Booksink's HamletHub Fri, 07 Aug 2020 11:10:43 -0400 My Life on the Post Road: Virtually Medicine

The last thing I want to do during this pandemic is enter a medical facility - kudos and thanks to those who have to and do. But alas, this body is out of warranty and needs scheduled service. Osteoporosis runs in my family, and I have not escaped its strong grip on my bones. I currently receive an injection biannually to bolster them. I resist this medication as I do every other, but my bones beg to differ. I missed a full year’s worth while in England, and somehow, I managed to skip October (I blamed it on them not reminding me). My very diligent and persistent endocrinologist tracked me down and asked, “What’s up?” Benign neglect, I told her, and she suggested we schedule a telemedicine appointment to discuss.

Let the games begin, I thought. I hate Zoom and was pretty sure a videoconference with my doc would be as miserable. But it beat the alternative of visiting in person. So, 10:15 a.m. appointment and instructions in hand, I sat at my small dining table and waited.

10:09 a.m.: Call #1. Receptionist. She “checked me in.” Told me to sit tight and hung up. My small dining area became a waiting area.

10:17 a.m.: Call #2. Nurse. She asked that I sign into the MYCHART App and enable Zoom (on my iPhone). I fussed with both and miraculously got them working, and played Tiles on the New York Times app, picked at my cuticles, and thought how maybe I could’ve made even a minimal effort to not look awful while she had me on hold until 10:31. I don’t know why. When she came back, she told me the doctor would call and hung up.

10:35 a.m.: Call #3. Nurse. “Are you on? The doctor cannot see you.” My video session had timed out because she’d had me on hold for 18 minutes. I signed back in to MYCHART and Zoom. Waited for doctor to call.

10:40 a.m.: Call #4. Doctor. Thank heavens. I’d conquered Tiles, and my cuticles needed no more intervention. She explained that, no, I didn’t need another bone scan until 2021 (I was hoping to use this as a delay tactic), and yes, I needed a shot. We chit chatted about Covid19 and its devastating impact, and how we are both coping. Then she told me I’ll need to come into the office anyway for a blood draw to make sure my kidneys are functional. I wondered but didn’t ask: why, if I needed to come in anyway, did we not just meet face to face?

This series of calls ended at 10:50 a.m. Frustrating at times, yes, but no more so than if I’d driven to their offices and had to check in, wait in the waiting area, and see the nurse in person. But I saved myself the drive time, potential exposure to the virus, and any need to look presentable.      

All of which I ended up having to do that afternoon anyway for the blood draw. A pre-receptionist took my temperature and asked a series of questions before I could even go into the outer office. She directed me to stand on a red X marked in duct tape on the floor. And not to move from it until the receptionist called me. I stood six feet away from the receptionist on another X, this one white, and shouted answers to her questions at her as she sat, protected, behind a now ubiquitous pane of plexiglass. She relegated me to a far, uninhabited corner of the waiting room to sit by myself. When the nurse finally called me in 20 minutes later, I explained my miniscule veins to her, told her I’d drunk plenty of water to pump them up, and prayed she could find one without black-and-bluing me. Her indifference was as glaring as the rhinestones in her long, bedazzled nails, and the mask she wore only covered her mouth. When I asked that she cover her nose, explaining my high-risk status, she retorted from two feet away in a small room with the door closed, “I’ve been working all day in this mask and I need a break to breathe”.  Okay then. She applied a tourniquet to my arm, made me pump my fist, slapped at my inner elbow repeatedly, and then went in for the kill, fishing around with the needle for my elusive artery. It hurt. A lot. When I winced and asked that she stop, she snipped “Well if you hadn’t moved your arm...You have a vein (I figured as much but appreciated her confirmation), but it moved when you did.” So, I thought, as with my children and former husband, everything is my fault. I asked that she stop again and to speak with someone else. I cried as I waited for my doctor’s assistant in a different room. She came in, masked, apologetic, and compassionate, and found a vein in the other arm quickly. And apologized again.

So, despite my reticence in the face of technology, the virtual meeting took 39 minutes and required only minimal praying to the gods of technology. The in-person meeting took over an hour and caused considerably more grief. Fortunately, my kidneys work well, and so I have the go-ahead to get inoculated - once I clear the myriad insurance hurdles and approvals. I wonder if they’ve figured out a way to give me the shot over the internet...

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 31 Jul 2020 09:50:28 -0400
Marian Anderson Mural Planned for Kennedy Park in Danbury

Mayor Boughton and the City of Danbury announce plans for a mural downtown to honor the legacy of Marian Anderson, considered one of the greatest classical singers, a Civil Rights pioneer, and a Danbury resident.

The mural will be placed on the wall behind the Kennedy Park fountain (300 Main Street). The wall is currently dressed with a Main Street mural by local artist Joe DiGuiseppi.

One of Marian Anderson’s most famous performances was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939 to 75,000 people and millions more via radio. This performance was arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Ms. Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall because of her race.

Marian Anderson and her husband Orpheus H. Fisher purchased their 100-acre farm in Danbury. During her time here, Marian Anderson sat on the board of the Danbury Music Centre. In turn, the DMC’s recital hall was named after her. Marian Anderson was a large supporter of the arts in our community, as well as a supporter of the Danbury Chapter of the NAACP.

Danbury will be calling on local artists to submit renderings and quotes that feature Marian Anderson’s achievements and life in Danbury. The Danbury Museum & Historical Society will offer the chosen artist a look at Danbury’s collection of Marian Anderson’s personal belongings including gowns she sewed herself for several performances and a look into her studio that now sits on the Danbury Museum property.

The majority of funding for this project has been graciously donated by Savings Bank of Danbury. The final mural will be decided in cooperation with the building's property owner Joseph DaSilva and CityCenter Danbury.

“Savings Bank of Danbury is honored to work with the Mayor’s office and the City on this important project,” said Martin G. Morgado.

]]> (Mayor Mark Boughton) Beyond Books Fri, 31 Jul 2020 07:55:00 -0400
Creativity Connects Westport: Meet Tom Fiffer

Creativity Connects Westport

What fuels a vibrant, connected and creative community? What makes people feel good about living in Westport?

When locals share the creativity that they uncover in the nooks and crannies of their community it brings about connectivity and makes us all feel good. Believe it or not, you discover creativity every day as you walk, shop, work, and play in Westport? 

Meet Westport resident Tom Fiffer, writer, author, storyteller and founder of Christmas Lake Creative.

How does creativity connect you to Westport?

To outsiders, Westport, Connecticut, looks like any other wealthy coastal suburb, with its mix of gracious homes and modern mansions, upscale restaurants and pizza joints, top-ranked schools, and, of course, beautiful beaches. But the town has a long history as a home for creativity, before we had MoCA Westport, the Playhouse, and a library with a maker space—to name a few of the institutions that make me feel good about living here.

In the Roaring 20s, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda spent a summer near Compo Beach, and some believe Westport was Fitzgerald’s inspiration for West Egg in The Great Gatsby. During the booming post-war 50s and 60s, Westport was home to authors such as Max Shulman (who immortalized the town in Rally Round the Flag, Boys) and Robert Ludlum, illustrators (Hardie Gramatky, creator of Little Toot), television writers (Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone), scores of “Mad Men” types, and of course, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. There was even the Famous Artists School, founded in part by Norman Rockwell.

Creativity is in the air here, and I am constantly inspired both by the natural beauty of the town and the contributions of its famous residents. I no doubt visit the same places they did to light their creative fires or find the quiet all creatives need to clear our heads for the next endeavor: Compo Beach, with its painterly sky and glorious sunsets; the little wooden walkway over the Saugatuck off Parker Harding Drive; the green stretches of Winslow Park for contemplative walking; the winding streets of the Old Hill neighborhood for a trip through colonial history; or Sherwood Island State Park to commune with the geese and, on a clear day, catch a glimpse of Manhattan. When I go out in Westport with my mind opened to creative possibilities, I am never disappointed.

For the first ten years, I was really only here on weekends, as I commuted to New York for a job in business information. Frustrated with endless hours on the train, I began writing a blog, Tom Aplomb, during my morning ride. The daily discipline of penning (actually tapping out) posts helped me become an editor at an online magazine, The Good Men Project, and for a short time, I helmed Westport’s HamletHub. My day job ended in 2014, and as I began to move in more creative circles, I started teaching at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.

Eventually, I opened up my own workshop with my writing partner, Julia Bobkoff. We named it Christmas Lake Creative, after the street, Christmas Lake Lane, where our home and business are located. We offer group classes in creative writing, fiction, memoir, screenwriting, and a course for young writers (13-18). We also work one-on-one with numerous writers, helping our clients develop their memoirs, novels, and projects for television and film. During the pandemic, we’ve been offering a free Zoom creative writing class on Thursday nights to keep people’s creative juices flowing. Whether people know Westport’s history or not, they all seem drawn to this remarkable town’s creative energy, and we love living and working in such a storied setting.

Thomas G. Fiffer is a writer, editor, founder of Christmas Lake Creative, and author of two books—Why It Can’t Work: Detaching From Dysfunctional Relationships to Make Room for True Love, and What Is Love: A Guide for the Perplexed to Matters of the Heart.

Creativity Connects Westport made possible by LIFEWTR.

If you are interested in being featured in our series, please email

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HamletHub or LIFEWTR. 


]]> (HH) Local Writers Fri, 31 Jul 2020 06:51:00 -0400
Weston Author & Illustrator Clare Pernice teaches Global Art Workshop via Zoom in August

Clare Pernice has always loved to draw. So much so, she became both the illustrator and author of the acclaimed picture book, Circus Girl. Clare’s passion for art and storytelling took root in England where she was born and raised and led her to illustrate and exhibit works worldwide. She’s designed not only children’s books, but also clothes, toys & murals, and has created costumes and props for both film and stage. She’s settled in Connecticut and is hard at work on her upcoming children’s book releases, The Real Mother Goose and Adventure Boy.

A Children’s Programs Consultant and Educator at Manhattan’s Society of Illustrators Museum of Illustration (SOI), Clare is bringing her talent to young artists everywhere via a global illustration workshop, “Creating Characters & Stories,” part of the SI Kids Summer Series. The program spans four Thursdays in August (6, 13, 20, and 27), with both morning (10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.) and afternoon (4-5:30 p.m.) offerings, with a capacity of 10 students per session. The course has a suggested age range between 8-11, and registration is underway. The price for the “Creating Characters & Stories” workshop is $120 per series/$108 discount ticket for sibling(s). To register/buy your child’s ticket, please click on the appropriate link above.

Students sign up for a free Zoom account prior to taking the workshops, and simple art materials needed for assignments will be e-mailed after registration. Participants join Zoom with art materials and are invited to share their character research assignment. Additional illustration workshops will be offered in both the fall and winter; interested families should stay tuned for updates on the SOI website.

Students will derive inspiration from weekly scavenger hunt & draw prompts, learn about character development, and hone their drawing skills. Each week, the children will build on their understanding of storytelling through a variety of illustration techniques, experiment with different characters, and come to understand how illustrators use research for their work. At the end of the series, students will have developed a collection of drawings reflecting their creativity and individual illustration style.

“I’m thrilled to offer this exciting workshop to budding artists across the globe. It’s especially timely as parents are seeking activities and positive content for children as they quarantine, prior to the start of school. My passion is teaching character illustration and inspiring students to create illustrations they can be proud of,” Clare says. Clare is also pleased to note the Museum’s pivot to virtual programming has been successful, and many repeat students attend her Zoom Illustration workshops.

"Clare effortlessly keeps each student engaged and motivated by taking a sincere interest in their ideas. Sasha and Bryce always look forward to the next class and feel like real illustrators. I couldn’t think of a class more perfect for them right now,” says parent, Mila Polishchuk.

The Society of Illustrators’ mission is to promote the art of illustration, to appreciate its history and evolving nature through exhibitions, lectures and education, and to contribute the service of its members to the welfare of the community at large. The non-profit is located at 128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY.

For details, click here.

]]> (Clare Pernice teaches Global Art Workshop via Zoom in August) Clubs Fri, 31 Jul 2020 06:47:00 -0400
Westport Author, TEDx Speaker Hosts Step Into Joy Workshops: Walking for Connection, Discovery & Play

Since COVID struck, walking has been incredibly important, especially to get off of our digital screens and out of our zoom boxes. We need to feel our body not mediated through technology, reminding ourselves where we are, the bodies we're in, and the moment we have right now.

Multidisciplinary artist,TEDx Speaker, PTSD Specialist, nature-lover and teaching artist Amy Oestreicher will hold a series of six online workshops to help participants claim their own walking practice for connection, discovery, resilience, and play. 

Oestreicher says, "We all know that walking is good for your health, but why is it a vital tool for finding ourselves and connection? Can we feel less alone, even as we walk a path on our own? Definitely! In this series, I'll introduce you to fun, creative prompts, using your 'superhero five senses' to experience walking as your go-to guide and a never-ending source of joy, play, resilience, and discovery. You'll experience the world like you never had before and find that the biggest gifts are right under our noses - and feet."

Six Prompts will be posted online here and in the Facebook group every Friday starting on Aug. 14. 

Six optional, participatory zoom workshops will be held on Sundays at 4 p.m. starting August 23. 

Walking can be art, a meditation, pilgrimage, or simply as a means to get from one place to another. Walks can be guided by intuition, by boredom, by maps, by sound, touch, smell, or simply by chance. During the time of the pandemic, many have found solace in regular neighborhood walks. This workshop will explore the many strategies by which we can use the art of walking.

"Walking has played a huge role in my own recovery from trauma, rediscovery of myself, and reintegrating into the world around me. Walking helped me find a place again in life, and continues to guide my body, mind, spirit, and the person I can continue to create with every step I take," Oestreicher shares. "I can't wait to share with others how walking can really open up our eyes and hearts - it's so much more than a 'walking is good exercise' mentality for me. Walking has really fueled my resilience, creativity, self-development, and continues to inspire me."

Oestreicher feels especially now, claiming a walking practice is more important than ever. "I'm excited that the internet makes it possible for anyone to participate. I want to reach people in every kind of environment, community, and living situation right now. You'd be surprised how easy it can be to claim any kind of walking process for yourself no matter where you are, and how it can really change your life." Oestreicher's memoir, "My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful,"​ shares her discoveries in walking, and was recently honored for 2nd place Best Autobiography for the CT Press Club Awards.

If you'd like to register for the zoom workshops, have questions, concerns or would like to learn more, e-mail Oestreicher at To see the prompts posted, visit or join the Facebook Group.

]]> (submitted) Local Writers Fri, 31 Jul 2020 06:28:00 -0400
Fun Stuff at home with the Somers Library

Thursday, July 30 was World Friendship Day. We know how important friends are even if we have to be physically distant. Thanks to phones, mail, and the internet, we can keep in touch with friends who are far away. Here are some activities to share with the friends that are near and can allow for social distancing outdoors or inside.

Have a Rhyming Circle

Everyone stands apart in a circle. A first "leader" says a word (like "bat"). Going around the circle to the right, each child says a word that rhymes with it. Continue around the circle until you're back to the leader. The game continues with each person having a turn as the leader. You can create silly challenges (like doing 5 jumping jacks) if someone gets a word wrong, or can't think of something.

Play an old fashioned game of Kickball

For five or more people, this is a great game to play in a wide open space. This game is similar to baseball but without the gloves and bats. Using a large ball like a volleyball or small beach ball, each player has to kick the ball that is rolled to them by a pitcher and run around bases to get home.

Friendship bracelets

For those who are feeling crafty and want to share some quiet time together, here is a video for anyone who wants to begin to create and share some simple friendship bracelets.

Check out some of these books that are available now at the library.

Melia and Jo ~ Aronson

Friendship Accordin to Humphrey ~ Birney

Stubby: A Story of True Friendship ~ Foreman

Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship ~ Hatkoff

A Scarf for Keiko ~ Malaspina

The Little Pink Rosebud ~ Shand

A Friend for Bear ~ Smallman

Visit our website to search the catalog for these books and more to place an order for curbside pick-up.

Look for these books and more on Overdrive and hoopla.

Bink & Gollie, Best Friends Forever ~ DiCamillo

You Can't Have Too Many Friends ~ Gerstein

Friendship Bracelets ~ Gryski

Best Friends ~ Hale

Frog & Toad Are Friends ~ Lobel

Big Nate & Friends ~ Peirce

Big Friends ~ Sarah

Friends ~ Steinkraus

Look for more news on upcoming programs from the library on Monday!

Be safe and healthy!

Vicki DiSanto-Children's Librarian Beth Levine- Library Assistant

Somers Library

Funding for programs provided by Friends of the Somers Library

]]> (Somers Library) Readers Fri, 31 Jul 2020 05:50:00 -0400
My Life on the Post Road: Cambridge-Upon-Saugatuck

Last year around this time I was living in a room overlooking Selwyn College’s historied courtyard at Cambridge University. I took classes every morning, went to afternoon lectures, and spent free time exploring Cambridge and new friendships, and took in outdoor Shakespeare performances and gin and tonics in the evenings.

Concerned about trying to recreate a nearly perfect two weeks, I’d not quite decided if I’d go back or not (there is a large contingent of students who return each year to enrich their learning and nurture friendships) when Covid-19 unilaterally made the decision for me. Cambridge, like institutions worldwide, would shutter the campus to in-person classes for the summer and, as it turns out, for the academic year.      

Bad news, certainly, for those who had made plans and reservations. But good news for so many, because again, like, well, everyone and everything, Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) would go virtual. I perused the course catalog, its smorgasbord of enticing offerings making it very difficult to choose just a few. I finally selected a course on Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, with the lecturer who I’d so enjoyed the previous summer. Another on Henry V with a professor new to me, and finally convinced my Dylan-loving son to join me in a class on Dylan’s Lyrics, presented by the learned lecturer who’d taught me Blake and Eliot last summer.

The professors posted a series of lectures each week along with useful supplementary materials. They assigned participants activities we could participate in – or not. We could post responses, questions, and comments in a chat forum. While sitting in my basement office watching the Chairperson of the British Virginia Woolf Society speak about the Ramsays couldn’t compare with sitting with her in person in the classroom, it provided a delightful and stimulating next best thing. ICE posted numerous mini-lectures on a wide array of topics for viewing throughout the weeks.

The results were, frankly, mixed. The Woolf course delighted me; her style and depth of thought amaze me, and the historical and social context provided only augmented my appreciation. The Shakespeare course was only so-so. That professor chose not to share video of his presentation, so we just had a rather simplistic set of PowerPoint slides to watch as we listened. He seemed undecided about his focus. He discussed how the play compared with actual history, reviewed its performance history, and read a few key (long) scenes and opined on them. It felt a bit disjointed to me, and on Friday I was sadly not much more enlightened about one of my favorite Histories than on Monday. Dylan – ah, that enigmatic poet – would, I believe, be delighted with the conclusion we reached at the end of the week: Don’t even try to make sense of or understand his lyrics! I especially enjoyed this class because I got to take it with not only one of my favorite Cambridge lecturers, but one of my favorite 27-year olds. My son is as knowledgeable and fervent a Dylan fan as I am a Shakespeare aficionado. I enjoyed his commentary as much as the professor’s.

A few of my friends from last summer participated as well, so we could compare notes, but we all lamented the obvious deficits. We’d much rather have shared our post-class comments in the Harry Potter-like dining hall or in the Selwyn pub sharing some of the local brews. We promised to try to do that next year, Coronavirus permitting.

Nothing can replace crossing the River Cam, crowded with punters out for a row, on a post-class walk into town. Nothing can replace the feeling of standing on the same ground, breathing in the air that I like to think I shared with luminaries like Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Emma Thompson, Lord Byron, Ian McKellen, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, and John Maynard Keynes (to name a few!). Nothing can replace mingling with fellow students from around the world on the lawn of King’s College for a champagne-and-scone reception. But, in this world that has recently gone so topsy-turvy, it felt delicious to return, albeit online, to a place and experience that brought me so much joy.

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:20:10 -0400
From Bach to Brubeck - Counterpoint, Rhythm, and Improvisation with Gil Harel and Chris Brubeck

Gil Harel and Chris Brubeck return to Wilton Library on Thursday, July 30 via Zoom. Harel and Brubeck will continue tracing the relationship between the music of the great composer and instrumentalist Johann Sebastian Bach and that of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. "Reprise: From Bach to Brubeck" will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. Online registration is required in order to receive the Zoom session invitation link. Email questions to Although the Zoom session itself has a sign-up limit, the library will also live-stream the program for the entire wait-list.
Though he was born in the late 17th century, the impact of J.S. Bach's music created profound ripples throughout music history. Among the figures influenced by his works, one encounters names such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schoenberg and more. Outside of the "classical" idiom, Bach would inspire many artists in the jazz world. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the legendary American pianist and composer, Dave Brubeck. During this program, Dr. Gil Harel (Assistant Professor of Music, NVCC) will discuss the connection between these remarkable musicians born 235 years apart. He will be joined in this endeavor by famed performer, composer, and son of Dave Brubeck, Chris Brubeck. Mixing academic presentation with anecdotal reflection, this program will delve into topics including figured bass notation and its similarity to the jazz "lead sheet," the mysterious nature of improvisation, and how Brubeck's music reflects the influence of the prolific Bach in many ways.
Gil Harel (PhD, Brandeis University) is a musicologist and music theorist whose interests include styles ranging from western classical repertoire to jazz. Previously, he has served on the faculty at CUNY Baruch College, where he was awarded the prestigious "Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching" as well as the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China. He is now Assistant Professor of Music at Naugatuck Valley Community College where he has been presented with the "Merit Award for Exemplary Service to the College" for 3 consecutive years. Most recently, he was chosen as the winner of the 2019-20 Board of Regents system-wide teaching award. At NVCC, Dr. Harel conducts the college chorale, a cappella ensemble, teaches music history and theory, and serves as musical director of theater productions. Outside of teaching, he remains active as a keyboardist, vocalist, and arranger.
Chris Brubeck is a Grammy-nominated composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist (fretless bass, bass trombone and piano).  His guitar concerto, which he wrote for Sharon Isbin, is the title track on her new recording: Affinity. In addition to writing, Chris has spent his career on tour with his own bands: the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (with brother Dan on drums), and Triple Play, an acoustic trio featuring Chris on piano, bass and trombone along with guitarist Joel Brown and harmonica player extraordinaire Peter Madcat Ruth. Chris also performs as a soloist playing his trombone concertos with orchestras around the world and has served as Artist and/or Composer in Residence with orchestras and colleges in America, coaching, lecturing, and performing with students and faculty. Chris was a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet for 16 years and was a frequent guest artist with the Quartet before and after that time period. He was featured on dozens of recordings with the DBQ and had the pleasure of playing all the great jazz festivals in the world. Chris is an advocate for arts education and serves on the advisory boards of the Norwalk Youth Symphony, and Classical Tahoe, and is on the honorary board for the Tennessee Arts Academy. He is also a founding director of "Brubeck Living Legacy" a non-profit founded by the Brubeck family to honor and continue the legacy of their parents, Dave and Iola Brubeck.
]]> (Wilton Library) Clubs Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:10:55 -0400
Ferguson Library's YouTube Debuts Series Demystifying Beethoven

As the world celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, The Ferguson Library is delighted to partner with the Stamford Symphony to present three programs exploring the creative periods of the composer's life, featuring Stamford Symphony violinist and educator Gabriel Schaff. This program is the first of the series and will be shown on the Library's YouTube channel. The series debuted on July 22, will continue on Sept. 15 with Heroism of the Everyman, and conclude on Dec. 16 with An Invitation to a New World. Location and times to be announced.

Gabriel Schaff writes: "Beethoven's music grabbed the world by the ears and imagination. Fueled by his passionate intellect from within and as a witness to profound world changes, he single-handedly altered the direction of music for future generations. His music opened the door to wider forms of expression and introspection which continue to influence and inspire composers and performers of today. There has not been a time in the past 200 years where Beethoven's music has not been at the forefront of both the concert hall and people's hearts. Come hear the three periods of Beethoven's music--Early, Middle, and Late--demystified."  

A native of Philadelphia, violinist Gabriel Schaff studied with the Curtis String Quartet at the New School of Music before moving to New York City at the age of 17 as a scholarship student and assistant to Erick Friedman at the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Schaff is an active chamber musician, and teacher on the secondary and college levels. In addition to international appearances, he created the Englewood Chamber Players, dedicated to performing educational and historical concerts for the communities in which they live, as well as for those underserved by live classical performances. He is the author of books and articles pertaining to the history of the violin family and the music written for it, most notably "The Essential Guide to Bows of the Violin Family" and "Rediscovering Haydn's Three Original Violin Sonatas". Current activities include an exploration of music by women composers in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and lectures and concerts on the evolution of the compositional styles of Ludwig van Beethoven, in celebration of his 250th birthday.

]]> (Ferguson Library) Beyond Books Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:05:37 -0400
Stratford Library Hosts Zoom Book Discussions on July 29 & Aug. 26

The Stratford Library Books Over Coffee program concludes its 2020 spring/summer series with an online discussion of Laura Frankel’s family drama, This Is How It Always Is, on Wednesday, July 29 and Jeanine Cummins’ controversial novel, American Dirt, on Wednesday, Aug. 26. The online Zoom programs, hosted by Linda LiDestri, will be held between 12-1 p.m. The book talks are free and open to the public.

When Rosie, Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it's another baby boy. But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. This Is How It Always is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family.

In American Dirt, we meet Lydia Quixano Perez who lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco where she runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. One day a man enters Lydia’s shop and finds four books he would like to buy. Javier is erudite, charming and, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia's husband's tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Limited reading copies of This Is How It Always Is and American Dirt are available for loan at the library’s Circulation Desk. All Books Over Coffee titles are available at the Library or on Kindle eReaders for loan. Patrons can also download the eBook or eaudiobook through the OverDrive app at the Library. Books Over Coffee will announce its fall schedule of titles soon.

For further information call the Library at (203) 385-4162 or register online here.

]]> (Thomas Holehan) Clubs Fri, 24 Jul 2020 13:53:09 -0400
Favorite Reads of 2020, So Far

I am fond of stock-taking, reflection, perseverating on the past. Whatever you want to call it. The beginning, middle, and end of the year are the customary times to engage in such activities. Though some also like quarterly or bi monthly reviews. Basically, if you can make it symmetrical, you can make it a review period.

Anyway, I've spent some time over the last week thinking about the books that have been at my side during this wild ride called 2020. A book tag called, appropriately, the mid-year book freak out tag, created by booktubers Chami and Ely, has shaped my thinking. Read on for the great adventure...

Best book(s) you've read this year

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis: Bored immortals Hermes and Apollo grant dogs human consciousness to see if it makes them as unhappy as humans. I read this one in January and have not been able to stop thinking and talking about it.

The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu: Is this cheating? It was a new-to-me translation that read like a novel. I recommend it for first-time readers who prefer a prose translation.

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton: Despite a glaring issue with this novel (see brief but important discussion here), I enjoyed the concept and execution of this novel immensely. Like Alexis’ novel, it revolves around a thought experiment. Athena and Apollo decide to create Plato’s Republic to see how it will fail. If you like philosophical novels and ancient Greek philosophy, you may enjoy this as much as I did.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith: Smith is one of the novelists I reach for when the world seems too ugly to bear. The narrative follows a British-born professor at a Massachusetts college, his Black American wife, and their three teens. If you need to feel hopeful amidst life's messes and complications, you might find this novel as comforting as I did.

The King Must Die (Theseus #1) by Mary Renault: Another thought experiment based on ancient Greece? Yes, please. Renault reimagines the Theseus myth as an historical story set in Bronze Age Santorini and Naxos. The imaginative scope is impressive, and the writing is brilliant. I’ve yet to read a novelist who has made me feel, viscerally, the awe, terror, and unknowability of the ancient world. If you want to feel like you entered a time machine, this is an excellent book to read.

Best sequel(s) you've read this year

Eumenides (Oresteia #3) by Aeschylus, translated by Sarah Rudin: I’m cheating again, but I’m not fussed about it. I’ve only read two other sequels this year, and neither of them had the impact of Eumenides. I recommend reading the whole trilogy, naturally.

New release(s) you haven't read yet but want to

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin: A fantasy set in New York City, in which each borough becomes personified. I am intrigued!

The Empire of Gold (Daevabad #3) by S. A. Chakraborty: This was one of my favorite series from last year. I can’t wait to see where Chakraborty takes it next.

Most anticipated release(s) for second half of 2020

My most anticipated are all sequels to series that have engaged and intrigued me, including

The Tower of Nero (Trials of Apollo #5) by Rick Riordan

The Memory of Babel (Mirror Visitor #3) by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend

Biggest disappointments

Neal Shusterman's Arc of Scythe series had me so impressed...and then The Toll happened.

Biggest surprise

The King Must Die (Theseus #1) by Mary Renault: I had grudgingly accepted that novels set in ancient Greece would never satisfy me. Then Renault came along to prove me wrong. I've never been so pleased to be wrong.

Favorite debut or new-to-you author(s)

Andre Alexis and Jo Walton

Newest favorite character

Prince from Fifteen Dogs and Kiki from On Beauty

Book(s) that made you cry

On Beauty and Fifteen Dogs

Books(s) that made you happy

This is an interesting question to think about. What makes a book “happy” in my view? I’d say books that make me think, that inspire me to reflect, that move me with their beauty. In this sense, the books that made me happy are many and varied, and how great is that?  

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was a marvelous journey that I gobbled up in approximately 14 hours, sleep inclusive. Also The Just City, The King Must Die, Fifteen Dogs, and On Beauty, for the aforementioned reasons.

Most beautiful book you've purchased or been gifted this year

For this I will call say my Loeb Classical Library editions (pictured). I adore them both for the cover aesthetic and (even more) for the treasures between the covers.

Book(s) you need to read by the end of the year

There is no need. Only want.

Tell me about your 2020 in books? Or your day. Whatever you feel like talking about...

]]> (Sally Allen) Readers Fri, 17 Jul 2020 16:52:24 -0400
My Life on the Post Road: Let’s Get Physical

The spoils, according to the adage, go to the victor. In my case, the victory involves conquering every carb within reach of my short arms, further vanquished by washing them down with copious amounts of rose-all-day for the last eight million months of lockdown. The spoils have generously manifested in the form of belly jelly rolls making my skorts slightly tighter than I’d like. Hollow victory, then, this.

As we cautiously emerge from hibernation, my gluttony has had the opposite effect of a natural hibernation from which a bear would appear gaunt and hungry. I crawl out looking more like a pudgy baby, except not cute.

Yes, I walked as much as I could during the shut-in months, but my constitutionals were no match for the pasta, bread, butter, and vino. They just kept the damage from mushrooming beyond the burgeoning muffin top.

Fortunately, Saugatuck Rowing Club came to the rescue and reopened on July 1, just in time. I received this news with equal measures of joy and terror. I needed to get back into the routine of a vigorous workout daily, but I feared doing so anywhere near anyone else, especially inside. In their welcome back email, though, they assured members that they took our safety seriously and outlined their procedures established to this end. They included a new app, limiting the number of members on the gym floor and in classes, rigorous sanitization, and mask/temperature checking requirements.

I reserved a spot on the gym floor on July 1, and after I answered questions about my health and that of my family, and having my temperature taken, I climbed the stairs with some trepidation. I quickly found my concerns unfounded. I shared the entire gym area with only two other people, all of whom were yards away from me at all times. The distance allowed me to remove my mask while huffing and puffing on the treadmill. All staff wore masks at all times, and members wiped down equipment diligently with cleansing wipes. Staff periodically wiped everything down with disinfectant. Hand sanitizer dispensers dot the counters for easy access. Drinking fountains, except the new contactless one they’ve recently installed, had blue painter’s tape on both spouts and buttons to prevent anyone touching them. I did not come within six feet of either another club or staff member for the entire visit. And upon exiting, they request that patrons leave down a back staircase that leads directly outside so no one need pass anyone coming or going.

I have not yet ventured to a Pilates class, although that’s on the agenda for next week. They have limited participation to half capacity and today I could see them disinfecting each piece of material from the classroom.

It still feels very odd to venture out into this new normal: masks have become entirely commonplace. I’m more apt to do a double take when I see someone not wearing one. We adapt, it seems, quickly, very much appreciating the return to some of the activities that we valued before that have been off limits for a while.

The bottom line? My bottom line has no more excuses for expanding, thanks to the thought and care that Saugatuck has put into reopening.

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 17 Jul 2020 16:18:59 -0400
Two Book Talks Coming up with Wilton Library Online

Wilton Library will be hosting two book discussions via Zoom. There is no charge for the programs, and advance registration is required to receive Zoom session links.
Book Discussion with Janet Krauss: Where the Crawdads Sing
Tuesday, July 21 fro, 2-3 p.m. Register here.
Janet Krauss leads a discussion of Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing, the debut novel by wildlife scientist Delia Owens. The novel landed on The New York Times Best Seller list just a few weeks after its publication in August 2018, reaching Number One by January 2019 and then spending over 20 weeks in the top spot during 2019. Its two plots are an intertwining of a coming-of-age story and a murder mystery in the context of naturalist writing centered on the marshes and swamps of North Carolina.
Chris Schluep wrote in Amazon Book Review: “This novel has a mystery at its core, but it can be read on a variety of levels. There is great nature writing; there is coming of age; and there is literature. Crawdads is a story lovingly told...You’ll want to relax and take your time as well, and when you’re done you will want to talk about it with another reader.”
Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea - A Book Talk with Peter Wrampe
Wednesday, July 22 from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Register here.
No other number can cause as much damage as it can. No other number advanced economic growth as it did. Please join Wilton Library for a virtual book talk by Wilton resident Peter Wrampe on Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea.
We will trace its emergence from Babylonian time, to its growth in the East, its subjugation in Greece to its non-emergence in Rome, to its banishment by the Church, and finally its ascendance in the West. We  will discuss the earliest counting systems (still used by some indigenous peoples) and how it morphed into our current system.  We will discuss how the fear of the “Big Bad Zero” choked the development of the West – especially science and economic development - by more than a millennium.
Peter Wrampe, a longtime resident of Wilton, is currently an Adjunct Instructor in NYU’s Graduate School, focusing on Inferential Statistics as well as Finance for Marketing. Previously he taught International Business at Albertus Magnus University. Peter has more than 20 years of experience in launching entrepreneurial business development teams in Praxair’s regional companies to leverage application technologies into increased sales and market share in Asia, Europe and South America. He holds engineering degrees from NJ Institute of Technology and an MBA from Pace University.
Please email Michael Bellacosa at with any questions.
]]> (Wilton Library) Clubs Fri, 17 Jul 2020 16:04:46 -0400
Byrd's Books Hosts Author Mary Simses via Zoom on July 29

Byrd's Books will host a Zoom discussion of The Wedding Thief with author Mary Simses on Wednesday, July 29 from 7-8:30 p.m. Register here to receive the link for the discussion.
About the book: Two sisters in love with the same man -- one engaged to him and the other about to sabotage the wedding -- struggle to reconcile in this delicious novel from the bestselling author of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe and The Rules of Love and Grammar.

The Harrington sisters have never gotten along. Sara is a Type-A, career-focused event planner, and her younger sister Mariel is the opposite: bohemian, semi-employed, and recently engaged. When Sara's mother lures her back to Connecticut under false pretenses, she is perturbed to discover Mariel waiting for her, eager to reconcile their relationship -- and get some help with the final arrangements before her big day. The two sisters haven't spoken since the night Sara realized something was going on between Mariel and Sara's boyfriend, Carter Pryce. And now Mariel is about to marry Carter, the man she stole from Sara, the man Sara still loves.

When Mariel asks Sara to stand in for a bridesmaid who has to cancel at the last minute, Sara realizes it's the perfect cover to unravel the nuptials and win Carter back. Sara begins to slowly sabotage Mariel's picture-perfect wedding, but when she crosses paths with David Cole, he challenges her self-image as the jilted second-fiddle to her spotlight-stealing sister. Will Sara realize what a bridesmaid-zilla she's become in time to fix the damage before Mariel's big day?

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read.

About the author: Mary Simses grew up in Darien, Connecticut and began writing short stories as a child. She spent most of her life in New England, where she worked in magazine publishing, and, later, as a corporate attorney writing short stories "on the side." Mary is the author of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, adapted as The Irresistible Blueberry Farm for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, The Rules of Love & Grammar, and her latest novel, The Wedding Thief. Mary enjoys photography, old jazz standards, and escaping to Connecticut in the summer. She lives in South Florida.

]]> (Byrd's Books) Authors Fri, 17 Jul 2020 15:44:06 -0400
Rudy Shepherd: Somebody's Child Opens July 18 at The Aldrich

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is pleased to present Rudy Shepherd: Somebody’s Child, a presentation that includes 25 watercolors chosen from Shepherd’s ongoing Portrait series that depict victims of police violence. Also on view in the Museum’s Studio is video documentation of Shepherd’s 2016 live performance, Induction Ceremony. 

Rudy Shepherd: Somebody’s Child will be on view at the Museum July 18 to Nov. 29.

Law enforcement’s fatal toll on Black and Latinx lives has induced anger and anguish, fueling a movement for racial justice and police reform that has spread across all fifty states. Shepherd’s installation not only mourns and humanizes these tragic losses, but also raises awareness of systemic racial inequality and historic police brutality.

Shepherd has been working on his Portraits series since 2007. His earliest portraits portrayed Black men accused of crimes, but not yet convicted, and prejudicially villainized by the press. As the series grew in scope and scale, Shepherd widened its focus to include luminaries, visionaries, terrorists, spiritualists, victims, and their perpetrators. Today, the series spans more than 400 works, each uniformly measuring at the intimate scale of 12 x 9 inches. Each portrait is made within days of the media’s reporting, eliciting an emotional response that establishes compassion by “reclaiming victims’ humanity.” Executed in watercolor, a medium that best matches the fleetingness of the news cycle, their individual presence embodies an arresting stillness. Accompanying the portraits is an audio piece by Shepherd about the project.

Induction Ceremony, commissioned by The Studio Museum in Harlem, was performed live at Jackie Robinson Park on October 9, 2016. The video documentation shows Shepherd as The Healer, a numinous being inspired by Sun Ra, composer, musician, poet, and pioneer of Afrofuturism. The Healer interacts with a monumental public artwork by Shepherd, Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber, 2016, to an improvised score played by an experimental music collective. Shepherd’s performance signifies a spiritual healing, where destructive forces like racism, exclusion, and trauma are purged through empathy and positive energy.

The Museum will be producing a poster on the occasion of this exhibition with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Color of Change.

A selection of Shepherd’s Healing Devices (2010–2017) were included in the group exhibition, Objects Like Us, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart and artist David Adamo at The Aldrich in 2018.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, Senior Curator, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Rudy Shepherd (b. 1975, Baltimore, MD) received a BS in Biology and Studio Art from Wake Forest University and an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been included in group exhibitions including MoMA PS1, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Art in General, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Museum of the City of New York. Selected solo exhibitions include HUB-Robeson Galleries at Penn State University, Dickinson College, Smack Mellon, Mixed Greens Gallery, and the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University. He has been awarded artist residencies at the National and International Studio Program at MoMA PS1, Artist in Residence Visual + Harlem at the Jacob Lawrence Institute for the Visual Arts, the Emerging Artist Fellowship at Socrates Sculpture Park, Location One International Residency Program and the LMCC Arts Center Residency at Governors Island. He lives in New York City and works in Yonkers, New York.

]]> (The Aldrich) Beyond Books Fri, 17 Jul 2020 15:34:00 -0400