Help for the Zoo

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Budget cuts may affect the Bronx Zoo and NY Aquarium. For information on how to contact Gov. Patterson to voice your disapproval, see this link.

Here are some photos from my recent zoo visit:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Sport Economics and Mathematics

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My girlfriend and I share a difference of opinion when it comes to sports salaries. She believes that professional athletes should not make the gigantic salaries that some earn, I believe that if they can find someone to pay the price they ask, God bless. Does it really affect our daily lives? No. Her opinion is on a moral ground (don’t ask me to explain, I can’t), and mine is need vs. availability.

Perhaps the only time that this issue affects our lives is when we purchase tickets to a game. It comes as no surprise that New York is expensive. I’m not suggesting that reasonable bargains cannot be had for our area sports teams, but some of the prices for seats are staggering. (Personally, the only thing that really annoys me is the “ticket fees”.) When I purchase some tickets for a baseball game recently, I got to thinking about how much teams make.

Every team is like a giant industry unto itself. There are players, coaches, managers, public relations officials, media coordinators, hot dog vendors, overseas operations executives, etc… I cannot begin to fathom all the people involved. …but is $400 for a seat reasonable? Is $1000 a seat?

Here are some numbers from the New York Yankees. I know that everyone likes to pick on the Yankess, but sorry, heavy is the head that wears the crown. These are based on the old (2008) stadium.

Total Capacity: 56,936
There are 81 home games each season (not including postseason). If they operated at 70% capacity (39,855) and sold tickets for $20 each, they would make $797,100 per game, totaling $64,565,100 per season. While that is only half of their player payroll for 2008, it is still quite a number. Remember, this does not include concessions or television deals.

The money issue gets very interesting when you discuss college sports. Jim Calhoun recently had a confrontation with a reporter that did not believe that his $1.6 million dollar salary was deserved. Keep in mind, by many account, Calhoun single-handedly built the UConn program into the national powerhouse it is today. The national attention generated by the sports program has translated into increased applications and increased revenue for the school and state. However, some believe that with a state in deficit, an athletic coach should not be the highest paid employee. I thought it was simple math. Without him, the state would gain his salary, but would be without the $12 million he generates. Some disagree.

Sports are funny. Many of us wear our passions on our sleeves (or on our chests with our favorite jerseys). Logic and reason can go out the window when discussing our favorite or least-favorite athletes. We give our love, and occasionally, our begrudging respect. We invest time and emotion. I suppose that is why most cannot stand dispassionate play or players. In the cold mathematics of hard-earned dollars, how hot is your passion? How much do you pay for being a fan?

Gig Review: March 18, 2009

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Last night’s gig at the Trash Bar in Brooklyn was hot. I’m not referring to the set itself (though that was good), but the temperature on the stage. I mean that it was literally hot on stage. Really hot. DAMN HOT! I recommend that any band there play in t-shirts and shorts. I, of course, was in a long sleeve shirt and jeans. Bad idea, Elmer.

Here are some pictures:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Our first foray into Brooklyn (as a band) was a success. We got some nice reviews after the show and I was especially happy to hear that my backup singing did not suck. Singing in a falsetto is not something I do especially often, so I was glad to hear that I pulled it off.

The band on before us was Money/Paper/Hearts. I caught their last four songs and really liked what I heard. Though their myspace page has a few songs, I don’t think that it captured the raw sound they have on stage. That is not to say that their recordings are bad, just different. Live, I would describe them as a cross between the Sex Pistols and Weezer. Their recording sounds like a cross between The Cars and Green Day.

After the show, I was chatting with the bassist for Grande. Nice guy. Check out the band. Not bad.

Gig Review: March 16, 2009

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Last night I played the Rockwood Music Hall with Ross Byron. Granted, 11pm on a Monday evening is not considered prime time for a performing rock band, but we had a nice crowd that really appreciated what we were playing. They were mostly new faces that asked us after if we were playing again anytime in the near future. Always nice.

Here are some pictures from the show:

Created with flickr slideshow.

An interesting thing happened during the set. A crowd of 10 or so people came in. They did not come specifically to see us or any other band on the bill. They were out and about, looking to have a good time. From what one person told me, they were in town from Chicago. While there is nothing that a musician appreciates more than an enthusiastic crowd, said musician can also recognize the difference between the crowd that loves what is being played and the crowd that is just interesting in gyrating about to some form of sound. A few members of this group fell into the latter category.

During a ballad, a gentleman kept motioning in my direction. He was plucking along with an imaginary bass, air-bassing if you please. While I enjoyed his enthusiasm, he kept bobbing furiously and thumping his index finger harder against his imaginary strings. Clearly he wanted me to play something more aggressive. At first I demurred and smiled, but when my gaze met his again, he continued on his imaginary instrument with more insistence.

Background: I have the utmost respect for an audience. People that choose to see me play could be doing anything else, especially in New York where the options are extraordinarily varied. Therefore, I owe it to any audience, whatever the size, to do my best. They are not in attendance due to some decree to witness my talent. They have chosen to attend.

This does not mean that I’m going to accommodate someone’s request to hear a new line mid-ballad. Should I just ignore the demands of the song, the expectations of my band-mates, and the integrity of everyone else’s listening experience because you want to hear a new line? I’m all for exuberance, but I was pretty annoyed.

Thankfully, he gathered that I was not about to grant his request. Also thankfully, he was able to enjoy the remainder of his evening sans new bassline.

Rashanim @ Rose Live: March 15, 2009

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Great musicians possess confidence, but are able to relinquish their egos. Last night, I went to see Rashanim at Rose Live in Brooklyn. They were performing songs from their upcoming album (yet to be recorded). The evening was a test run of sorts.

Comprised of bass, drums, and guitar, they perform instrumentals. How would I describe their music? Take a listen for yourself and decide. There have been a number of responses when I have played it for other people. “Sounds great.” “Sounds Jewish.” “Kinda’ folksy, isn’t it?” “What would you call this?” They utilize elements of folk, rock, surf, funk, jazz, and more. Nevertheless, they maintain a sound that is uniquely their own.

I’ve been a big fan since their first album, so much so that I try to listen to other projects that the members have been a part of, and I have yet to be disappointed. Their projects have been as varied as the influences I hear in each of their songs. Those projects have ranged from film scores to hip-hop albums, and more.

The songs have a general jazz format. There is a theme or two, a melody, and each musician will improvise or solo over the changes. While guitar is generally seen as the dominant instrument in a trio of this sort, the interplay between each is marvelous to hear. When one is soloing, no one else feels the need to intrude. No one person screams, “Look at me,” and the result is a sweet delicate interplay of notes and rhythms.

The other great detail is their attention to volume. They push some air, but are generally pretty quiet. It’s the kind of show that you don’t need earplugs to enjoy. It allows the musicians to bring out subtle nuances from each instrument. At one point, the drummer was utilizing his music stand as a instrument. Would that be possible if competing with a stack of blaring amplifiers? Wonderful volume swells and dips punctuate each song.

I’ve seen Rashanim three times, and this was one of the best. I eagerly await the release of their next album.

Additional Links:
Jon Madof
Mathias Kunzli
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz’s misspelled biography on Clean Feed Records