Category Archives: Media

And The Answer Is …

Today’s New York Times crossword puzzle starts easily.

1 Across:  “Home to Santa’s workshop.” 4 letters. Hmmm…”North Pole” doesn’t fit. So…just “Pole,” right?

Okay. 1 Down: “Affluent Connecticut town.” Also 4 letters.

Wow. I can’t think of any towns that start with “P.” Or even any 4-letter affluent Connecticut towns. Well, maybe Avon…

On to 5 Across, to the immediate right:  “Popular outdoor clothing brand, with ‘The.'” The only one I can think of is “North Face.” But there are only 4 squares. Leave that for later…

I’ll try the next one on the top line. 9 Across:  “Minnesota NHL team from 1967 to 1993.” That’s simple: “North Stars.” But wait — there are only 5 letters. So…just “Stars,” no?

Aha!

Every answer on the top is missing “North.”

Why would that be?

Oh yeah! Because they’re on the top line — in other words, the “North”!

So that must mean, um — the bottom line would be “South.”

Let’s check it out. 67 Across is “Country hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.” I haven’t paid attention yet, but I’m guessing it’s not South Africa. What about…South Korea?

Yep — there are 5 squares. Bingo!

So back to the top — 1 Down. I’m betting every answer on the left side starts with “West.”

Which would make that “affluent Connecticut town” — the one with only 4 letters, starting with a “P” — “Westport”!

It’s a clever crossword. And I’ll be sure to thank Times puzzle editor Will Shortz for it personally, next February.

You know — when he makes his annual appearance at the Westport Library Crossword Competition!

Will Shortz at the Westport Library, last February.

(Hat tip: David Schwartz)

 

Bob Bowman Leaves MLB

The New York Times has been busy covering Westport sports figures.

First came the news that Kyle Martino is running for US Soccer president.

Now the paper reports that Bob Bowman is leaving Major League Baseball.

Bob Bowman

The Times calls the longtime Westport resident “the person most responsible” for making MLB’s digital and video arm “one of the greatest success stories” in all of American business.

The 62-year-old will leave as president of MLB business and media at the end of the year.

Under Bowman’s leadership, the Times says, Major League Baseball Advanced Media became “the envy of every sports league and one of the most important companies as the broadcast world transitioned to digital streaming.”

Bam, the paper adds,

has consistently been at the bleeding edge of technology, and transformed how fans consumed sports. Bam bought MLB.com and redesigned the league’s website; centralized and ran each team website; created MLB.TV, allowing subscribers to watch out-of-market games; and created the At Bat smartphone app, “the highest-grossing sports app of all time,” according to the league.

Most important, the technology Bam developed to stream games simultaneously to hundreds of thousands of fans has underpinned some of the biggest internet streaming services. ESPN, HBO, WWE, Fox Sports and Hulu are some of the companies that have hired Bam to run their back-end streaming operations.

Before joining MLB, Bowman served as Michigan state treasurer, and was a top executive at ITT.

(Click here for the full New York Times story. Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Kyle Martino Runs For President

The president of US Soccer has a big job.

He oversees all levels of the sport in the United States — from the millions of kids playing to the pros, and of course the men’s and women’s national teams. By virtue of this country’s size and wealth — if not our international soccer prowess — he’s one of the most powerful people in the global sports world.

In the coming months, his job will be bigger than ever. He’ll help lead a US bid — with Canada and Mexico — to host the 2026 World Cup.

He’s also charged with naming a new men’s national team coach, and putting together that shattered program in the wake of the Americans’ dismal failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

If things work out, that new President of US Soccer may be 1999 Staples High School grad Kyle Martino.

Kyle Martino, in the 1999 Staples High School yearbook.

The New York Times calls the Weston resident “perhaps (the) biggest name yet” to enter the race — and “the biggest threat” to current president Sunil Gulati. The 3-term president — also a Connecticut native — has not yet announced if he will run again.

Though just 36 years old, Martino has strong credentials. A Wrecker star — and Gatorade National High School Player of the Year — who went on to college powerhouse the University of Virginia, he earned Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year honors with the Columbus Crew.

He later played with the Los Angeles Galaxy — where he teamed with the legendary David Beckham — and appeared 8 times with the US national team. He scored a goal in an important World Cup qualifier against Panama.

Kyle Martino

After retiring from pro soccer, Martino became a television analyst. He covers England’s Premier League for NBC Sports, and is known for his astute insights, strong personality and great TV presence.

Martino announced a 3-pronged plan on his website, EveryonesGameUSA.com. The components include “transparency, equality and progress” in American soccer. He is particularly concerned about the financial barriers that deter some youth players, and the “mistreatment” of female athletes.

One obstacle Martino faced is that the presidency is unpaid. He and his wife — actress and blogger Eva Amurri — have 2 young children. But he’s assembled a consortium of backers; he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign, and if elected he hopes to turn the job into a salaried post. (Gulati is a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia University, and receives a stipend for sitting on FIFA’s executive committee.)

Kyle Martino and his wife, actess Eva Amurri.

Martino — who has taken a leave from NBC Sports — says, “I won’t be able to forgive myself if I don’t stand up for US Soccer right now. I didn’t dream of doing this job, but I know I have to do it.”

Other candidates include former national team players Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri, among others. The election is February 10.

Win or lose, Martino will retain his affection for Staples soccer. Most recently, he led a project called “Etched in Stone,” honoring former players who died young. He did it in memory of his friend Drew Tursi, brother of Martino’s ex-teammate Brad Tursi.

Martino appeared at the dedication ceremony last month. It was one small — but important — way for him to give back to the game.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Kyle Martino, at last month’s “Etched in Stone” project dedication at Staples’ Loeffler Field.

 

Ras Runs In Bridgeport

From time to time, Staples High School graduates run for public office. Some do it in Westport; others, wherever they’ve moved to.

Few of them want to serve in Bridgeport. Ras Omari does, and for a very good reason: That’s his hometown.

Omari McPherson, Staples High School Class of 2004.

Growing up there — when he went by the name Omari McPherson — he attended local schools. But he was selected by lottery for the Open Choice program. He got up early every morning, and was bused to Staples High.

He nurtured his love for recording, film and web development there. But after graduation in 2004, he majored in mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

He added a master’s in marketing and technology innovation. In 2010 Omari joined Verizon’s Network Leadership Development program as an engineering project manager.

In his spare time, he worked as a photographer and videographer.

Feeling stifled and unfulfilled by his career path, Omari left corporate America. In 2014 — with his wife Juliana and newborn son — he moved back to Bridgeport. His journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship was underway.

Today Omari is the founder and director of Vizier Media, a digital marketing consultancy specializing in “thought development, creative direction and content engineering.” He’s a dedicated husband, and father of Shiloh and Kaya.

And now a candidate for Bridgeport City Council. His 131st district includes downtown, the South End and part of the West End.

Ras Omari

Since returning to the Park City, he told Lennie Grimaldi’s great “Only in Bridgeport” blog, he’s realized it holds many hidden gems, waiting to be uncovered.

He stayed away from the city’s famously notorious and messy politics. But — hoping for insights into local issues — Omari attended last month’s City Council candidates’ forum. He was “uninspired” by both the dialogue, and the quality of candidates on stage.

He asked himself why Bridgeport is — and has been — run the way it has, for so long. After digging deep into the budget and downtown development projects, Omari realized it was time to step up.

He launched his write-in campaign.

“I believe this city’s turnaround hinges on a new generation of leaders who are thoughtful, productive and can come up with tangible solutions to problems,” he told Grimaldi.

“Politics in Bridgeport don’t have to mean the same ol’ same ol’. The ‘Write-in Ras’ campaign is about putting the power back in the hands of the people, and side-stepping the machine.”

Ras Omari in downtown Bridgeport. (Photo/Gary Pivot)

He does not want to fight “pettiness.” He aims to “inform, include and inspire a new generation of artists, entrepreneurs, and bright young professionals to take an active role in the future of the city.”

Tomorrow, Staples’ former Open Choice student hopes to give Bridgeport voters an open choice too.

 

2 US Senators, The State Comptroller, 2 Local Candidates And A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer Walk Into Campaign Headquarters…

That was the scene today across from Stop & Shop.

US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Connecticut’s chief finance guy Kevin Lembo, came here to boost Democratic 1st and 2nd selectman hopefuls Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer.

Also on the scene: award-winning New York Times photographer and 1988 Staples High School graduate Tyler Hicks. His sister Darcy is a political activist.

From left: Chris Murphy, Rob Simmelkjaer, Tyler Hicks, Melissa Kane, Kevin Lembo, Richard Blumenthal.

And before folks get all bent out of shape, accusing me of partisanship: Trust me. If the Republicans had rolled out firepower like this, I’d post their shot too.

It’s a great photo op. That’s it.

See you at the polls!

Jarret Liotta’s Movies Hit Home

Jarret Liotta has a love-hate relationship with Westport.

After college, the Staples High School graduate spent years in Los Angeles. The journalist was a regular New York Times correspondent, and contributed to 100 publications.

But in 2008, he returned to give his kids some suburban experience.

Now — with nearly a decade back home, as a freelance writer and photographer — he’s gained a new appreciation for Westport’s uniqueness. He’s deepened old relationships, and made new acquaintances.

Jarret Liotta

“Sad to say, many of us are so paralyzed by the fear-based myths of being ‘practical’ that we shun the directions our hearts want to lead us,” he says.

“Instead we waste time talking ourselves into believing we’re happily situated in our work life.”

Two years ago, he decided to go all-in pursuing film and video — interests he’d had since dabbling in them decades ago at Coleytown Junior High.

He wrote “Home Movie,” a feature-length dark comedy. Filmed entirely in Westport, it’s the story of a young woman’s trip back to her hometown after her father dies.

But the title also refers to the help Liotta got from many local people and groups, including the Westport Woman’s Club, Senior Center, Police Department, Kaia Yoga, 323 restaurant, Gold’s Deli, even the Harding Funeral Home.

A Kickstarter campaign — running through Thanksgiving — will help him place “Home Movie” in film festivals.

A scene from “Home Movie” …

While working on that project, Liotta talked with Bill Harmer. The Westport Library director mentioned that his previous library in Michigan was involved with films on local subjects.

Bob Mitchell of the Westport Historical Society heard that Liotta was interested in a Westport-based documentary. He suggested veterans.

“I’ve always been a dove,” Liotta says. “I’ve had relatively set ideas about the military, and what I imagined was a typical veteran.”

But he liked the idea. After each interview, his impressions evolved.

“On a personal level, it was very enlightening,” he explains. “I found myself understanding many positive aspects about the involvement I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.”

… and one from his veterans’ documentary.

Liotta started with World War II veterans, including well-known Westporters Leonard Everett Fisher, Ted Diamond and Bob Satter. Some he knew personally. Others, he says, “I had the good fortune to meet.”

While he still considers any kind of military machine “repugnant” — though “perhaps necessary” — he now has a different perspective on those who choose to serve.

“The people I interviewed seem to recognize the tremendous value in living a service attitude — giving back or taking responsibility to help their larger community,” Liotta says.

“That’s a brilliant and honorable concept. To me, that’s really the core reason to honor veterans.”

Right now, Liotta is editing the film. It’s called “Community & Country: A Spirit of Service.” It will be shown at Town Hall on Monday, November 13 (7 p.m.)

He hopes the library and Historical Society will make copies available after it’s screened.

That will be their — and his — way of giving back, just as our veterans have done.

Good News: No More Minuteman Papers In Your Driveway!

Finally, there’s a fail-safe solution to the scourge of Minuteman newspapers being dumped in Westport driveways — even after repeated requests to PLEASE STOP!!!!!

The publication has folded.

Hearst — which owns virtually every other print outlet in Fairfield County, including the Westport News — pulled the plug on the 23-year-old freebie this week.

You’d be forgiven for not noticing, though. The announcement was made, Orwellian-like, in a letter from the publisher inserted in yesterday’s edition.

It read:

Dear Readers: We have great news!

Beginning next week, we’ll be bringing you the best of local news, journalism, local school sports, and advertising information — right to your home.

Instead of the Minuteman publications you normally received on Thursdays, every Friday you can expect to receive the Westport News — a highly respected newspaper dedicated to your community.

Of course, there’s another reason you may not have noticed that announcement:

No one in history ever picked up the Minuteman, other than to toss it in the trash.

 

Jake And Mike Koskoff’s “Marshall”

Thurgood Marshall’s life is well known: respected attorney, NAACP stalwart, 1st African American Supreme Court justice.

Less noted was his role in a 1940 case. Greenwich socialite Eleanor Strubing told a harrowing tale of being raped by her black chauffeur, Joseph Spell.

Thurgood Marshall, as a young man.

Only 32 years old, Marshall had already argued before the Supreme Court. The  NAACP sent him to help. The case was a defining moment for the young attorney — who, prevented from arguing before the bench, had to find other ways to influence his white co-counsel and jury.

It took place in Bridgeport. And — thanks to a pair of Westporters — it’s now the subject of a movie earning notice across the country.

“Marshall” was written by longtime local attorney Mike Koskoff and his son Jake, a 1992 Staples High School graduate now living, and screenwriting, in Los Angeles.

It’s not easy to write (and sell) a courtroom film these days — especially a period piece, with an African-American protagonist. Even if he’s played by Chadwick Boseman.

But Thurgood Marshall was “a legal genius,” Jake Koskoff says. The story is compelling, and father and son gave the script everything they had.

The response has been “wonderful,” says Jake. Since its world premiere at Howard University last month, and its American release a couple of weeks ago, reviews have been strong. Critics say it’s “gripping.”

Rolling Stone called it an “electrifying glimpse of a great man in the making.” Rotten Tomatoes’s positive rating was 83%. The Los Angeles Times and RogerEbert.com were particularly praiseworthy.

“Bloggers have been inspired to write about the film,” Jake notes. “And they don’t have to.”

Michael and Jake Koskoff.

He and his father are gratified to hear that some moviegoers have been inspired to donate to the NAACP and ACLU. “Marshall” inspired others to consider applying to law school

Thurgood Marshall’s son John said the film brought his father “back to life.” The justice’s former clerks praised it for getting Marshall’s story “right.” Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor met Mike Koskoff at a screening, and told him she loved it.

On a personal level, working with his father — “as an adult” — is an added bonus for Jake.

“It’s difficult to write with anyone. And the father-son relationship can be fraught,” he says. “But it worked out well.”

Bonnie Adler Faces The Holocaust

Bonnie Adler is a Westport-based freelance writer. The other day, she posted a compelling story on CNN Travel. 

It’s an intensely personal reminder that the past is closer than we think. Bonnie begins:

Long before I could speak of it, I knew my mother had blue numbers on the soft skin of her inside forearm. My father had a similar stamp, as did my aunt and uncle. I understood they were very happy in our small family circle, but once upon a time, in a past I did not comprehend, they were not.

They spared us their separate tragic stories for as long as they could, but my sisters and I eventually came to know the bare-bones facts they shared: Parents dead, siblings lost, my father’s brother missing, never found.

Bonnie Adler (right) and her mother.Bon

I am no different than many children of Holocaust survivors. We share a common denominator. We are mostly recipients of overwhelming love born out of loss and survival guilt. And we share a responsibility to remember and honor those we love and the memory of those they lost.

So when an email came, with information that for the first time there was to be an official ceremony acknowledging the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto in the city of Radom, Poland, my two sisters and I were gripped by a primal reaction.

Bonnie’s trip to Poland was harrowing, exhausting and inspiring. Click here to read the entire story.

Candidates, Voters Meet And Mingle

If — as Tip O’Neill said — all politics is local, then Westport was the center of last night’s political universe.

A “meet and mingle” event — co-sponsored by the Westport Moms and Westport Front Porch social media groups — drew several dozen candidates, and many more interested voters, to the Westport Country Playhouse.

The 4 first selectperson candidates (and 2 running mates) spoke. Board of Finance, Board of Ed, Planning and Zoning and Zoning Board of Appeals hopefuls introduced themselves. RTM candidates were there too.

This is a decidedly local election. Aquarion’s water towers, the Cribari/Bridge Street Bridge, Compo Beach, taxes, historic preservation — those and many other issues are on voters’ minds.

We all had a chance to ask questions, get answers, and assess the men and women seeking our votes.

We looked them in the eye, and they looked in ours.

Locally at least, “politics” is not a dirty word.

Author Jane Green — founder of Westport Front Porch — addresses the large Westport Country Playhouse crowd.