tuesday when I stayed at her house while she was at work to be present for a Cablevision technician to install their services–iO, Optimum Online, Optimum Voice–in place of Verizon’s–phone, FiOS internet, FiOS TV.

Three footnotes:
1. As I type this post, Hurricane Katia is about to turn northeast and move away from the U.S. East Coast.  Good.
2. There were plenty of columns and blog posts in Irene’s aftermath that downplayed the storm and/or reprimanding the media for overhyping it.  Many media did overhype it, but damage is damage.  Downed trees are nothing compared to massive flo0ding, whether from storm surge or rivers overflowing from nonstop rain.  Residents of New Jersey, Eastern New York State, and Vermont are among those that got the latter.  And the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in the last few days have only added to the flooding.
3. I stumbled upon a blog post that offers the Washington, D.C. area perspective.  It’s written by freelance writer Kristine Meldrum Denholm: How I’ve dodged the demise of the east coast, part II: Goodnight, Irene.  There was minimal damage in her neighborhood and she never lost power.  Kristine is not alone.  My neighbors two houses to the west of me never lost power, neither did my piano teacher in Freeport.
4. Yet another link: Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean summed up Irene at her blog last Monday.

9/27 UPDATE: It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will mark one month since Irene made landfall here.  And as I noted at the top, Hurricane Gloria whizzed (compared to the slower Irene) through Long Island 26 years ago today.  Since I wrote this post a few weeks ago, a few more Atlantic tropical cyclones have formed and none have directly impacted the U.S.  (Knock on wood.)  In checking the August archives at the website Johnny Dollar’s Place, I found an interview John Gibson did with Janice Dean on his Fox News Radio show.  It took place on August 29, the day after landfall:

12/30 UPDATE: Irene was the #1 tri-state area news story in WCBS 880’s countdown of the top 11 stories of 2011:

… But Sunday morning, August 28, we knew the caution was called for.

Irene swept ashore in Brigantine, battered New Jersey, then crossed Coney Island at 9 a.m. on a path for New England.

Throughout its path, Irene caused widespread destruction, left millions without power and killed 56 people.

“We are now into day three of no electricity for hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders,” reported WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. …

Even with all that Irene turned out not to have been a hurricane when it hit our area.

Okay, fine, it wasn’t a hurricane.  It was Tropical Storm Irene.  It might as well have been a category 1 hurricane because it moved slow enough to cause the same amount of damage.

You can read and listen to the rest here.

Home video projects July 1, 2011

Posted by Mike C. in DVD, Personal, Video.
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Last Fall, I captured old home videos of mine to my computer through Windows Movie Maker as AVI files.  The videos were shot between 1994 and 2007.  Unfortunately, WMM captures AVIs with 32 kHz audio rather than 48.  So, for the last week and a half, I’ve been re-rendering those AVI files in the 48 kHz format.  It’s a good thing I have Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 (yes, a long name).  I went through each of the 30 VHS tapes, 40 VHS-C masters, and 12 MiniDV masters one at a time.  I imported them into Vegas, Vegas built a 48 kHz audio proxy, I normalized the audio, and rendered.  That took me from last Tuesday through this Monday.  I didn’t stop there.  I captured many MiniDV tapes that I didn’t officially consider home videos.  This included:

  • Video of my late chocolate lab Cocoa
  • A final project I made for a video production class in my last semester at C.W. Post
  • Raw video (most not used) of my senior project, a documentary interview with Joe Falco, a now-retired FDNY firefighter who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center’s South Tower
  • The finished senior project
  • An updated version of the senior project that I made two years after graduating
  • Converted VHS tapes of car video brochures between 1994 and 1998 (I was obsessed with cars at the time and collected printed and video brochures.)

As I write this post, I’m preparing DVDs of my late grandparents’ home movies that I remastered last Fall.  The program I’m using is Sony DVD Architect Studio 5, which came with Vegas 10.