July 31, 2014

The Big Friendly Giants

By James F. Finn

With major sports franchises paying-out million dollar salaries to players and charging high ticket prices, it is easy for fans to expect that everything comes with a cost. But as it turns out, some things still are free: seeing the New York Giants train for the 2014 NFL season. From July 28th to August 14th, the Giants are offering fans a chance to see 14 open practice sessions at the Quest Diagnostic Training Camp (across from MetLife Stadium), followed by a 15 minute time slot for different groups of players to sign autographs for the kids.

On a weekday, the crowd is civilized while observing the team practice, aside from a few crowd roars while watching scrimmage matches. Fans young and old are clad in Giants t-shirts and jerseys as opposed to being covered in face paint. The players maneuver through offensive and defensive drills and switch stations at the blast of horn.

The biggest freebie of all is the Giant’s ability to leave a special memory for a young fan. Towards the entrance to the training center, there is an autograph zone designated only for kids 12 and under, along with fans who have special needs. The Giants take 15 minutes at the end of practice to send out a group of players to sign each person’s program, t-shirt or hat. Kids, their parents or day camp counselors smiled with glee as each player signed their program or took a photo. At the end of the day, signing autographs are not about adults who are just going to sell them on eBay; they are about the kids.

Just when you think big teams are overtaxing the goodwill of their fans, there are some that cut you a break once in a while. Don’t miss this limited engagement and check out the schedule!

June 25, 2014

Shakespeare away from the Globe Theatre

By James F. Finn

The Gold Coast of Fairfield County serves as the perfect backdrop for Shakespeare on the Sound’s annual theatre production. This year, the company is putting on The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a play generally considered to be Shakespeare’s first work. My family and I continue our summertime tradition of viewing each production in our own backyard. In the past, we have seen Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare on the Sound’s mission is to provide an affordable and open-air production of the works by England’s greatest  writer. The performance is hosted in Rowayton, CT, in Pinkney Park along the banks of the Fivemile River. Coincidentally, we picked the summer solstice (June 21st) as our day to see the play. The audience was made up of Shakespeare admirers, young families, and elderly folks from around the area. Two children, a boy and a girl, were in costume. The boy as Captain America; the girl as a princess wearing a tiara and tutu, armed with an umbrella to block the sun. The sun’s reflection gleamed over the river and cast an orange glow across the stage.

The stage is a stack of two books, with the second book opened up to a blown-up facsimile of the first page of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Actors utilized the hidden doors within the backdrop and travelled into the audience. In this play, a diegetic soundtrack of classical music is used to progress the narrative and spark some musical numbers showcasing the singing ability of the actors. The actors were dressed in Elizabethan garb, shunning recent interpretation in modern clothing.

The play is unabridged and performed in iambic pentameter. The company performs everyday except Monday at 7:30 PM as the sun begins to set. There is a small 25 minute performance for young children at 6:30. Performances run through June 29. Do not miss this spectacular engagement!  

June 21, 2014
Bound for Brooklyn

By James F. Finn

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Brooklyn serves as a backdrop for artists, filmmakers and playwrights; it also serves as an audience for the Celebrate Brooklyn! annual outdoor performing arts festival in Prospect Park. After spending the last two summer evenings at this concert series, I am hooked!

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Celebrate Brooklyn! is in its 36th season of showcasing local and internationally renowned artists in the Prospect Park Bandshell. All concerts are free of charge except for noted benefit concerts. The profits reaped from benefit concerts keep the rest of the shows free of charge for the frugal concert goer. My brother and I paid to see MS MR and The National on Thursday and then saw Lake Street Dive and Amos Lee for free the next day.

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Check-out the line-up for Summer 2014 that is a diverse mix of rock, reggae, soul, country, blues, jazz and more. Audience members range from young to old and make for a warm atmosphere. Do not miss this concert series! If you’re complaining about not having anything to do this summer, grab a friend, buy a train ticket to Brooklyn and go listen to some awesome live music!

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Filed under: brooklyn art culture music 
May 27, 2014
J.P. Morgan’s Mansion of Treasures

By James F. Finn

“Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?” - The Emperor’s Club (2002)

In New York City, tourists flock to MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, the Asia Society, Museum of Sex, and Madame Tussaud’s. The Morgan Library & Museum is a quiet museum housing over $900 million dollars in treasures available for cultural enrichment.

John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan was an American financier and the founder of J.P. Morgan Co. (now J.P. Morgan Chase). In his prosperous latter years, J.P. Morgan became an avid art collector and acquired first-edition books, fine tapestries, original manuscripts, jewelry and statues from the Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, and Egyptian empires. Recognizable items include an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible (the first published book), an original manuscript for “The Star Spangled Banner,” and various translations of the Bible. After J.P. Morgan’s death in 1913, his son, J.P. Morgan, Jr., inherited his father’s company and collection. Mr. Morgan understood the cultural implications of his father’s treasures and decided to place them on-display to the general public.

Aside from Mr. Morgan’s extensive library, a temporary exhibit called, “Gatsby to Garp,” displayed a collection of first edition American literature classics and edited manuscripts. First edition copies of Heminway’s Farewell to Arms, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatby, Kerouac’s On the Road, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath  are on-display. Museum-goers have the opportunity to read letters between writers and publishers, an edited manuscript of Of Mice and Men, and a letter from poet Allen Ginsberg to a publisher defending Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road, from a critic.

The lessons learned from J.P. Morgan are in-line with the quote from The Emperor’s Club. He was the wealthiest man and in the end contributed to the cultural enrichment of others. That is why history remembers Mr. Morgan.

 

May 15, 2014

Boston: The Athens of America

By James F. Finn

History cites Athens, Greece, as a city of cultural and academic importance in the ancient world. Boston, MA, is recognized as the “Athens of America” for the more than 60 colleges and universities spread throughout the city.

I graduated early from Emerson College in December and felt I could not end this three and a half year chapter without walking with my classmates. The trip began with an early morning, Monday departure time. Our train was on-time until a tragedy occurred as we passed through Mystic, CT. The train was delayed for an hour and a half. My first thoughts began to wander to the conclusion that a bad omen was in the cards for this week. As the week progressed, my first thoughts were pleasantly mistaken.

Throughout the week, I bid adieu to friends. I realized that I needed to take some extra time to say adieu to the city of Boston.

Though I will not miss the frigid winters of Boston, I will miss running along the Charles River and knocking out sets of pull-ups on the Par Course near Boston University during the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. Boston turned me into a runner because of its picturesque sites and runner-friendly trails.

As a lover of history, Boston’s critical role in the early stages of the American Revolution has been preserved with dignity through the Freedom Trail. I laced up my running shoes, packed my backpack, and ran from my host’s Cleveland Circle apartment all the way to the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, passing many sites that were listed on the Freedom Trail.

Charlestown is the oldest neighborhood in Boston and while it is populated with young families and faithful residents who were born and bred, the architecture makes one feel like they have time travelled to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Bunker Hill monument is on the site of one of the first major armed clashes of the Revolution between colonial militia and British forces. To commemorate the battle, a lone obelisk stands overlooking the the cities of Boston and Cambridge. I walked 294 steps to the top of the monument to get the best view in all of Boston of the city. The view was worth overcoming the vertigo spells.

Late afternoons in downtown Boston involve a variety of happenings in the Common, Public Gardens, and Chinatown. In the Gardens, take time to smell the beautiful flowers and lie under the cherry blossoms. Pause your walk along the footbridge overlooking the pond and swan boats to witness two lovers’ moment of engagement or snap a photo of the sun reflecting on the water. Go across the street to the Common and see little leaguer playing baseball, students laying out on the hill, and tennis players slamming it out in a singles match. In Chinatown, near the Paifang arch, a group of old Chinese men can be seen and heard betting on games of Poker, Solitaire, and Chinese Checkers.

As I walked across the stage at graduation on Mother’s Day Sunday, May 11th, my adventures in Boston had come to an end. Inspirational words from honorary degree recipient, Don Lemon, keynote speaker, Jay Leno, and President M. Lee Pelton all affirmed the end of one experience and beginning of another. I took the rest of the day to celebrate with my mother, father, brother and godmother to enjoy my last day in Boston. While my wanderlust will take me away from Boston, I foresee myself finding time to wander back.

April 22, 2014

Never Too Old For An Easter Egg Hunt

By James F. Finn

The Easter Bunny has come and gone. However, the chance to see Fabergé’s “The Big Egg Hunt” in Rockefeller Plaza  is on display until Friday, April 25.

Russian history has always been an interest of mine and the story of Fabergé is fascinating. Peter Carl Fabergé was a goldsmith contracted by Tsar Alexander III in 1885 to create a jeweled egg for his wife. In the Russian Orthodox Church, Easter is considered the most important holiday. The first egg was presented on Easter to the Empress. This tradition continued every Easter until 1917 with the abdication Tsar Nikolai II. The Bolsheviks seized Fabergé’s workshops and jewels, forcing the family to flee St. Petersburg.

“The Big Egg Hunt” began on April 1st as a scavenger hunt of 283 eggs hidden throughout all five boroughs of New York. Participants used their smart phones to photograph each “hidden” egg and uploaded the photos using a customized application to Twitter and Facebook. The eggs were designed by various artists (Diane von Fürstenberg, Julian Schnabel, Bruce Weber, and Ralph Lauren to name a few) and auctioned off. In addition, eggs designed by New York City public school students were on display. The proceeds from the auction will benefit the Elephant Family, a charity that protects endangered elephants in Asia, and Studio in a School, an organization dedicated to teaching visual arts to children in under-served public schools in New York City.

The design and color of the eggs enthralled adults and children of all ages. Security guards looked the other way as children hugged the eggs, smiled, and asked to be photographed. Multiple languages spoken expressed joy and fascination (I was able to hear French, Spanish, German, Hindi, and Russian). Children were able to find Waldo in the line of eggs. We all figured out that the chicken came before the egg. Even a shrubbery statue of the Easter Bunny could be found towards the entrance of Rockefeller Plaza.

Do not miss this limited engagement.

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Filed under: art holidays 
April 15, 2014
Alejandro Escovedo: Rock ‘n’ Roll Storyteller

By James F. Finn

Texas-based singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo’s music has been praised by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Ian Hunter (Lead singer of Mott the Hoople), Melissa Etheridge and John Cale (The Velvet Underground). Yet his catalog is relatively unknown to mainstream listeners. As I stood from the side of the stage at the Fairfield Theatre Company in downtown Fairfield, CT, the predominant age demographic was 40 and up. My brother and I were the only college-aged listeners in the crowd. I have been a fan for years after seeing him at a church in New Canaan, CT, and in an exclusive live radio performance at Sirius XM in New York City.

Mr. Escovedo is 63 years old and has followed his passion through the decades. His musical career began in the 1970’s with the punk rock movement in New York and San Francisco. His band, The Nuns, used to open for British punk act, The Sex Pistols. He released his first solo record in 1992 and has since gone on to make 14 records. The most recent album being, Big Station, released in 2012.

As a performer, Mr. Escovedo seeks intimacy with his audience. He plays with his four-piece band, The Sensitive Boys, at clubs, theatres and festivals throughout America. Mr. Escovedo effectively leverages his life experiences and family history within his music by telling the audience about the thought process and memories that inspired the song.

My favorite Alejandro Escovedo song is “Castanets.” In concerts, Mr. Escovedo reflects on a memory about a woman who does not have rhythm. A quick note about this song: In 2005, “Castanets” appeared on the top ten songs on President George W. Bush’s iPod. In protest, Mr. Escovedo refused to play the song until the president had left office (he lifted the moratorium in 2007).

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art and knowledge.” Alejandro has it all.

To learn more about Alejandro Escovedo, visit his website or like him on Facebook.

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Filed under: music culture 
April 6, 2014
Springing into a Half Marathon

By James F. Finn

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After a long, hard winter, Spring was in the air at Tod’s Point. The temperature was at 43 degrees, complemented by a bright sun, cloudless sky, and no wind chill. Tod’s Point is one of the most scenic parts of Greenwich. For the last two years, the local running store, Threads and Treads, has hosted a 13.1 mile half-marathon course that spans the beach at Tod’s Point through downtown Old Greenwich. As a belated 22nd birthday gift, I decided to run this course.

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Unlike other popular half marathons around the country that host thousands of runners, approximately 600-plus east coast runners from Massachusetts to North Carolina came out for the festivities. The race kicked-off at 7:30 AM at the second concession stand and requires runners to run up a hill. For the first mile, runners are bunched together in a herd. By miles two and three, the runners space out and fall into their paces for the race.

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To help you visualize the course. Here is a map.

Miles three and seven lead the runners into town and through some intermediate hill running. Throughout the race, neighbors cheer on the runners as they run past their driveways and offer water, tissues, and positive reinforcement. Runners feel a burning sensation in their calves and shins, but remain stalwart to finishing what they started.

The last three miles are a free-for-all 5K sprint for the young (and old) hard-chargers. Runners have returned to the beach and endure three forms of terrain: pavement, sand, and the same hill from the beginning. If you haven’t trained on sand, you’re missing out or just plain out miserable as you pass through. The key is to run in the footprints of others. The course comes full circle as runners sprint up the hill they started on. Though tired and sore, runners have not only a cheering audience, but a beautiful, glistening Long Island Sound.

Coincidentally, this writer who just turned 22 came in 22nd place running a 1:29:08 half marathon at 6:48 pace. Local events like these are a great way kick off a beautiful Spring season.

Photos courtesy of Irene Cunanan

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Filed under: running fitness health 
November 12, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans in the Nation’s Capital

By James F. Finn

It’s been way too long since I’ve last blogged. Mea maxima culpa! Life has been in the fast lane for me the last couple months.

Veteran’s Day in D.C. is an amazing experience! Arlington National Cemetery, World War II, Korea and Vietnam memorials attract tourists and veterans from all around the country and world.

The air was chilly, the sky blue and all the trees in Arlington were red, yellow and green. Normally, visitors can roam the grounds freely – Not when President Obama and most of the American political and military echelon are at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the national wreath-laying ceremony. All was lost, right? Not at all!

If you can’t join them, find another way to experience the Veteran’s Day celebration. I did. I found where the Army honor guard members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment had positioned three Howitzer cannons for the 21-gun salute. President Obama’s motorcade was also parked near the cannons and departed after he finished his speech to whisk him out.

At the ceremony’s conclusion the deafening blast of the cannons could be heard across the cemetery’s peaceful grounds for roughly four-and-a-half minutes. It was a spectacular and moving tribute to the nation’s fallen.

For history’s sake, here is a link to the origin of the 21-gun salute: http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/salute.html

I continued to bask in the festivities that DC had to offer by walking a mile from Arlington all the way to the Vietnam Wall for the wreath-laying ceremony. Hundreds of Vietnam Veterans had gathered to remember their fallen comrades. Former General (USA Ret.) and Secretary of State, Colin Powell addressed the audience. General Powell spoke about the initial controversy behind the design and construction of the Vietnam Wall. He said:

“Some said it wasn’t a traditional monument; Vietnam wasn’t a traditional war.”

I had the pleasure of shaking hands with General Powell at the conclusion of the ceremony. He shook the hands of children, veterans and the American people he served during his long career in public service.

Veteran’s Day in D.C. provides excellent, moving and spectacular ways to experience esteemed speakers and history. The best thing is – it’s all for free!

Please take the time to view my film, “The Other 1%,” a documentary about veterans: https://vimeo.com/67036555

April 21, 2013

So You Didn’t Run the Marathon… Pt. 2

By James F. Finn

So you didn’t run the marathon…

Instead, you came together with the rest of your city to mourn the dead and celebrate the capture of the perpetrator to live another day in harmony. Every resident of Boston is a champion, whether they were running in the marathon or not. The marathon tragedy knocked everybody down, but we got back up again.

Sunday, April 21st was a beautiful, brisk day. People were out and about enjoying the sun. Whether it was hanging outside with your significant other; running/walking in the Common; looking at the flowers in the public gardens as musicians played folk tunes; regardless it was a day to live and enjoy after experiencing grief.

The chorus of “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters describes today:

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

Moments to live, love and heal are priceless and should never be taken for granted. My father always reminded me, “you’re never guaranteed another day.” When I was younger, my mother used to tell me, “pray you live another day.”

Mom and Dad’s lessons are always applicable to situations like these; the people of Boston get to enjoy a day of harmony. We don’t know what the future holds. However, it’s sure enough that Bostonians are capable of love, compassion and unity in times of trouble.

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Filed under: bostonstrong 
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