Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coldplay Viva La Vida at the Garden

BOSTON--(Oct.29, 2008) Coldplay, the popular British rock band, performs in front of a sold out crowd at TD Banknorth Garden on their Viva La Vida tour.

By Margaret DeJesus (

BOSTON--(Oct. 29,2008) “It’s going to be a good one,” said Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, into the microphone at the start of the concert. In fact, it was a great one.

Martin, along with Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums, put on a brilliant show before the sold out crowd at TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday night.

The spectacle of spacey lights and effects enhanced their solid performance and kept the Garden rocking for the 90 minute set.

Coldplay opened strong with “Violet Hill,” the thundering first single off of their latest album “Viva La Vida.”

Then the group wasted no time delving into old favorites like “Clocks,” “In My Place,” and “Speed of Sound.”

The stage appeared deceivingly plain initially with the French Revolution themed album cover serving as a backdrop for the first few songs. When the bright lights dimmed, the backdrop became a giant screen for "Cemeteries of London." Large spheres hung above like planets switching between colors and live images of the band performing while laser lights calmly swayed up and down.

Martin and his bandmates fed off of the crowd's energy.

The lead singer was practically drowned out by the choir of 19,000 singing along with him on the rock ballad “Fix You.”

Whether he was twirling, leaping, or making monkey noises for laughs, Martin seemed to enjoy bouncing around the stage.

“Incredible singing on a Wednesday night,” he said afterward to the crowd’s delight.

The new material went over well too.

With arms outstretched in the air he bellowed out, “It’s such a perfect day,” the chorus of “Strawberry Swing,” while the fans clapped the rhythm in unison.

Buckland’s guitar solo on the song “42”, which starts out pretty mellow like the Coldplay of old and then explodes into a new realm of rock, got many members of the crowd to play along on air guitar.

After a heartfelt rendition of “The Hardest Part,” which Martin crooned on in a lower octave than usual, “Viva La Vida” boomed out. The powerhouse anthem got the already energetic crowd, which stood for the whole set, jumping and dancing again.

It’s a wonder the band wasn’t torn to shreds by adoring fans when all four members strolled off the stage and up the steps into a section of the arena before the first encore. Yes, they walked right up into a section of the Garden, instruments and microphone in tow and played an acoustic version of “The Scientist,” a hit single from their second album.

Martin jokingly called it, “a romantic song about the governor of Alaska,” which evoked a loud mix of laughter, boos and cheers. “Politics aside, she’s an [expletive] superbabe,” he said into the microphone.

Another highlight surprisingly came in the form of “Lovers in Japan,” a hidden gem on the latest album. Thousands of confetti butterflies in various colors fluttered about after they were dropped from the ceiling. Fans tried to catch them as they fell to the ground.

Duffy opened the night on a weak note. The Welsh singer responsible for the repetitive pop anthem "Mercy" wasn't able to hold the crowd's attention with her high pitched, old fashioned voice. But soulful songs like "Stepping Stone,"which sounds like it came right out of a James Bond movie, showed her potential.

Coldplay's live set, weaving hits from past and present together, proved the band has grown and for the better. With less reliance on soft ballads and piano, they conveyed a healthy mix of guitar, bass and pure fun in their performance.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Happy Howl'O Ween for Dog Lovers

BOSTON--(Oct. 25, 2008) Phyllis Meadows (left) and Laura Johnson (above) dressed as Luigi show off their pets’ costumes at the Howl’o’ween contest sponsored by 93.7 Mike-FM at Fanueil Hall.

Tory was a cowboy for Halloween wearing a tiny pair of denim pants, a checkered vest and a red bandana over his bright white fur along with a mini hat dangling off his ears.

“Such a good boy. How cute are you?” Phyllis Meadows asked her pet Pomeranian and poodle mix after dressing him up.

Meadows was just one of many who showed off their pet dogs on Saturday outside of Faneuil Hall in the second annual Howl’o’ween costume contest sponsored by the radio station 93.7 Mike-FM.

More than 60 dogs were registered in the contest held in downtown Boston, as a way for pet owners to celebrate their love of animals.

“People love their pets so much and some like dressing them up so this event is sort of the next level up for them to show off the care and love that they put into their dogs,” said Bethany Tripp, director of radio relations at 93.7 Mike-FM, in an interview while standing outside Quincy Market.

Tina and Paul MacEachern said they treat their dogs Brewsky and Brady like members of the family.

“Brady’s dressed up like Kevin Garnett today,” said MacEachern who wore a Celtics cap while his Bull mastiff had on a Garnett jersey and white headband.

Pamphlets were set up on the registration tables for people to take and donations were accepted for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Animal abuse is one of the worst crimes because there’s nothing they (animals) could have done to deserve it,” said Meadows a resident of Revere who owns four other dogs in addition to Tory. “In a way, it’s like child abuse because they’re innocent.”

She said she loves pets because “they’re always happy to see you when you get home. They don’t ask you ‘why’d you do that’ or ‘why’d you say that’ and they just nestle up next to you,” she said. “It’s unconditional love.”

While many people treat their pets as members of the family and adorn them with clothes and “people food”, there are also some who grossly mistreat their animals.

Peter E. Gollub, the director of law enforcement at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the MSPCA investigated approximately 3,100 cases of animal abuse last year.

The MSPCA is a non-profit organization that provides veterinarian services as well as adoption centers and law enforcement officers to investigate cases of abuse across the Commonwealth. The organization also works to spread awareness and promote better animal protection laws in the state and nation.

Gollub said in a telephone interview that animal cruelty, which may not always capture the public’s attention, should be a concern to people because it’s “against the law and newsworthy for all the same reasons that anything else against the law is noteworthy or newsworthy.”

Animal cruelty is a crime in Massachusetts that could result in up to five years in prison. Most of the cases tend to stay in district court and are punishable by two and a half years according to Gollub.

He said that animal cruelty should also be a concern because “where there’s smoke there can be fire.”

“There have been studies that looked at animal cruelty as a red flag which might incline one to wonder if there’s cruelty in other areas, like to people,” he said.

A research study by professors at Northeastern University and the MSPCA conducted in the 1990s examined the relationship between violence against animals and crime. Results showed that 70 percent of those who abused animals had also been involved in other violent crimes such as domestic violence, murder, or drug use.

Gollub said that protecting animals can help elevate society as a whole and referenced the Mahatma Ghandi saying about the greatness of a nation being judged by the way its animals are treated.

“Taking a moment to think about how we treat our animals is important. Sometimes it’s necessary to reawaken the empathy in our ‘hurry hurry I haven’t checked my blackberry in five minutes’ world,” said Gollub.

Dog owners certainly took the time to show off their creativity and love of animals at the radio station’s costume event which featured a first place prize of $500.

Revere resident Paula Jeffrey, who used to design children’s costumes, and her neighbor Carmen Ortiz dressed up their dogs as Tinker Bell and Captain Hook and had them sit within a mock alligator to go along with the Peter Pan theme. Last year the two dressed up their pets in a Rapunzel and Prince Charming theme at a different event where they won first place.

“I moved into the neighborhood about three years ago and my neighbor was into costumes so that’s how it all started,” said Ortiz. “I’ve always loved dogs. They’re loyal and all they want is some love and attention.”

Laura Johnson of Medford, who like a few others decided to dress up along with their pet, was Luigi while her English bulldog was Super Mario from the popular video game series.

“My sister-in-law’s dog was supposed to be Luigi but they couldn’t make it today, so I filled in,” she said smiling as she readjusted her mustache.

“Me and my husband always wanted a dog and after we bought a house, it seemed to be the next step,” she said.

When asked about animal abuse, Johnson said she’s one of the people who “gets the waterworks anytime that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial comes on.”

The MSPCA’s law enforcement director, who started out as a veterinarian before later going to law school and working at the district attorney’s office, said on Monday in a phone interview, “One of the things that’s special about animals is that they are often capable of capturing the human attention and emotion and I think because of that they’re almost like special ambassadors.”

“Aesop’s fables were all written with animals and I don’t think that was by accident. There’s something about animals that captures the attention and imagination of people,” said Gollub.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Donna Brazile Talks Politics with Boston Businesswomen

BOSTON--(Oct.17,2008) Donna Brazile speaks about the historic 2008 presidential race at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in a speech presented by the Commonwealth Institute.
By Margaret DeJesus (
Before heading to work early Friday morning, some of Boston’s brightest businesswomen were urged by CNN political analyst Donna Brazile to look beyond partisan politics and get active in this year’s presidential election during her speech about the historic race at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
“This is our moment. If we sit back and wait, we’ll find ourselves complaining about the same things from 60 years ago,” Brazile said in her speech presented by the Commonwealth Institute.
The Institute supports female CEOs’ and entrepreneurs’ businesses and careers by setting up networking events and forums.
With Marvin Gaye’s classic song “What’s Going On” blasting in the background, Brazile stepped on stage and held her hand out next to her ear enjoying the standing ovation she received.
Brazile, an author, professor, political commentator and longtime political strategist, was the first African American woman to manage a presidential campaign in 2000 when she worked for Democratic candidate Al Gore.
She emphasized that Americans need to “stop being so concerned with who’s Democrat and who’s Republican” and start working together to solve the country’s problems, especially during the current economic crisis.
According to Brazile, who did not hide her preference for Barack Obama, the next president needs to appoint “the best and the brightest” based not on party affiliation but rather on talent and ability.
“I hope that whoever wins presidency finds the grace and humility to ask for help not just from the other side, but also from us. It’s about ‘we the people,’ not just we the politicians,” she said with passion at the podium. “Let’s have one song, one band and stop playing different singles.”
Brazile’s message of unity stood out to many of the women in attendance.
“As a Democrat myself, it’s hard for me to have a discussion with a Republican. It was an important message she had and it was a great insight,” said Judy Dumont, a high tech recruiter, after the speech.
“It’s not enough that we put these guys in office. We have to get in their face as she (Brazile) said and be vocal,” said Dumont.
Mary Skelton Roberts, founder of MSR Solutions, thought Brazile “embodied the change we need and the change this country is looking for.”
“She (Brazile) understands we need a collective effort to solve the country’s problems,” said Roberts.
Lois Lindauer, founder and president of her own executive search firm Lois L. Lindauer Searches and Commonwealth Institute board member, agreed.
“It’s not about being red, blue, white or black,” said Lindauer.
Brazile kept the crowd of about 400 people in attendance, largely composed of local businesswomen, entertained with her comedic take on the current election season.
“As a woman, I’m proud of Hillary (Clinton). As an African American I’m proud of Barack Obama. And as someone who is old and grumpy, I’m proud of John McCain,” she said.
Helene Solomon, CEO and founder of Solomon McCown and Company, said after the speech that she thought Brazile had “phenomenal comic timing” and found it interesting how she “put everything into historical perspective.”
Brazile stressed how the country has moved forward, and said “as a child growing up in the segregated South” she never would have imagined one day seeing an African American run for the presidency or a woman being a heartbeat away from the vice presidency.
She also spoke about how the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call for her.
“It (Katrina) refocused my life. My family lost everything,” she said stressing the importance of having the right people in charge of government.
Brazile added that perhaps the country right now is facing a new wakeup call with the economy.
“Now the country is drowning in debt. In some ways, it’s a Katrina moment for the country.”
Gloria Larson, the president of Bentley College in Waltham along with Atul Gupta, the finance department chair at Bentley led the short question and answer session with the audience and Brazile that followed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New York Rangers Win Home Opener 4-2 Against Blackhawks

By Margaret DeJesus (

NEW YORK-(Oct. 10, 2008)--The New York Rangers have gone out with the old and in with the new this season -- saying “bye” to Jaromir Jagr and Co. -- and it’s paying off big time so far. The team has won three straight games with contributions from its young rookies and newly acquired veterans to complement its solid goaltending.

Brandon Dubinsky, a rising star in his second NHL season, along with his new teammates and linemates Nikolai Zherdev and Aaron Voros led the Rangers past the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night at the home opener at Madison Square Garden.

Dubinsky had a goal and two assists in the Original Six matchup against the Western Conference team while his line combined for seven points.

With red, white and blue balloons dropped from the rafters, the lights turned down low and special effects smoke pumped in, the team and its new captain were introduced to a sold out and rocking crowd of 18,200 in a pregame ceremony.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m thrilled to be doing it,” said forward Chris Drury, a 10-year veteran of the NHL, about being named the 25th captain of the Rangers. The former Buffalo Sabres co-captain signed with the team last summer.

Defenseman Wade Redden, who signed a six-year deal worth $39 million with the Rangers this summer, fired the puck past Blackhawks goalie Cristobel Huet after Drury’s weak shot rebounded toward him at 6:47 of the first period to give them a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks tied it up before the end of the first period when defenseman Brian Campbell banked the puck off of the side of the net to center and last season’s NHL Rookie of the Year, Patrick Kane, who zipped it past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“We didn’t necessarily have the best game in the world,” said Aaron Voros in the locker room after the game in which he had a goal and an assist.“We had a couple of mental lapses out there but all in all, we played pretty well.”

Dubinsky scored in the second period to make it 3-1 after nabbing a loose puck at center ice and gliding past three Blackhawks to beat Huet.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to get thrown into a role where I’m going to play some good minutes and be forced to contribute. So far so good,” said the 22-year-old standing near his locker following the game.

With some bad giveaways, momentary lags in intensity, and some weak play in the defensive zone, the Rangers almost allowed the Blackhawks to claw their way back in to the game, especially in the third period after Duncan Keith scored to make it a one goal game.

“We were good enough to win but almost bad enough to lose it,” said Coach Tom Renney in the post game press conference.

The team started the regular season with a pair of back-to-back 2-1 wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning last weekend in the Czech Republic. The teams were two of four chosen to start the NHL regular season in Europe as part of the 2008 Bridgestone NHL Premier designed to spread interest in the league globally as well as allow players the memorable chance to play in front of fans from their home countries.

The Rangers haven’t had a 3-0 start since 1989.So far, the Blueshirts seem to be doing just fine without Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka, the former captain and co-captains and bulk of the first and second lines who were not resigned by the organization over the summer. Similarly the fan favorite and agitating forward Sean Avery wasn’t brought back either after two seasons.

After getting ousted in the second round of the playoffs two seasons in a row, getting swept in the first round against the rival Devils in 2006, and prior to that not even making the playoffs since 1997, General Manager Glen Sather decided it was time, once again, for the Rangers to go in a new direction with new players like Redden, Zherdev, Voros, and veterans Markus Naslund and Dmitri Kalinin.

Tomorrow, the team heads to Philadelphia to face the Flyers, where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will be on hand to drop the puck in honor of the Flyer’s “Hockey Mom of the Year” award presented to a fan.Coach Renney laughed when asked what he thought.

“I’m Canadian,” he said preferring to stay out of the realm of U.S. politics and stick with the hockey.

The three stars of the game were Aaron Voros (LW), Henrik Lundqvist (G), and Brandon Dubinsky (C).Petr Prucha, Patrick Rissmiller and Dan Fritsche were healthy scratches for the Rangers.The pre-game ceremony featured a special puck drop by Ranger greats Adam Graves (No. 9), Harry Howell (No. 3) and Andy Bathgate (No. 9), who will have their jersey numbers retired this February.

NEW YORK--(10/10/08) Alternate captain Scott Gomez talks about the contributions of the Rangers younger players. Rookie center Brandon Dubinsky and his new linemate Aaron Voros talk to reporters in the locker room following the win.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Big Brothers and Big Sisters Make a Difference

BOSTON—(Oct.2,2008) Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay along with their “little brothers” pose with Mark Stuart and Andrew Alberts of the Boston Bruins and Blades, the Bruins mascot in Prudential Center after playing a round of mini golf with hockey sticks for the Puck-Putt Challenge.

By Margaret DeJesus (

Imagine being an 11-year-old child hopping off the school bus and entering an empty home. Parents may have to work extra long hours to put food on the table which might mean less time to go over homework problems or to kick around a soccer ball at the park.

For many children in Boston and around the country this can be a daily reality. Adults who volunteer their time to mentor a child can make a difference while getting the chance to let out their inner 10-year-old.

“Providing youth with a role model, a mentor, someone to look up to, is critical. Many people have a misperception about the time requirement needed to play a role in young lives,” said Meghan Keaney, the director of communications with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in an email.

“There are currently more than 5,000 youth on a waiting list to be matched with a mentor. So yes, absolutely, we need to get the word out,” she said.

Spending an afternoon playing a round of mini golf with hockey sticks and professional hockey players from the Boston Bruins is certainly one creative way to engage the city’s youth and adults and “get the word out.”

The Puck-Putt challenge held at the Prudential Center on Boylston Avenue last Thursday afternoon built on smiles, high-fives and laughter brought together children, teenagers and their mentors from various groups.

Sponsored by United Way, Boston Properties and the Boston Bruins as part of the inspire4life campaign, the event featured a mini miniature golf course set up on the marble floor of the Belvedere Arcade area of the mall. Defensemen Andrew Alberts and Mark Stuart of the Boston Bruins attended along with the team’s mascot.

Getting a hole in one was cause for celebration for many of the younger kids who threw up their hands in the air as it was pretty tough to maneuver the rather large, orange rubber ball down the small stretch of green into the hole with a plastic hockey stick.

“Hey guys. How you doing? I’m Andrew.” Andrew Alberts, the 6-foot-5-inch tall athlete while donning his Bruins jersey held out his hand to two kids gathered around hole three of the makeshift golf course and introduced himself. “Did you see our game last night?” Awkward silence and nervous smiles from the kids followed.

“ No?” he asked surprised pretending to be offended when they shook their heads and laughed. “It’s okay the season doesn’t start until next Thursday anyway,” he smiled and signed their t-shirts to their delight.

United Way is a community impact organization which invests in various other partner agencies, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, to solve issues regarding youth opportunities to success as well as employment and housing options for adults.

As of December of last year 5,311 youth were matched with supportive adult mentors because of United Way investments; 115,126 youth served in quality programs, and more than 1,700 parents reported being better able to support their children according to Ms. Keaney.

The “inspire4life” ad campaign was started to raise awareness about the benefits of mentoring a child and inspiring a child for life.

Mentors can come in all different shapes, sizes and walks of life from teachers to recent college grads to professional hockey players.

“I think it’s great for a young kid to have an idol to look up too. When I was growing up back in Minnesota, the NorthStars (former NHL hockey team) used to practice at a local rink nearby and a bunch of us kids used to go watch them play. Sometimes they’d stop and sign autographs, which was great because we looked up to those guys,” said Alberts explaining his pull to attend the event.

Bob McDermott, a fifth grade teacher at St. Mary of the Hills School in Milton, said that volunteering with Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay provided him “a meaningful and memorable experience.” McDermott and his “little brother” Dmitri have enjoyed everything from arcades and movies to pizza and sandwiches at the beach.

“Anything we do is fun. Today is probably the best ever. It’s exciting playing with the hockey players,” said the 11-year-old.

Erin Sunderland, now a marketing manager with United Way, began volunteering as a Big Sister a year and a half ago.

“There’s something about interacting with a ten-year-old that’s just fun,” said the 26-year-old while sitting at United Way information table set up.

“If both parents work full time, it’s nice if a child has a member they can bond with outside of the family.”

United Way advertises that children who meet regularly with mentors are 33% less likely to resort to violence, 52% less likely to skip school and 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs.

Sunderland said that although she’s more of the cozy up with a book type, while her Little Sister is more active and outdoorsy, there were tons of things for them to bond on. Going for long walks, baking cupcakes, playing cards and playing Monopoly were just a few of the things the two enjoy together.

“I think I've benefitted by being able to feel like I'm giving back even if it is only in a very small way. She (her Little Sister) also reminds me not to take things too seriously and that it's okay to be silly once in awhile,” said Sunderland.

Mentors can also make a difference by just having a ready pair of ears to listen when a child wants someone outside of the home to talk to.

“She might feel more comfortable talking with me about certain things like maybe problems in schools since I’m younger,” said Sunderland. “Inspire4life is reminding people in the city that there are so many ways to get involved.”

Chris Devlin attended the Puck-Putt event with children from the South Boston Boys and Girls Club for at risk youth, where he’s volunteered for the last eight months. The 23-year-old recent graduate of Suffolk University looked youthful in his baseball cap while keeping score for his group’s golf game.

Devlin, who realized he enjoyed working with kids after various summer jobs, said the South Boston Club is good for the children because “it keeps them off the streets and out of trouble” by organizing sports and activities for them to get involved in after school.

“Getting watched over is nice,” said Paul Goslin, a 13-year-old student with the group whose shirt was covered in autographs from the Bruins and their mascot. He said he enjoyed taking field trips with the club, especially the end of the year trip to the theme park, Six Flags Great Adventure and added that the group has even volunteered at elderly homes.

Peg Sprague, the vice president of community impact at United Way, stressed in her speech at the event that there are many ways that adults in the community can help inspire a child.

From tutoring, to playing a game of monopoly, “getting involved could mean something as simple as smiling and saying ‘Hi,’ when you see a young person walking down the street,” she said.