Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Poker Chills

June 2, 2010

The people who know me know that I am a relatively serious poker player.  I’m not a pro or anything like that, but I do win more than I lose, and I’ve had a couple decent tournament results (including winning a $11,000 super satellite into the 2005 World Series Main Event); I like to call it a lucrative hobby.

Anyway, any semi-serious poker player is at least somewhat paying attention to the Rio Hotel and Casino in Vegas (if they aren’t already there) come Memorial Day every year–that’s when the biggest poker event of the year starts: the World Series of Poker.

While the casual ESPN observer only watches or cares about the $10,000 Main Event, in fact, it’s called the World *Series* because there’s an entire series of tournaments that take place for the entire month of June and the first week or so of July.  This year there are 57 events, culminating with the aforementioned Main Event starting July 5th.

The winner of each event receives as part of his prize, a bracelet, and despite the growing number of bracelets given out these days (the first World Series in 1970 elected one winner after a series of cash games, and the first Series to give out bracelets, in 1971, had five events) a World Series bracelet remains the most coveted prize in poker.  It’s also worth noting that the number of bracelets is still small compared to the number of players who participate each year, so a bracelet is still exceedingly difficult to win.

Which is why I got chills when Michael Mizrachi won his first bracelet in the second event of 2010.

Michael Mizrachi wins his first bracelet

Why?  Because at the same final table that Mizrachi defeated was his older brother Robert Mizrachi, who had previously won a bracelet of his own in 2007.  The Mizrachi’s were only the third family members to simultaneously make a final table in the 40 years of the World Series, and their 1st and 5th place finishes was by far the best result by family members.  And this gave me chills because I also have a younger brother who is an avid, and successful, poker player.  It has always been a dream of mine to play in the World Series alongside my brother, and perhaps even meet at the final table.  The Mizrachi’s give that dream a shred more possibility.

I should note that my brother just turned 25, and I am 30.  Michael Mizrachi is 29.  His brother, Robert, will be 32 this fall.  It seems my brother and I are only a little behind schedule.  It’s time for us to hit the felt and get the cards in the air.

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We Can Believe

January 21, 2009

So today I finished my last SAT class with the La Vida Scholars program in Lynn, MA.  La Vida Scholars identifies talented Hispanic students and helps prepare them for college and the college application process with MCAS and SAT prep, as well as  helping them find scholarships.  One of the students in the program is a quiet young man, Guilver Gomez, who seems to go out of his way to avoid drawing attention to himself.  But I want to bring some attention to him.  Guilver wrote the following essay for a scholarship and delivered it at a special breakfast on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it was particularly appropriate to share one day after the holiday, the day that the United States inaugurated its first black president.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest

by Guilver Gomez Gr. 11

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we’re free at last.” (Washington DC, August 28th, 1963).

The quote above holds deep meaning for the immigrants in America. It describes the overwhelming sense of joy felt by a person who finally reaches the land of their dreams after having worked and waited tirelessly to find a better life. As an immigrant in America, I can identify with the joy that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt upon hearing the news that laws were being passed to protect his Civil Rights in America. This joy for African Americans came after suffering for hundreds of years under slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. They had arrived in a new and better time.

My teacher explained to me Dr. King’s metaphor of crossing into a land of freedom. Dr. Martin Luther King expressed his feelings using the metaphor of Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt across the Jordan River and into their promised lands. During slavery, the slaves who escaped would follow the Underground Railroad out of the South and across the Ohio River to freedom in the North or Canada. Today, those traveling on the road to freedom are the immigrants of the world who are making their way out of poverty and war across the borders like the Rio Grande River into America, our new promised land.

My path to a new life wasn’t an easy one. I was born in San Marcos, Guatemala into a family that had never delivered a baby,\ in a hospital. After I was born, my father left to the United States to work and support his family. When I was five, my mother left us with my grandmother and joined my father in the U.S.  My grandmother was disabled and needed a lot of help around the house. My siblings and I attended school and helped her around the house. When my sister was 16, she decided to go to America and join my parents. She was in Mexico waiting for her visa when she was killed in a robbery. I was twelve at the time, and it was very difficult to deal with her death and my parents’ absence.

Upon turning 14, I decided to move to America and join my parents. I knew it was going to be risky. I had to travel for days by bus to Mexico and wait for my visa in a foreign country like my sister had. I supported myself by cleaning Mexican hotels in the dangerous city of Tijuana. I missed an entire year of school, and on a day when I was on my way home from work without my documents to reside in Mexico, I was picked up by Mexican immigration officials who placed me in a jail cell, just like Martin Luther King Jr.  They sent me on a three-day bus trip back to Guatemala where I had to begin my journey all over again. Just like Martin Luther King and the slaves of America before him, I did not want to give up. I returned to Tijuana and waited and worked until I was able to afford my trip to America.

Finally, at the end of my year in Mexico, I was able to fly to America and meet my parents. I landed at Dulles International Airport and felt free at last! I started back at school and now sit next to students who never had to fight to enjoy the freedom of America, but I know after tasting freedom, I’ll never forget it.

that’s so gay

November 20, 2008

With all of the recent furor over gay rights, it seems fitting to highlight a recent series of PSA’s that attempt to address the issue of homophobia at its source: kids.

I realize my previous statement is a bit foolish; trying to pinpoint a source of homophobia is like trying to walk to the end of a treadmill, but the simple fact is homophobia is a learned behavior and if kids never learn it (or perhaps unlearn it) then eventually it will dissipate.  That’s why discrimination takes generations to overcome in any form.  It’s not like Martin Luther King had a dream and the next day everyone woke up and said, “You know, I think I’m going to stop being racist today.”  As for LGBT rights, the progress made in the last two decades is pretty astounding, but clearly, as evidenced by the recent election results, there’s plenty more work to be done.

As a former high school teacher, I can attest that homophobic language and attitudes are alive and well in today’s schools.  Yes, the overall atmosphere is safer and more inclusive than it was when I was a high school student (which isn’t all that long ago), but anyone paying attention while walking down a crowded hallway will hear a fair share of bigoted language.  Actually, the synthesis of new words can almost be amusing.  “Queertard” and “Gaywad” being some of the newer additions to the old standbys like “faggot” and “cocksucker.” Most of these words, though, have a clear, negative connotation among their users.  Yes, such hateful language should not be used so lightly in any context, but a high school student knows he or she is being pejorative when using such words (even if they don’t know what pejorative means.)

Homophobia doesn’t start with words like “faggot.” Those words are somewhere in the middle between quiet ostracism and physical violence.  Stopping harsh language like “faggot” will never eliminate homophobia; a kid can be taught to avoid certain words, but the hate that allowed those words to enter the lexicon will still be there.  You’ve got to start much earlier.

And that’s where the Thinkb4youspeak campaign is aiming.  In a series of three PSA’s starring Hillary Duff and Wanda Sykes, kids who without thinking say “that’s so gay” to mean stupid, get a little comeuppance.

And that’s so smart. Kids who say “that’s gay” rarely connect what they are saying to any level of homophobia.  In the moment, they are simply repeating an oft-used idiom that to them has no meaning beyond expressing their distaste for the subject at hand.  Anecdotally, I would say that 90% of the students I had who would say “that’s gay” had no real ill-will towards the LGBT community.  Whereas the majority of students who would use the word “faggot” were truly homophobic, at least on a basic level.  The “that’s gay” kids had gay friends and openly supported gay rights; the “faggot” kids did not.  What the “that’s gay” kids failed to realize, at least unaided, was that every time they used gay in a negative context, they were subtly reinforcing the homophobia among the “faggot” kids.  Certainly they weren’t endorsing it, but on a very basic level they were condoning it, and thus continuing a cycle of hate and ignorance that leads to the kind of discrimination and violence prevalent in all battles for civil rights.  Meanwhile, the students struggling with their own sexuality, the ones desperately seeking allies among their peers, were experiencing mixed signals.  They think they know their friends are accepting, but then again, can they be trusted?  What do they really think?

My point is, this series of PSA’s may seem naive.  It might seem unrealistic to think that changing how a kid thinks about the words “that’s so gay” will have any impact on homophobia in the “real” world.  And to a certain extent, it is.  However, if you really want to create change, you have to start at the beginning.  If you take a brick out of the middle, the foundation remains intact, in this case a foundation for homophobia and hate.  But if you take a brick from the bottom, the whole thing will come down and you can rebuild from scratch with a foundation built on acceptance and understanding.

Check out a CNN interview with Hillary Duff here.

My horse could paint that picture!

October 22, 2008
Cholla in action

Cholla in action

Abstract art has always been a touch controversial.  For every recognized genius like Jackson Pollock or Wassily Kandinsky, there’s a critic who claims he could do just as well by dipping his dog in acrylics and letting it walk on the canvas.

And it turns out the critics might have been right.  The artist Cholla recently caused a stir at an international art exhibition in Italy, not only because of the quality of his work, but because he was ruled ineligible to win any prizes.  At first there was outrage.  And then there was surprise.  And then maybe a little embarrassment when it was revealed that Cholla is a. . .horse!

It seems Cholla has been painting for several years now, and many of his paintings are available for purchase from his website.  Purchasing certain paintings will even provide a donation to charities presumably picked by the horse himself, like the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, which helps wild mustangs in Nevada.

Check out this story for more about Cholla’s international exhibit or his website to see a video of the artist in action!

That really is a horse of a different color.

The real debate.

October 5, 2008

Tina Fey returns for Sarah Palin part III and is as brilliant as ever in a longer sketch than the first two.  Maybe because Fey’s performance isn’t a surprise anymore, we don’t focus as much on her spot on mannerisms and verbal tics and inflections.  The real highlight here is Queen Latifah as moderator Gwen Ifill.  Latifah steals every moment with knowing glances and eye rolls, and she doesn’t try too hard to be funny in her supporting role.  Exactly what you expect from an Oscar nominee for best supporting actress.

Watch the video here.

“Because he allowed me a lot to have my own way.”

September 11, 2008

How cute is this couple?  I love how exuberant the husband is when he tells about courting his wife.  I’m not sure if anyone gets married envisioning this much life ahead; that’s a lot of anniversaries to remember.  I suppose that’s why they have their occasional falling out?

Britain’s oldest married couple

Behind every good man is a woman who drifts

September 4, 2008

My first post is going to be a link. . .

I haven’t really decided what direction I am going to take this blog, but political musings will definitely be a part of it.

I am a registered democrat and socially very liberal.  I make no apologies for that.  However, read this story and tell me who you’d really rather have as first lady.

Drifting and Cindy McCain?  Seriously?  This woman could be the best thing for White House style since Dolly Madison!

Cindy McCain takes the wheel in her own race