Thursday, 23 April 2015
Visit to Washington, D.C. 2015
It's not every year that I get the chance to travel down to Washington D.C. and visit with my sister Heather and Brother in law David, but the last two years I have been fortunate enough to have the time and ability to get down to see them. I always have a wonderful visit with them, whether I go with other family members or make the trip by myself. Heather and David are of course amazing people but are great hosts too and always have fun and different things planned for us to do.
This past Christmas Heather and David got me tickets to see the comedian Demetri Martin perform at a theatre in a recently renovated district that is a suburb of our Nation's Capital.
Demetri's comedy routine was being filmed for release on RedBox. RedBox is a movie rental company that has kiosks set up around the United States where people can rent movies for one day at the cost of $1.00. It's a nice way to see a film or in this case a comedy routine without having to pay the prices you would at the movie theatre or when purchasing the movie. This is especially nice if you are not sure if you'll like the film.
Outside the theatre we and other ticket goers were solicited for money by a man and his wife who were standing on the corner (the man was standing the women whom he said was his wife was in a wheel chair) in front of a famous area Macaroni and Cheese house (located right next to the theatre). I think if I were either the owners of the Theatre or the Macaroni and Cheese house I would not want the people there begging for money and ask them to leave. I know that it's a difficult scenario to be critical of and I'm fine with anyone who wants to give money to help someone else whether the donation is put to legitimate good use or solicited under pretense, but when you are going out to a show it's not the place where someone should be doing that.
It should not be up to the patrons to have to say something either. Ownership should step up, or risk losing future business when they allow such a practice in front of their location. Once we got inside the theatre I thought the theatre looked very nice. It had an old fashioned gilded feel to it. There was a high arched ceiling with ornate lamps hanging from it in the entry. A bar was set up to each side of the theatre's floor level entry and two wide staircases leading to the higher level seating were to the left and right of the main theatre entrance. During the warm up comedian's performance is when most of the audience filming was done. I was on an end/aisle seat but was fortunate to not have been one of the unlucky few whom had a rather heavy and large camera stuck right in front of their face or behind their head while the film crew filmed audience reactions for the RedBox recording. Knowing we were going to a recorded show, I would not have complained if they picked my aisle, but I don't think I'd have been happy or able to enjoy the comedy routine as much with someone in my personal space holding a large camera.
I thought Demetri Martin's routine was great. It was also nice that at least the camera crew was a lot less interfering during Demetri's performance. Martin is known for his "sketch comedy" where he draws pictures and describes funny everyday scenarios that we take for granted. This performance deviated from what he is known for though as it was a straight stand up comedy routine without props. An example of one of his jokes is how he rhetorically asked the audience why signs focus so much on the negative and not the positive? He mentioned how road signs often indicate that a Bridge Might be Icy and went on to say, "Why doesn't the sign say - Bridge May NOT be Icy.".
He also questioned why part of men's genitalia are referred to as "balls" and said he thinks a much more appropriate or beneficial term would be "lozenges". Most of his comedy was not of a sexual or dirty nature though, and the genitalia joke is probably the furthest he went in that regard with any of his jokes. He also did not use a lot of swear words or bad language. On the whole, if this is similar to most of his comedy routines I would say that for most families with young children it would be fine to watch his routine and most likely one would not find too much of what he says offensive or inappropriate. The few adult themed jokes would likely (hopefully) be over a child's level of understanding. Several of the things he joked about might be something a child could understand or laugh at. Of course there were a few that went over the audience's head or that the audience did not find particularly funny and he would self abashedly say, "We'll have to scrap that joke for the RedBox recording".
I thought as an audience we got our money's worth too. The routine lasted almost 2 hours. If anyone has done comedy they know how difficult it is to stay on stage making jokes and getting people to laugh for five minutes, no less almost two hours.
Later during my visit with Heather and David we got to go to a Washington Capitals National Hockey League game at the Verizon Center in Arlington, Virginia. The Capitals were playing the Minnesota Wild.
Roughly Our Vantage Point at the Verizon Center
Heather and David are very invested and dedicated Washington Capitals fans. It was great to get to see my first live and in person NHL game in right about 2 decades and my first outside of the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, NY where the New York Islanders play (until next season when the Islanders move to Brooklyn, NY).
Prior to the start of the game Heather, David and I went down to ice level and watched the Capitals players warm up. One of the Capitals players flipped a hockey puck over the side of the glass to a young fan who was standing next to my brother in law David. The most impressive thing was probably the flexibility of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. The guy was doing complete splits on the ice and bouncing up from them as if he were strolling down a street.
The only two small disappointments were the fact that the Capitals lost the game 2-1 to the Wild and the fact that Alexander Ovechkin the star forward for the Capitals did not play in the game (it was the only game Ovechkin missed all year long) >.< David and I both purchased a Capitals Armed Forces Baseball Cap for $20.00. It was Armed Forces appreciation night at the game.
Capitals Team Captain and Star Forward: Alexander Ovechkin
* While I'm not exactly a "looker" or "stud" myself I'm thinking it's a good thing Mr. Ovechkin was blessed with world class Hockey Skills because I don't think the Mr. Universe Pageant will be making a house call anytime soon.
As a bit of an unfortunate side note, the Capitals are currently playing my favorite hockey team the New York Islanders in the NHL playoffs. So either my or Heather and David's team will get eliminated from the playoffs. Right now the series is tied at 2 games a piece. Whom ever can win 2 out of the next 3 games first will advance to the second round of the playoffs. So while I very much appreciate Heather and David treating me to see the hockey game last month. GO ISLANDERS! YES! YES! YES! *yes, yes, yes is the Islander fans chant every time our team scores a goal.
Monday, 20 April 2015
Karaoke Night by Jon Bear
A lot of people have experienced the fun, fear, embarrassment and sheer entertainment of karaoke night out with family and/or friends. The first time I ever sang karaoke I was full of anxiety. I was fearful of following someone who was really impressive and talented. I can generally keep a tune, but I knew I wasn't winning American Idol anytime soon. Once I took the plunge though I had a great time, not only performing myself but hearing my friends sing and even listening to complete strangers. There was one time where a girl I did not know needed someone to sing the duet Summer Lovin' from the musical Grease with her. I begrudgingly agreed to sing with her, because even though I did not care for the song I knew the tune well enough to be able to follow the bouncing ball and sing along. It actually turned out pretty well, especially given my initial misgivings.
After the first time I sang karaoke there was really only one other time that I felt nervous. Half the time I had indulged in enough liquid courage (booze) that I could care less how I sounded. When my best friend Henda was getting married he held his bachelor party down in Orlando Florida. There was a bar at Universal Studios where you could sing karaoke in front of a live band. Henda and I agreed to put our names in for Swing, Swing by the All American Rejects. THANKFULLY the bar closed before our names were called because I could swear that 95 % of the people who did get to sing their songs were professionals with how great they sounded. Either that, or the live band does wonders for the average performer. My nerves were up that night and I had only one drink to calm them so I would have been shaking up on that stage for sure. The bar and audience for the performers was also about 10 times as large as our little local bars.
Between 2003 and 2010 my friends and I would make the semi-regular trip out to the Fuller Road House in Albany and later the Side Door Café (where we most frequently went) on Western Avenue in Albany, to test out our vocal talents at Karaoke Night hosted most often by Mark the Shark, a local DJ. Personally I think karaoke night is a lot of fun and something everyone should try at least once. I wanted to share here some of the songs that were our staples on Karaoke Night. Unfortunately you'll have to listen to the original singers versions and are not blessed with hearing Jon Bear or his friends sing. If you have any special memories or stories about karaoke nights with friends or strangers and the songs you most liked to perform please feel free to share them with us in our comments section.
Swing, Swing by the All American Rejects (a Jon Bear and Henda favorite)
Boot Scootin Boogie by Brooks and Dunn (one of the staples of my great friend Bobby V. a Texas native and Country Music Fan)
Tempted by Squeeze (a song that Jon Bear has close to perfected)
Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond (a tune my friend Matt often liked to sing and usually a crowd pleaser as most Neil Diamond songs seem to be)
Good by Better Than Ezra (one of my favorite bands and an underrated song of theirs I love to sing)
Gin and Juice by Snoop Doggy Dogg (Henda as a California native was a big W.C. Rap fan and loved to sing Snoop Dog songs)
* WARNING some lyrics may offend certain listeners
There are several other songs I could share as well, but those were a few of the classics that we would sing. Of course this isn't nearly as hilarious as hearing us try and sing these songs could be, but just writing about karaoke night brings back some great memories. Hopefully one day we can get the group back together and possible wreck havoc at a karaoke bar near you! >.<
Thursday, 16 April 2015
On a family vacation last year, my family and I went to the famous Eumundi Markets on the Sunshine Coast. Eumundi is a small rural town which has a big market every Saturday and Wednesday. The market place is huge and every stallholder needs to sell handmade items. The markets have been a great success for Eumundi providing a good income for the town. Tour groups even go to the markets and there are plenty of cafes, bakeries and restaurants that benefit from them.
We only had a week on the Sunshine Coast and this trip to the markets was for my parents. They love going to markets and they go to markets whenever they have free time. The market is right in the middle of town and we were impressed at the sight of so many market stalls. There were many people already at the markets and there were cars parked down lanes and in the suburbs. Luckily, they use the school oval for extra parking so we found a parking space.
The market is free and we got right in it. There were lots of jewellery, art work, handicrafts and clothing on offer and all of it of a professional quality. While the stuff was lovely to look at, I didn't buy anything. I prefer flea markets with junk at rock bottom prices.
There were also many food stalls selling all kinds of foods from different cultures. There was so much to look at and we didn't know where to start. After wandering around we decided to get something to eat. I can’t remember what it was but I was looking for some famous food stand but I don’t think it was there any more. Instead, we had satay spring rolls which were delicious. It was the speciality of the Thai food stand and they sold frozen take home spring rolls too. I considered taking some frozen ones home for my friends but I didn't because I wouldn't be able to refrigerate it until hours later.
When we finished eating, we decided to leave Eumundi to go shopping . We looked up the nearest mall and we spent the remainder of the day in the shops before we bought some groceries and went home.
If you want to find out more information: http://www.eumundimarkets.com.au/
You can also read my other accounts of holidaying on the Sunshine Coast:
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors. I have read all her books and I like watching all the movies adaptions. Austenland is based on a novel of the same name by Shannon Hale, which is about an Austenite (huge Austen fan) going to an Austen themed resort.
Keri Russell stars as Jane Hayes who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Her apartment is decorated with a life size cutout of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and she has fine china and frilly lace everywhere. Her friend Molly (Ayda Field) worries that Jane is missing out on life due to her Austen obsession. When Jane decides to go a Jane Austen resort in England, Molly cautions that it may not live up to her fantasies and if it doesn't she should give up on her obsession.
Jane arrives in England and meets fellow American, Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) a bimbo who signed up so she could show off in a low cut dresses. Jane and Elizabeth become friends despite their differences. Once at the manor, they are greeted by Mrs Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour) who informs them that they will have the ultimate fan experience and romance guaranteed as she has hired actors to play dashing gentlemen. Jane discovers that life in the past is not as fun as expected especially the social class and gender roles.
I heard a few bad reviews for this movie so my expectations were low. I found that the movie was okay but not that enjoyable. In the movie, Jane realizes that real life is better than living in a pretend world after she witnesses the fake romances between the guests and actors.
This movie was kinda a downer for me because Jane gets treated like a second class citizen because she chose the “copper” package deal which is the cheapest experience you can get at the resort. The costumes were gaudy and everyone was a bit too silly. I know it’s a comedy but I expected wit and elegance which is a common part of Jane Austen’s work. It never once felt like they were in a bygone era mostly because of the crass things that everyone did. For example, Jane was urged to play the piano and she played It’s Hot in Herre by Nelly which was the only thing she knew.
While the movie didn’t reach my expectations, there were some amusing bits in it. I thought Jennifer Coolidge was funny, she said some kooky things that none of the characters knew how to respond to. For instance, Lady Amelia Hartwright ( Georgia King) remarks how Elizabeth has a good complexion and Elizabeth replied something like, “ At night when I’m all alone, I put my face in the fire.” She also was such a kind person to Jane and helped her whenever she could.
I think if Austen fans are looking for fan fiction come to life they need to keep looking. I would also suggest that Lost in Austen is a better movie if you want a story about a character going into Austen’s world.
Thursday, 9 April 2015
The story and history of the town are narrated through the voices of a variety of the town's people including a young Native girl named Evelina Harp whose grandfather Mooshum is the sole survivor of the lynching; Antone Bazil Coutts the town judge who is of mixed heritage and marries into the Harp family; Marn (Wolde) Peace a white woman who marries into the Peace family; and Dr. Cordelia Lochren, the town historian. The lives of all the characters are intertwined in intricate detail and while their perspectives are not used, the story also features the stories of Corwin Peace the cousin of Evelina, Mooshum, Billy Peace, Corwin's Uncle who is an Evangelical Messiah of sorts and married to Marn, Neve Harp, a thrice married Caucasian woman who is the sister of Evelina's father and Warren Wolde a crazy old man living in an Insane Asylum where Evelina comes to work and eventually becomes a patient at herself.
The plot is intricate with all the family relationships and back stories that twist together making the story somewhat hard to follow in places. The other challenge to following the story is the different perspective's given by the narrators because as things unfold we begin to see the truth and how the events surrounding the lynching, which is first told to us by Evelina through Mooshum's relating of it, are altered.
Through all the story's twists and turns Cordelia eventually figures out who the true murderer was. I loved the development of Erdrich's characters via their narratives. There is definitely no idealization going on in her story as every character is flawed and battles internal conflicts whether they be directly related to the murder or in their interpersonal relationships within the community of Pluto. The story has a chaotic nature to it probably best described by Cordelia when she references the town's name (Pluto) and how Pluto was the Roman God of the Underworld. Throughout all the conflicts of conscience and character there is a weird kind of redemptive value in Cordelia's discovery of the true murderer albeit through a pained and irresolvable realization. I came away with the sense that all sins could be forgiven through the utter catastrophes we might weave. Or maybe that forgiveness is what is necessary to move on? Forgiveness may be the wrong term though. There may in fact be no forgiveness, but simply the recognition that once the truth is revealed that life needs to move forward and not be weighed down by the sins of the past.
I am definitely not saying that was the author's intent, or the point of the book for that matter, it's just the way the resolution hit me. While I felt bad for most of the characters at some point in the story, by the stories end once you realize that everyone has suffered their own personal hell in some way there is a sense of needing to move on from it.
The Plague of Doves is a very thought provoking read. I think it would be a great story for high school or college aged students
I enjoyed reading The Plague of Doves. The characters are well written and like you mentioned, they have flaws so that no character is entirely bad or good. I have not read much on Native Americans and I think didn't learn much of their culture in this book. I also thought it was a thought provoking book because of all the themes. I think it would make a great book to study in high school or college too.
The story is told through a roundabout way from alternating from many characters, some had more interesting stories than others. I liked the story about the founding of the town and the expedition to get to it. There were other stories that I found boring and others that I found repulsive. It was hardest to read about the lynching and I didn't like reading about the cult.
I think you described it quite well about each character going through their own personal hell. Fortunately, most characters find some peace by the end of their chapter. I thought that some stories were irrelevant to the central plot, it actually took me a while to figure out what was the connection was between each story. I think a family tree or glossary at the back of the book would have helped me to remember who the characters were and how they were related.
I found the end of the book to be satisfying as it ends with Cordelia’s summarizing her thoughts on the town, her feelings of the massacre and the lynching that followed. I found the book to be interesting and not at all depressing considering some of the subject matter. This book is not one of my favourites but it is an interesting read.
Monday, 6 April 2015
Entertainment Monday: Jon Bear's 2015 Major League Baseball Preview Part I - National League (Monday 4/6/2015)
The beginning of each April brings the start of Major League Baseball season here in the United States. I am a baseball fanatic the way most of the world are Soccer as we American Folk call it (or Football) fans. So I thought I might share my predictions for the upcoming baseball season with our readers. Hopefully there are a few of you out there who enjoy baseball and might either feel passionately enough to agree or disagree with my selections. If so, speak up! Let your voice be heard and tell me what a wonderful job I did or how I am entirely underestimating your team this year.
This is the first part of a 3 part preview for the 2015 season. This Monday we cover the National League. Two Monday's from now I will discuss the American League Divisions and a month from now I will give my Playoff Predictions. I know that I'll have been given a bit of time to feel the teams out by then, but it's a loooonggg season, as baseball fans know, so I already have my predictions in mind and do not intend to change them because of a slow or hot start.
Before I proceed with the National League Division prognostication, I must confess my New York Mets bias for anyone who is not familiar with where Jon Bear's allegiances lie. I can not wholly eliminate my bias when I make my selections, even though I try to be as fair and objective as possible. So here goes
National League Eastern Division:
1st Place: Washington Nationals
2nd Place: New York Mets
3rd Place: Miami Marlins
4th Place: Philadelphia Phillies
5th Place: Atlanta Braves
N.L. East Review: The Nationals are almost everyone's favorite to win the World Series this year and it's hard to argue against the depth of talent they have, especially on the mound where from one to five the Nats may have the best starting pitching staff in baseball since the early 1990 Atlanta Brave's staffs that had 3 Hall of Fame pitchers at the top of the rotation. The Mets pitchers may ultimately be just a notch below the Nationals starters in talent. Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom can match up favorably with any top two starters around baseball. With Rafael Montero, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard waiting in triple A the Mets may have the most starting pitching depth in baseball, even with the loss of Zach Wheeler for the 2015 season. The Marlins also have a load of young talent and if they realize their potential a year early, they could make the N.L. East a tighter race for both the Mets and the Nationals. I don't think it's a "given" that the Nats run away with the division this year. The Marlins may have the best young outfield in baseball (competing with the Pirates for that title IMO). There starting pitching is also a strength. If they can hang in the division race until they get staff ace Jose Fernandez back from Tommy John surgery then they have as good a shot as anyone to be a surprise entry into the playoffs. Let's face it. The Phillies and Braves outside of an unforeseen miracle will be the N.L. East bottom feeders this year and in likelihood two of the worst teams in baseball. The Braves have sold off half their team to the San Diego Padres. They still have a young and talented pitching staff and a solid defense but virtually no offense after Freddie Fitzsimmons. The Phillies have talked about selling off all their aging talent, but unlike the Braves, they've sat on their thumbs and don't seem willing to move their veterans without getting a King's ransom in return. I think the Phillies have just enough hitting to edge the Braves in what may end up being a battle for the N.L.'s worst teams
National League Central Division:
1st Place: Pittsburgh Pirates
2nd Place: St. Louis Cardinals
3rd Place: Chicago Cubs
4th Place: Cincinnati Reds
5th Place: Milwaukee Brewers
N.L. Central Review: The Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial October no shows until the past two years are finally primed and ready to take the next step. There are still some questions about the effectiveness of the starting staff and how they'll hold up, but Offensively the Pirates, led by Andrew McCutchen have the talent to take the top seed in the division that may be most up for grabs in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals always find a way to win enough to be competitive and once they get to the playoffs they are one of the toughest outs given their post season experience. They'll push the Pirates if they get more from the dismal offense of last year. The addition of Jason Heyward from the Braves should help. The Cards still probably have the best starting staff in the Central Division. The Cubs are a popular pick to make the post season and possibly even compete for a World Series title this year. I think while the team has a World of talent in Kris Bryant and Addison Russell waiting to take the Majors by storm, the pitching staff is not deep enough and the roster not yet experienced enough to make a playoff push. Lots of times people get ahead of themselves when they see a young team on the rise. Next year is a lot more plausible for those who wish to predict that the Cubs will end their century plus long World Series Title drought. The Reds are an aging and injured team that many predict will fall apart and have a dreadful season. I think they will be respectable in 2015. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce despite their injuries and decreased performance are too talented to bet against if healthy. Johnny Cueto (so long as he remains with the Reds) remains one of the top pitchers in baseball. I think the Brewers struggle this year and take up the rear in the N.L. Central. They do not have the superstar caliber player who can carry the team since Ryan Braun got off the steroids. The pitching staff has a lot of midlevel talent too. There is probably no team in the league that I see with more "meh" type players on the roster. Sorry Brew Crew.
National League Western Division:
1st Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
2nd Place: San Diego Padres
3rd Place: San Francisco Giants
4th Place: Colorado Rockies
5th Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
N.L. West Review: The L.A. Dodgers came on strong last year after a disappointing start to the season, only to fizzle in the playoffs and fall short of their lofty expectations. I think that outside of the Nationals, the Dodgers have the best starting staff in all of Baseball. There is enough offensive talent and veteran leadership mixed with young offensive talent to get the Dodgers another division crown in 2015. Yasiel Puig will be an interesting study throughout the season. Has he finally matured enough to give 100 percent effort everyday? I think he has. I expect big things from him and the Dodgers this year. The San Diego Padres are another popular pick to win the N.L. West. There is no doubt that no team has done more to improve their position over the offseason then the Atlanta Braves.... ummm... I mean San Diego Padres (who traded for a good portion of the Braves team this past offseason it seems). Craig Kimbrel may end up being the biggest coupe. There are too many moving parts in San Diego for me to pick them for a Division title. I do believe the Pads will be right in the mix for an N.L. wild card bid come September. The Defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants can be summarily dismissed seeing as it is an odd numbered year and we now know that the Giants win the World Series in every even numbered year (with World Titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014). *Sorry Cubs fans, we're pushing your next chance at a title back to 2017 now it seems. >.< Outside of Madison Bumgarner the Giants will not have enough pitching to win the division and outside of Buster Posey they will not have enough hitting. It's hard to count them entirely out of the mix though and they should remain competitive in 2015. The Colorado Rockies have to decide if they want to keep or trade oft injured superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. If the team is struggling near the trade deadline, as I anticipate they will be, and if Tulo and Car Gone are able to stay on the field, then the Rockies may be smart to create a bidding war and acquire young talent that will serve the organization better in the years to come by moving their superstars. The Diamondbacks have some talent on the Offensive side of the ball and Paul Goldschmidt may be the most underrated young star ballplayer in Baseball in my opinion. The pitching staff has a long way to go though and while there are some young and capable players in the infield, the big question mark of the Yosmani Tomas acquisition will loom over the organization as a black cloud. One of these Cuban defectors has to fail, right? I think Tomas might be the one.
That concludes the N.L. preview. American League Preview to come in 2 weeks! =)
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
I just wanted to mention that Jon and I decided that we won’t be doing Blogger of the month anymore. We didn’t have the discipline to keep up with it and we always posted on the last minute. I even posted the February post in March!
I will be going on holiday soon but only for one week. I won’t be posting while I am away but Jon Bear will still be around.
We haven’t been posting much lately due to being busy with our everyday lives. Also Jon Bear doesn't have a reliable computer and has being using the computers at the local library. I admire his dedication in going out of his way to keep up with the blog.
|By Aleksi Tappura|