Sunday, June 29, 2008

Something not-so-special in the air

I recently took a mini-vacation to Chicago. It was pretty much amazing and has now become my second-favorite American city. Perhaps I'll blog about that some other time.

Not so amazing, however, was my experience with an airline -- I'll call them Zmerican Zairlines to protect the very few innocent -- on what was supposed to be the last day of my trip. Instead of returning to New York on a Sunday night, I got back in the middle of the afternoon Monday. Assorted thoughts on my lost day:

1. After canceling a flight and realizing there's no way to board your passengers on a flight the same day, comp them outright with a hotel voucher and/or future flight instead of acting like you're doing them a favor by giving them a "reduced rate" at a hotel in scenic Airportanapolis.

2. You know that episode of "The Sopranos" when Tony lives out his coma as a hotel patron with seemingly nothing to do? It was basically Purgatory; nothing too good or too bad about it, but kind of lonely and sad. That's what my Sunday night stay in Nowheresville was after my flight was canceled. After a couple of overpriced snacks, a poor night's sleep and more than $100 worth of unnecessary hotel expenses, I was back at O'Hare attempting my trip home again.

3. There's probably no way of pulling such a thing off without lawsuits aplenty, but I'd be willing to pay up to $30 more for a flight to guarantee no kids under 10 are aboard. Even if it flies at an odd hour, I think airlines would make a killing this way. I'd definitely fork over another Jackson and Hamilton to ensure that no kid of careless parents kicks my seat, cries on the tarmac or repeatedly asks dumb questions at a volume that drowns out the engines. (Related.)

4. I really do think the TSA's decision to ban liquids that are in larger than 3-ounce containers is less about staving off terrorism and more about forcing patrons to spend money on overpriced airport beverages and toiletries. Because let's face it, that 20-ounce Mountain Dew that was evidently bottled by the Taliban is going to do far more damage to your liver than it would to a Boeing 747.

5. Here's a great way to punish passengers in unexpected fashion: Tell displaced passengers who didn't have the chance to pick the row of their new flight that they're allowed to fill a carry-on bag full of food, an iPod and reading materials to stow under the seat in front of them, but when the supposed seat in front of them is actually the wall that separates them from the first-class section, threaten them with an FAA fine if they don't immediately place said bag in an overhead compartment three seats away. And certainly don't think to allow the passenger time to take a few items out of it first before stowing it. That'll teach them to prepare for a flight without electronic entertainment or free food of any kind.

Oh, yes, an angry letter is being written to appropriate personnel about points 1, 2 and 5. Results, or the lack thereof, will be posted here in the future.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bon Jovi's seen a million faces

But I've only rocked several dozen.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Three years ago yesterday, Varsity Basketweaving began as a hobby -- a venue for written rants that I found interesting but didn't seem to fit into any work-related niche.

It's come to mean different things to me over the years.

The first time I tried to define it, I was chatting with David Scharfenberg, a reporter from The New York Times. Although I hadn't planned on a pithy way to describe my blog, he correctly quoted me as saying that VB is a venue for "the ridiculous and the mundane." That quote worked for both of us; Scharfenberg chose to use it in his story and I got to cite the Times in a way that both accurately described my blog and allowed me boast about the newspaper's documentation in the VB masthead.

Over the blog's first 18 months, it became clear to me that VB was a general-interest blog. As I joked to fellow bloggers at NBC's inaugural blogger convention, that meant I was "the only one who's generally interested in it." But that wasn't always the case.

As noted in the right margin of this blog, The Apiary, Best Week Ever, Brooklyn Vegan, Comedy Central, Cracked, Gawker, GorillaMask, Gothamist and Stereogum are among the high-profile blogs to cite VB for many a reason, ranging from John Mayer's stand-up comedy pursuit to Reading Rainbow's flamboyant music video about teamwork.

The last 12 months have been no exception. A day after celebrating VB's second bloggiversary, I published "Tetris pieces: Metaphors for the seven kinds of people at your college party," one of the most-viewed posts in VB history, thanks to linkage by GorillaMask. My year-end post about the Top 10 Top 10 Numbers of 2007 was referenced by both Best Week Ever and The Apiary. And documentation of a semi-close encounter with comedian David Cross warranted additional linkage from The Apiary.

Faithful VB readers might realize that the frequency of postings declined in the blog's third year, which has been somewhat transitional. And while "transitional" is often a euphemism that sports franchises use to describe a team that will be indefinitely sucky, in VB's case it means the blog stylings developed here parlayed new levels of success on other blogs and media.

Because I write extensively for The Journal News' enteratainment blogs -- the television-themed Remote Access and the celebrity-centered Suburbarazzi -- most things that fall under the categories of TV or regionally relevant celebrities get posted there if I'm going to write about them.

For Remote Access, I took on covering a third show ("Chuck") and wrote more than ever about "American Idol" and "Top Chef." This included a controversial 23-part series on the "Top 20 'Idol' Contestants of All Time," which likely will be revisited and revised in January now that Season 7 has concluded. I also cohosted weekly podcasts about "The Office" and "30 Rock."

For Suburbarazzi, I've continued to write about celebrities who have connections to New York City's northern suburbs in any way, shape or form. It's also enabled me to appear on a biweekly basis as an entertainment analyst on RNN-TV and co-host an Oscar special (part 1, part 2).

As for Headline Punchline -- my other personal blog with "actual headlines, marginal punchlines" -- well, that's taken the biggest hit among blogs to which I contribute. But perhaps it'll be revived in the near future.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, referencing and posting comments on Varsity Basketweaving. It's helped me professionally, creatively and therapeutically. And hopefully, for you, it's occasionally transcended the ridiculous and the mundane.