September 28, 2016

Letter From Paris – No, Now It’s Essex!  A Brave, New Museum Opens in DC Today

Nicole Prevost Logan

Nicole Prevost Logan

Editor’s Note:  Our popular writer from Paris, Nicole Prevost Logan, is back in Essex, CT, for the winter.  She does not normally write for us from Essex, but this year, she is making an exception and will be continuing to contribute articles to ValleyNewsNow.com and LymeLine.com during the winter months.  Here is her inaugural column from Essex about the opening of  a very special museum in Washington DC.

The Grand Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will take place in Washington DC this coming Saturday, Sept. 24.  The NMAAHC, the 19th and newest of the Smithsonian museums, was established by a bi-partisan Act of Congress in 2003.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, Nov. 6, 2015. (Photo by Michael Barnes from http://newsdesk.si.edu/photos)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Nov. 6, 2015. (Photo by Michael Barnes / Smithsonian Institution.)

The massive structure occupies a prime location next to the Washington Monument and contrasts with the 555 ft. slender obelisk.  The dark bronze-colored metal lattice that covers the ‘Corona” also stands out from the white marble classical architecture of most of the other museums standing on the National Mall.

It has been a long struggle for the supporters, such as Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia), to make the project a reality.  They needed to overcome the resistance from several senators who advocated another location. The final approval  was more than a triumph — it might be considered a miracle.  It succeeded in making a strong statement as to the importance of Black history and culture in the American nation.

The lead designer was David Adjaye, son of a Ghanaian diplomat and the lead architect Philip Freehon, who died in 2009.  Founding Director Lonnie B. Bunch III is the visionary and driving force of the project.  During some of the many interviews he gave to the press and to a variety of audiences, including select ones like the Aspen institute, he explains the building process and his objective with a very contagious enthusiasm.

The NMAAHC is not intended to be a Holocaust museum, he explains . Its mission is to show the pain but also the joy and the creativity of African-Americans.  A daunting fund-raising goal of 450,000 million dollars had to be reached.

The three-tier effect of the construction incorporates elements from African culture, such as the Yoruban crowns from Nigeria.  Inside the building, high tech designs and the enormity of the space will make it possible to be versatile in organizing several exhibits simultaneously.

The collections had to be created from zero.  It required a treasure hunt into the attics, trunks and basements of the population.  To date 35,000 artifacts have been collected.  A segregated train from outside Chattanooga (TN) was lowered by crane and the museum built around it.  All traffic stopped on Constitution Ave. when an oversized truck delivered the control tower from a federal prison.

Artifacts showing the terrible fate of the slaves are very moving.  Such is an amulet created by the Lombi tribe in the form of a shackle.  More tragic still were the shackles for children.

But fun and the world of entertainment are also present in the displays , such as Louis Armstrong and his trumpet, Lena Horne or Marianne Andersen . The film archives will be essential to build up history, from Harriet Tubman to the human rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

According to Washington insiders , the opening of the new museum is the hottest event in a decade.  More than 150,000 special tickets have been distributed to dignitaries while long lines of visitors gather at the entrances of the building to purchase tickets for general admission after the opening.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Lafayette in the “Somewhat” United States’ by Sarah Vowell

lafayette-in-the-somewhat-united-statesThis quote describes Sarah Vowell’s new interpretation of our history: “… I like to use whatever is lying around to paint pictures of the past …”

The Marquis de Lafayette just happens to be her tool in this decidedly non-academic, irreverent, and often sarcastic interpretation of the effect that a rich 19-year-old French aristocrat had on our so-called “Revolution.”

Her prose is idiomatic, unpretentious, and humorous – two jokes a page! She sees our colonists as “state-sponsored terrorists, with French financial backing.” The Americans? “A squirming polygon of civilians, politicians and armed forces begging to differ.”

And she concludes: “That, to me, is the quintessential experience of living in the United States: constantly worrying whether or not the country is about to fall apart.”

Is it true that Justice Scalia read this book just before he died of apoplexy?

Ms. Vowell traces the rush of a young man from Paris to these shores, whose persuasive words and evident riches made him a general in the revolutionary forces, a youngster who rushed into battles with little experience and who contributed to the “patriot soap opera” that was our revolutionary period.

This is the seamy, seedy, and often-hilarious underside of “the ironically named ‘United’ States” and their Revolution, one that Ms. Vowell calls “FUBAR!” (I had to look that one up in Google: it means “f—ed up beyond all recognition”).

Hers is a re-interpretation of our past, richly intermixed with her current opinions.

For example:  “To establish such a forthright dream of decency, who wouldn’t sign up to shoot at a few thousand Englishmen, just as long as Mr. Bean wasn’t among them? Alas, from my end of history there’s a big file cabinet blocking the view of the sweet-natured republic Lafayette foretold, and it’s where the guvment (sic) keeps the folders full of Indian treaties, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and NSA-monitored electronic messages pertinent to national security, which is apparently all of them, including the one in which I ask my mom for advice on how to get a red Sharpie stain out of couch upholstery.”

She manages to get in asides on everything: Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” at Fort Lee (the town was named during the Revolution) and “… it must quiet the mind of Bruce Willis that even though his fellow Americans never nominated him for an Oscar, the French awarded him the Legion d’Honneur.” Another one on General Washington, who was six feet four inches tall: “Still it does get on my nerves how easy it is for tall people to make a good first impression.”

Why did the French want to support us? They had just recently been tossed out of Canada, retaining only the island of St. Pierre and Miquelon (they are still part of France …) and leaving a taste of language in Quebec. So why not send some young aristocrats to these shores, along with a few troops and some naval vessels? They agreed with many of the colonists that the Brits were “pig-headed Anglo-Saxon islanders.”

Yet this historical perambulation is an animated read. No chapter breaks, so it becomes a continuous ramble through early American history using the author’s distinctly tinted glasses. Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times called it a “cutesy-pie book.” Perhaps she is right, but its melange of historical and personal tidbits, from past and present, make it a fun trip.

Editor’s Note: ‘Lafayette in the “Somewhat” United States’ by Sarah Vowell is published by Riverhead Books, New York 2015.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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The Movie Man: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is an Unexpected Delight

kubo-main_0Truly, if you enjoy learning about ancient mythology, you will enjoy watching Kubo and the Two Strings, brought to you by Laika, the filmmakers behind Coraline and The Boxtrolls. With an all-star-studded cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, and Star Trek actor/turned social media personality George Takei, this stop-motion animation film does not disappoint.

We are told the story of Kubo, a young one-eyed boy, who cares for his ill mother by transforming paper into origami masterpieces through his shamisen (a string instrument indigenous to Japan). After staying out past dark (as he was warned against many times), his mother’s sisters destroy his village and attempt to take his remaining eye.

Upon escaping the terror of his aunts, Kubo comes across the incarnate version of his wooden monkey (voiced by Ms. Theron) brought to life by his own mother’s magic, and eventually Beetle (Mr. McConaughey), who join him on a quest to retrieve the armor worn by his father, a Samurai warrior.

The film often invoked reminders of ancient mythology, in which the character is forced to embark on a quest, accompanied people who are both reasonable and unreasonable, in which the protagonist must locate something precious in regards to the parent he never knew, who was a great warrior and up to whose image he seeks to live. This ranges from classical mythology to modern entertainment (think of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, prior to learning his father was the enemy he was fighting all along [not spoiling anything about this film, disclaimer] or even Telemachus, son of Odysseus in The Odysessy.)

Perhaps what is most rivaled by its story and performances is its original score, which I have no doubt will at least be nominated by many award shows this upcoming season.

It was released in 3D, a trend in movies that I do not understand. Despite being a family-friendly film, I would caution those who have very young children from seeing this. One of the main themes revolves around the title character missing an eye and his grandfather and aunts seeking retribution on his life or his remaining eye, as well as there being some frightening images and scary scenes.

But anybody above the PG-warned audience will find this movie to be an ultimate delight.

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Talking Transportation: Don’t Blame Malloy for the Fare Hikes

metro-north-railroad-620x400Sure, it was sleazy of Governor Malloy and the CDOT to release news of a proposed five percent fare hike on Metro-North on a Friday afternoon in July, hoping nobody would notice.  But the more I dig into the proposal, the more I realize the Governor and CDOT are not to blame.

It’s the Connecticut legislature that’s really responsible for this fare hike.

Lawmakers this session left the Governor with a $192 million budget shortfall and every other branch of government has taken budget cuts and layoffs as a result.  Now it’s transportation’s turn to feel the pinch.

Pol’s on both sides of the aisle tell me Malloy could have saved millions by facing down the state employees’ unions and their rich benefits package.  Could’ve, maybe should’ve … but didn’t.

So now we’re looking at a five percent hike in train fares on Metro-North and Shore Line East and a 16 percent boost in bus fares starting in December.  Plus closing ticket windows, reduced maintenance and fuel savings.  And that’s just on the transit side.

Highway work will also be cut, hiring postponed and less salt purchased for the winter.  Service areas will be closed overnight and the volunteers who work in the Visitor Centers will be fired. Welcome to Connecticut!

So when you calculate the impact of all these cuts on your commute, by road or rail, call your State Rep and Senator and ask “why”?

Why are they allowing the Special Transportation Fund to run dry due to the dwindling revenues from the gas tax?

Ask Senate Majority leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and the usually pro-transportation Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) why they have opposed alternative funding mechanisms like the VMT (Vehicle Miles Tax), calling it “dead on arrival” before it was even explained, let alone studied.

Ask your elected officials what their plan is to pay for our existing transportation network, let alone expand it by the $100 billion Malloy has suggested.  They won’t have an answer.

Why?  Because they are running for re-election this November.  And none of them has the guts to tell you the truth:  we will all have to pay more to drive or commute by rail … as you’ll find out after the election when they approve new taxes.

What can we do in the meantime (aside from holding them accountable during the campaign)?  There have been some public hearings in September on the fare hikes with more to come* … and we should all turn out.

It will be political theater, but cathartic.  Commuters will rant and the folks from CDOT will listen and then do what they proposed.  Aside from cutting train service, a fare hike is about the only option.

And, of course as upstate lawmakers constantly remind us, those of us living on the “gold coast” are all millionaires, and we can afford it, right?

*9 Town Transit will hold a public hearing on its proposed price increases Thursday, Sept. 29, in Old Saybrook Town Hall at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Jim Cameron - Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘House of Lost Worlds’ by Richard Conniff (of Old Lyme)

House_of_Lost_WorldsFor this month, a local author! Richard Conniff is a science writer, a contributor to The New York Times, and a resident of Old Lyme. He’s also a graduate of Yale University, one reason for his interest in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which is now celebrating its first 150 years.

It is the story of a museum and its directors, explorers, paleontologists, ecologists, anthropologists, biologists, ornithologists, primatologists, plus a few reactionaries and, of course, 14 million specimens. It is also the story of large egos listening to “the mute cries of ages impossible to contemplate”(some 50 million years).

He explores five themes: (1) a teaching dream of leaders at the start (George Peabody, the original donor, for whom “education was (his) Rosebud”), (2) the “grandiose personality” of O. C Marsh, its first director, (3) the demolition and movement of the original building in 1905 and its effects, (4) the rise of anthropology and ecology as sciences, and (5) the invitation to go see for yourself.

So how should we pronounce the name: “Pee-body” as Yalies and the donor said it, or “Pee-buh- de” as denizens of Cambridge slur the word?

The egos predominate, highlighting the single-mindedness and secrecy of many collectors.  Hiram Bingham, the sleuth of Machu Picchu, the “lost” Incan city, was one of the most notable. As the author notes, “if paleontologists were as aggressive as brontosauri they would have eaten each other.” In many respects they did: “Maybe academic life merely gives its verbally inclined thinkers the freedom to brood about it for too long, speak it too loudly, and pursue vengeance with wrath-of-God vigor.” They make this history continually exciting and amusing.

The Peabody Museum has expanded into a teaching, research, and study institution, whose practitioners take isolated pieces from the past (human, animal, mineral) to create a logical “story” to help guide us toward the future. But today they face modern visitors, “jaded and smartphone-addled, (who) expect special effects and instantaneous answers almost everywhere.”

In 1866, when the Peabody was created, there was no sign of a “Sixth Extinction” (now forecast by Elizabeth Kolbert), no “climate change,” only 32 million people in these United States (versus 320 million today), and only 1 billion on this earth (now 7.4 billion.)  Can the interest in and funding for museums like the Peabody, their teaching and research, help us alter our behavior for a more favorable future?

Like Alice, I am “curiouser and curiouser,” so I am off to the corner of Whitney Avenue and Sachem Street in New Haven to explore for myself …

Editor’s Note: House of Lost Worlds by Richard Conniff is published by Yale Univ. Press, New Haven 2016.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Summer Daytrips To Ride Connecticut’s Rail History

Either of these Valley Railroad diesel locomotives pictured above, “0900” or “0901”, is used to power the Essex Clipper Dinner Train.

Either of these Valley Railroad diesel locomotives pictured above, “0900” or “0901”, is used to power the Essex Clipper Dinner Train.

If you’re looking for family fun this summer, consider visiting one of Connecticut’s many living museums celebrating our rail heritage.

The Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven (www.shorelinetrolley.com) was founded in 1945 and now boasts more than 100 trolley cars in its collection.  It still runs excursion trolleys for a short run on tracks once used by The Connecticut Company for its “F Line” from New Haven to Branford.  You can walk through the car barns and watch volunteers painstakingly restoring the old cars.  There’s also a small museum exhibit and gift shop.

The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor (www.ceraonline.org) began in 1940, making it the oldest trolley museum in the US.  It too was started on an existing right-of-way, the Rockville branch of the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Company.  You can ride a couple of different trolleys a few miles into the woods and back, perhaps disembarking to tour their collection of streetcars, elevated and inter-urbans in the museum’s sheds and barns.

If you’re looking for a day-trip, especially for kids, I can highly recommend either museum.  But if you’re looking for trains, you’re also in luck.

The Danbury Railroad Museum (www.danbury.org/drm) is walking distance from the Metro-North station, making this a potentially full-day, all-rail adventure.  On weekends they offer train rides and for a premium you can even ride in the caboose or the engine.  They have a great collection of old rail cars and a well stocked gift shop.

For nostalgia fans, The Essex Steam Train (www.essexsteamtrain.com) offers not only daily rides on a classic steam train, but connecting riverboat rides up to the vicinity of Gillette Castle and back.  In addition to coach seating you can ride on an open-air car or in a plush First Class Coach.  There’s also a great dinner train, “The Essex Clipper” which offers a two and a half hour, four-course meal and a cash bar.

In downtown South Norwalk, you can visit what once was a busy switch tower, now the SoNo Switch Tower Museum (www.westctnrhs.org/towerinfo.htm).  Admission is free (donations welcome) weekends 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Also open only on weekends is the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic (www.cteastrrmuseum.org).  In addition to guided tours, visitors can operate a replica 1850’s-style pump car along a section of rail that once was part of the New Haven Railroad’s “Air Line”.

The Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston (www.rmne.org) offers rail trips on Sundays and Tuesdays along the scenic Naugatuck River in addition to a large collection of restored engines and passenger cars including a last of its kind 1929 New Haven RR first class “smoker” complete with leather bucket seats.

All of these museums are run by volunteers who will appreciate your patronage and support.  They love working on the railroad and will tell you why if you express even the slightest interest in their passion.  Try ‘em.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for 25 years.  He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM. 

The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com 

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The Movie Man: Don’t Waste Your Money on ‘Suicide Squad’

Suicide_Squad_compressedOne would think that gathering together all of DC’s most memorable villains for a single movie would be appealing. After all, that’s how big-named stars such as Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie were probably hooked on this project. Unfortunately, big names could not save a super-villain movie that lacked the type of lure that films in said genre should have.

I guess I have to give myself a break for ultimately being disappointed after seeing the trailers over the last year. Mainly because this film was produced by Zack Snyder, who was also behind 2013’s Superman film, Man of Steel, which I left disappointed. An opinion shared by my brother and a friend with whom we screened it.

I cannot determine what it is about this new string of DC movies that include Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Godot as Wonder Woman, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther that turns me off. Is it the writing? It ultimately must be.

As I said earlier, it lacks the “lure.” I did partially read a review in The Washington Post that criticized this film and tried to put it aside to see if I could screen it unbiased. After several hours of reflecting, I guess I was wrong. What I can say is the film does include fitting performances for their characters, so I guess that is the silver lining?

What first lost me was Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker. Now, maybe this is the result of us all being spoiled (and still enthralled) by Heath Ledger’s portrayal of one of the greatest villains of all time in The Dark Knight back in 2008, a time when we were going through a presidential election that did not involve dirty tricks, lying, and childlike name-calling. Now it is possible I am being unfair, as Ledger did go on to win a posthumous Academy Award for this performance.

But Leto also earned himself the same honor in the same acting category (Supporting Role, for Dallas Buyer’s Club.) It certainly cannot be because of his acting since he seemed to give it all he had as the psychotic killer clown. But it has to be how the Joker is presented.

He is not much of a clown, as we have seen him depicted throughout the character’s history, ranging from Cesar Romero in the campy 1960s Batman series, Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s 1989 adaptation, Mark Hamill’s great vocal performance for multiple animated gigs, and, of course, Ledger’s run in 2008. He is not a clown, but rather a … punk, which I believe is the word that best describes him. Nothing clown-like about him, just a crazed psycho.

Will Smith delivered, as always. It was unique seeing him as a villain, but then again, he did serve as the protagonist who ultimately had a heart of gold, mainly because of his love for his daughter. And Margot Robbie certainly proved herself as Harley Quinn, bringing back her memorable Long Island accent from The Wolf of Wall Street, making her character as crazy and, well, sexually seductive, as possible (what else will people think when a character has an outfit like that?)

I will make a prediction, as I have heard people comment on the web, that girls will go crazy over Harley Quinn and many will dress as her for Halloween this year. And one cannot go wrong with casting Viola Davis, one of the most talented actresses of our era, as she portrays the cold and heartless government agent who recruits the “suicide squad” (as Smith character, Deadshot, coins it), and she does not invest much emotion through it (after all, less can be more sometimes.)

You will hear many classic rock songs in this flick, if that will bring you to the theaters. Songs include Bohemian Rhapsody, Fortunate Sun, and Spirit in the Sky. But then again, as I have always thought, if the promotions for the movie include lists of popular songs that the viewer will eventually hear, that is an indicator of desperation.

Overall, I would not recommend this flick. Earlier when I reviewed the Bond film, Spectre, I suggested viewing it despite its “meh” quality because it was James Bond, something well embedded in our culture for over 50 years. While these DC characters have been known as long as Bond (well, Joker perhaps), it has not been as part of our movie-going experiences like 007 has. Nobody has hyped about the highly anticipated DC comics film as frequently as Ian Fleming’s iconic spy.

But to simplify it: this movie is not worth the price of the movie ticket.

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘The Best of Saki’ by H.H. Munro

The_Best_of_SakiYet another trip to our home library to retrieve an aging paperback read many years ago.

Hector Hugh Munro, the English author also known as “Saki,” wrote these delicious satirical skewerings of the English upper classes just before the First World War. Despite the enormous changes that have taken place since then, in Blighty and the rest of the world, these 49 short stories remain pungent, pithy and provoking, stirring regular outbursts of noisy laughter.

Do read them on your spring porch or in a secluded back room, otherwise your spouse may think you’ve lost it (again!)

Munro’s first admonition: beware all aunts: they are forever dangerous and demanding.

Then revel in his extraordinary names, such as Mavis Tellington, Loona Bimberton, Arlington Stringham, Lestor Slagby, Brimley Bomefields, Crefton Lockyer, Septimus Brope, Groby Lington, Sir Lulworth Quayne, Dora Bittholz, Framton Nuttel, Bassel Harrowcluff, Kenelm Jertom, Jane Thropplestance, James Cushat-Prinkly, Octavian Ruttle and, perhaps best of all, Crispina Umberleigh. I wish we’d had these names at hand before we named our children. Loona and Crispina for the ladies; Crefton and Framton for the boys!

Just a few quotes:

  • “It is the penalty and safeguard of genius that it computes itself by troy weight in a world that measured by vulgar hundredweight.”
  • “There was something alike terrifying and piteous in the spectacle of these frail old morsels of humanity (two old ladies) consecrating their last flickering energies to the task of making each other wretched.”
  • “ … (He) discovered how the loss of one’s respect affects one when one has gained the esteem of the world.”
  • He was “feverishly engrossed in the same medley of elaborate futilities that had claimed his whole time and energies …”
  • He was “one of those lively cheerful individuals on whom amiability had set its unmistakable stamp, and, like most of his kind, his soul’s peace depended in large measure on the unstinted approval of his fellows.”

Do step into the past of Merrie Olde England for a few hours.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Best of Saki’ by H. H. Munro was published by Picador, London 1976.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Talking Transportation: America’s Mass Transit Mecca

Portland, Oregon, with Mount Rainier providing a stunning backdrop.

Jim Cameron names Portland, Ore., (with Mount Rainier providing a stunning backdrop) the most mass-transit intensive city in the US.

What’s the most mass-transit intensive city in the US?  By the numbers, New York City.  But for a glimpse of the real future of mass-transit,  the winner is clearly Portland, Oregon.

Portland has only 632,000 residents but 2.3 million in its metro area.  Yet it has, per capita, what I think is the largest, most extensive and best integrated systems of light rail, streetcars and bike lanes in the nation.

LIGHT RAIL: It was 1986 when Portland opened its first light-rail line.  Today the system covers 60 miles (including the airport, 12 miles from downtown).  In 2001 a downtown streetcar system was added.  It proved so successful that Portland now manufactures streetcars for other American cities.

Like the city’s extensive bike-rack equipped bus network, all of Portland’s mass transit operates on the honor system:  you buy tickets before boarding and only show them if a inspector boards, looking for proof of payment.

To encourage ridership, fares are ridiculously cheap.  For $2.50 you can roam the system for 2 ½ hours.  An unlimited day pass is $5 or $26 a month (about the cost of a round-trip to NYC on Metro-North).  “Honored Citizens” (seniors, Medicare or disabled) get a monthly pass for $7.50!

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DRIVING: To further encourage use of the ubiquitous mass transit, driving in downtown is difficult and expensive.  The main transit corridors have one lane for streetcars, one lane for bikes and just one lane for cars.  Parking is really expensive, both by meter on the streets and in lots.  And yes, the freeways crawl just like in LA.

TECHNOLOGY: The bus and rail system offers free apps for trip-planning which use GPS to tell you exactly how long you’ll wait for the next trolley, directions by line to your destination and expected travel time.  And yes, you can buy and show your ticket using your smartphone.

BIKES ARE KING:     The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird”, and the residents work hard to do so.  Outside of Europe or Asia I have never seen so many people on two-wheels traversing a community.

There are so many dedicated bike lanes that when a new bridge was built crossing the Willamette River, the bridge was built for everything except cars and trucks:  a mass transit-only bridge!

When a new Medical Center was planned on a downtown hill, designers realized it would be foolish to waste land on parking, so they built an aerial tram from unused industrial land on the waterfront.  Hospital employees and patients alike take light rail or bike to the base station (where a free 400-space bike-lot is usually full) and are skyward in minutes.

So if you are ever disillusioned by the sorry state of mass-transit in our area, take heart.  The future is now in Portland!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for 25 years.  He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

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Legal News You Can Use: Workers’ Compensation: How it Works

hph-workers-compensation-insurance-compressed
Sponsored Post:
The day begins like almost any other. You arrive at the workplace, spend a few moments interacting with your co-workers and begin the daily task. Maybe it’s a job that you’ve done a thousand times, or perhaps the demands of that day result in your performing an assignment for the first time. And then “it” happens ~ you feel a twinge in your back or shoulder; there is an ache in your hands that doesn’t subside; or there is an exposure to a substance that is foreign to you. What do you do then?

The origin of Workers’ Compensation
 in Connecticut dates over a century, the original Act becoming part of the Law in 1913. As the result of a “Contract of Employment” (whether written or implicit) with the employer, he/she/the business will cover medical benefits and lost wages for an employee who suffers an injury out of and in the course and scope of their employment. There are, essentially, three different types of injuries covered in Workers’ Compensation. They are:

(1) Accidental injuries. These are injuries that can be located in time and space; e.g., the lifting of heavy equipment, which results in an Employee screaming in pain.

(2) Repetitive trauma injuries. These are claims that arise not from one injurious situation, but are cumulative over time. Examples would include repetitive computer work with one’s hands, or kneeling on steel every day for years.

(3) Occupational disease/exposure. These injuries are those where there is a clear link between the workplace and substances to which the individual is exposed; e.g., asbestos in a shipyard; a dental hygienist contracting Hepatitis.

When an employee has sustained, or has reason to believe they have sustained, an injury related to their employment, what are the next steps?

(1) Report the injury. In accidental injuries and repetitive trauma claims, there is a one year Statute of Limitations for reporting of the injury. In Occupational Disease claims, the general rule is that the injury needs to 
be reported within three years of when the employee knew, or should have known, of the connection between the occupational exposures and the medical condition alleged.

The better approach is to report the injury to your employer at the first opportunity, or when you have reason to believe there is a connection between work activities and your injury. Employers and insurance carriers become increasingly skeptical about the validity of an injury claim when there is a delay in reporting an injury.

(2) Obtain medical treatment. Any significant injury requires treatment from a medical provider. Even if you have to use your own insurance at an initial appointment, treatment and opinions on causal connection should be obtained. Insurance companies can sort out the issues at a later date. Again, employers and insurance carriers are more likely to be skeptical about an injury if there is a significant delay in obtaining medical treatment.

(3) File notice of the injury. In Connecticut, the Form 30-C is the vehicle to place employers and their carriers on notice that an individual has suffered an injury or illness related to their employment. The Form 30-C should be sent via Certified Mail and is the ultimate protection for an injured worker. Also, note that Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-290a protects the injured worker from retaliatory actions or discrimination by an employer for asserting their rights to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Now that the claim has been properly filed, what benefits are obtainable for the injured worker? Clearly, medical treatment is paid for by the employer or insurance carrier with no deductible for the injured worker. Other “indemnity” benefits may also be appropriate, including:

(1) Temporary total disability benefits. If an injury results in lost time from work, a weekly (or bi-weekly) monetary payment, based upon earnings in the preceding 52 weeks, is payable to the injured worker until they are able to return to their job, or some other work within their restrictions.

(2) Permanent partial disability benefits.  
If an injury results in permanent impairment to a body part; e.g., following a surgery, the injured worker is entitled to obtain a “rating” for their loss of use from their Attending Physician. Additional benefits
 are payable pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308b. In certain, specified situations, an injured worker may also be entitled to a disfigurement award, depending on the site of the injury.

(3) Wage loss benefits. If, as the result of
 a work-related injury, the injured worker is capable of work, but cannot perform the same job and there is a resulting loss of income, the injured worker is eligible for a period of wage loss. This, too, is controlled by the Connecticut General Statutes, and appears at Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-308a.

(4) Death benefits. Where an injury results in the death of the injured worker, benefits are payable to the surviving spouse and/or other dependents of the decedent.

Being pro-active in reporting an injury and obtaining medical care will be beneficial to any injured worker.

This article represents an overview of the Workers’ Compensation System. While the System was designed to be user-friendly, complexities often arise which may dictate hiring a Lawyer.

Attorney James P. Berryman

Attorney James P. Berryman

About the author: Jay Berryman is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. He concentrates in Workers’ Compensation Law and Social Security Disability claims. Attorney Berryman was named by “Bench- mark Plaintiff” magazine as a Local Litigation Star, and his department at Suisman Shapiro was selected by the 2013-15 editions of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” among all law firms in Connecticut for Workers’ Compensation – Claimants.

For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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A la Carte: Weeknight Red Curry

Red Thai curry

Red Thai curry

It was a nice quiet birthday, beginning with my daughter-in-law and three of my granddaughters and ending with pineapple rice with chicken at Spice Club in Niantic and a terrific movie at the Niantic Theater.

With some trepidation, I drove from home to Newbury, Massachusetts, Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The traffic began on I-95 in East Lyme to 290 in Worcester, continued on 495, then, finally, back to 95. I watched young Casey play tennis at her school. We all went to their house while Casey changed. Nancy and I had a nice glass of red wine and then drove to Flatbread in Amesbury for salad and pizza (one of the pizzas was topped with fiddleheads and golden beets). (My middle granddaughter, Laurel, drove; even one glass of wine makes me a bit tipsy.)

With no traffic on the way home, I was home in just over two hours. I watched a little television I’d DVRed and went to bed early. On my birthday, friend Sarah and I had met at the Spice Club for Thai food and then we walked to see Love and Friendship, a new film from one of Austen’s smaller books. Don’t miss it!

Today I decided to make another. I always have cans of unsweetened coconut milk in the pantry and red curry paste in the refrigerator. (I am not sure red curry paste ever has an expiration date; in any case, I have had little opened cans, covered, in the fridge for half a decade.) I went through some recipes I’d clipped once from Cooking Light. I found a package of cod in the freezer and, as always, a finger of ginger there, too. Dinner was ready in less than an hour.

Weeknight Red Curry*

Yield: 4 servings

1 large shallot (half a small onion will do)

6 garlic cloves

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 (14.5 oz.) can canned tomatoes (I always use diced Muir Glen)

1 (13.5 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk

1 pound mixed vegetables, cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen veggies are fine)

1 pound firm white fish, skin removed

Cooked rice noodles, cilantro leaves with stems and lime wedges (for serving)

Pulse shallot, garlic and ginger in a food processor to finely chop. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add curry paste and turmeric and cook, stirring, until paste is darkening in color and mixture starts to stick to pan, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring often and scraping up brown bits, until tomatoes start to break down and stick to pot, about 5 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until mixture is slightly thickened and flavor meld, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season fish all over with salt and nestle into curry (add a little more water if it is very thick). Return to a simmer and cook just until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Spoon curry over rice noodles and top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

*I use vegetable or chicken stock instead of, or with, water for more flavor.


Nibbles: Pittsfield Rye Bread

A few weeks ago I watched a movie in New London called “Deli Man,” part of the International Film Series. I grew up with a terrific Jewish deli in Troy, New York. It, and thousands, is gone now, primarily because Jewish immigrants insisted that their children go to college and “make something of themselves.” As a result, there are few now, even in New York City, where there are more Jews than in Israel. Gone, also, is H&H and Ess-a-Bagel.

On a drive home from Massachusetts, I stopped in Worcester to get some rye bread, bulkies (hard rolls) and bagels at Widoff on Water Street. It, too, is gone. Instead, hoping against hope, I drove to the Big Y in Norwich. Happily, it (and many other Big Ys) still carry superb Pittsfield rye bread—marbled, seeded, unseeded, and dark rye (pumpernickel). I had a toasted slice with butter and placed the rest into the freezer for another day.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O. Wilson

Half_EarthEdward O. Wilson, the remarkable professor emeritus at Harvard, who is known for his studies of ants, for the third time asks, “Who are we?” His first question was partially answered in The Social Conquest of Earth (2012) in which he analyzed the confusion of human existence, as our convoluted and introspective species tries to come to grips with our brief existence. Two years later, in The Meaning of Human Existence (2104), he described how, either deliberately or inadvertently, we are destroying other species even as we begin to recognize that we depend on them as much as they depend on us.

Now, concluding his trilogy, Wilson suggests a possible plan of action for homo sapiens. He continues his habit of short, punchy chapters, only one of 20 pages and most of 10 or less, even one of three. Instead of plunging into more verbiage, the reader must pause and think. His thesis: in order to survive we must commit “half of the planet’s surface to nature” in order to save “the immensity of life forms that compose it,” including us. A tall order, but is it possible?

Wilson begins with this earth’s extensive history of life extinctions. We’re lucky to be here! Should we worry? After all, the oldest major “extinction event,” at the end of the Ordovician period, happened some 455 million years ago and the most recent was a mere 66 million years back, when an enormous asteroid crunched into the Yucatan. Are we now coming close to a “Sixth Extinction”, the end of the current Anthropocene Era, as so clearly described by Elizabeth Kolbert in her The Sixth Extinction (2014)? Both Kolbert and Wilson recite alarming facts, plus suppositions, about our human relationships with other living creatures, large and small, on this earth. Are we the ultimate problem? They seem to think so.

To begin, “our population is too large for safety and comfort.” It is time to reduce, not expand, our footprint. “The biosphere does not belong to us; we belong to it.” But to acknowledge that, we must “… find our way as quickly as possible out of the fever swamp of dogmatic religious belief and inept philosophical thought.” We still understand too little about other species: some two million are “known” but there are perhaps some five to 100 million yet to be discovered. It is this enormous biodiversity that is the strength of this planet.

What then to do? Wilson suggests “… in order to save biodiversity it is necessary to understand how species interact with one another to form ecosystems.” But our enormous egos (and religions) tell us we are “Number One” when we are actually a small part of the action. His Solution: “Increase the area of inviolable natural resources to half the Earth or greater.” This will require a “fundamental shift in moral reasoning concerning our relation to the living environment.” We must “reduce the amount of space required to meet all the needs of an average person … habitation, fresh water, food production and delivery, personal transportation, communication, governance, other public functions (i.e. education), medical support, burial, and entertainment.” And note that this “average person” now lives in Asia and Africa as well as Europe and North America, with enormous current differences.

How will this take place? Here in Lyme, our Lyme Land Conservation Trust (www.lymelandtrust.org) has preserved in some fashion 3,000 acres of land and water resources in our small town. It and comparable efforts in this country and around the world are effective bottom-up programs. But Professor Wilson argues that these are not enough: we will need top-down guidance plus massive re-education for everyone. Is this economically possible? Do we have a choice?

Professor Wilson is obviously an optimist: “So we stumble forward in hopeful chaos.” Elizabeth Kolbert had her own conclusion: “The history of life consists of long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic.”

Half-Earth and its sister volumes should be required reading for all of us. Perhaps we can wake up and change.

Editor’s Note: ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O. Wilson is published by W. W. Norton, New York 2016.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Why Ferries Aren’t the Answer for Commuting in Connecticut

Bridgeport to Port Jefferson Ferry

Bridgeport to Port Jefferson Ferry

Recently, NYC Mayor DeBlasio announced a $325 million plan to reintroduce ferry boat service to the five boroughs charging the same fare as subways.  The mayor says these boats could carry 4.5 million passengers a year.

So why don’t we have ferries in Connecticut?  There are several reasons:

SPEED:  In open water, fast ferries on the Sound could make 30 knots (35 mph).  But if they must sail up inlets to the downtown areas of Bridgeport, Norwalk or Stamford, that speed is cut to 5 knots, extending travel time.

DOCKING: To keep to their competitive speeds, docks would have to be located close to the Sound.  That’s expensive real estate. And what about parking at those docks… and drive-time on local roads to reach them? Again, more travel time.

FREQUENCY: Metro-North offers trains to midtown New York every 20 minutes in rush hour carrying 800 – 1000 passengers per train. No ferry service anywhere in the country can compete with that frequency of service. Will travelers really be willing to wait an hour or two for the next boat?

COMFORT: In nice weather, a boat ride to work sounds idyllic. But what about in a Nor’easter?  The bumpiest ride on the train pales by comparison.

FARES:  The most optimistic of would-be ferry operators in CT estimate their fares will be at least double those charged on the train.  And people say Metro-North is too expensive?

OPERATING COSTS: Fast ferries are gas guzzlers, the aquatic equivalent to the Concorde.  When the Pequot tribe built high-speed catamarans to ferry gamblers to their casino in Connecticut to lose money, the service proved so expensive to run that the Pequots dry-docked the ferries in New London.

ECONOMICS: The final reason I don’t think ferries make economic sense is that nobody else does either!  Ferry operators (like the near-bankrupt NY Waterways) aren’t stupid. They’ve looked at possible service from coastal Connecticut, crunched the numbers and backed off. In a free market economy, if a buck could be made running ferries, they’d be operating by now. They aren’t operating, and there are lots of reasons why, many of which I’ve listed.

The only place ferries are run successfully is where they’re heavily subsidized (everywhere), have a monopoly (for example, getting to downtown Seattle from an island suburb), don’t duplicate existing transportation routes (like from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson), or offer advantages of speed because they operate on extremely short runs (from Hoboken to midtown).  Our situation here in Connecticut passes none of those tests.

You already know I’m a train nut. (The bumper sticker on my car reads “I’d Rather Be on the Train.”)  And I do love an occasional recreational sail on the Sound.  But it’s unrealistic to think that commutation by ferries is in our future.

Jim Cameron - Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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The Movie Man: “The Conjuring 2” … Enter If You Dare

Conjuring_2 A little disclaimer: unless you like “jump” moments in movies, avoid The Conjuring 2 (there’s a lot of them).

The sequel to the highly successful 2013 film, The Conjuring, tells the story of another paranormal case tackled by real-life demonologist couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Ed passed away in 2006, while Lorraine still lives in their family home in Monroe, Connecticut). The Warrens are perhaps best known for investigating the claims of the Amityville Horror.

For those who are not familiar with this legend, as well as the references and parodies throughout pop culture, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered his parents and four siblings in the middle of a 1974 night, claiming he was coaxed into committing the acts by “voices.” A new family, the Lutzes, eventually moved into the home a year later, had their priest bless the home, and claimed that during the blessing, he heard a masculine voice tell him to “get out,” accompanied by a slap across the face, bleeding hands, and flu-like symptoms. The Lutzes only lasted 28 days in the house before they took off.

Upon researching the Warrens, it came as no surprise that they were subject to a great deal of scrutiny and controversy, as many skeptics claim there are holes in their stories regarding their investigations. This can be said about the Amityville Horror, as well as another case that took place in Seymour, Connecticut, and was featured on Discovery Channel’s A Haunting program. The list goes on and on. However, even if you do not believe any piece of their stories, you cannot deny the horror that is embedded in them, and they will be sure to keep you up at night, worrying about all you cannot see.

I am not writing this as a way to propose or criticize claims about ghosts and the supernatural, although I have had certain experiences in allegedly haunted locations that have made me a believer in regards to the supernatural. The only form of apologetics I will engage in is quoting Hamlet, in regards to those who consider themselves to be “rationalists”, in saying:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, [t]han are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The Conjuring 2 opens with Ed and Lorraine investigating Amityville with the Lutzes. Lorraine goes into a trance and witnesses the massacres that took place in said home, as well as other frightening supernatural images, including a large nun with a demonic appearance. After this investigation, she urges Ed that they not take any cases for a while. Unfortunately, due to their newfound popularity, a family all the way across the Atlantic is able to plead to them for help, claiming a poltergeist is harassing them, and has taken a special interest in their daughter, Janet. Much to Lorraine’s chagrin, they take on the case in hopes of defeating the evil spirit.

There is something about director James Wan’s take on depicting this story, especially through his cinematography involving slow zoom-in’s and “jump” stills in which we suddenly see something that has transcended our senses, as if it has taken off a mask that allowed it to remain unseen (or a ring, for those of us who are fond of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth?). The soundtrack proves to be unique amongst all other forms of music, focusing mainly on violins and cellos reaching low and shrill notes. But what helps make this a great horror film is not the amount of disturbing images or loud sounds, but in its stories that are woven in and out of the main plotline, depicting Ed and Lorraine’s marriage bond, and the victim family’s sad home-life.

I have said this to many people in the past, and I will say it again: too often Hollywood makes horror films that are comprised of excessive blood and gore, and hires models, not to act, but to read lines. If you want a good horror film, you need a good story and good actors, and most of all a good portrayal of everyone’s relationships. Just because you have beautiful college girl in nothing but her underwear screaming loudly and blood sprays on her does not guarantee a critical success. Perhaps a financial success, and maybe some experience for up-and-coming actors trying to get their feet in the door, and at the very most cementing a scene from the film into pop culture (but not for good reasons).

A great film for anyone who appreciates cinema, is fond of ghost stories, loves to be on the edge of their seat, or repeatedly scared to death. Enter the theaters, if you dare…

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Legal News You Can Use: What Parents of Teens and Tweens Should Know About Social Media

CautionSocialNetworkSponsored Post: Social media has forever changed our society. Nowhere is this shift more prevalent than in the arena of parenting. The exponential growth of the internet generally, and social media specifically, has created relatively uncharted territory for parents of teens and “tweens.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 22 percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times per day. More than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day, creating an environment where a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet or cell phone.

Consider this reliance on social media in conjunction with a U.S. National Institute of Mental Health study (The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction). This study indicates that an adolescent brain is constantly being “revived” and “upgraded” until their mid to late twenties. If our children do not use social media responsibly, it can be a recipe for disaster. Not only can they be victims of irresponsible social media behavior, they can also be perpetrators.

The explosion of social media applications has also created new ways for online sexual predators to find victims. Several social media sites claim to be able to verify age to ensure safety for our children, but the reality is that this verification cannot be done effectively. Predators posing as teenagers on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and in chat rooms permeate the internet and pose dangers to our children.

Some parents may try to forbid their children from even having an account on one of these sites, but it can be difficult to keep them away from social media. Should you decide to allow your children to access social media, you should implement some guidelines to protect your child. The website Protectkids.com suggests some “Rules N Tools” for social networking sites such as:

  • Teach your child to never give personal information over the internet
  • Pay attention to the photos your child posts online
  • Regularly ask your child about their online activities and friends
  • Instruct your child never to plan a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online
  • Act like a child; search blog sites children visit to see what information is posted
  • Establish rules on how your child can use the computer and how much time they can spend online

You should also set parental controls on all computing systems, instruct your child to use privacy settings on their accounts so they will limit who is able to see their social media profiles, and stay up to date on anti-virus and anti-spyware software which gives you the ability to view online activity. For an in-depth discussion of these topics, Protectkids.com has a wealth of helpful information to make your child’s use of the computer safer.

The dangers do not stop there.  There are a variety of crimes children can commit with their use of the internet, social media and cell phones. The previously referenced AAP article states rather ominously, “What goes online stays online.”

Your child may send a threatening text in anger, send or post a photo meant to embarrass another person, send sexually suggestive words or pictures, or use social media to bully someone. All of these behaviors can violate laws and lead to criminal charges. Even if a post is deleted, other people can easily capture the image or video and cause it to proliferate across multiple sites.

The most dangerous behavior is the transmission of sexually explicit images or videos. Should your child send such an image, it could be considered the transmission of child pornography. If they receive such an image, it could be considered possession of child pornography. Not only could this behavior result in criminal charges, it could result in a civil lawsuit demanding monetary damages as well.

Our office once represented an individual who was accused of making an offensive, threatening post on a social media site. Realizing their mistake, they removed the post. However, another individual had already taken a screenshot of the post and forwarded it to law enforcement. Imagine being the parent of this child and having the SWAT team show up at your door to arrest your child because of a post they made on social media. While this is an extreme example, it is a real one.

In closing, work with your child to discuss how they should behave online and set acceptable parameters for internet use. Stay vigilant by monitoring their access and utilizing appropriate filters and anti-spyware software. Talk with them so that a mistake made during their formative years will not be one which they will have to carry with them into adulthood.

About the author: Attorney Michael A. Blanchard is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in criminal and family law. Please contact him via email at mblanchard@sswbgg.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions regarding these laws.

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Talking Transportation: Big Brother Comes Along for the Ride

Big_BrotherHere in my car, I feel safest of all.  I can lock all my doors.  It’s the only way to live, in cars.*
* Quote from Gary Numan, “Cars”, 1979

You may feel that your car is your last private refuge in this busy world.  But there’s someone along for the ride:  Big Brother.  And you’d be surprised what he knows about you, thanks to modern technology.

Cell Phones:
Your cell phone is constantly transmitting its location, and services like Google Dashboard’s location history can show exactly where you were at any date in time.  Don’t want to be tracked?  Turn off your cellphone.

E-Z Pass:
Even when you are nowhere near a toll booth, E-ZPass detectors can monitor your location.   Want to stay anonymous? Keep your E-ZPass wrapped in aluminum foil in your glove box.

Highway Cameras: 
The extensive network of traffic cameras on our interstates and parkways is used mostly to monitor accidents.  But State Police can also watch individual vehicles. The cameras are even available to the public online.  But state law specifically forbids using these cameras to write speeding tickets.

License Plate Readers (LPRs): 
This is the newest and most powerful tracking tech, as I saw in a ride-along a few years ago with my local PD.  These cameras mounted on police cars can scan up to 1,800 license plates a minute as cars drive by at speed.

As the plate number is recognized, it is transmitted to a national crime computer and compared against a list of wanted vehicles and scofflaws.  If it gets a “hit,” a dashboard screen in the cop car flashes a red signal and beeps, detailing the plate number and infraction.  In just one hour driving through my town, we made stops for outstanding warrants, lack of insurance and stolen plates.  (Some towns also use LPR’s for parking enforcement in train station parking lots, forgoing the need for hang-tags or stickers.)

While this may lead to very efficient law enforcement, LPRs also have a potentially darker side: the data about plate number, location and time can be stored forever.

Faced with a string of unsolved burglaries, Darien police used their LPR to track every car entering the targeted neighborhood and looked for patterns of out-of-town cars driving through at the time of the burglaries and made an arrest.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is concerned about how long cops can store this data and how it should be used.  They laud the Connecticut State Police policy of only storing data for 90 days.

In the early days of LPRs in 2012, an ACLU staffer filed an FOI request for his car’s plate number and found it had been tracked four times by 10 police departments in a database that had 3 million scan records.

So enjoy your car.  But realize that none of us have any privacy.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Letter From Paris: The Grand Palais in Paris to Old Lyme — CT Impressionist Exhibits Both Sides of ‘The Pond’

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Talking with Jan Dilenschneider is entering a beautiful world of marshes, rushes swaying in the breeze, ponds reflecting the sky,  and clusters of trees taking on the many hues from the painter’s palette contrasting with the softness of the wild flowers.

Dilenschneider is a Darien artist who has recently been making inroads on the Paris art scene. She was one of only a very few artists to participate in the “Art Paris Art Fair” held in March 2016 at the Grand Palais and, in a switch of continents, she will have a solo exhibition at the Sill House Gallery of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in October of this year. For an artist, whose work so closely resembles Impressionism, to exhibit her paintings in the same year both in Paris and in Old Lyme – the home of the American Impressionism –  is a remarkable and very special event.

A classic work by Jan Dilenschneider.

A classic work by Jan Dilenschneider.

For the past three years, Dilenschneider has shown her work in Paris at the upscale Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier in the Marais district, close to the Picasso Museum. I was treated to a private showing of Jan’s paintings by the gallery’s owner, who knows her well.  Then I had the pleasure of meeting Jan personally at the Grand Palais.  Thanks to the badge Challier obtained for me, I was able to enter the giant steel and glass 1900 structure through the cavernous entrance reserved for the exhibitors. 

The Paris artistic calendar is overcrowded and art professionals are scrambling to find a time slot.  The “Journal des Arts” describes the artistic events taking place in the spring as a “galaxy in fusion.”  The last weekend in March is particularly in demand.  It was therefore a real breakthrough for “Art Paris Art Fair” to be able to establish itself under the nave of the Grand Palais at that time.  The Fair has a special format — only galleries can participate, not individual artists.  This year, 143 major galleries from from 22 countries around the world showed their collections.  All media are allowed, including sculpture, design, photographs or digital art.

"Trees with broken color" by Jan Dilenschneider

“Trees with broken color #2,” oil on canvas, 36″ x 36″, by Jan Dilenschneider.

As I approached the Challier space, several potential buyers were looking at the gallery’s collection.  A striking blonde woman was standing in front of one of her paintings – an icy white and blue landscape – being interviewed by a French television team from the Canal Sat network channel “Luxe.”  It transpired the woman was Dilenschneider and after the TV crew left, she and I started chatting and did so for a long time.  I immediately liked her as a person and was attracted to her sunny personality.  Her passion for nature was contagious.

“Any work starts from the abstract, and the abstract is never far under the painting,” she explained, adding, “Each artist makes a contribution to art history.”  In one of the handsome catalogues the Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier has published relating to her exhibits, she writes, “If I were to have lunch with four artists, I would choose Wolf Kahn, Henri Matisse, Franz Kline and Michelangelo.”

In a video series named “Nec plus ultra,” produced by the “Magazine de l’art de vivre” of TV 5 Monde, Dilenschneider is shown caught in the throes of her creating process.  She paints with gusto, happily digging into the colors lying heavily on her palette.  She uses spatulas, all sizes of brushes, and even squeegees to diversify her technique.

Painting is her way of meditating, which she says she can do eight hours a day.  Even when she is not painting, she is taking photographs from trains, at airports … wherever she is, to be used in her future work.   

Dilenschneider has a remarkable way with words and writes, “I become the water, I become the trees, I become the birds and reeds — but I don’t need to tell you [that] — my paintings already do.  Living on Long Island Sound, the beauty of the world is my inspiration.”

She wants to make people enjoy the beauty of nature and is happy to use her privileged situation to make an impact.  With the help of her influential husband, whose communications counseling company is based on the 57th floor of the Chrysler building in New York City, she has created the “Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Scholar Rescue Award in the Arts.”  This year she rescued a Syrian artist, her husband and two sons.

Although she has been painting since the age of 17, she has not exhibited her work until recently.  Thus, she has long been a hidden treasure, which now finally all can enjoy.

Editor’s Note (i): Dilenschneider’s exhibition at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts opens Friday, Oct. 7.

Editor’s Note (ii): This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Rogue Lawyer’ by John Grisham

Rogue_Lawyer_John_GrishamGrisham opens with a familiar sentence: “My name is Sebastian Rudd.”  See similarly Melville and Moby Dick’s: “Call me Ishmael” or the more recent: “Je suis Charlie.”

He gives us short, pithy sentences (no Proust here), replete with a sarcastic, cynical view of the underside of American society. A political screed, too: our legal system is all fouled up. The novel confirms the basic thesis of Dan Ariely’s ‘The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty’ — that we are all basically and instinctively dishonest, at least to some degree, especially when we see dishonesty in others.

Few really likable characters and the entire scene is gloomy. Characters are also outlandish — a totally lesbian law firm; police, judges, prosecutors, jurors, defendants all easily bought; non-communication at dinner; a martial arts fighter gone berserk; a protagonist (hardly a “hero”), who himself slips into dishonesty.

And the scenes — a last-minute reprieve; a last-minute escape; militaristic police; a convoluted law case in which every string is pulled; and a protagonist who disappears into the ether at the very end, leaving many loose ends (including a son).

But, despite all these qualms, this is an utterly engrossing book for an evening reader!

Editor’s Note: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham is published by Doubleday, New York 2015.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Talking Transportation: Infrastructure – Dangling by a Thread

The Spuyten Duyvil derailment in 2012 caused massive disruption.

The Spuyten Duyvil derailment in 2013 caused massive disruption on Metro North..

The recent fire under the Park Avenue viaduct in Harlem, which disrupted commutes of a quarter million Metro-North riders got me thinking:  our aging, crumbling and vulnerable transportation infrastructure is close to collapse, and the effects of such failure could be catastrophic.  Consider this track-record:

June 1983:  Inadequate inspections and repairs cause the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge on I-95 in Greenwich. Three people were killed and three others injured.  For almost five months, 80,000 daily vehicles had to detour through city streets.

March 2004:  An oil tanker crashes on I-95 in Bridgeport and the ensuing fire is hot enough to melt steel supports on the Howard Avenue overpass.  Traffic was disrupted for a week.

September 2013:  Con-Ed plans to replace a crucial electric feeder cable for Metro-North in the Bronx.  The railroad decides to forgo the $1 million cost of a temporary back-up cable and the main cable fails, disrupting train service for weeks, both on Metro-North and Amtrak.

June 2014:  Twice in one week the Walk Bridge in South Norwalk (built in 1896) won’t close, cutting all rail service between New York and Boston.  Cost of replacement will be more than $450 million.

May 2016:  Illegally stored chemicals and propane tanks at a gardening center under the Park Ave. viaduct catch fire.  The flames’ heat melts steel girders, cutting all train service out of Grand Central Terminal and stranding thousands.  Limited train service in the following days leads to subway-like crowding and lengthy delays.

Mind you, this list does not include fatal accidents and disruptions caused by human error, like the Metro-North crash at Spuyten Duyvil that killed four.

Our lives, our jobs and our economy rely on safe, dependable transportation.  But when the roads we drive and the rails we ride are museum pieces or go uninspected and unrepaired, we are dangling by a thread.

A single fire, whether caused by accident or act of terrorism, can bring down our infrastructure in an instant, cutting us off from work for days and costing our economy billions.

What can be done?  Safety inspections by engineers and fire departments looking to prevent disaster are obvious.  Better enforcement of speed limits and safety are as well.  But prevention of accidents cannot make up for decades of neglect in reinvestment in our roads, rails and bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual infrastructure report card gives the US a D+.  They estimate we will need to spend $3.6 trillion to get things back into good shape … less than the cost of the last 15 years of US fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

As the old auto-repair ad used to say, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”.  But sooner or later, we will have to pay.

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Talking Transportation: The ‘Lock Box’ is Log-Jammed in Hartford

locked_chestI hope you’ve been following CT-N to watch our dysfunctional legislature in recent weeks as they struggle to fill a $900 million budget gap. Not only could they not get a new budget together before adjourning (only to be summoned back mid-May for a special session), but the legislative logjam left several important measures in limbo. Among them, the long debated “lock box” for special transportation funding.

As I wrote weeks ago, none of Governor Malloy’s plans to spend $100 billion to rebuild and expand our transportation systems over the next 30 years can go anywhere without an agreement to safeguard those funds from misappropriation by putting them in an untouchable “lock box”.

Because the legislature couldn’t pass such a bill or even put it on the ballot as a potential constitutional amendment referendum, that puts the entire Malloy plan on hold. Without a lock box, nobody trusts Hartford with money raised by tolling or taxes, nor should they.

The lock box idea is not new. In fact, it was Republicans who suggested it years ago. But when Malloy appropriated the idea as his own, GOP lawmakers saw the Governor’s version as more sieve than safe, and they held up a vote.

Folks, if lawmakers can’t agree on an annual budget, let alone a way to keep transportation funding secure, how can we trust them with $100 billion in new money?

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) track-record on private-public partnerships for transit-oriented development also gives one pause. For example, consider the Fairfield Metro train station where a private developer went belly-up, leaving CDOT to finish the job, sort of: the beautiful new station they built still has no waiting room.

Or consider the ongoing saga of the Stamford rail station garage. It’s been almost three years since CDOT tapped a private developer to demolish the old garage, replace it with a high-rise office / condo / hotel and build new commuter parking lots within a quarter mile from the station. In three years, nothing has been done because there is still no signed contract.

Yet, that project is wrapped in such secrecy that nobody understands the delay. Or why the CDOT is even still negotiating with this laggard “developer of choice.” It couldn’t be because the developer contributed $165,000 to the Malloy campaign that he’s being given so much time, could it? Nah, that would never happen.

So here we are, fellow Nutmeggers. Lawmakers deadlocked. A $900 million budget deficit to fill this year and another $2 billion hole in years ahead. State workers are being laid-off. State funding to towns for education is being cut (meaning local taxes rise). Billionaires are bailing (a third of our taxes are paid by the top 1 percent). And no prospects for a lock box … let alone more funding for transportation. Yup, just the same old stuff as ever.

No wonder they call us “the land of steady habits.”

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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