Lace Up for Immune Health

Anna Amelianchik

Exercise is critically important for physical and mental health because it helps stave off diseases related to obesity and reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, there is reason to believe that exercise might also protect against infectious diseases. In fact, a 2010 study showed that near-daily aerobic activity and the perception of being physically fit significantly reduced the frequency and severity of respiratory infections in both men and women during a twelve-week study period. Although we don’t know whether physical activity can help protect us against SARS-CoV-2 specifically, studies in exercise immunology, a relatively new but increasingly important area of scientific research, show that exercise may give your immune system a significant boost.

Short bouts (under sixty minutes) of moderate and vigorous exercise, such as walking, running, or cycling, may enhance the activity of innate immune cells, such as macrophages and natural killer cells. Macrophages help the body fight infection by engulfing and destroying invading pathogens (e.g., viruses and bacteria). Macrophages also secrete molecules that promote the activation of natural killer cells which can detect and kill infected cells to stop the infection from spreading.

In addition, aerobic exercise can help orchestrate the adaptive immune response by mobilizing two main types of lymphocytes: T-cells and B-cells. T-cells kill infected cells and use messenger molecules, known as cytokines, to increase the overall activation of the immune system. T-cells can also directly activate B-cells, which help us fight off bacteria and viruses by producing antibodies that “tag” invaders and help other immune cells eliminate them. In the short run, exercise may enhance immunosurveillance by recirculating immune cells found within various tissues and organs in the body, such as the lymph nodes and spleen, back into the bloodstream. In the long run, regular exercise may help ward off infection by redistributing immune cells to the organs favored by viruses and bacteria, such as mucosal membranes and the lungs.

Early-stage research shows that exercise may also promote defense against infectious diseases by increasing the production of antioxidants. Our bodies produce an antioxidant molecule known as extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD), which breaks down free radicals that damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA. Elevated EcSOD in blood and vital organs, including the lungs, may protect against acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a common and often lethal complication of COVID-19.

Finally, exercise may boost your immune system indirectly, by reducing stress and improving sleep. In fact, aerobic exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with our immune system’s ability to fight infection. Regular exercise can also help normalize disrupted sleep, which is crucial for the proper function of immune cells.

If you reside in New York City, you might not be able to get back to your gym or your favorite fitness class for a while, but there are several excellent alternatives that can help you stay fit and boost your immune defenses while social distancing:

Walk, run, or cycle responsibly. If you are an avid runner, continue to enjoy this solitary form of exercise, but take precautions, such as wearing a face covering and staying at least six feet away from other people in parks and on sidewalks. If wearing a surgical mask or a thick cloth mask while running is uncomfortable, consider investing in moisture-wicking multifunctional headwear. If you are new to running, make sure to start easy (several apps, including Nike Run Club and 5K Runner: Couch to 5K might help) and choose the right pair of running shoes to avoid injuries. Finally, if running is too hard on your joints, a brisk walk or a bike ride will offer similar benefits as long as you practice social distancing.

Replace a stair stepping machine with actual stairs. If your building or street has a mostly-empty staircase, fire up your legs and glutes by walking or jogging up and down the stairs,giving yourself a thirty second break between circuits. Mix it up by doing additional exercises such as calf raises, squats, or seesaw lunges at the top of each flight.

Do bodyweight exercises at home. With a little bit of space and some imagination, you can reach your fitness goals even during a pandemic. Follow workout classes on YouTube or Instagram Live, take advantage of Nike’s promotion that allows you to access Nike Training Club Premium for free, or start a fun exercise challenge with your friends. Rockefeller’s own Tim Blanchard offers strength/cardio classes via Zoom (you can also access Tim’s classes on YouTube). If mountain climbers and burpees aren’t your thing, you can get your heart rate up by joining TikTok dance challenges. Who knows, you might even become the right kind of viral!

A Different Kind of Outbreak

Anna Amelianchik

Before the novel coronavirus resulted in travel restrictions, event cancellations, and toilet paper shortages, The Rockefeller University community faced a different kind of outbreak: The Outbreak challenge. The Outbreak is a team-based six-week step and fitness challenge that syncs real-life steps and physical activity data recorded by a fitness tracker and translates them into virtual actions that you can take to survive a zombie outbreak. The app-based game tells an immersive story and offers six scenarios in which players have to reach safehouses to escape the zombie horde and progress through the challenge. Like many other workplace fitness challenges, The Outbreak helps employees build a community around a healthy lifestyle and foster behaviors that improve one’s health and reduce healthcare costs. The Rockefeller University’s leading team—“No Shorz Too Short”—is a great example of what the challenge was set to achieve with the average of 15,176 of team steps per day and the total of 637,395 steps over the six-week period. In addition, No Shorz Too Short put their steps to good use killing 1,055 zombies and reached all six safehouses in time. I had a conversation with the team leader, Zina, a Unit Clerk in The Rockefeller University’s Hospital, about The Outbreak challenge and its impact on her fitness and overall health. 

Can you describe your fitness regimen during the challenge?

My regimen was nothing too crazy to me, just had to go back to my old habits. I used to walk all the time anywhere and everywhere until I started working here. I have been taking transportation anywhere and everywhere and would cry about how thirty minutes was too far of a walk.

On day one of the challenge, I walked to work, then come week three, I walked to AND from work every day. If I had any errands to run, whether it was to return an item to a store, food shopping, pay bills etc., I made sure to walk there rather than hop on a bus or train.

Yeah it’s cold outside but once you get moving, trust me you will be stripping in the middle of the street when it gets hot. Playing Pokémon GO helped me a lot when I needed to get steps in. There were Pokémon I needed, and I would walk all over the city to get them before I headed home.

I went to the gym every day during my lunch break or went for a walk outside, depending on how my body felt that day. Hop on the bike for a few minutes then lift some weights. 

Did you notice any changes in your mood, energy levels, or general health while you were completing the challenge?

I will say after week three, I was exhausted physically, but alert and happy. I had trouble sleeping before. During the challenge I was knocked out at night and had a restful sleep. 

I was pushing my body to the limit every day but I wanted to keep going. So I made some adjustments to still reach my goal but not tire out (lift weights less and less cardio during the week). I felt stronger each day nonetheless and was happy to see the numbers on the scale go down each week, too. My mood improved. I was able to focus on the challenge and I became very competitive. I felt the need to outdo the other team. My team (“No Shorz Too Short”) and I would encourage one another to lead the race. Normally I am very lackadaisical. 

Are you able to keep it up now that the challenge is over?

When the challenge started, I had to tell myself every day, “Got to go to the gym or I got to work out.” Now that the challenge is over I wanted to take a break for a week and start again (don’t recommend it, you get lazy fast).

This challenge created a good habit that I will say I still keep to this day. I am still active and maintain the minimum step goal of 30,000 and daily walks/gym visits. I am going to wear my “short shorz”…eventually. HA!

CrossFit: Everything You Need to Know About One of Our Current Fastest Growing Sports

 Francesca Cavallo



Starting any new exercise practice can be discouraging, and it’s no different when entering into a CrossFit gym, which can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Although in the current sports environment everybody is talking about CrossFit, there are those who don’t even know what kind of sport it is. CrossFit is a complete and efficient training package. Created by Greg Glassman in the USA in the seventies, CrossFit started gaining popularity when the first CrossFit gym (called Box) opened in 1995 in Santa Cruz (California), before reaching its height in popularity after 2008.Today, there are more than 8,000 gyms and fitness centers spread around the world where CrossFit is performed.

CrossFit is commonly advertised in four words as “the sport of fitness” with a combination of constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements. It can be thought of as a training philosophy that coaches people of all shapes and sizes to improve their lifestyle and cardiovascular fitness within an encouraging environment. A CrossFit gym is unlike a normal gym. There is only one work out, called “WOD” (described below), performed each day that is completely scalable based on your skill levels.

How is a CrossFit class organized?

  1. Warm up/ Mobility

Usually it starts with a warm up and mobility phase, which is conducted as floor exercises to activate different muscular groups in preparation for the workout. It’s important that this phase includes the use of small tools like foamrollers, elastic bands, and backballs for muscular massage. This phase is essential because it prevents injuries and makes the subsequent movements more fluid.

  1. Skill/Strength

Within this phase different exercises that will be in the workout are explained then performed (see Table below), including instructions on the techniques underlying specific movements.

  1. WOD

This phase represents the real workout. In this phase there is no time to sharpen your technique or to rest. Following the CrossFit principle of high intensity, athletes have to exert maximum effort in the given timeframe. Typically, this phase has different time periods of activity from five minutes up to 30 minutes. It’s considered the metabolic part of the workout, often called Metcon.

  1. Recovery/Flexibility

This phase is dedicated to exercise recovery, muscular lengthening and cool down. Under coach guidance stretching exercises are conducted, with a general duration of about ten minutes.

What are the CrossFit exercises?

A fixed list of exercises does not exist, instead during the training sessions different disciplines are interchanged with different functions and characteristics (see below).

Gymnastic Cardio Weightlifting
Squat Run Deadlift
Pull-up bike Clean
Push-up rowing Press
Dip Jump rope Snatch
Rope climb Clean and jerk
Muscle-up Kettlebell swing


In particular, CrossFit combines different sports and movements. You can move from weightlifting to gymnastic routines, or from cardio to running and climbing, amongst others. A variety of tools are used including barbells, medicine balls, rings, kettlebells, box jumps etc.

It’s important to remember that CrossFit’s goal is not aesthetic, like bodybuilding, but rather aims to achieve a good health performance base. The improvement seen in the body is a pleasant consequence of CrossFit and not the sole purpose.

Free Summer Park Events in NYC

Susan Russo

Park rules for ALL parks: NO glass containers (baby bottles OK); alcohol; smoking; drugs; dogs off leashes YES blankets or towels (but NO plastic or tarps); restrooms; food vendors/stands



Bennett Park (Fort Washington Avenue and West 183rd Street, Pinehurst Avenue)

Thursday, July 21   Show starts at 8:30pm. – Ray

St. Nicholas Park – Historic Harlem Parks Film

Festival (St. Nicholas Plaza at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 135th Street) Shows start at sundown; seating area opens at 6:00pm.

Monday, July 18 – Within Our Gates (“earliest surviving feature by an African-American director”)

Wednesday, July 27 – The Wiz (1978)

Rodgers Amphitheater, Marcus Garvey Park

(East 120th to 124th Streets and Madison Avenue) Show starts at sundown; seating area opens at 6:00pm.

Monday, Aug 1 – Purple Rain

Morningside Park (114th Street at Morningside Drive) Show starts at sundown; seating area opens at 6:00pm.

Monday July 25 – Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers

Thomas Jefferson Park (First Avenue between 111th and 114th Streets) Show starts at 8:30pm.

Thursday, July 28 – Annie (2014)

Sherman Kreek Peninsula Park (10th Avenue, Between Academy Street and the Harlem River) Shows start at sundown; seating area opens at 6:30pm.

Wednesday, July 13 – Inside Out

Tuesday, August 9 – Fly Away Home

Randall’s Island Park (“at Touchdown of the 103rd Street Footbridge”) Shows start at 8:00pm. Sunday, July 31 – The Goonies

Sunday, Aug 28 – Inside Out (at Randall’s Island Connector) Show starts at 8:00pm.

Sunday, Aug 14 – The Good Dinosaur

103rd Street Community Garden (103rd Street east of Park Avenue) Show starts at 7:45pm.

Tuesday, Aug 30 – The Incredibles

Pier I Picture Show (Riverside Park South – enter at 66th Street at the Hudson River) Shows start at 8:30pm; seating starts at 6:30pm.

Wednesday, July 13 – Basquiat                                              

Friday, July 15 – Un Flic (film noir in French)

Wednesday, July 20 – Arthur (1981)

Wednesday, July 27 – Dog Day Afternoon

Wednesday, Aug 3 – The Royal Tenenbaums

Wednesday, Aug 10 – “Audience vote” – Mary and Max or Carol or The Warriors

Wednesday, Aug 17 – Auntie Mame


Bryant Park (behind the 42nd St. Main Library) 42nd to 40th Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Shows start at sundown; gravel areas around the lawn open at 5:00pm (chairs and bench seating available); the lawn area opens at 6:00pm.

Mondays, July 18 – The Omen

July 25 – Three Days of the Condor

Aug 1 – Harvey

Aug 8 – High Plains Drifter

Aug 15 – The Big Chill

Aug 22 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

At this park only – BAG CHECKS are made before entering. So you should know, seats and lawn spaces are are taken fast; it’s best to send a friend to hold space with a blanket EARLY.

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Manhattan Spring and Summer Fun

By Susan Russo


Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Mathematics

Consider these (mostly) FREE events in NYC Parks, many falling between June and October:

At Bryant Park (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, from 40th to 42nd Streets) check out for days and times of events. For adults and kids, there are games to play, such as chess, checkers, mah jongg, and board games, plus active sports, which include petanque (much like bocce or lawn bowling), ping-pong, and a putting green. Under a tent is the outdoor “Reading Room,” stocked with books and magazines for all ages. In addition, there’s an “Art Cart” in June, August, and September, with free supplies to use and artworks to take home. The park has three restaurants, food stands, and crafts and souvenir shops. There are coffee, pastry and deli shops all along 40th Street. If it’s too hot or it rains and the outdoor Reading Room is full, duck into the magnificent main library building, (for open hours), which has a very large but comfortable Children’s Library (with books, CDs, and DVDs for kids, and seven PC terminals), as well as a beautiful Map Room, a great shop, and a small café. And the youngest ones will thrill to the many, many inviting stairs to climb.

Madison Square Park (between Madison and Fifth Avenues, from 23rd to 26th Street)

In addition to a great playground and a “water wheel,” there are concerts, workshops in horticulture, and outdoor art for all ages, and, for kids, story times and “Art in the Park.” There is also a large outdoor plaza with tables and seating. Vendors are set up all around the park. (If it rains, I’ve heard good things about the Museum of Math at the north end of the Park (11 East 26th Street)

imagination playground

Photo Courtesy of NYC Parks

Their website says it has “a special emphasis on activities for 4th through 8th graders,” but it’s expensive – free for toddlers, $9 for children, students, and seniors, and $15 for adults.)

Besides local parks in Manhattan there are “Art Parks,” playgrounds for kids with works they can climb on:

“The Tom Otterness Playground – Silver Towers” on 42nd Street between 11th and 12th Avenues;

“The Real World” in Rockefeller Park between Chambers and Warren Streets in Lower Manhattan;

“The Imagination Playground” at the South Street Seaport at Berling Slip on John Street between Front and South Streets.

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Paninis and Pupusas: A Jackson Heights Love Story

By Brianna Caszatt and A Gerald Martini

In the months leading up to the World Cup, we kept reading headlines like “Panini Truck Heist in Brazil” or “Colombian Teacher Caught Stealing Students’ Paninis,” to which we thought: what the heck do sandwiches have to do with football? Then our Brazilian friend presented us with our very own Panini World Cup sticker book so we could join him in his quest to collect all of the stickers needed to fill its pages; Panini, it turned out, was a sticker brand rather than a sandwich.

The goal of a Panini sticker book is simple: collect and stick on every sticker (there are 643 in all). There are several stickers related to the Panini brand, FIFA (the international football organization), and the World Cup more generally, including stickers for the 12 stadiums (each stadium is split into two stickers). But, most importantly, each of the 32 teams has a national emblem, a group photo, and a picture for most of the players (there are only 17 player stickers per team rather than the full 23, and these were from the players who were projected to be selected for the tournament, meaning some stickers are of players who ended up not getting selected to actually play).

To start our collection, we bought seven-packs of stickers for $1 each at sports stores and bodegas around the city. Early on, almost every pack that we purchased was packed with stickers that we needed—it was fun! But as our sticker book filled up, we started getting a lot of duplicates, meaning each packet of seven had fewer and fewer of the stickers that we needed. It was time to start trading—and that was when things started getting really exciting.

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Crickets: From Midnight Music to Midnight Snack?

By Jason Rothauser

1024px-Chingrit_thot“And how much is that per cricket?” I ask. I’m standing in front of the reptile cages of a local Brooklyn pet store.

“Ten cents a pop.” Sounds reasonable.

“I’ll take forty.”

In a minute or two, the clerk has wrapped up the insects in a large plastic bag, the same way you’d take a goldfish home from the fair. They’re mottled brown and reassuringly lively, hopping frantically against the top of their enclosure like popping corn.

As the clerk rings up my order, she jokes, “Salt, pepper, ketchup?” She doesn’t know just how close to the mark she is.

These crickets aren’t for a pet lizard. They’re on tonight’s menu.

It’s hard to think of a stronger culinary taboo than eating insects. Many Americans can barely abide the presence or even the sight of them, but billions of people around the globe regularly consume a wide variety of insect life. The reason is simple: insects are nutritious, incredibly energy efficient, and even tasty. The reason that we all should eat insects is even simpler: it might help to save the planet.

Our current system of global food production is not sustainable. A 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report found that our present levels of meat production contribute 14–22% of the greenhouse gasses produced in the world in a given year. As the developing world continues to eat more like America does (i.e., much more carbon-intensive meat instead of produce), this proportion will only grow. The reason livestock like cattle are so ecologically deleterious is the inefficiency that comes with raising them. It takes eight pounds of feed to grow just one pound of beef. Insects, by comparison, turn food energy into body mass much more efficiently: a ratio of about 2:1 feed to body mass. And while producing livestock on a large scale requires “monocrops” of corn that themselves are harmful to the environment, insects can be fed on agricultural byproducts and other organic matter that would otherwise go to waste.

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World Cup 2014: Enough Info to Get by in Conversation

By Brianna Caszatt & A Gerald Martini, football masterminds 

480px-WC-2014-Brasil.svgTemperatures are rising and flowers are in bloom: summer is practically here. And for one month this summer, people around the globe will be riveted to their screens watching all the drama unfold in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup—the football (yes football, but soccer if you must) tournament that 32 countries have spent the last three years qualifying for. Remember how excited you were to watch the Olympics? Well double it, and that’s how the rest of the world feels. But if you can’t muster that much enthusiasm, this handy guide we’ve created should at least help you keep up with all the cool kids watching. So muddle some limes for a month’s worth of caipirinhas and grab your contraband caxirola, Brazil’s noise-making answer to the vuvuzela (imagine if a rattle and brass knuckles had a baby—they’ve since been banned from the stadiums after being used by fans as missiles), and let’s tuck in.

For those of you who are total World Cup novices, there are eight groups of four teams each. Each country will play all three of the other teams in their group, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout rounds. The top two from the group are determined by awarding three points for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss. Google “World Cup 2014 Bracket,” print one out, and make your own predictions!

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Puerto Rico in March – Summer at the tip of Winter

By Natalia Ketaren

El Yunque

Puerto Rico, “the rich port,” is an unincorporated territory of the United States. To us travellers from the US, that means that the currency is in dollars, our cell phones work and we need only a valid US license to travel there. San Juan is the capital. It is one of the most important ports in the Caribbean, situated on the northeastern side of the Island. Aside from its beautiful beaches, Puerto Rico is home to the US’s only tropical rainforest, El Yunque. We took a seven day trip through this lovely island, and here’s a little of what we saw and did.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

By Aileen Marshall

It’s springtime in New York, and that means the start of baseball season. There is still hope in the air for the Mets, and great expectations for the Yankees, the two New York teams.

Baseball is known as the “Great American Game,” illustrated by a commercial from about 30 years ago, which ran with the tagline “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” It is unclear exactly how American the game is. For many years it was a common belief that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, NY. The belief comes from the Mills commission, a 1905 report by the National League. This was the basis for the location of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In recent years it has become known that this origin is a myth. Abner Doubleday was a Civil War general, but he was a cadet at West Point in 1839, and his family had moved from Cooperstown the year before. When he died, he left many papers and letters, none of which even mentioned baseball.

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For Your Consideration – Crystal ball edition!

By Jim Keller

Last year’s Crystal Ball edition yielded four of nine eventual Best Picture nominees. Gravity, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Nebraska as well as Best Picture winner, 12 Years a Slave, were all discussed as hopefuls long before they bowed. So if you think spring is too early to talk about Oscars, think again. Here are some films debuting this year that could wind up in the Oscar conversation as the year progresses.

A Most Wanted Man (director: Anton Corbijn):

Why you might like it: Based on John le Carré’s novel, the film follows a Chechen Muslim as he gets caught up in the international war on terror after he illegally immigrates to Hamburg, Germany.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: The film was discussed last year in this column, but its release was subsequently pushed back. Corbijn’s The American (2010) wasn’t able to best his debut, 2007’s Control, but I’m interested to see what he can do with a le Carré novel. Plus it has a lead performance by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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Spring Breaks in April

By Susan Russo

Special Free Events and Short Excursions


Macy’s Flower Show

When: April 1-6

Where: 34th to 35th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues

Tartan Day Parade, with bagpipes, kilts and dancers

When: April 5, starting at 2:00 p.m.

Where: 45th to 55th Street on Sixth Avenue

“Pillow Fight in the Park,” teddy bears and pillows, but “no feathers”

When: April 5, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Washington Square Park, West 4th and 6th Street between MacDougal Street and University Place

“Easter Parade” wear or admire fancy hats and costumes

When: April 20, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Where: 49th to 50th Street on Fifth Avenue

“Celebrating Earth Day” a three-day event, with family activities, films and performances

When: April 22, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Where: Union Square, 14th Street between Irving Place and Fifth Avenue

“Tribeca Family Festival” street fair, music, chefs’ demonstrations, crafts and films

When: April 26, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Where: Greenwich Street between Hubert and Chambers Street

 “9/11 Memorial 5K Run/Walk” Family Day, “to support the memorial and museum”

When: April 27, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Where: Church Street between Cortland and Liberty Street

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The oldest Irish bar in the city

By Aileen Marshall


Most New Yorkers have heard of, if not been to, McSorley’s, a downtown bar. Popular belief is that it’s the oldest bar in the city, it even has sawdust on the floor. Many historical figures have patronized it over the years. It’s also famous for being one of the last to allow women. It had a unisex bathroom until recent years.

Officially, the name is McSorley’s Old Ale House, at 15 East 7th Street, in the East Village. According to the bar’s website, it was established in 1854 by John McSorley, a recent Irish immigrant. The original name was “The Old House at Home.” In 1865 the building was upgraded and John and his family moved in upstairs above the bar. According to city records, the address was a vacant lot until 1861. A writer for New York Magazine did some historical research and found it opened in 1862.  The title of oldest continuously running bar in the city had been Bridge Café on Water Street, established in 1794. However, McSorley’s can claim to be the oldest Irish bar in New York City.

In 1888, John McSorley bought the building. John’s son, William took over the bar in 1911.  William sold the bar to Daniel O’Connor (in 1936), a longtime patron and retired police officer. O’Connor’s daughter, Dorothy Kirwan, inherited the bar when her father died in 1939. Since the pub did not allow women, she made her husband manager and only came on Sunday nights after it was closed. Dorothy’s son, Danny, took ownership of the bar in 1975. He then sold the bar to Mathew Maher, an Irish immigrant and friend of this father’s, in 1977. Maher still owns McSorley’s today.

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Brooklyn Night Bazaar

By Jason Rothhauser

For both the hip and hungry, Brooklyn has been host to a growing new trend over the past few years: the food festival. The idea is simple: take the fun and novelty of a music festival or a craft fair, mix it with the kind of gourmet delights that foodies hunt the city for, and stir vigorously.

You may already be familiar with the Great Googamooga (a seasonal food and music festival in Prospect Park) or Smorgasburg (an indoor/outdoor “flea food market” in Williamsburg). Both invite restaurants and vendors from all over Brooklyn to set up individual booths and allow visitors to sample some of the borough’s brightest culinary hot spots in one shot. The newest is Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Night Bazaar, and it’s easily worth a visit.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

By Aileen Marshall

We all know that the third Monday of January was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the holiday established to honor the civil rights activist. But do you know how it came to be an official federal holiday? This writer can remember a time when the holiday didn’t exist.

Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929, was a significant civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s.  King was an ordained Baptist minister and had a degree in sociology from Morehouse College in 1948 and graduated from Crozier Theological Seminary in 1951. After he completed his Ph.D. at Boston College in 1955, King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was there that his history of civil rights activism began. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, in defiance of local segregation laws. That spurred King to organize a city-wide bus boycott by the African-American community. Activists also challenged the bus segregation law in the courts. (The law was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.) King went on to encourage more non-violent acts of civil disobedience. Martin Luther King, Jr. was known for this style of making protests without aggression, such as sit-ins at lunch counters. His efforts and those of others led to the end of segregation laws in twenty-seven cities. King’s most famous event was the 1963 March on Washington, which included his “I Have a Dream” speech and emphasized his belief that one day all Americans would be equal and live in harmony. In 1964, he became the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated in 1968 by James Earl Ray while standing on his motel balcony in Memphis where he traveled to support a sanitation workers’ strike.

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Culture Corner : music roundup

By Bernie Lang

In the past couple of months, I’ve been to live concert performances in the major music genres of jazz, rock, and classical music. I found myself reflecting after each show on how these differing types of music are standing up within my own personal test of time.

My brother graced me with a ticket to see jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano play at the Village Vanguard. I hadn’t been to the fabulous Vanguard in many years, but remembered it as a small and intimate space for a performance. After I insisted that we sit in the back of the club, my brother immediately guided us to seats just one table away from the small stage. And I’m glad he did. Mr. Lovano played with a fantastic group, consisting of a piano player, a bassist and two drummers/percussionists. His saxophone playing was on a virtuoso level as he hovered above us, and the songs were exciting and exuded an extremely positive vibe. Mr. Lovano also showed off great and complex chops on the flute and clarinet, literally wowing the audience, who at the end gave a very warm ovation, which was gracefully and gratefully received by the band members. Mr. Lovano’s unique, complex, somewhat traditional sax melody lines, and his unwavering power and emotion on the ballads, will remain with me. I had written jazz off as a past interest, but this wonderful show rekindled my curiosity in this difficult form of music.

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It’s Christmas Time in the City

by Aileen Marshall


Like the old song says, the “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks” are “dressed in holiday style.” Besides the hustle and bustle of this busy shopping season, New York has many time-honored holiday activities.  Here are just a few to help you feel that holiday cheer.

The gigantic tree at Rockefeller Center is an impressive sight for young and old alike. Every year, a huge evergreen is selected and transported to Rockefeller Center, on 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. It is set up behind the Prometheus sculpture next to the ice skating rink, strung with almost five miles of lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star. The tree lighting ceremony is usually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, typically with a few celebrities and a known figure skater. Even though the ceremony will have passed by press time, the tree is still lit daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. except on Christmas, when the lights are on all day. The area can be very crowded with tourists, so the best way to see the tree is to go skating on the rink. Looking up at the beautiful tree and the tall buildings from the rink is an experience not to be missed. Admission is $27 for adults and $15 for children. Sessions usually last about two hours, starting from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Visit for more information.

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For Your Consideration — Ones to Watch Vol. 3 Edition

By Jim Keller

With the fall film festivals behind us, we’re staring down the barrel of the Oscars’ gun and in a few short months, we’ll have our nominees. Still, it’s a long time until then on the campaign trail. So while the would-be contenders are out hustling and bustling, shaking the right hands and making the right appearances, let’s examine the Best Supporting Actor and Actresses races in the third installment of this three-part series.

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Looking War in the Eye

by May Dobosiewicz

Called “Little Tiger,” rumored to have killed two “Vietcong women cadre”—his mother and teacher. Vietnam, 1968. Photograph by Philip Jones Griffiths © Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum Photos

Called “Little Tiger,” rumored to have killed two “Vietcong women cadre”—his mother and teacher. Vietnam, 1968. Photograph by Philip Jones Griffiths © Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum Photos

Quick—name how many wars are being fought in the world right now. At the time of writing, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program reported 32 ongoing armed conflicts. Is this fighting noble and just, or chaotic and deplorable? Are there good guys and bad guys?

Unless we live in the midst of such fighting and struggle ourselves, our notion of war is directly tied to what we see in newspapers, magazines, and online. Our perception of war can be shaped by a single image, whether it is propaganda used to manipulate the public, or a snapshot of torture that shifts public opinion against war. So easily can our minds be swayed on matters of conflict; it seems we do not understand war at all. Perhaps it is impossible to grasp every dimension of conflict, but this lack of understanding is why an exhibit like WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath at the Brooklyn Museum is so important.

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