Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taryn Cooper Joins Team McGraw In The 2012 ING New York City Marathon Honoring Gary Carter

Sometimes it can be incredibly insidious; a stalking relentless beast that methodically operates on a timetable of its own choosing.  It has no regard to your wishes, desires or your plans.  You’re a number to it at best.  You go about your life indifferent to your own mortality – at least if you’re under 30 you do.   Ultimately, you have no real control over it.  Sure you can try to do the obvious.  Eat well.  Exercise.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t drink.  But really that’s advice for just about anyone who’s trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  However, it’s a far cry from being a panacea.  Hell it’s a far cry from being a foolproof model for prevention.  For this predator, in spite of all of our 21st century medical advances, still has an unmovable vice grip on humanity.  James Rodgers, if he were here would agree.  Who’s James Rodgers?  He is and was my wife’s Uncle and last week Uncle Jimmy was laid to rest after battling cancer for two years until it finally metastasized to his brain.  He was 60 years old, still married to his high school sweetheart with whom he had three daughters. 

It’s not the first time Cancer has taken a member of my family.  My Grandfather battled with bladder Cancer and fought almost two years on hospice until he could fight no longer.  It ravaged a man who in his prime could walk entire New York boroughs barely breaking a sweat.  It took my wife’s mother, Arlene Rodgers, just a few years ago, she was only 54.  It’s taken the young, the elderly, the poor and the wealthy affording zero prejudice along the way.  Of all the medical advances we’ve made as a species, it kills me to think that we’re able to re-grow hair for balding men, lengthen women’s eyelashes with a cream, reverse the signs of aging using Botulism shots in the face and let’s not forget what that little blue pill can do for men. 

However when it comes to Cancer, we’ve barely scratched the surface on discovering a cure.  Hasn’t it’s time come, no? And only through research – painstaking and ultimately expensive research, will that day come when we can stop blindly shooting arrows at this cagy beast.   That’s one of the reasons when my fellow blogger at Metsmerizedonline, Taryn Cooper, also the driving force behind A Gal For All Seasons, approached me with writing this, I couldn’t help but feel both honored and proud of what she’s doing.

This coming November, as it has since it’s humble beginning in 1970 when a mere 127 runners paid a $1 entry fee, Taryn will be running in the ING New York City Marathon as a member of Team McGraw which benefits the Tug McGraw Foundation.  The Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for children and adults affected by neurological conditions such as brain tumors, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. As a part of Team McGraw, Coop is raising funds to support in this effort.  I’m not the only one to feel a sense of pride with what Taryn is doing.  I think her husband, Ed Leyro, sums it up best:

Think of how proud Mets fans are of the 1969 and 1986 World Championship teams. That level of pride doesn't even come close to what I feel for Taryn. I have difficulty running around the block without complaining. She's going to run around the entire city of New York! And she's doing it for a fantastic cause. It's impossible not to gush with pride when I think about her selfless act.

Brimming with pride for what Taryn is undertaking, the Leyro family are no strangers to the harsh reality that Cancer is as Ed told me:

Cancer has hit very close to home in my family. My mother is a two-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979 and colon cancer in 1990. I'm happy to report that the year is now 2012, and my mother is still with us and cancer-free! Without all the money raised for cancer research over the years, I might not have been able to enjoy all these years with my mother.

It’s sobering when you think of it that according to the American Cancer Society one out of every two men will have some form of Cancer in their lifetime and one out of every three women will as well.  Think of that next time you’re at work or with your friends and family.  Cancer, if anything, is such a harsh reminder of our mortality.  I asked Taryn what drove her to attempt this incredible mental and physical challenge:

The NYC Marathon has been on my "bucket list" of things to do since I was probably a teenager. I just thought the event was something larger than myself, and I wanted to be part of it. The interest has waned over the years simply because the magnitude of running 26.2 miles just seemed too unrealistic. Until a few things changed. I live a few blocks from the finish line of the marathon, and every year on marathon Sunday, I see all the finishers walking through my neighborhood. And every year, I wonder if I'll do it myself. 
My friend Sharon Chapman ran the marathon in 2010, and she was the one who suggested that instead of relying on the lottery to enter the marathon, that I run for charity. Her charity was the Tug McGraw Foundation, which raises funds to assist in quality of life issues for brain cancer survivors and those living with neurological disorders.

To a Mets fan, the very concept of "Ya Gotta Believe" hits home and this was something Tug McGraw believed in until his untimely death, due to brain cancer. It made perfect sense, especially since my hero, Gary Carter, died of the affliction early this year. My friend Kara is also running the marathon for Team McGraw in honor of some family members who had brain cancer, and her father who suffers from a seizure disorder. Team McGraw just made sense for me. If I can run 26.2 miles, and bring awareness to a charity that does great work, then my job is pretty easy!

Those of you who know me know that I rarely if ever ask you to do something.  I would never tell you who to vote for or what to believe, for I personally believe that those ideas HAVE to come to you on your own.  YOU have to do the legwork for that, especially if it’s ever going to have some greater meaning for you.  This is one of those rare times when I ask all of you to imagine if every reader pledged a dollar to Taryn in the New York City Marathon – just a dollar.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars would be mind blowing and the good works that the Tug McGraw Foundation provides would be greatly effected and enhanced.  Taryn’s goal is to get to $3000 and so far she’s already raised more than half of that.  I say why stop there.  You Gotta Believe anything is possible. 

Please support Taryn and the Tug McGraw Foundation by heading here to donate

The Tug McGraw Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization designated by the Internal Revenue Code. Their tax identification number is 20-0586256.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Summer Movie Review - The Avengers

The year was 1975.  Yours truly was still in diapers here.  Gerald Ford replaced the disgraced Richard Nixon as President of the United States.  Disco was in its prime.  And a young director by the name of Steven Spielberg forever changed the film industry and ushered in what we’ve come to know as the summer movie blockbuster when his film Jaws premiered June 20th, eventually earning over 2 billion dollars (inflation adjusted) worldwide. 

Everything from the iconic Star Wars to the utter failure of Waterworld, Hollywood saves its best and occasionally its worst and definitely their most expensive productions for the summer release.  With the kids out of school, it’s hard to question that strategy; in fact, this summer can easily be considered one of the most anticipated in recent time. 

Over the next few months audiences will be glued to their seats as Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise when his film Prometheus debuts on June 8th.  The Fourth of July weekend will mark the big screen return of Peter Parker as Sony Pictures somehow deemed it necessary to reboot The Amazing Spider-Man. Christopher Nolan will complete his Batman trilogy on July 20th with the release of The Dark Knight Rises.  And Marvel studios, after four years of preparing audiences with films such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, assigned writer/director Joss Whedon with the daunting task of assembling those main characters for The Avengers which hits theaters this weekend.

Let me be clear, this movie will summon the uber-geek out of anyone, including the most starched buttoned down personalities.  There was a time when Marvel really didn’t have all these ships in line but they’ve seriously moved on from that.  Whedon is a self-described fanboy who knows what he wants to achieve with these characters.  He totally understands the archetypes these characters represent and more importantly, he knows how to build upon them.  It’s definitely a great time to be comic geek as the visual technology has finally caught up to the imagination, making the ruminations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that much more of a reality. 

Admittedly I was always more of a DC fan than Marvel.  DC being the home of Superman, Batman and the Justice League were always viewed as having the more fanciful of characters whilst Marvel was lauded for being far more rooted in reality, having main characters with more relatable flaws.  One thing is certain, Marvel has been able to translate their vision onto the big screen with much greater success than anything DC has done so far even with the success of Nolan’s Batman films.  Ironically the Marvel vision hasn’t taken on the same dark tones as seen with Nolan’s Batman films, go figure. 

The Avengers is visually stunning, and that’s without seeing it in 3D, sorry I’m not a fan of that medium.  It begins on another planet where Loki and an unknown ally of his (you’ll find out later if you stay after the credits) are discussing enslaving Earth – yes I know shocking. If you’re going to enjoy these films you have to suspend disbelief at least for 2 hours. From there the team begins to assemble with each main character given their just-due screen time. 

At times it seems the script could have been tightened in the first Act, especially with the sub-plots each of the characters brings to the film.  Let’s face it; Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow is visual eye candy here but Whedon does his best to give her character some justice.  Unfortunately I thought the various sub plots took away from the main conflict of the story which by the end of the second half kicks into high gear.

Whedon captures actions scenes in a way that should make Michael Bay green with Hulk envy.  Once the film hits its stride at about an hour in, prepare to envision Michael Bay peeing himself from both joy and utter shame as Joss Whedon flicks on the badass switch with Samuel L. Jackson-esque directorial swagger.  He’s able to do what Bay never seem to be able to do, which is to make you give a rat’s ass about his characters while creating visually jaw dropping action scenes.  Whedon brings his personal style of dialogue, which if you were ever a fan of Buffy, was witty bordering on smartass, a style I happen to love as it brings a real texture to these larger than life characters.  Sometimes it did get too convoluted and Banner's at times did seem a bit forced, as if he was shocked to be there.  Umm hello.

You’ll find Robert Downey Jr’s lines absolutely spot on.  Tony Stark is the antithesis to Chris Evans’ Captain America, who’s lines border on becoming too earnest.  But Joss Whedon makes it work.  Loki played by Tom Hiddleston, is just slimy enough without becoming a caricature.  You'll love how he meets his fate towards the end of the film and who brings it to him.  That was a gem. And even though technically he appears in the 3rd Act when it all hits the fan, you will be shocked to know which character steals this movie in a – hint - smashing way.  All I can say is, Ed Norton you silly silly man you. What were you thinking?

Overall it’s hard not to enjoy this film.  It delivers on what Marvel Studios has had in mind over the span of over 4 movies and then some.  Hopefully the executives at DC are taking detailed notes on this and perhaps over the next few years we’ll be seeing the same treatment given to their franchise stars as well. Man of Steel, the latest Superman reboot from 300 director Zack Snyder, is due to hit theaters next summer.   

My few nit picking problems with the film were the inclusion of Loki’s army called the Chitauri.  Basically they were to the Avengers as what the Droid armies in the Star Wars prequels were.  Slightly annoying, undefined, and purposeless other than for something for the heroes to beat the ever-loving snot out of, these CGI creatures did little other than that.  It would have been nice to know what their motivation was.  But it’s a minor flaw in the grand scheme of things.  

Overall, The Avengers delivers on what a blockbuster summer action movie should be hands down.  I’ll try not to skip in the parking lot on the way back to the car.  Bad enough my wife is pretending she doesn’t know me tonight. 

The Sector gives The Avengers 3 out of 4 stars.