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Senior Soup: Part 2 ????????

Photo Montage © 2009 Cassie Melnikow

In my previous cruise post I talked about my vacation experience aboard the Carnival Triumph. Now I’ll do a super-ultra-quick recap of how I spent my time ashore! Finally, I will reveal the meaning behind the mysterious blog names. Be afraid!

  1. Boston, MA – I’d only been to Boston for about 6 hours while participating in a CMS (called Ektron) training session in nearby Nashua, NH. One night my coworker and I drove into Boston and watched a Red Sox playoff game in a bar near Faneuil Hall. We dared each other to loudly root for the other team but chickened out.

    Anyway, maybe Boston is really small but that exact same area was where Cassie and I ended up. We grabbed some beers with locals who were rooting for the Patriots this time and then decided to walk the Freedom Trail. We saw a lot of old, historical buildings but were surprised at how quiet the town was. It was Sunday night around 7pm and the entire area around Boston Common. Who knows if this was a result of blue laws or the football game but it was totally lame so we didn’t stick around too long.

  2. Portland, ME – Our second stop was in this quaint little port town (an accurate description for remainder of our stops) in Maine. There weren’t a whole lot of activities to do and we had elected to stay away from all the expensive excursions so we toured the nearby Victorian Mansion – a painstakingly recreated house from the 1860’s, complete with 90% authentic decoration and furniture. It actually was a whole lot more interesting than I thought even though our tour guide gave us the warp speed tour to get us the hell out of there. While we strolled around the downtown area we managed to find the two addicts in the whole town getting into a fight. It was almost cute coming from our New York experiences.

    Then, with a little help from my iPhone Maps App, we stumbled upon The Great Lost Bear. Cassie had discovered this out-of-the-way pub on one of her pre-cruise research studies and it really paid off. They had a huge selection of local and foreign brews plus great food. They’ve won some serious awards from some very prestigious magazines and there’s a definite reason why. The place was damn good! We stayed for 3 hours and you can see how drunk I was by the time we left (pictured above).

    They even had a Schlitz – some disgusting beer that my dad has a plaque of hanging in his mancave. I’m sure the thing removed the first layer of my stomach wall it was so foul (hell, they’re owned by the makers of the even worse Pabst Blue Ribbon swill). But I manned up and downed all 16 oz (the waitress refused to give me anything smaller). With our ship leaving in 10 minutes, we hurried our asses back and said goodbye to America’s Vactionland.

  3. St. John, NB, Canada – We got up super butt late for once and didn’t have as much time to discover our next town as we had afforded for both Boston and Portland, but it didn’t matter since this town sucked. All they had was something called a Reversing Falls (which took us an hour to walk to). By the time we got back we were exhausted and hungry so we casually sat down at a little place called Grannan’s Seafood Restaurant overlooking our port.

    … and had the best seafood of my life! Holy shit! We stayed for two hours drinking the local beer and eating anything they had that used to live in water. When the weather finally started to get nasty (as it had promised for our entire trip) we went inside and continued to eat amongst the interesting Canadian accents of the bartenders. By now we had done three cities in three days and were looking forward to a day at sea so we squeezed as much time as was Melnikowly possible and got back onboard with maybe 5 minutes before it left the port. Yes, I was freaking out the entire time but that is just the dangerous life I lead with the Lady Melnikow!

  4. Halifax, NS, Canada – Our final stop was the furthest East you can go in Canada – Halifax! And it’s a good thing you have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean because there sure wasn’t anything interesting to see in the city, itself. It was super windy when we got off the boat and it only got progressively worse the entire time. We stopped and ate at the Waterfront Warehouse where we had kind of mediocre seafood and then trekked up the San Francisco-steep roads to the Halifax Citadel.

    There we got to see a giant fortification, Canada-style! The guards wore plumed hats, kilts and exposed, hairy legs (sexy!) and they shot off an old cannon at noon. It was interesting going through the museum and seeing how they kept updating the fort for every war up through World War II but … maybe it’s just my jaded, violent American ways but I scoffed that it had never seen any battle at all. Yeah, we have a historical fort, too. It’s called the Alamo and everyone in it died! Bah!

    The gift shop left us with some Canadian money burning a hole in our pockets so we stopped by a mini brewery on the way back called Garrison where we got mini beers and I picked up a shirt (what else was I going to spend the money on?). Then we passed through Canadian customs (where Cassie was unceremoniously zinged about not being married at her age by the patrolman … ah, women’s problems!) and got back on the Triumph. We still had another day at sea but our next stop would be home sweet New York City home!

Alright, as perhaps I mentioned before, this trip was more relaxing than fun which wasn’t all that bad. I had been going pretty strong for the previous two weeks at work and needed some time away from computers in general. Plus, it was such a jarring sight to see small, quiet towns instead of crowded, bustling people all beeping their goddamn horns. And, sure we had to deal with a mostly geriatric passenger list, but everyone loves a good senior soup (when a bunch of overweight, elder people swish around in those deck hot tubs)! Thanks, Carnival … but I think I’ll hit up Vegas or Europe next vacation!

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  • Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 22:34 | #1

    First off, I think it’s great the Stanus.butt comment section is working again. I for one, was deprived of 2 zingers because of this problem!

    Second, I’m glad you did this part 2 and gave us readers piece of mind with a fully finished blog topic. Having said that, when are we getting such a closure for this unfinished blog????

Gatito

Photo © 2009 Stan Syckes

We’ve been talking about it for a while, but last night we finally made good on all of our plans and got a kitten. Sunday was preparation day as we bough a litter box, pooper scooper, toy mice, and other necessities, but today Cassie heard back from her coworker and it was go time!

Ok, a little history. New York doesn’t allow people to get cats from anywhere (shelters, pet stores, etc.) unless they are bought in pairs or if you already had an older cat. We really weren’t interested in 2 kittens so we were trying to figure out a way to get around this. Then, during one of Cassie’s jobs, her cat-shittery was exposed as usual, but this time it was met with excitement instead of the usual ridicule by her coworkers. In fact, one of her coworkers said his cat just had 3 kittens and he was looking to give them away. He wanted to keep the only male, and had a friend coming to get one of the females and the third one could be ours. So, when Cassie heard back from him last night (the kittens are about six weeks old now) we sprang into action.

This meant an hour trip up unto the Bronx and then finding his place but once inside we were welcomed by three very playful, friendly and quiet kittens. Cassie picked up one and it immediately hissed at her so we knew that probably wouldn’t work. Then we saw this white on bottom, black on top kitten that was trying to climb up the back of a chair. We picked her up and she seemed to like us (well, at least she didn’t hiss, she merely kicked trying to get out). While the other family members were distracted by food we grabbed Gatito and put her in her temporary home (a Petco carrying box) and made the slow trip back. I was expecting her to cry or make some type of noise but the entire time she was very quiet. Every now and then I’d peer in through one of the holes and saw her big eyes looking back and she even appeared to start sleeping halfway through the ordeal.

When we finally opened her box and put her on the bed of her new apartment you could tell she was scared. She stood around a lot, just taking everything in, and we were pretty careful not to do to much to her at once. Then I put her down where her litter box and food are. She didn’t seem to want to eat much so we let her go exploring. Every few minutes or so we’d see her stick her head out from under a coach, or from behind a grocery bag and peep out her mini-meow (something so high pitched it’s more like a bird’s chirp).

During our last hour of tv, Gatito started getting tired. However she was also too excited/scared by all the change so she was fighting it with all her might. Her eyes would slowly close and she’d start to sway like a little child. I finally picked her up and put her on a couch near us and she slept for the remainder of the night as we watched tv. However, when we passed out on the bed soon after, I was awakened by her crying.

She’s still way too small to jump up and down from things, but she was attempting to climb up the side of the bed. So, I pushed the hamper (about half the height of the bed) directly up against the bed and then a pillow next to it, making an ad-hoc ramp. She quickly scampered up her new “stairway” and joined me on the bed where she fell asleep, too. It’s been a while since I’ve lived with an animal and it’s such a funny, great feeling.

Welcome to Gatito (or Tito for short), world!

Philly Part III: Give Me Death or Give Me Doh!

Photos © 2009 Brandon Jones, Montage © 2009 Stan Syckes

NOTE: For some weird reason I can’t access [stanus.nut] from inside my apartment. I have no clue why my network is blocking it … so I’ve become a little backlogged in stanus activities that I’ve wanted to do here. However, I shall forge onward for you, dear reader! First, the end to our exciting Philladelphia mini-series!

Part 1: Death Aboard a Megabus
Part 2: Brandon Jones Travels Through Time


I don’t know what exactly it was – a horrifying nightmare, the cold Philly morning air rushing against my bare buttocks (!?), or the angst of finally having to meet and greet Toine in relationship mode – but something awoke me with such a start that cool Sunday morn; jumping straight out of bed and into a defensive position! It was my final day in Philladelphia and it was time for the final, ultimate challenge of the entire trip. For this day Toine and new girlfriend, Joy, were to arrive. The only preparations to such an anticipated event was a sternly whispered demand by El Toine, himself, to “be ready at 10 AM” for their entrance. No clear-headed rebuttals regarding hangovers and lack of sleep could penetrate the man’s brain. He had decided the day was beginning at 10 in the AM and that was final!

Well, I woke up with a bit of a tickle in my throat (I just wanted to finally use that silly phrase) so I went about trying to drink a lot of water and get my body healed enough for TOINE: THE ENTRANCE. Meanwhile, Cassie and the Joneses slowly rose from their slumber and began to make their own arrangements for the day. Katie showered. Cassie picked out her clothes. And Brandon sat, cross-legged (!!), near the window facing out into the streets the prized couple would be using. Like some hideous paparazzi-bird combination, he perched at his sniping spot with giant camera at the ready … ready and waiting for his prey to come into view! As soon as he got a Toine call saying they had arrived he began snapping furiously! As the two lovers approached the house in complete hand-holding bliss, they were completely unaware of the sheer savagery of scrutiny they were being bombarded with by Jones’ never-blinking eye.

Somehow escaping unscathed from this brutal photographic attack, The Stetses completed an even more herculean task by making it up all four (!!!) flights of stairs that led into Jones Manor; culminating with their grand entrance into all of our hearts. At first, I was stunned to see Anthony in full relationship mode – constantly holding Joy’s hand, caressing her, or using the word “we” when discussing future plans. This was a man I’ve known who would not let any type of setting, circumstance or social norm prevent him from making a loudly-spoken homosexual quip and now he was dressed nicely and comforting a female companion! But, to be honest, the weirdness of this change dissipated just as quickly as the newness off seeing Toine in a relationship did. The rest of us, not used to waking up on a Sunday morning before 10 AM, took turns getting ourselves decent for public viewing and meeting Joy, who turns out to be a really nice, funny and down-to-earth person. With everyone introduced and smelling nice, we were on our merry way!

Toine and Joy had a busy schedule that they wished to stick to. First we hit up the famous Liberty Bell … the historic monument that I’m convinced contains the highest bullshit:interesting information ratio surrounding it. My god, you had to walk down a super long hallway filled with plaques, videos, and other antiquities just to see the damn bell! Were you aware that President John F. Kennedy saw the Liberty Bell and stopped for a photo shoot? Here’s 500 words to describe that momentous occasion to you!!!!

With the bell done, our caravan made its way to the next item on the Stets’ List: Independence Hall. Unfortunately, you had to have tickets to get in and the nearest open tour wasn’t for another 2 hours. So, we reluctantly retraced our steps passed the Liberty Bell to grab the tickets. With so much time to kill we also stopped and perused the gift shop for a while where fascinating objects such as “Fart Proudly” were discovered (and luckily left not purchased). Then my stomach sounded a rallying call: I was to eat soon or else!

Fortunately, another item on The Stets List was to eat a Philly cheese steak sandwich from “one of the top 5 in the city.” About a mile from the Liberty Bell area, we found a cool little street of interesting restaurants on either side. There was one dedicated to famous Philadelphian, Larry Fine, and several dedicated to women’s breasts (I’m not kidding), but we finally decided upon Steaks on South – a typical Philly fast food restaurant. I got the pizza cheesesteak (sans onions!) which was fantastic and they even threw in free fries after we showed our Phillies game ticket stubs. Most of the meal was spent getting to know Joy a little better – specifically by finding out what she knew about our Toine!

From lunch we moved back towards Independence Hall where we were allowed past the gates now that we possessed the tickets of freedom! Inside, I was immediately greeted with two unnerving facts. First, we brought down the average age of the other members of the 3:15 PM tour group a good 40 years. And secondly, I had to urinate so badly and knew there was no hope for blessed release until after the tour. I braced myself and entered the hallowed halls of freedom with Doh at my side!

I’m not sure who came up with the idea but so many tours begin with a pre-tour. Well, the one at Independence Hall was no different as we were “treated” with a 15 minute introduction and light joke fair from our 60-year old tour guide. There was absolutely nothing of note during this monologue – it was obviously just vamping to get the tour ahead of us out of the room – with one lone exception: oh yeah, that’s right. Anthony fell asleep within those 15 minutes!!!! Brandon snapped a few candid shots on Cassie’s camera for proof! I think the last time I’ve had to try to stop laughing so hard was back in high school band. It was glorious! Ladies and gents, the man just does not disappoint!

I was actually quite impressed and awed by the two rooms we saw during the tour, but I won’t bore you with any of those details. We’re here for Toine, people! Principal Photographer Jones took a few more candid Doh-shots of the new couple cuddling while learning about how our nation’s forefathers attempted to piece this war-battered country together into the great nation we all love. Then Toine pointed out how we shouldn’t be leaning on the railings that stopped us from physically entering the rooms as the nails were “probably really old.”

By this time I was pretty Phillied-out, to tell you the bitter truth, but Toine and Joy, still vigorous and full of energy in the honeymoon of their courtship wanted to go check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art – whose famed steps Rocky Balboa climbed to the top of and raised his fists in victory. It took us two taxis to get over there, but Toine and I recreated that famous jog step-by-step and ejaculated in a similar fashion atop the famed steps. Heh. Then, with one final ounce of energy, we all took pictures in front of the Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps. Toine did the Rocky pose while Cassie and I elected to give the Italian Stallion the ol’ rusty trombone.

Philly was done. And so am I with this blog. A super-quick recap of what else happened: we walked back to Brandon’s place, talked for a second or two, and then Cassie and I had another terrible experience with Megabus. But not even this final setback could prevent us from feeling privileged to have met and hung out with Toine’s new ladylove, Joy. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but a satisfying experience in the end.

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  • Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 17:18 | #1

    Great blog. But it begs the question: Who’s Toine?

  • Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 19:18 | #2

    I believe Toine said we shouldn’t lean on the railing because the paint was really old and probably had lead in it. I guess he thought the paint was original… not sure what he thought of the building’s central air conditioning that must have been quite advanced in the 1750s!

  • Richard
    Friday, May 15th, 2009 at 03:48 | #3

    Who’s Toine? Who’s You??

Philly Part II: Brandon Jones Travels Through Time

Photos © 2009 Brandon Jones

When our heroes woke up they found themselves to be … slightly hungover! It appeared that the adult concoctions brewed by Barkeep Jones were a little stronger than advertised. But, after a Katie bagel run and super-long showers in a Philly shower, we were all feeling well enough to go check out the area surrounding the Jones’ apartment.

Just a block away was Rittenhouse Square – a small park that reminded me of JMU’s quad as it was filled with people laying on blankets, people playing guitars, and people reading. Oh, and there were crazy people giving out “free hugs” to try and initiate some wacko religious conversation. Everyone out in the sun enjoying the nice weather. We continued to walk, stopping only to take the obligatory photo beneath the Philly version of the Love sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza.

As scenic as these stops were they were mere obstacles in the road towards a need that demanded to be satisfied: this gentleman required sustenance!! Squire Jones led us to Reading Terminal Market – essentailly a giant warehouse filled to capacity with mini restaurants and vendors. It’s a lot like Faneuil Hall except larger and way more of a swap meet feel. The place was super crowded both with people and restaurants, loud, and presented a real smorgasbord of different foods. It was the perfect place to find my much needed, hangover-curing food.

Brandon, Katie and I selected rib sandwiches dished out by some Pennsylvania Dutch servers, while Cassandra – usually frozen at the sight of a mere menu – was completely overwhelmed at the sheer selection in this establishment. She wandered off by herself for a while, ultimately coming back with some type of fried clam dish. The food was good in a trashy kind of way and there was only one real story of note: Katie got up to hunt for a bottle of ketchup, finally finding one several restaurants over from where we were sitting. Right when she put it down on the table to use, a man who had followed her for her entire trip back to us said he had to make sure it ended up back at his restaurant. Katie used a little … only to find out it was hot sauce 🙁

We regrouped back at palatial Jones Manor and then set off for Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Baseball-phile, Brandon, had secured four tickets to a game versus the San Diego Padres. Or at least he thought he did! We took an uneventful ride on the Philadelphia subway (whose Subway maps looks way more complicated than New York’s) and walked along an open road decorated with giant sports sculptures. I avoided the blatant homo eroticism in the aforementioned artwork and headed towards the entrance of the stadium.

Legendary announcer Harry Kalas had just died the previous week and there was a fan-created memorial being held directly outside the entrance. It was a bizarre sight, but another interesting look at the Philadelphia culture (I love cities that have a personality … unlike, say, the Northern Virginia area). Brandon divvied up the tickets and we approached the crack team of stadium security guards.

I gave my ticket to an old man who was manning the ticket scanner. The machine was connected to a turnstile very much like the DC Metro system – where you push the ticket in, wait for a green light to appear, take the ticket out and walk through the turnstile. The first scan didn’t work. The second didn’t either. So the man started doing all these crazy origami folds to my ticket in an attempt to get it to scan. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Brandon – his chinflap at half mast.

“Uh … I accidentally got tickets to tomorrow’s game.”

One embarrassing second passed … and then Jones sprang into action! He located the ticket sales windows where we were informed there were still seats available for purchase. The tickets we all had could also be recycled into tickets for different games (I think Brandon eventually turned them into pairs to 2 games against the Nationals or something … blah who cares it’s baseball). Although the price for these new tickets was somewhat higher, the seats were amazing; we were just to the right of home plate and maybe 20 rows back. We all gorged on ballpark food, enjoyed the antics of a riled Philly crowd, and cringed at the pervasive layer of cuteness provided by it being a Kids Game special.

When the game was over (Phillies lost, by the by) we returned to Brandon’s photo pad and watched a Tivo-ed Game 1 between the Mavericks and the Spurs. I don’t know how I lucked out with that one … I guess Brandon’s Tivo just must have realized it was superior programming and decided to record it by itself. I certainly didn’t demand it be recorded. Nor did I then annoyingly create a situation where Brandon had to rewind to the very beginning without me experiencing any spoilers. But the Mavs amazingly won and I was in such a good mood that we introduced Brandon to “jowling.”

We were physically, mentally, emotionally and now, jowl-ingly exhausted and began the preparations for sleeping. However, just as I was about to finally slip into unconsciousness my heart began to pump with extreme anxiousness. I suddenly realized that in less than 12 hours I was to meet Toine and his new girlfriend, Joy. I had spent the entire day distracting myself from this very idea with food, games and jowls, but I knew I would have to face the truth in mere hours. I fell into a fitful sleep.

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Philly Part I: Death Aboard a Megabus

Philadelphia is land of the free, home of the brave; the bra strap where the awkward fumblings of a beginning nation began! However, there is also a seedy underbelly to this fabled city; a secret society of malcontents who have been festering with rage since way back in April of 2007 – the last time Brandon mentioned he was going to update the B-Log’s look (update: there has been no change to his site since his 2007 post). Ironically, it was to see this very man that Cassie and I braved exiting Manhattan last weekend. Our journey would be met with much resistance, imprisonment, and even a meeting with the new Dohwoman, but we would come out of it as richer, wiser people. Well, at least we’d escape with an amazing picture of Anthony falling asleep inside Independence Hall!

The weekend was such an eventful one that I’ve decided to break it up into three parts scattered into separate posts. Come along with me as I retell this tale … if you dare!!!

When we travel outside of the city, Cassie and I usually board the BoltBus … a nice, upscale ride with large seats, wi-fi internet and electrical outlets. I’ve never had a bad experience with the organization, even when it was 45 minutes late one time in the freezing winter (we got to stand in a warm, nearby pizza joint). For some reason, though, Cassie wanted to save some money and try Megabus – a competitor just one rung down in class than Bolt, but provides an awesome double-decker bus.

Well, we managed to locate the bus stop (an experience not unlike a scavenger hunt when it comes to New York City) just a few minutes later than we had planned to do so. But, we could’ve taken our ol’ sweet time as our bus decided to mosey on in an hour late. Luckily, that time spent waiting wasn’t wasted as we chomped on our Wendy’s (a decision which would turn out to be quite fortuitous) and I was asked to donate money to some charity or other by the very same guy who asked me to donate money to some other charity a year ago. Since it was obviously just a bullshit scam, I messed with him a bit. It was a nice stress reliever and I felt bad seeing some kids giving him money just to have him leave them alone. I’ve really started to learn to keep my bullshit radar operating at tip-top shape since moving here.

The line of people that had been waiting for who knows how long slowly piled into the double-decker bus. Cassie and I made our way to the second level (it felt like it just had to be a more interesting trip up there). As we settled down in our seats we sighed … finally we were on our way to Philadelphia for the weekend. The stressful bus stop hunt and subsequent terrible, long wait were behind us. Now we just had two hours of relaxation (I brought along the Motley Crue biography, “The Dirt”) and we’d find ourselves in the arms of Brandon Jones.

Right?

Well, about 10 blocks into the trip (yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that right: 10 blocks) we ran into some heavy traffic. And I do literally mean “ran into” traffic. A Fed Ex truck came up on the right side of us and knocked off the passenger-side rearview mirror. The bus driver immediately pulled over to the side of the busy street … and then proceeded to do nothing for an hour! Rumors were flying around as to what was happening but finally our intrepid captain came up to the second level and announced three extremely annoying facts:

  1. She was unable to drive us anywhere until the mirror was put back on by a licensed mechanic.
  2. She was not allowed to let any of us leave the bus as the doors opened up into moving traffic.
  3. She had forgotten she had a second level on the bus and had told all of this information to the first level an hour ago!!!!

Naturally, people started to get annoyed and some even angry. Someone on the lower level engaged in a yelling match with the bus driver but received just as good as she gave (our driver was of the sassy sort). I felt like there really weren’t any options so why worry about it, but this reasoning seemed to be of the minority opinion.

Finally another bus pulled up beside us. We had heard that this one was going to be a regular sized bus (no second level) so not everyone would be able to get on it. Thus, with that challenge, Cassie and I primed ourselves to get our asses onto it as fast as is Melnikow-ly possible. Well, readers, we made it safely aboard and enjoyed a rather uneventful ride into Philly – finally arriving to our destination a full 3 hours later than scheduled.

An extremely quick cab ride later and we arrived at the Casa De Jones: an impressively large (for a city apartment) living space furnished in a style I’ll call: throw out anything ever owned by Brandon. Well, except for Brandon’s office/corner in the living room which looked more like a Bond villain’s TV-wall in which Bond’s progress through the death traps is monitored. We all gabbed like little girls for an hour or two thanks to Brandon’s mixed drinks (he tends a mean bar!!!) and then Katie retired for the night. Unfortunately, this left three ex-heavy drinkers to their own devices and we quickly devolved into a heated debate about the legalization of … everything, really.

When Brandon held a dollar bill in his chinflap I realized the night was over. Besides, I was drunk and I had barely made it out alive of the evil Megabus. Perhaps this baptism of fire was going to prepare me enough for the remainder of the week: traveling in time to get to a baseball game and the main event of meeting Toine’s new girlfriend, Joy. Or perhaps not, but hope remained even as I lost consciousness.

Stay tuned, dear readers, it’s a good’un!

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From The Ashes

The Friday Catchups are starting to weigh down on me. I had one ready for last Friday, but I’m just getting sick of seeing lists on this site. [stanus.butt] used to be about (semi-)interesting happenings and funny stories. Not boring lists of what I’m listening to and reading. Boo!! I do like the routine of having to check in on Fridays (usually my slowest days at work), but I feel definite changes are needed, as well. Alright, on to the real post …

This is going to be a music update, readers! The last time I jammed with a group was that strange cover band event. This was way back in November and it only lasted just the one day. I never head back from any of the guys – neither saying to come to another jam nor to not come at all – and couldn’t really figure out what caused things to suddenly die. This bizarre business was my first attempt at getting back into the ring after qutting my band back in May. In the interim between these two events (nearly 6 months) I didn’t play much guitar at all as the band breakup had left a bad aftertaste. Playing guitar suddenly seemed like work.

About two weeks ago it dawned on me that I’m starting to lose ground on my musical dreams. I’m 28 years old now and I realize at some point I’m going to have to make the hard choice about transforming music into just a hobby. That deadline seems to be rapidly closing in on me and I feel as though I’ve been wasting so much valuable time. So, it’s as simple as this: I have made several key changes in my life to facilitate musical focus. I don’t need nor want to go into any of them here, but I’ll just update you on the progress so far:

1. My apartment doesn’t afford me any real opportunities to practice on my electric guitar. And, though I’ve been practicing fairly regularly on my acoustic, they can be such different beasts. So, I’ve started to book routine dates at Smash Studios in midtown Manhattan. There they provide the space to play, thick walls to absorb the loudest sounds, and free equipment to use so you don’t have to lug everything there and back. Tonight will be my third trip there in 2 weeks and I’d estimate my chops at about 60% where they were at their peak a little under a year ago.

2. Speaking of tonight, my jam will not be solo! I’ve gotten into contact with the drummer from my old band and he’s expressed an interest in making some music again. In that other band, he was the only one who I’d say was on my level musically, and I got along great with him, so I’m looking forward to tonight. It should be pretty rough as it sounds as if he hasn’t played drums for as long as I haven’t played electric … but it’s the start of something!

3. I’m starting to troll the Craigslist ads in search of a songwriter whom I can successfully merge my stuff with. This is a complete 180 from my strategy with the last band. There, I wanted to find good musicians and suddenly found myself in an awkward position when our songwriting styles weren’t all that complementary. This time I hope to find a great songwriting partner and build around that with good musicians.

Obviously, I’ll keep the updates a-coming … but I have to go get ready to jam! Later fools!

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I Watch The Watchmen

Photo © 2009 Warner Bros.

Sunday night I found myself in the office, putting in some weekend time into a project that wouldn’t go away. After only a handful of hours, I couldn’t take it anymore; I couldn’t bring myself to put any more work into the project and Watchmen had already been out (and unseen) for 2 days! I hurriedly gathered my possessions together and rushed over to Regal Union Square Stadium 14 to catch the 10:30 pm showing. There was a surprisingly long line waiting for me, but it moved quickly and I parked myself into one of those single, wheelchair-companion seat to watch the film adaptation of one of the most influential stories I’ve ever read.

Almost three hours later I was exhausted. I found myself conflicted in how exactly I felt about the movie as a whole, but I was also thoroughly entertained. In the days since, I’ve discussed the film with a couple people, so to blog a little quicker, I’ll just paste my comments here.

E-mail to the webmaster of the SteverOnline
I’m going to blog about it a little later today, hopefully. I’m still formulating a definitive opinion, actually, but here just 10 of my initial thoughts.

  1. The main three (Ror, Owl, Silk) looked exactly like the comic characters. I especially liked Steve Nash’s rendition of Rorschach (was it just me who thought that actor looked like Nashy?)
  2. I thought the effects on Dr. Manhattan were lame and so … obviously cgi. It didn’t look like he was actually in the scenes.
  3. I actually liked Ozymandius being super tall and thin. He looked like the next generation of man which is sort of what he is.
  4. I also actually liked the change of the ending. The whole space alien/psychic terror infliction never really resonated with me in the comic. Making it appear as if Dr. Manhattan just goes nuts actually makes a lot more sense. Plus, it’s nice and quick so audiences don’t have to sit through all of that build up, the pirate comic, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of that stuff, but in the interest of time I thought the decision was fine and even enjoyed it.
  5. I thought the violence and nudity were gratuitous. I always found the nudity in the book jarring (Dr. Manhattan’s peenie being the lone exception, oddly) but at least it seemed kinda ho hum. Here it was like a porn all of a sudden! And the porn kept going and going. I mean, the comic interspersed the sex with allusions of other stuff going on. Here it was just man and woman butts pressed onto the camera.
  6. Like so many creative endeavors I think they hit it out of the park with the opening. The comedian’s killing and the credits … though I wish the credits had remained semi-still instead of eventually turning into full motion. Maybe it was depicting passing of time, but I really thought the semi-still was a great effect.
  7. The movie never seemed bigger than the comic! That was weird. Maybe that was the ultimate thing that I couldn’t grasp. It’s like reading a novel version of Indiana Jones … I want to just see the damn movie cuz it’s cooler. Here, it was the exact opposite.
  8. I have read “WATCHMAN” so much now that it was like watching Spaceballs or a good Seinfeld. I knew all the dialogue and could even tell when they changed 1 or 2 words. That actually wasn’t fun but I got over it after a while
  9. Too god damn long. Even though it seemed like a feast … at one point I went “fuck there’s a lot more story left! Awesome!” I did have to leave to pee once and I was exhausted near the end. Maybe they should’ve done a 12-part mini series or something.

 

After a couple of hours to let it sit, I came up with this conclusion:

IM conversation with the French Tickler, Richard Killiam
the thing is the comic is done in a cinematic fashion, so the movie feels more like a remake rather than an adaptation. the comic is a better movie than the film!

 

I was thinking about going into a whole thing about my history with and love for Watchmen the comic, but this post is really about the movie and I’ve said my peace. If you haven’t already seen it, maybe wait for the DVD to come out. But it’s definitely worth seeing once.

Current Mood: Geeking Out emoticon Geeking Out

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Weezer Rocked The House

Photo © 2008 Stan Syckes

Last night I saw Weezer. It was another in a long line of amazing concerts I’ve seen so far in Madison Square Garden … a place (what with all the concerts and basketball games I attend) I’m starting to feel rather at home in. Anyway, I’ll try to keep this post brief and just hit the highlights of the night. To do this I will run down the setlist (yes I frantically typed in abbreviations of the songs into my phone as they were played)!

Opening Act: Terrible. Angels & Airwaves are fronted by former Blink-182 singer, Tom DeLonge, but who cares? Their music was so lame and ridiculously theatrical. For example, before one song DeLonge says “When I was 13, I snuck out of my friend’s house during a sleepover and crept up to his sister’s window and saw my first naked girl” … and then played some slow, droning, sap song about a girl’s reflection. Completely inappropriate … shouldn’t that music have been heart-pumping, nervous, excited?

Worse, the entire act was overwhelmed by their light show. I’m not kidding, every song had a different color and blinking pattern from their 16 blinding light towers! At one point DeLonge shot green lasers out into the crowd and at another all the lights went out and you could just see his hands holding two lights. Complete gimmick. But, after 10 or so songs, Angles & Airwaves mercifully left the stage!

01. My Name is Jonas – The time on our ticket stubs said the concert began at 7:30 PM and finally at 9:45 PM, The Weez hit the stage. They simply walked out onto the stage against no background music in all-white, one-piece jumpsuits and started the rocking of faces. I’ve never been a big fan of this song, but it’s the track that kicks off their first album and it instantly reminded me of that era.

02. Pink Triangle
03. Say It Ain’t So – At this point all the lights in the house dimmed with only one spotlight on Rivers. He slowly unzipped his jumpsuit revealing an all-red jumpsuit underneath. I’m sure everyone was expecting them to start playing songs from their new album (dubbed The Red Album). Instead, the legendary opening of their greatest song began. The place went nuts.

04. Suzanne – Maybe the best part of the show. Right after the best Weezer song they started this B-Side in a capella. It seemed like they were singing just to me as I really think I was the only one in the stadium who knew this song. First of all, I love it and second of all, my old band, Bras, were thinking of covering it back in the day! Great 1-2 punch.

05. Keep Fishin’
06. King – a Weezer B-Side! Well, maybe it’s not a B-Side, but it was only included on the iTunes online album I bought as an extra track. It’s a Cuomo-penned tune (like most Weezer songs) but sung by new bassist, Scott Shriner. I dug the song but it seemed like not too many others in the audience knew it or dug it. One thing to note here is that Rivers and Scott were trading singing chores on the majority of the songs.

When Weezer announced that other members of the band were going to start writing and singing on the new album, I was initially concerned. Rivers is one of my favorite songwriters and, though certainly no super crooner, possesses a unique and effortlessly honest voice. Sure, there are some growing pains associated with this decision but I think it ultimately is the right one; breathing new life into the band (I thought their previous album, Make Believe, was 3 good songs and all filler). This was especially noticeable and appreciated during the concert. Whereas Rivers used to be tied to one spot, having to both sing and play guitar near a mic, now he is free to move around and emulate all his childhood guitar heroes. He really took over the show with his dancing and guitar antics … it was very inspiring to see him inspired.

07. Undone – The Sweater Song – Rivers asked Tom DeLonge onstage for a duet and the place immediately started to boo. Ha, it was great. Unfortunately, you could tell the band is really tired of playing this song live as there was very little energy even though the audience was going crazy.

08. Pork and Beans
09. Dreamin’
10. Dope Nose
11. Troublemaker
12. Automatic – Rivers left the stage and Pat Wilson, the drummer, got up to sing his song. He played guitar while the drummer from Angels & Airwaves played the skins. It’s not the greatest song and a lot of the energy left the audience at this point, but I thought of it as a great, interesting intermission. Right after this song people in the row behind us started getting into a heated verbal fight with a couple leaving. I have no clue what that was about but ushers quickly bounced the couple.

13. Hash Pipe – When Rivers returned he was out of his jump suit and wearing his soccer jersey from a celebrity tournament he played in. Apparently he’s almost obsessed with the sport as I am with basketball. Ok, that may not be possible.

14. El Scorcho
15. Morning Glory – Cuomo ended “El Scorcho” by jumping behind the drums (Pat moved to guitar) and then throwing sticks into the audience. He then started playing a beat and the other guys started the opening to Oasis’ “Morning Glory.” The audience looked completely out of it but Cassie and I thought it was an awesome selection. She loves Oasis and I thought it was a crazy, weird choice and they played it really well.

16. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn) – The end of the regular concert was an immense high point as they played the best song off their new album. This long, complex piece has been compared to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and it ended with the four of them singing harmonies. Really awesome … almost a religious experience!

Encore
17. Island in the Sun
18. Beverly Hills – An interesting moment. Usually, everyone starts to cheer loudly as they see silhouettes coming back onstage for the obligatory encore, but this time 30 silhouettes came out! It turned out Weezer had invited 30 fans up on stage to play random instruments (trombones, flutes, accordion, etc.) as a backing band for the encore. Pat played a single snare and cymbal, Rivers just sang, and the other two members played acoustic guitar. It was a low key, weird experience but it was very relevant and “now” in this YouTube world. It was short and cool and then everyone went backstage again.

19. Sliver – As fun as the ad-hoc fan band was to see, it didn’t feel like a true encore. We wanted Weezer, the band, not Weezer with a gimmick as a finale. When everyone finally shuffled off the stage the lights were killed once again. A stage hand brought out a stool and put a record player on it and “Heart Songs” started to play. “Heart Songs” is a track off the new album about the songs Cuomo loved growing up and how he hopes some of the pieces he writes evoke similar passion in Weezer fans. The four gentlemen came back onstage, wearing normal clothes, and played “Sliver” by Nirvana. Any Nirvana fans out there?!?! This was the second time in the show where I felt I was the only person in attendance who knew this song. Though not my favorite song, this was another cool, personal moment.

20. Buddy Holly – There was a giant screen behind Weezer for the concert and for each song it would have a different display. All the displays were pixellated as if they were appearing on a mobile phone display so it wasn’t distracting like the opening act’s Star Wars light show. Finally, as the band finished “Buddy Holly” (their biggest hit), the iconic “W” slowly came down on the screen. The entire stadium erupted and I snapped a few awesome photos. I also totally got that they believe this song is a heart song for many people. Great ending to an amazing (and loooong) concert!

Current Mood: Musically Nourished emoticon Musically Nourished

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  • Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 14:01 | #1

    I’ve been going through Weezer’s entire output …backwards …on my iPod for the last couple of weeks. I’m down the last of the albums, their first (since I’m going backwards) and it’s eye-opening how much this band has dropped off from when they first began. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the other guys singing lead and songwriting but i can understand how it’s jumpstarting the band back into feeling that fun energy they were lacking.

    That looks like a great set list, and yes I knew about the Sliver thing. The news was all over The Nirvana Fan Club although it’s interesting the song “Heart Songs” talks about Nevermind when it was Nirvana’s “Sliver” that captured River’s heart (he’s even mentioned this song specifically in interviews) …that song isn’t on Nevermind.

  • Tite
    Friday, September 26th, 2008 at 07:40 | #2

    Weezer sucks. I got tickets to see Metallica in DC in the middle of January. It’s going to be sweet. Hopefully, they won’t just stick to stuff from their new album… they need to rock out “Enter Sandman,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Wherever I May Roam” at a minimum. Boo Ya!

Tossed From A Bar

This weekend New York got a rare celebrity visit as Brandon arrived to see a Mets game in the marked-for-death Shea Stadium. He originally planned to meet me in Union Square right after work but inbound traffic was crazy and his bus didn’t get in until almost 2 hours later than expected.

So Brandon discovered his way towards my apartment in the Upper East Side at around 7:30 and we immediately trekked back outside (in leftover drizziling rain) in search of food. We found a nearby bar/restaurant that actually turned out some excellent burgers, but was so loud we had to lean in really close just to hear each other (and kiss, of course!). After two or three beers each we decided we needed to find an actual bar … one that would include the mighty game of beer pong!

Luckily, this was the plan the entire time and I had the address of a place about 10 blocks away from the restaurant that hosted this sport of kings. Brandon and I arrived at this new place to find 6 beer pong tables and a room more empty than it was full of patrons. But, we dared to test our Virginia-honed mettle against these New Englander’s best. … And we lost our first two games! Ah well, it’s been a couple years since we were in our prime.

Anyway, as the time went by the place started to fill with pongers and we met and played against a few cool people. At one point I whipped out the end of my belt in a phallic distraction (which worked!). Sure, it was weird. But it wasn’t as weird as when, a few moments later, I got a group of guys to all do it in a circle. What can I say … I was pretty trashed.

I’ll skip the countless games we played as they were all pretty much the same (plus I can’t remember them). But at one point Brandon and I were off the table dancing to the crazy 80’s music, waiting for our next turn. All of a sudden a gentleman who we had played before came out of nowhere and had me held up against the wall, his hands around my neck. He screamed “if you touch my girlfriend again I’ll kill you.” He wasn’t hurting me at all, though, and it seemed so surreal I almost laughed thinking it was a joke. But this guy was not joking!

A kind bouncer decided to jump in and ask what was going on. I just stood silent not knowing what the answer was, myself. My attacker said I had touched his girlfriend’s ass. Seeing as there were multiple people between me and her I have no clue how this happened. Plus I didn’t do it. I recall several people saying I had nothing to do with it but the bouncer chose to believe this crazed guy and even said he could take a swing at me for free!

Brandon jumped in front of me and said that wasn’t going down (I always thought bouncers were supposed to end things not escalate them …) and we both immediately got tossed. The fun bouncer pushing me out by the neck the whole way kept saying how I thought I could go around touching whoever I wanted “because I was white.” I failed to see the connection and felt it best to just quietly exit and Brandon and I went on our merry way.

It was probably for the best we left when we did as we were both wrecked the next day and we still had that Mets game to go see. We toughed it out (though, one of us had to excuse himself to my bathroom at one point!!!) and actually had a great time at Shea with Brendan (Brandon’s friend who joined us). But every time we would tell the story or review the facts regarding the previous night’s incident I would find it harder and harder to hold onto the memories. The whole situation was just so surreal it started to feel like a movie I had watched a long time ago instead of something I had lived through. But, perhaps is just the price we pay for being with beer pong: a fickle mistress!

And as a final conclusion to the story, I felt immensely better as we watched some girl have an even worse weekend later that night. Yes, Brandon and I got to watch (and photograph) some girl get arrested after vandalizing a taxi right at my intersection! Huzzah!

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  • Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 01:45 | #1

    Let me see if I can fill in a few holes in this story since Stan’s memory of the night seems a bit…hazy.

    The gentleman that ended up (what looked like) choking our beloved blogger was wearing a shirt, tie, and slacks. He stuck out a bit in this semi-dive bar filled with mostly jeans, t-shirts, and polo shirts. He looked more like the clubbing type than the beer pong type. Let’s call him “Tie-man”.

    There were two encounters between Stanus and Tie-man that I witnessed that pissed this guy off. First, he was beating us on the table and used the non-Stanus approved bounce-shot that counts for two cups instead of one. Now for anyone that has played Stan in beer pong, there is about a ten minute conversation before the game starts to discuss rules, and this game was no different. We had already agreed to rules that differed from the ones posted on the wall. Bouncing may not have been discussed and when there was some debate between Stan and Tie-man, I checked the wall to find it was a bar-approved rule. Shortly thereafter we were defeated and Stan refused to shake Tie-man’s hand. This is when I knew sir Stanus had crossed well over the sober line.

    Incident number two occurred as Tie-man and his girlfriend were starting a new game of pong. Stanus did not know this (I think he was at the bathroom), but Tie-man had given us two beers at the start of our game because he was the challenger (something which had not happened earlier in the evening). So when Tie-man started his next game against new challengers, he told them they had to buy him beer. The challenger didn’t want to do this so Tie-man turned to Stanus to confirm to his new challengers that he had bought beers for us. Stan told Tie-man and his challenger that he never bought us beer. This was visibly pissing the guy off especially after their earlier exchange. After a bit of back and forth I told Stanus and Tie-man that Stan was in the bathroom at the time, but he did indeed buy us two beers. End of story I thought.

    Besides the Tie-man, everyone we met was pretty awesome and I was having a great time (I was actually into some of the 80’s music being mixed by the live DJ). All I can guess is Tie-man was more pissed off at Stan than we had realized and as Tie-man drank more beer (and maybe took other substances?) he decided to do what any sane person would do…choke himself a redhead!

  • Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 09:50 | #2

    Holy Dohfight! I’ve been thrown out of a bar. And by bar, I mean strip club (although I was at the bar when I was thrown out.) I still have no idea why. My guess is because I reached for someone else’s Corona? But it’s very hazy. I definitely didn’t get into a fight or try to grab a stripper as I wasn’t near then at the time. Weird…

  • Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 09:59 | #3

    I remember everything Brandon says except for telling Tie-Man he didn’t buy us beers. At that point my brain had retired for the night. However, I do recall about 30-seconds after not shaking his hand (I hate it when people cheat) I actually did and told him I was just pissed off from losing. Oh well, what a stupid night.

The Other Me

Photo © 2008 Stan Sykes

I’m sure it’s evident that I am a huge music lover: I write, I play, I listen, I obsessively categorize and identify songs in iTunes. All through high school I was identified as “the music guy,” I helped start a high school guitar club (ok not start but helped get it popular), I studied songwriting under the wing of an 80’s songwriter. Hell, I was even Vice President of my marching band. In fact, even if you don’t know me but have stumbled onto my humble corner of the internet from time to time, I’m willing to bet the understanding of my musical interest and aspiration is probably crystal clear. However, unbeknown to everyone – yes, even my own self – is the news that I have actually already succeeded in my goal!

You heard right. Apparently I am actually a “vocalist/writer/producer/performer” for BMI!

As an added bonus I am apparently also a short, black cruise ship entertainer! Who knew?

In the latest version of iTunes Apple has introduced Genius: an iTunes functionality that suggest songs to play after the one you are currently listening to. Essentially, this creates smart playlists based on iTunes users’ preferences. Another feature of Genius is to suggest similar music that you don’t have and can conveniently purchase from the iTunes Store!!!!! I’m not so big on that marketing scheme, but I was pleasantly surprised when I played one of my own songs: it recommended Stan Sykes’ latest CD, “Just Stan.” Please be mindful of the copyright notice attributed to Sykes Music.

To top this all of this, my counterpart actually has a website located at http://stansykes.net! That’s right, we even share a love for the .net domain!

I’m actually considering purchasing “my” album. I have a bunch of free song credits saved up from going to concerts around town (Ticketmaster has a deal with iTunes) and with song titles such as “God’s Gift To Me Was You,” “Mixin Sweat,” the grammatically incorrect “It Should Of Been Me,” and what can only be an ode to a Toine video cam session “Cam We Still Be Friends” … how can I go wrong?

Current Mood: Giggling Like A Schoolgirl emoticon Giggling Like A Schoolgirl

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