Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I could really go for some Todd Rundgren tonight!

For the first time in a few weeks, I'm going to a concert. This time, it's the Philly tandem of Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. Now, I bought these tickets months ago because Tears for Fears were the original co-headliners with H & O. However, TFF dropped out and Todd replaced Roland & Curt on the bill, which was fine with me.

Todd (OK...he's actually from Upper Darby, PA...it's close enough to Philly) is one of my earliest musical heros and I consider songs like "Hello It's Me" and "I Saw the Light" from the classic 1972 "Something/Anything" LP as links between my childhood -- when I would hear the songs constantly on the radio -- and emotions I would feel later in life.

Hall & Oates? Well, I liked them back in the day, but not so much now. If they play "the hits," as my friend Katie likes to say, it will be fun. I don't want to hear an hour or so of stuff from their latest CD. Play "Rich Girl," "You Make My Dreams," and "Private Eyes" and I'll be happy.

Speaking of being happy, I would be if Todd could break out "Secret Society" tonight. I just love that song.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Another reason to hate Katrina & The Waves

Well, it looks like Hurricane Katrina is going to devastate New Orleans. I know there are some people who don't have the means to evacuate because of age, health, lack of transportation, etc. However, if they want to guarantee their survival, they really need to find some way to get out of New Orleans because it is not going to be pretty once Katrina hits.

What also isn't pretty are these weekend anchors on CNN, FOX News, etc. I swear the guy at the anchor desk on CNN started screaming like Loud Larry from Dilbert a few minutes ago. And somebody on FOX News just blamed the Democrats for Hurricane Katrina...OK...that didn't happen...yet.

Meanwhile, I think I saw people in the background on The Weather Channel celebrating that people are actually watching them (yeah, that also didn't happen).

Really, though, I better not see one reporter in New Orleans tomorrow holding on for dear life as the water rushes into the city. I know this is news and I understand that this event will need to be documented, but I don't need a reporter on the scene to tell me that New Orleans is getting hammered. Just set up a few cameras, have them send live feeds back to the network and use that footage for as long as it lasts.

Here is the 5-day projected path of Katrina from the NOAA's National Hurricane Center:

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I think I have a special "Rent" edition iPod

OK...I know my iPod is in its twilight years (i.e., 2 years old) and it has done some strange things in the past. However, I'm not sure what it is trying to tell me with its latest quirk.

I could be listening to any song in any playlist, or -- as I just found out -- not playing anything, and my iPod will suddenly switch to a random selection from my playlist of songs from the musical "Rent."

I am trying to tell myself that some "Rentheads," in an attempt to promote the film adaptation of the musical coming out later this year, somehow hacked the latest iPod update and attached some code so that iPods will jump to songs from "Rent," if they exist on any given iPod.

Yes, I know this isn't the case...but I am just trying provide myself with some kind of rational explanation...even if it doesn't make sense...you know...kind of like religion.

Ooh, I just know I'm going to regret writing that.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A picture says a thousand words

This is priceless. I don't even need to say anything about this picture...it pretty much says for itself all you need to know about "Red Staters"...and fans of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Of course, the guy could be referring to the family of former Phillies minor leaguer Javon Moran.

Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo...

The London Zoo has opened a new exhibit...which, as you can see in the image to your right, features humans.

According to this AFP story, "The 'Human Zoo' is intended to show the basic nature of human beings as they frolic throughout the August bank holiday weekend."

OK...maybe my dream of someday moving to London isn't the greatest idea.

I wonder if Larry Kittkill from The Simpsons is behind all of this.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What the heck is going on in Utah?

Thanks to Mike Doughty's blog, I have been reading about what appears to be police –- including a SWAT team –- acting way out of line in busting up an Aug. 20 outdoor rave party in Utah's Spanish Fork Canyon.

It's hard to say from here if the police acted properly or not. But considering the police knew this was a rave party, I have a hard time believing that there was a need for a fully-armed SWAT team to carry out a raid that looked more organized than the ATF's assault on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Yes, I am sure there were illegal activities going on at the rave, but the officers in this video of the raid seem to have more weaponry and body armor than the typical soldier fighting in Iraq.

Although he is clearly on the side of the partygoers and the promoters, this guy has posted his observations of the incident along with links to the police report and local news coverage to provide a little bit of balance.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Yo ho, yo ho...a pirate's life for me?

I found out Friday that I'm nearing corneal transplant stage regarding my long-time eye condition, keratoconus. If you were too lazy to click on the link, keratoconus is a thinning of the cornea that results in a cone-shaped bulge...and, of course, vision problems.

My doctor thinks I can go as long as my left contact lens stays in my eye (oh, keratoconus sufferers need to wear hard contact lenses...the most evil things in the universe). But if the steepening of my left cornea gets to the point where it won't let the contact lens stay in at all or the lens causes constant pain, I'm going to have to get the surgery.

Now, there are apparently a couple of things being tested as an alternative to corneal transplant surgery for those afflicted with keratoconus. However, even if these procedures are approved by the time the surgery becomes necessary for me, there is a risk with these that something could go wrong and result in blindness. But, as I see it, the same risk applies to a transplant...and these potential future surgical options leave out the additional risk of a rejection to a transplanted cornea.

So I'm hoping that one of these alternative methods is ready when/if I need the surgery.

Otherwise, I may just choose to put a patch over my left eye and become Johnny Depp...I mean, a pirate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Another first for me!

For two years, I attended Brick Township (NJ) High School at the same time as veteran National Hockey League center Jim Dowd. Even though Dowd played for the hated New Jersey Devils and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1995, I have always rooted for him as a player since -- by all accounts -- he's a good guy...and I went to high school with him.

Well, since the NHL lockout ended, I hadn't heard if Dowd had signed with a new team (he played 20 games for the Hamburg Freezers in Germany during the lockout and played for the Montreal Canadiens during the most recent NHL season). So I Google "Jim Dowd" and see on his Wikipedia entry that he signed with the Atlanta Thrashers on August 5, 2005. I check the Thrashers' site and don't see him listed on the roster or in any recent news releases. I then did a Google News search and found an article from the Asbury Park Press saying Dowd signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

I then took it upon myself to edit Jim Dowd's Wikipedia entry and replace "Atlanta Thrashers" with "Chicago Blackhawks." It was my first time editing a Wikipedia page...how fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Phillies memory from 24 years ago

I was at good ol' Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on Aug. 10, 1981, when Pete Rose led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single through the hole between third base and shortstop off St. Louis Cardinals right-handed reliever Mark Littel.

The single gave Rose 3,631 hits for his career, passing Cardinals legend Stan Musial (congratulating Rose in the picture) to become the all-time National League hits leader. I will remember that night for as long I live.

In fact, I already remember it better than Pete himself. During a family trip to Florida in 1993, we were driving down to Miami for a Phillies-Marlins game that night (it was the Marlins' inaugural season and the Phils were on their way to a NL title that year). On the way down, we decided to look for the restaurant Pete Rose had opened in Boca Raton. After going the wrong way for about an hour, we finally decided to backtrack and it turned out it was less than five minutes from the highway going the other direction.

Anyway, we get there and it turns out Pete's place is running a bus trip down to the game that night. There were still some tickets left so we just took the bus from there.

There were still a few hours before the bus left, though, so we ate there. Now, in those days, Pete was doing a radio show from the restaurant and would hang around with the crowd before going on the air. He came out just as we were finishing eating and my dad was telling me to go up to him and at least shake his hand.

Now, Pete was my favorite baseball player when I was a kid and I still respect how he played the game (I'm not going to get into the gambling stuff because I just don't have the time). But there people approaching him and I just didn't feel right about joining in. So I went to play some video games instead (his place had a pretty decent arcade section).

About 10 minutes later, I was on some game that required you to sit on a fake motorcycle. Suddenly, my dad yanks me off the faux bike and tells me, "I've told Pete all about you and he wants to meet you."


So now I am forced into meeting Pete Rose. My dad goes up to him and says, "Pete, this is my son, Brian, the one I was telling you about." I shake Pete's hand and I said something like, "Wow! You know, whenever I played baseball as a kid, I insisted on wearing No. 14." My dad then mentioned he had to pull me away from the video games and Pete jokingly (well, that's what I thought at the time) said, "Oh, get back over there. Those things make me a lot of money!"

However, I stayed and said, "We were at the game when you broke Stan Musial's National League hit record."

Pete replied, "Oh yeah, that was the last game before the strike," referring to that year's players' strike, which started following the completion of all games played June 11, 1981. Baseball resumed Aug. 10, with the Cardinals-Phillies matchup the nationally broadcast Monday Night Baseball game on ABC (yes, there used to be such a thing for the younger set that reads this blog).

Now, here is where things got weird. Pete had always been known as a walking baseball encyclopedia, but I guess time and everything he had gone through were starting to take its toll. However, my memory was working perfectly fine.

So I said, "No...it was the first game back from the strike. You tied Musial with a first-inning single off Nolan Ryan in the last game before the strike (June 10, 1981)...and then he struck you out three times."

Pete was stunned I remembered that and said something like, "Oh yeah, that's right. I don't know how I got that hit off Ryan. He was dealin' that night."

All that aside, it turned out to be a really cool moment in my life (thanks, dad, for pulling me off the motorcycle) and I have a picture of me and Pete that I will try to get around to scanning so I can add it to this post (and get rid of the one I "borrowed" from some memorabilia site).

Oh, T.O. Why must you be this way?

I was such a huge fan of Terrell Owens last year...now, I am just sick of his antics. Here is the latest in the T.O. vs. Eagles saga.

Why must it hurt so much to be a Philly sports fan?

A missed opportunity

When longtime ABC News anchor Peter Jennings passed away from lung cancer Sunday night, it was a huge loss for the journalistic community. However, at another level, Jennings' death turned out to a tremendous missed opportunity for my alma mater and employer, Rider University.

While talking Monday morning to my colleagues about Jennings' passing (he and my boss shared Canadian roots), it was mentioned that Rider bestowed upon Jennings an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1968. That inspired a Google search for the terms "Peter Jennings" and "Rider."

One of the results was Jennings' entry on Wikipedia, which contained this passage:

Although a member of the class of '57, Peter left in 1955 to pursue broadcasting. Jennings also attended Carleton University, University of Ottawa, and Rider College in New Jersey. He never graduated from high school or college, preferring to begin his radio career.

I shared this with my boss that afternoon and she called some people to check on it. Sure enough, iconic ABC news anchor Peter Jennings took classes at Rider and NOBODY EVER MENTIONED IT to the alumni relations, public relations and publications offices. Obviously, if Rider had maintained a relationship with Jennings, it may have been been beneficial to the university from a financial standpoint...it just feels wrong to talk about that part now.

[UPDATE: OK...after talking with somebody who is basically the historian of Rider, it turns out Jennings most likely DID NOT take classes at Rider...but the fact that this degree was bestowed upon Jennings -- a high-school dropout -- in 1968 makes it very likely the Rider degree was the FIRST Jennings ever received.]

However, there are a number other examples where Rider missed out here. For starters, how great would it have been if Jennings came back to campus to speak to the communication majors (as a Rider journalism grad, I definitely would have enjoyed it)? Also, since I work on Rider's alumni magazine, it would have been an honor to have had the chance to talk with him, or at least meet him for a feature on Jennings' brief time as a Rider student (I'm sure my boss would have assigned herself that story...but she wouldn't have stopped me from tagging along).

But now Jennings is gone and so is the chance for Rider to reconnect with him. Here was this man that so many people turned to for so many years...and Rider somehow turned away. Sure, maybe Jennings wouldn't have had time for Rider in his life. The shame is that we will never know.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

In Brooklyn for Ben

The Prospect Park bandshell & stage.
The stage at Brooklyn's Prospect Park
Originally uploaded by rubronc014.

Well, Thursday was an eventful day...around 2 p.m., I learned that I am no longer a part-time employee of The Sports Network...long story, which I won't share here.

I felt bad about what happened, but a good ol' Ben Folds show Thursday night in Brooklyn's Prospect Park really hit the spot. Unfortunately, the train to Newark, NJ, ran late and I didn't get to Katie's apartment in Lower Manhattan until about 6:30 p.m. We took the subway to Brooklyn (took the 2 up to 14th St. and switched to the Brooklyn-bound F train, which lets you off at a station just a couple of blocks from the park's bandshell...oh, Katie and I saw our first NYC subway rat while waiting for the F train...very memorable moment) and didn't get to the park until after opener Ben Lee performed. I would have liked to have seen him, but it just didn't work out.

So we got on the ridiculously long food line, but what was good about it is that there really was no gouging going on. A hot dog was $2 and a bottled water or Snapple was $2 so that was cool of the nice people of Prospect Park. Rufus Wainwright was next with his hour or so set, which was entertaining. I like Rufus as a songwriter, but he can be rather depressing...and I was already somewhat depressed by The Sports Network stuff. Well, some of the set was down, but he did a fair number of "up" tracks so that was nice.

Ben Folds came on last and it was evident a few measures into "Bastard" that something was a bit off. Well, Ben revealed that he woke up that morning with laryngitis, but that there was "no way (he) was going to cancel a New York show." So he pressed on with his set...what a trooper! Even though he still sounded fine except for a few vocal parts he couldn't reach and a few missed notes on the piano (which I'm chalking up to the laryngitis throwing Ben off his game a bit), Ben must have felt bad about his sub-par performance and said, "You know what? I'm coming back to New York later this year to play Radio City Music Hall and I'll play a shit-load of songs that night." He threw in the comment "I'll play for three hours," a promise of which Katie and I will remind him when that night comes (I'm hoping that Radio City show includes some classics like "Jackson Cannery," "Where's Summer B.?" and "Alice Childress").

At one point, since his voice was so shot, Ben decided to do a Tom Waits-inspired jazz improv thing midway through the show...very cool.

The fun part of the evening was when Ben shot scenes for the "Bastard" video. The premise of the video apparently will have Ben going on his 25th anniversary comeback tour...as a metal act. Some Spinal Tap-looking guys came out and pretended to be Ben's band while the audience did its best impersonation of the crowd in Motley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home" video...just without the breast flashing ;-)

Watch the short video I took of Ben with his "reunion metal band."

Ben left the stage after "One Angry Dwarf..." and some of the house lights came on, but it became apparent Ben was going to soldier on and come out for one more song. After a few minutes, Ben appeared on stage alone and proceeded to perform "Underground" with the crowd helping him along with the vocal parts with which he was struggling.

Ben's set list:

Consider You Gone
Zak and Sara
You To Thank
Still Fighting It
Jazz Improv feat. Ben's new "Tom Waits voice"
All U Can Eat
Bitches Ain't Shit
(Video Shoot)
Not the Same
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces

Underground (Ben solo)

Of course, thanks to a "police action" on the PATH lines, I missed the 12:59 a.m. train back to Hamilton, NJ, out of Newark Penn Station and had to sit around there for almost an hour for the next one. As a result, I didn't get home until nearly 4 a.m.

Hopefully, that won't happen Monday night when I return to the city to see Toad the Wet Sprocket's Glen Phillips and Marc Broussard at Webster Hall.

I'm so glad Katie (I won't even say what she was doing in that picture) is back on the East Coast...she's been in NYC for less than a month and -- after Monday -- we will have already been to a Carson Daly taping and three live shows!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

No sleep 'til Brooklyn!

Well, I hope that's not the case, but Thursday night Katie and I are going to see Ben Folds & Rufus Wainwright with Ben Lee at Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

And then we have another show on Monday night at Webster Hall in NYC. That one features Marc Broussard with Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket).

I love a good live show! I'll try to get some good pics in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I love screwy AP headlines...

...like this one (of course, AP will probably notice it and fix it):

NJ.com: NewsFlash: "Philly exibit salutes 'Mavericks of Color'"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

BitTorrent: A legit movie distributor?

Dawn C. Chmielewski of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Bram Cohen, the author of the popular file-sharing application known as BitTorrent, is meeting with Hollywood film studios in hopes of legitimately distributing major motion pictures using BT's technology. Yes, you would have to pay to download a film, but the BT distribution model is about as good as you are going to get at this point in time.

For those who don't know about BitTorrent, what sets it apart from peer-to-peer, file-sharing apps like the original Napster and Limewire is that instead of downloading one file from someone else's computer on the service's network, BT breaks the file apart and allows you to grab different these segments of the file from anywhere on the network to speed up the download. Basically, the more popular a file, the faster the download. A better explanation can be found on BitTorrent's introduction page.

I used BT to download the entire 2005 season of "Doctor Who," which was the only way I was able to watch it since no U.S. network bothered to buy the broadcast rights : (

Anyway, I love the promise of BitTorrent and I hope the movie industry figures out a way to embrace the technology that will be beneficial to all parties involved.

BitTorrent moving uptown

Monday, August 01, 2005

I hope I'm wrong...

...but I don't think I like where this is going:

UPDATE (8/3/05; 9:30 a.m. ET): Well, the repair job was a success. Now, we just need Discovery to get home safely.

NASA to conduct spacewalk to mend shuttle

8/1/2005, 7:34 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

This image taken by the crew of the International Space Station shows the space shuttle Discovery on July 28. Discovery's commander said that the shuttle's crew had been surprised and disappointed to find that NASA had not ended the foam debris problem.(AFP/NASA)<br />SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) — NASA announced Monday that an astronaut will perform a spacewalk to fix two worrisome pieces of filler material protruding from Discovery's belly — a high-stakes operation to repair a problem that could threaten the shuttle during re-entry...

...it will be a largely unrehearsed operation, with the risk that the astronauts might accidentally damage Discovery's fragile thermal shield and make matters worse.

This image released by NASA Thursday, July 28, 2005, shows a protruding gap filler and title damage on the underside of the space shuttle Discovery. (AP Photo/NASA)"The biggest thing that everybody's concerned about is doing no harm," said Mission Control spacewalk officer Cindy Begley.

Nevertheless, she said she was not overly concerned about the potential repair.

"It's not actually that bad," she said. All spacewalks are risky, she said, adding, "It's just new stuff we've never done before."

Before space shuttle Discovery took off on this mission, I told people I had a bad feeling another disaster might take place...I'm starting to think it might actually happen.

Again, I hope I am wrong.

Hmm...here's something interesting from NASA...Gap Filler Repair Techniques

I was podcasting and didn't even know it

I was changing my photo on my OurMedia.org music site when I noticed a pair of buttons under the listing of media files I have on the site. One button said "XML" and other said "mRSS."

Now, I had seen the XML button for the blog part of the site, but I had never noticed the feed option for the media section. This means after talking about trying to get a podcast going for months, it turns out I already had one through the OurMedia site. Granted, it was only the three songs on the site, but anybody who subscribed to the feed using the XML or mRSS buttons was able to download those songs as podcasts.

So if anyone is interested in subscribing to my podcast, just follow the instructions of your podcast client (i.e., iPodder, the latest version of iTunes) and subscribe to the feed using the URL http://www.ourmedia.org/mediarss/user/4764.

And that's it...whenever I upload media to the site, it will be downloaded automatically by your podcast client.

So now I'm thinking of coming up with a format for a 20-minute program to publish on the site. I would like to do something that focuses on art and technology since most of my friends dabble in both. It would be easier to get ideas and, hopefully, guests ;-)

Sigh...now, I just need some time to develop the concept into an actual show. Oh well, hopefully, the issue of Rider University magazine now in production doesn't hang over my head for too long and I can get working on a treatment for the podcast.