Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Arsenal Fan Salutes Barcelona...

As an Arsenal fan, it's been an exhausting season that felt like a drunk behind the wheel of a Ferrari–accelerate! Slam on the brakes! Accelerate! Run over something and lose a tire! Accelerate! Hit the brakes! Run over something sharp that punctures another tire! Accelerate...Crash! Accelerate! Crash again!

Of course our European dream ended with a Manchester United bodyslam.
And that was immediately followed by a Chelski piledriver in the league to put the razor sharp exclamation point on the end of our season.

So forgive me if I wasn't exactly fired up for the Champion's League Final.
In fact, I almost forgot to set the DVR to record the match as I was leaving for work yesterday morning.

Still, the choice of who to root for was a no brainer.
I got behind Barca without hesitation.
It comes down to three reasons:

First, I've spent time in Barcelona and it's a great city loaded with personality.
I went on a whirlwind tour of Amsterdam, Spain and Portugal with my wife in 1997, before we were married and it was a fantastic adventure.
Somewhere along the way, I remember waking up in a Sevilla hotel to the sound of car horns blaring and general excitement on the streets below.
My wife asked around and found out it was a celebration–a Spanish side, probably Real Madrid, had won some important soccer match.
That's all I knew.
Mind you, this is just before I took my leap back into the world of football as a full-fledged Arsenal fan.
The idea that anyone would celebrate soccer with such gusto was so completely foreign to me.
And I loved it.

Second, as an Arsenal fan, you have to admire Barca's commitment to attacking football and that's exactly what tempted Arsenal's all time greatest weapon, Thierry Henry, to join the Spanish side two years ago.
Henry realized his playing days were winding down and he wanted one last grab at glory.
Unfortunately, he found himself surrounded by a gang of kids at Arsenal, who despite their talent, were clearly not quite ready for prime time.
The fact that Henry had come within touching distance of the CL trophy with Arsenal in 2006, only to lose it cruelly to Barcelona, made for a juicy backstory.
So, I thought, let's win one for Henry.

My third reason for choosing Barcelona over United should be obvious–for Barca to win, Manchester United would have to lose.

Still, like most, I thought United would simply overpower the smaller Barcelona and exploit their patchwork defense the same way they so easily discarded Arsenal.

I saw the result while at work but I didn't get to watch the match until I got home last night.

United started in the same formation they did against Arsenal and again dominated the first nine minutes of play.

It was all going according to plan until BANG! Barcelona punched United right in the mouth. To be exact, Samuel Eto'o punched United in the mouth after undressing Vidic.

And just like that, Barcelona was in control.

Ten minutes later, the mighty United already looked panicked and out of sorts.

And they would never recover.

Barcelona attacked and attacked and attacked.

In the second half, Henry turned Rio Ferdinand inside out on a move that nearly made the score 2-0.

So close.

The kill shot would come at seventy minutes from Barca's creative wizard, Lionel Messi, who launched his tiny five feet seven inch body into the air, twisting to direct a perfect header over the United goalie, Van Der Sar, and into history.

This Barcelona team, with their first year coach, Pep Guardiola, has achieved what no other Spanish side has done before–they've won the trifecta of the Spanish League, the Spanish Cup and the European Champion's League.

And in the process, they made United look positively ordinary.

Congratulations to Barcelona.

Now keep your hands off our Fabregas.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Summer Fun...

Tim sent me this ill 360 degree inside-the-tube surfing video, made possible by a special 25 lb camera and lens kit.

Yes, someone had to actually surf Teahupoo, one of the gnarliest waves in the world, while carrying the camera.



It's been a long week at Artgig and I know we're all welcoming the holiday weekend with open arms.

What better way to celebrate the unofficial kick-off of summer than a return to one of last summer's major highlights–Thievery Corporation at Central Park's Summerstage.

It was a perfect summer day and night of good friends, good vibes and great music.
I've recently stumbled upon a YouTube treasure chest of live shows I've attended over the years and I'm happy to say, this was one of the best.

The video doesn't do it justice, of course.
The frame is simply too small and the technology too primitive to capture and share the overall experience.

But here goes anyway.
Go fire up the grill and crack a cold one–this one's on me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Best Job in the World...

Artgig is a pretty good gig but I'm afraid Ben Southall's got me beat.

The 34 year-old Brit was recently appointed the caretaker on an Australian tropical island for the next six months.

Lucky Ben was chosen from over 34,000 applicants, competing for the job in a reality TV-style promotion by Tourism Queensland.

The job responsibilities include: feeding the fish, cleaning the pool and collecting the mail...
oh, and blogging about it.

And he'll pocket $110,000 for his trouble.

Lis sent me the application a while back but sadly, it got lost in the pile of work on my desk.

I checked out the official website, and it's a big flashy thing that takes a bit to load.

It also looks like they concentrated most of their efforts on the contest and have very little to say right now.

But there should be more to come on July 1 when Ben reports for duty.

Don't work too hard, Ben...

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Favorite Bitch

Today is a beautiful day.

As I near my one year anniversary with my iPhone (may I remind you, this is iPhone number two) I'm happy to say today is one of our best days together. Sure there have been some rocky patches, but every relationship takes effort and patience and it's navigating the rough stuff together that truly strengthens the bond. I feel like today is one of those breakthroughs–a milestone in our history. And yes, we came dangerously close to the edge before we stepped into this lush green pasture of appreciation.

I was going to title today's post "iPhone Bitch" because all I've been doing for the last few weeks is bitch about my iPhone spam problem. Sure, I've got spam filtering set-up at the Artgig server and the usual Junk filtering in my Mail client at work but I was still getting completely inundated with crap on my iPhone, which has no filtering, so much so that using mail on my phone was becoming a dreaded chore. Every morning, I'd begin my day, tapping away in edit mode, deleting all of the junk destined for non-existent @artgig email accounts, that accumulated overnight and somehow made it into my Artgig mail account. I was beginning to question the very sanity of Apple - how could the reigning champions of super friendly user design make something so unusable?

I scoured the internet for iPhone spam solutions and the best option I could find was a slight-of-hand trick that required a ghost Gmail account pass-through for junk filtering. It worked for most people but all I could see down that path was more darkness and quite possibly, my breaking point.

I bitched to Steve.
I bitched to Jim.
I bitched to our hosting company.
I bitched to everyone on Twitter.

They all said the same thing–anyone can spoof your email and make it look like it's coming from you/your domain. But of course, if a reply or bounce is sent it will only get to the actual domain holder (me). From the server's perspective, the emails are legit. Server-side spam filters won't work for the same reason.

I was at the end of my rope. "That's it," I said, "I'm taking this to the blog!" And as I entered that dedicated space of crafting words and thoughts for the page, in what was going to be yet another long bitching rant about the glaring obvious shortcomings of the iPhone, it hit me. The emails weren't bounces at all. They were going straight to the server to some phantom catch-all account.

So I rolled up my sleeves and opened up our hosting Control Panel, and what did I find? A little mandatory catch-all mail forwarder set to grab all @artgig emails, and guess who was designated to receive those emails?

In my haste to judge, I'd missed the obvious.

A single moment of clarity and one small adjustment later, and my spam problem was solved.

Me and my iPhone are just fine.

Now, if only it supported Flash...

AAPL - 122.42

Friday, May 8, 2009

Arsenal: Three to Go...

It sure would be nice to sweep up the season with three victories in three matches.
Let's take a look at what lies ahead, shall we?

Sunday - Chelsea @ Home:

Arsenal meets the other Champion's League loser, Chelsea, this weekend.
As Wenger himself pointed out, Chelsea may be the only team feeling worse than us right now after seeing their dream of a historic Champion's League Final rematch against United absolutely blind-sided by a late Barcelona goal, crushing all hope with only 120 seconds to play.
I'm all for kicking a team who's already down and this Chelsea team is perfectly ripe.
I imagine it will take everything they've got to simply drag themselves out of bed to face us.
I mean, what do they have to look forward to?
Another season of managerial uncertainty, that's for sure, as their lucky Dutch rabbits foot, Guus Hiddink, return to the task of prepping the Russian national team for World Cup action.
In a show of solidarity and a symbolic gesture of support for misunderstood party-boy Nicholas Bendtner, I expect the entire Arsenal squad to take the field with their shorts around their ankles.
There's no doubt in my mind Arsenal can beat Chelsea with or without shorts...
As long as Arshavin takes the field.
But he's a huge doubt as he struggles to recover from the flu.
But wait, so is Arsenal's blue boogyman, Drogba, as he struggles to recover from a complete mental breakdown in the wake of their devastating Champion's League defeat.
No Drogba is bigger than no Arshavin at the moment.
And we don't have to do any tricky away goals math, which is a big relief.
Arsenal wins.

May 16 - Manchester United @ Old Trafford:

This one isn't so easy.
We've already seen the difference in class illustrated on the field and off.
As Bendtner was being dragged away from a nightclub with his jeans around his knees, the United crew were spotted wearing impeccably tailored suits, looking all about business in their respectable victory celebration.
What's to stop United from spanking Arsenal again, you ask?
Two things:
Arshavin and Arshavin.
That's right, I'm counting him twice because he's that good.
Arsenal weren't allowed to use him in the Champion's League and honestly, we were so poor maybe he doesn't make a difference but if anyone can change the game, it's Honest Arsh.
The Arsenal defense won't be mended in time for this match but maybe United takes us just a hair too lightly as their eye wanders ahead to their showdown with Barcelona.
And we pounce, seizing opportunity in a momentary lapse in concentration, hopefully with Evra and Berbatov turned inside out in the process, by none other than a rampaging Nicklas Bendtner!
I really want Nick to learn how to shoot because, for a big guy, he's good on the ball and he's certainly got no shortage of confidence but most importantly, he's not afraid to go out by himself and get so drunk his pants fall down.
I said Arsenal 3-1 in the Champion's League but that was before I realized it was opposite day.
I'm going to give this one to Manchester United, 2-1.
(Don't worry–another opposite day)

May 24 Stoke City @ Home:

Certainly doesn't have the sex appeal of the two previous matches but it's the last match of the season and if that's not sexy, well, I don't know what is.
Stoke is one of those very average teams that gave us trouble earlier in the season.
Well, Arsenal's not had much trouble with the likes of them, or anyone else in the last 21 games, and I don't think they'll slip on this banana peel.
Arsenal  just needs to take a page from United (after beating them, of course) and go about our ruthless business with cold surgical precision.
Just keep an eye on the big Jamaican, Ricardo Fuller, and let the offense do the rest.
No contest.
Arsenal will be tasting blood after feasting on the remains of Berbatov and Evra in the previous match.
Victory Arsenal.

So that's it, nice and tidy.
Then we can get on with the business of constant speculation about who stays and who goes and the summer flirtation and courting of new players to fill the rather large gaps in our defense.

New Rudder Release and T-shirts at 19-8 Website!

The boys at 19-8 are making a fashion statement with fresh new t-shirts to go with the new critically acclaimed Rudder release, "Matorning."

Here's what the Boston Globe had to say about the music - "Rudder's second album, "Matorning," nearly detonated in my stereo; it's that powerful."

Get yours today - the tees and the music available on the 19-8 website in the Catalogue and Artists sections under Rudder!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arsenal - Defeated and Deflated

When Arsenal exited the Champion's League last year, it was the Quarterfinals and Liverpool had just stolen victory back from us in a wild match that dealt Arsenal a cruel blow in the final six minutes to leave me feeling gutted.

Last night's Champion's League Semifinal against Manchester United felt like it was over in the first six minutes.
It actually took seven for the first United goal.

Despite trailing United by one goal from the first leg, I believed we could summon the strength and character to give them a real fight.
Almunia's heroics at Old Trafford kept us alive and I was thinking there could be something really special and really big yet to come from Arsenal's "kids."
We started strong, with an unusually boisterous home crowd behind the team in full force.
For a moment, watching Arsenal zip the ball around in United's half, it all felt possible.
Then Anderson squeezed a ball upfield, a ball that Ronaldo chased down into our area.
And then, in what can only be described as a a tragic accident for poor Kieran Gibbs, our baby-faced deputy defender slipped and fell in what should have been a routine interception of Ronaldo's pass, gifting Park Ji-sung the ball right in front of our goal.
Almunia charged and Park timed his shot perfectly.
And just like that, we were trailing by two goals on aggregate–one of them a devastating away goal, which meant we needed three to win.
Really, a shame for Gibbs and for the entire team.
But all was not lost.
Not yet.
The game would go on for another two minutes before the fatal blow.
Ronaldo flopped, earning a penalty kick from forty yards.
He launched a screamer that unbelievably rocketed right past Almunia for goal number three on aggregate.
With eighty minutes still to play, the game was over.
Arsenal was done.

This morning I'm still feeling hollow–stunned from the fact that we never had a chance.
It can only be said that over the two legs, Manchester United was the better team - head and shoulders over Arsenal.
It stinks but it's the truth.

I read this morning that an Arsenal fan in Kenya hung himself after the match.
All I can say is I'm grateful my life doesn't hang on this team.
Over the last few years, we've been fragile, both physically and mentally.

I credit Arsene and the team for their remarkable comeback this season, orchestrating a 21 game unbeaten run to overtake Villa and secure fourth place in the EPL and another season of Champion's League football.

But surely, fourth place can't be good enough.

It's a broken record at this point–we need to buy some experienced players this summer and I wouldn't mind offloading Adebayor if we can get a decent coin for him. He's dead weight and he's dragging us down.

And yes, Arsene needs to rethink the overall composition–we're built for the sprint, not the long haul.

We play for pride now.
Pride and revenge.
Chelsea this weekend and Manchester United again next weekend.

And I can only hope that Barcelona goes through tonight and a healthy Henry stars in a Champions League Final blowout that wipes that cocky smirk right off Ronaldo's face.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Arsenal: It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

It's Super Manny!

He rescued us in Rome once already this season.
If not for his heroics Wednesday in Man U's "shock and awe" assault on our Champion's League dreams, we'd be dead and buried right now.
Come Tuesday, we'll need Manuel Almunia suited up again in his lime green tights and flowing cape, and at his super-human best if we've any hope of edging United for a return to Rome and a chance to play for all the European marbles.

You just know it's gonna come down to Manny again.
United will come out, guns blazing, same as last time because they can.
Wednesday was so bad, I was thinking last year's 4-0 FA Cup embarrassment all over again.
Silvestre said it felt "like the Alamo."
The shots will come.
Manny just better be ready.

Arsene has said we will see a different Arsenal at home on Tuesday.
With our team further ravaged by injuries to players, we don't have the depth to change the faces on the field.
There's a slim hope that we may see a special guest appearance by RVP, which would certainly be a boost, but his return won't patch our defense.
It will come down to tactics and sheer blood and guts to change our game.

Wenger will no doubt pull Fabregas back in midfield where he can use his vision and creativity to dictate play.
He'll also need a hair trigger in responding to the shape of the game because we simply can't let United gain and hold any further advantage.
Any player on the field who is not giving 100 percent, should be substituted.
That means you, Adebayor.
It's true, you had little help against Ferdinand and Vidic, but you just gotta lay it out there and stick your neck out and get your lazy ass to work.
Bendtner scored two goals yesterday against Portsmouth, and you know he's dying to play.
Vela also scored and he looks hungry.

Our best defense will be our attack.
I'm feeling like we really have to strike first to have a chance.
And then we leave it to Fabregas to pull the strings and Super Manny to cover our ass.
Even in Tuesday's defeat, we showed we can deal with Rooney and Ronaldo.
And credit's gotta go to the kid, Kieran Gibbs, who recovered in the second half, showing great composure for a 19 year-old, after being thrown to the lions.

Speaking of recovery, it must be said that this young team has orchestrated a remarkable comeback late in the season to assure a fourth place EPL finish and Champion's League football next year, and that alone is an accomplishment worthy of praise. Add to that the brilliance of Arshavin, and the prospect of a full strength Arsenal team, and it's enough to get the mouth watering for next year.

And we've still got a puncher's chance to reach the Champion's League Final now, this year.

And our secret weapon–Super Manny.

I'll call it now–3-1 to the Arsenal and I'll see you in Rome.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Artgig Case Study -

Jim has some good news to share - we launched the website today.

Healthy Kids NOW (Healthy Kids in Northern Westchester) is a coalition of community, civic, educational, business, and healthcare leaders (including yours truly) who aim to make Northern Westchester the place to raise healthy kids by promoting good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Jim is especially proud because this website is his adopted Joomla baby.

"Why Joomla?" You ask.
And you don't stop there. "Aren't you a custom shop with your own CMS?"

Well, yes, we've got our own mature CMS and we love it. And more importantly, our clients love it. But there comes a time when you have to leave the comfort zone and see what's on the other side.

Enter Joomla, one of the most widely-used open source content management systems available.

As much as I love our CMS, I see the clear benefit of open source, which is primarily, you aren't tied to a single vendor because there's a broad community of developers and lots of documentation and support, should you decide to take your website elsewhere.

A common misconception of open source is that it's cheaper. It's not. In most cases, you still have to pay a developer(s) to do the work, just like any other job. Unless, of course, you're willing to donate your time (and blood and sweat and tears) out of the goodness of your heart for a worthwhile cause–like promoting health and well-being for our kids.

I got involved with the Coalition through a friend and agreed to take on an advisory role as they enlisted a team of local college students to build the website as part of a class project. Well, let's just say three months later, the website was barely a shell and the kids went home for the holidays. That's how we came to adopt the Joomla baby.

Now Jim has experience developing using open source platforms and they're generally good to get you 80% of the way, but it's always a wrestling match when you get down to the fine details of customization. It's the last 20% that gets you.

We got the website into shape and our friends at the Coaliton spent some time filling it with content. Along the way, we squeezed an extra 5% out of Joomla and decided it was time to go live.

Healthy Kids will live with it for a while, it looks good and it does everything they want it to do - there are regular columns and features they can manage and archive, a calendar of events, a newsletter and mailing list, and a search function.

Of course, I wish we had used our CMS because everything would look and feel more like one of our websites, but this was a good lesson for all of us and a necessary step. The folks we're working with at the Coalition have never built a website before and now they have. Next time around, it will be even better.

By the way, we’re looking for a sharp Drupal developer – anyone?

Check it out:

Artgig Artist Series - Steve Featured in 59x59 Photographic Exhibit

Yes, that Steve.

Our very own code wizard, funk drummer, and lensman extraordinaire, Steve Grosmark, is a featured artist in The 59x59 Photographic Exhibition, kicking off this weekend at the GAGA Arts Center in Garnerville, NY, as part of the GAGA Arts Festival.

Steve's work has such an influence they've actually taken to calling it "The Steve Grosmark Show."

The 59x59 concept originally started as 59 photographers shooting on a single day along a 15 mile stretch of Route 59 in Rockland County, NY.
They ended up with 31 photographers but the name stuck.
It was almost a year ago when the photographers hit the road to get their shots and there were times along the way that it seemed the show might not happen at all.

On May 9, 2008 Steve got up at 3am and shot until 6pm - mostly in the rain.
Fortunately, the wet and dreary conditions really suit his shooting style and the results are quite powerful.
He came in one morning last week after hanging the large format prints in the space and I've honestly never seen him so excited.
Looking forward to the show...

The Exhibition runs through June 6th.

Note to the GAGA Arts Center - you should also talk to Steve about a new website because...well, it should be obvious.

You can check out Steve's pics here: