9/11 Never Forget

It’s been 18 years since the most tragic and horrific day in the history of the United States of America, September 11th 2001. A few days ago, as I drove by the 9/11 ‘Tribute in Lights’ I had to take a picture as I marveled at its majesty while lamenting what it symbolizes. On this day that altered American history 18 years ago, I remember being on the subway on my way to work. People that came into the train were talking about how a plane had just ‘accidentally’ flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We would later find out that it was no accident.
When I got to my office, through the big south-facing windows from the 17th floor of my SoHo office building, I saw the second plane fly smack into the middle of the second tower. Shortly after, I witnessed the two mighty towers that were engulfed in flames completely crumble to the ground. What I saw through the windows with my own two eyes that morning still haunt me to this day, and will remain in my mind until my very last day. The landscape and skyline that we took for granted for so long was now forever transformed, as were our lives from that day forward. The pungent stench and clouds of debris from all the fallen metal, concrete, glass and other materials would remain in the NYC air for many many months to follow. The thousands of lives lost and the families and friends they’ve impacted affect us all.
I personally have friends and family that narrowly escaped peril on that day, and I lost a former colleague. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I think a little bit of each of us died on that solemn day. All we can do is keep fighting, no matter what struggles and hardships we face. Not just for ourselves, but for the ones that matter to us. Never give up. Never give in. But never forget.

Spring Fever!

Baseball is finally back folks! 🙌 Today is Opening Day of the regular season for Major League Baseball. Being a native New Yorker, I will be biased and mainly following the progress of my local teams for the next 162 games, and hopefully beyond. There are many storylines to follow as the season begins as both New York clubs have made changes to bolster their respective teams in the off-season. Will the high-powered Yankees improve on last season’s playoff letdown with the addition of oft-injured all-star hitter Troy Tulowitski, among others, to supplement their power duo behemoths Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge? Will the Mets be able to make it back to the playoffs with the addition of veteran hitter (and former Yankee star) Robinson Cano and 24 yr old star closer (with an MLB-best 57 saves in 2018) Edwin Diaz?

The Yankees will be at home in the Bronx to host the lowly Baltimore Orioles, with their 2nd best pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on the mound (#1 Yankee starter Luis Severino starts the season on the disabled list until May with a rotator cuff injury). And my boys in Orange & Blue, the NY Mets will start the season in Washington DC to play a 3 game series against the Nationals. This game in particular should be one to watch as it features 2 of the best pitchers in baseball (and winners of the last 3 NL Cy Youngs): 2018 National League Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom of the Mets vs. Max Scherzer (’16 & ’17 NL Cy Young winner) for the Nationals. This has only happened twice before in the history of Major League Baseball where the top 2 Cy Young award vote-getters match up on opening day of the following season. And it is happening twice again today with deGrom vs. Scherzer in the National League and Blake Snell (2018 AL Cy Young winner) of the Tampa Bay Rays vs. runner-up Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros in the American League. The last time this happened was 40 years ago on opening day of the 1979 baseball season. The Cy Young award is baseball’s highest honor for pitchers, given out after the end of each season to give recognition to the best in the game. deGrom easily won the award in 2018 with an MLB-best 1.70 earned run average, while Scherzer was no slouch as runner up with a record of 18-7 with a 2.53 era. Of course, being the Met fan that I am, I’m hoping that Scherzer has an uncharacteristic off-day and the Mets crush every ball that he hurls at them. The more likely scenario for this game is that scoring will be at a premium and this will be one of those proverbial “pitchers’ duels” with these 2 superstars toeing the rubber today. And deGrom should be able to focus a bit better coming into opening day, fresh off his brand new five-year, $137.5 million extension with the Mets. This new deal makes him the highest paid athlete in New York based on average annual salary. deGrom had publicly stated that he wanted to complete contract talks before the start of the season to eliminate that distraction, so kudos to the Mets and new GM Brodie Van Wagenen for making that happen. Prediction: Mets win 3-1. Let’s play ball! 🥎🥎🥎

**Stats & info from MLB.com and the MLB At Bat mobile app

Superbowl LIII (53) – GOAT edition

Superbowl 53 is officially upon us, folks. The biggest sports event of the year (and most expensive, with 30 second ad spots during this year’s telecast costing an average of $5.25 Million, the most expensive it’s ever been*) is happening this Sunday February 3rd at 6:30pm EST in Atlanta, GA. It is estimated that well over 100 million people will be tuning in here in the U.S.* Superbowl 2019 will feature the LA Rams, going for their 2nd superbowl win in their history, and the perennial Superbowl contenders the New England Patriots, going for their 6th Superbowl victory. The Patriots have been the AFC champions three years in a row, and consequently are making their 3rd consecutive Superbowl appearance. If the Patriots pull off another championship win this Sunday, it will tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most superbowl championships in NFL history (6).

And all 5 of the Patriots’ championships so far have been with Tom Brady at the helm as their starting Quarterback. If they achieve a 6th Superbowl win this Sunday, it will only solidify Brady’s status as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Brady’s 5 championships are the most for any quarterback in history, with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw tied for second best with 4 Lombardi trophies each. Love him or hate him, there is no denying his achievements and his status as a living legend. What Michael Jordan is to basketball, Brady is to football. If he wins his 6th Superbowl on Sunday, he will have even more in common with Michael Jordan with 6 world championships each. And although the Brady-era Patriots have had its share of controversies over the years (e.g. spygate, deflategate), they are mere minor blemishes on an otherwise stellar and storied career. At 41 years old, he is showing no signs of slowing down and had publicly stated that he plans on playing until he turns 45. Although nothing is guaranteed and anything can certainly happen, I know I wouldn’t bet against the best QB of all time. Have a happy Superbowl Sunday folks!

*( info from http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/super-bowl-53-commercials-how-much-do-ads-cost-in-2019/l9ghpuv7kwwq1uhwy9xd35rhm )

Oh, so good!

2019 is definitely off to a great and groundbreaking start for Hollywood with the Golden Globe awards telecast this past weekend. Not only did she co-host the show, but Sandra Oh became the first Asian actress in over three decades to win best actress honors for her role in the BBC America original series “Killing Eve”. Oh made history in 2018 as the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy award for lead actress in a drama for the same role. The 2018 smash hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians also deserves an honorable mention for being nominated for 2 awards, namely: Best Picture, Musical or Comedy and its female lead Constance Wu for Best Actress, Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film grossed over $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. A sequel is currently in the works with a planned release date of June 26, 2020. Let’s hope this is a sign of more positive change and representation to come. Not just in Hollywood, but in our society as a whole, in 2019 and beyond!

Bored To Life movie review – Molly’s Game

 

Aaron Sorkin is best known for writing Academy Award winning screenplays (The Social Network) and Emmy winning TV shows (The West Wing).  In Sorkin’s directorial debut in the movie “Molly’s Game”, he does an admirable job in bringing the true story of world-class skier turned poker princess Molly Bloom to the big screen.  The film is based off of Bloom’s self-penned memoirs, and Bloom was consulted throughout the making of the film.  After an unfortunate accident on the slopes during competition (an occurrence which was created for the movie but did not happen in her real life) brought Bloom’s Olympic career and aspirations to an abrupt halt, circumstances and fate brought her out to Los Angeles and to the doorstep of a Hollywood insider/ restaurateur.  She was hired to be his office assistant, which transformed into doubling as the organizer and manager of his weekly private poker game.  Molly knew nothing about poker, but did the necessary research and absorbed her surroundings while hobnobbing and schmoozing with the Hollywood and sports world elite.  After learning what she needed to know about running the game, and getting the contact info for the game’s exclusive clientele, Molly eventually separated from her employer and began organizing and managing the weekly game on her own.  This became an extremely profitable enterprise for Bloom, making her multiple millions at its peak.  She brought her talents to New York to run an even bigger and more profitable poker game for years before the Russian mob and, eventually, the FBI impeded her plans.

I was fortunate enough to be at the movie’s premiere at Lincoln Square in New York City on December 13th.  Aaron Sorkin got up in front of the audience to give an introduction to the movie.  He described Jessica Chastain (who plays Molly Bloom) as “no other person I would rather be in the trenches and battlefield with” when making a movie, and he went on to talk about Molly Bloom as his “forever Heroine”.  And after seeing the movie, you understand the accuracy in both of his descriptions.  Chastain gives an outstanding and believable performance, as does Idris Elba as her criminal defense attorney Charlie Jaffey.  Veteran actor Kevin Costner also gives a notable performance in the role of Bloom’s demanding father, Larry Bloom.

I can appreciate Sorkin’s attempt to provide some insight into the world of underground poker clubs and poker at the casinos.  Having been around the poker scene for many years myself, both in the casinos and the private clubs, I can say that this movie falls somewhat short of its goal to look and feel authentic on at least one occasion.  I get it, it’s a movie, and movies are made to entertain people.  So scenes tend to be portrayed a certain way for a more dramatic and memorable effect.  But there is almost a zero percent chance that someone that knows anything about poker, even a novice, could be convinced to fold the nuts (i.e. – the best poker hand at that particular point in time) just by annoying table banter from another player, no matter how influential the other player is or how flustered he gets a fellow player.  And that is what Michael Cera’s “Player X” character is somehow able to do in this movie, bully another “newbie” player into folding the nuts purely from convincing table banter.  Unlikely in real life, but entertaining in the world of make-believe.

The movie’s attempt at showing realistic poker scenarios does redeem itself to a degree in another scene, however.  The methodical case study of a poker player on tilt is brilliantly portrayed by Bill Camp as Harlan Eustice, a solid and conservative veteran poker player who is normally a consistent winner at the game.  That is, until he thoroughly loses it after an inferior player bluffs him off what would have been his winning hand at one of Molly Bloom’s private L.A. games.  The downward spiral that ensues and his mental breakdown pretty accurately depicts what every gambler can relate to – chasing after that elusive win as you go deeper into the hole and your bankroll dwindles during an extensive losing streak.  You can almost see the black cloud hanging over Harlan’s head as he loses hand after hand and his mental state switches from anger to depression, and everything in between.  It is also later revealed that “Player X” staked Harlan into the game, meaning Player X paid for Harlan’s buy-in in order to invest in him and share in his profits, or take on his losses – which is a very common practice in the poker world.

Aside from some of the embellishments and over-dramatization in a few of the poker scenes, the movie does do a good job of putting us into the shoes of Molly Bloom and giving us a realistic feel for her struggles as well as her triumphs.  Overall, it is an entertaining and cautionary tale, showing us the highs and the lows of the human experience as one goes through the journey of figuring out their path in life.  I give this movie a solid 3.5 out of 5 pints of Bud Light.

🍺🍺🍺🍻

For NYC

A vignette by K.M.

I felt the energy of the night so intense it broke me down to a sobbing cry … New York City can do that to a person … Elton John told us to turn around and say good morning to the night … and that’s how Manhattan is … mornings turn quickly into nights … nights turn quietly into mornings … and now I have to leave … my morning has arrived.

The vigor of New York will turn a writer into a novelist carving their stories into novellas not praised for the beauty and flow of words but for the size of the tales inked from near eternal nights and carried into the early light.

Is it the brain or the heart that allows us to love … can you love a city in the same passionate way you do a new lover. As the metropolis ingests it’s devoted practitioners fueling its subways and taxis and eateries … the brain and its autocratic function wrangles the heart for every last drop of the city’s stimulus.

The solemn morning begins to illuminate over a different horizon. I close my eyes and let the warmth of the fresh sun set an ember to my imagination.