February 16, 2019

Letter From Paris: It’s Been a Rocky Ride, But Will Macron Still Make It?

Nicole Prévost Logan

France always seems to stand out by doing the best or the worst through social and political upheavals.  The movement of the gilets jaunes has been like an earthquake shaking the system to its foundations.    It has created the most serious political crisis the Fifth Republic has known since its creation by General de Gaulle in 1958. 

It is a pivotal moment for France and many other Western democracies when the mechanism of political institutions does not seem to work any more. 

The gilets jaunes are the voice of a rural population never heard before and which feels abandoned.  It is a lower middle class of workers and retirees, who can’t make it to the end of the month and feel squeezed between the very poor — benefiting from social relief — and the more affluent middle class. 

At first overwhelmingly supported by the public opinion, their number –occupying roundabouts and tolls — has reduced from over 280,000 on Nov. 17, to about 84.000 today. Public opinion is becoming weary of the continuous violence.

“Act XI” is taking place as this article is being written. 

French President Emmanuel Macron.

A spectacular fist fight on the footbridge linking the Quai d’Orsay and the Tuileries garden marked the month of January.  Over time a hard core of  gilets jaunes has become more radical, asking for the dissolution of Parliament, the suppression of the Senate, and basically total destruction of the system in place.  It refuses dialogue while chanting “Macron. Demission” (Macron. Resign.)  

The Rassemblement National (RN) extreme right party of Marine Le Pen and the communist party or France Insoumise (LFI) are riding the wave. They help circulate false news to discredit Macron and his government.  The terrorist attack in Strasbourg in early December or the recent deadly explosion due to a gas leak in the center of Paris were just diversion tactics by the Executive, they say. 

On Jan. 23,  France and Germany signed the treaty of Aix La Chapelle to reinforce cooperation between the two countries and facilitate trans-border relations.  The treaty was followed by the announcement of outrageously distorted news on social networks that Alsace-Lorraine was being returned to Germany. 

Eighteen months into his mandate, Macron started  to suffer a catastrophic collapse in the polls. It was not a first for a French president:  Sarkozy and Hollande before him suffered the same disaffection soon after their election. For Macron though, the intensity of the fall was all the more spectacular as his victory had created a surge of hope.

Today he is trying to turn the tide around and pull the country out of its crisis.  And his method? A “Great Debate” throughout the country lasting until March 15.

On Jan. 13, the president posted a “Lettre aux Français” suggesting four themes open to discussion: taxes, public services, energetic transition, and political institutions, including immigration.  France is being turned into a laboratory to experiment with new forms of government – representative, participative or direct (with frequent referendums).

The hard core of gilets jaunes declined to participate.

Macron’s initial step was to face some of the 35.000 mayors of France.  First 700 of them in Normandy, then two days later 700 in the Lot department (Occitanie region.)  It was an impressive show of participative government in action.  Selected mayors presented their grievances related to very concrete and local problems: closing schools, disappearance of public services, medical “desertification,” lack of accessible transports, inadequate internet and phone access, hurtful impact of giant shopping malls on small business, and the demise of downtown areas of small town and villages.

Each speaker was polite, direct and, at times, quite tough. Macron’s performance was phenomenal.  As each speaker took the microphone, the president was taking notes furiously.  For close to seven hours, he absorbed the remarks then answered each one, recalling the interlocutor’s name.  His language was familiar, bringing smiles to the faces in the audience and devoid of any demagoguery. 

For instance, he expressed his opinion on how dangerous popular referenda can be, especially when based on false information — citing the UK’s Brexit vote as an example. Overall it was refreshing to witness courteous and constructive exchanges, far from the heinous invectives to which the president has been submitted lately. 

The “Great Debate” is a courageous, but risky exercise.  Talking to the mayors was the easy part. It will be harder for him to convince broader public opinion — including the moderate gilets jaunes — how to make a synthesis from all the wide array of  grievances and turn them into immediate and concrete measures?

Macron must meet some, if not all, of the demands being made by the gilets jaunes without appearing to be weak and submissive. In spite of the popular pressure for lower taxes and more benefits, he cannot afford to lose his objective, which is to reform France and make it economically competitive. Finally, time is short since there will only be two months left after the debate before the European elections are held. 

Violence hit cities throughout France causing widespread damage.

The violence brought on by the weekly street warfare in Paris, Bordeaux and many other cities has tarnished the image of France abroad.  The damage caused  to the urban landscape, small businesses and whole sectors of the economy can be numbered in millions of Euros. The loss of one point of France’s GDP has even become worrisome for the IMF. 

On Jan. 22, Macron invited 125 of the most important world CEOs, who were on their way to the Davos Economic Forum, to  a lavish lunch at the Chateau de Versailles, in order to reassure them of his country’s viability and stability prior to a possible Brexit.

The polls have risen slightly in favor of Macron but the president still faces an uphill battle. France is fortunate to have a young president full of energy … but the jury is still out on his future.

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

Nicole Prévost Logan

About 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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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Host Kindergarten Registration Today

Registration for Kindergarten in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools for the fall of 2018 is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 28 and 29, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lyme Consolidated School and Mile Creek School.

Children who will be five-years-old on or before Jan. 1, 2019 are eligible to register for this year’s Kindergarten class.

While you may complete the registration process at either school, your child’s school placement will depend on District attendance zones.

Please bring to registration your child’s

  • Birth Certificate
  • Immunization/Health Records
  • Three forms of proof of residency

If you cannot register on these days or would like additional information, call either school at these numbers to place your child’s name on the Kindergarten list and/or have your questions answered:

  • Lyme Consolidated: 860-434-1233
  • Mile Creek: 860-434-2209

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools look forward to welcoming your child.

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Talking Transportation: Global Warming vs. Northeast Travel — An Apology to Future Generations

What follows is a public apology.  Not to you, dear reader, but to future generations.

“To my grand children:  I’m sorry we left you with this mess.  We should have done more, when we still had time.”

What am I referring to?  Not the national debt.  Not even global terrorism.  No, this apology is about coastal flooding that threatens the Northeast Corridor’s rail lines.

I won’t even get into the debate about what’s causing sea-level rise.  Whether it’s man-made or natural, it is happening and we have not been planning for its inevitable effects.  Sure, when the tides are high and the winds are from the east, we already see a little flooding along the Connecticut coastline.  “Look Dad!  The beach parking lot is under water,” the kids would say.  But the tides and winds then subsided and we’d forget about it.

Aside from pretty beaches and expensive homes, what else is along Connecticut’s coast?  Our railroads:  Metro-North, Shore Line East and Amtrak.  And according to a long hidden report, those tracks, and the trains that run on them, are being threatened by sea level rise.

Just before Christmas, Bloomberg wrote about a three year study, “Amtrak NEC Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment,” that was finished in 2017 but never released to the public.  Using an FOI request, they got hold of a redacted (censored) portion of the study, and its findings are frightening.

The Northeast Corridor of Amtrak runs 457 miles from Washington to Boston and carries 12 million passengers a year on 2200 daily trains.  Those tracks not only serve Amtrak’s inter-city trains but also many commuter rail lines, like Metro-North and Shore Line East.  And the rising sea level is already lapping at its edge, where in some areas those tracks are just feet from the ocean. By 2050 the water may be two feet higher.

When it was originally built in the 19th century, the coastline made perfect sense as a location for the railroad tracks:  the coast is where the major cities were and the terrain was flat, perfect for trains.  Sure, there were storms (even hurricanes) that caused short-term flooding, but nothing that was persistent.  Until now.

So what’s to be done?

Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration have no plans to raise the tracks.  They’re already facing $40 billion in unfunded projects just to keep the darn trains running.  As for building a “wall” to keep out the sea water, even a temporary version erected before a storm would take 12 to 30 days to assemble and cost $24 million a mile.

Keeping this all in perspective, Amtrak reminds us that the cities they serve along the coast are also in danger of flooding, so what are a few damp railroad tracks when your city-center looks like Venice?

What’s most concerning is that this study was suppressed by Amtrak and the FRA because, as Bloomberg wrote, “The disclosure of that information “could possibly cause public confusion.” 

I’m not confused, are you?  Maybe enraged, but not confused.  I may not be around to see these predictions come to pass, but I do feel some sense of obligation (guilt) to future generations to whom I can offer little more than an apology.

Sorry kids.  We left you with a mess.  We should have done more.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

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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SECWAC Presents Talk by Conn. College Prof. Sayej Tonight on Nationalism in Post-Saddam Iraq

Carollen Sayeh

The Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) has announced that Caroleen Sayej will speak on ‘Patriotic Ayatollahs: Nationalism in Post-Saddam Iraq’ at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, at Crozier Williams Student Center Building, Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT 06320. (MAP HERE)  

Members are encouraged to RSVP via online registration, but walk-ins and guests will be accepted.

Sayej, Associate Professor of Government and International Relations at Connecticut College, will discuss the contributions of senior clerics in state and nation-building after the 2003 Iraq war. These Grand Ayatollahs, the highest-ranking clerics of Iraqi Shiism, took on a new and unexpected political role after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Sayej will focus on the role of Ayatollah Sistani, who has been dubbed by observers as “the most important political figure in Iraq.” Contrary to standard narratives about religious actors, the Grand Ayatollahs were among the most progressive voices in the new Iraqi nation.

Sistani, in particular, held a transformative position as the “guardian of democracy” after 2003. He was instrumental in derailing American plans that would have excluded Iraqis from the state-building process—a remarkable story in which an octogenarian cleric took on the United States over the meaning of democracy.

Sayej received her Ph.D. in Political Science in 2006 from New York University, where she studied comparative politics with a focus on the Middle East.  Currently, she is an associate professor of government and international relations at Connecticut College.

She is also a core faculty member of the college’s Global Islamic Studies program.  Her research is on the relationship between state and society in Iraq, with an emphasis on the impact of religious groups on state and nation-building. 

Her first book, The Iraq Papers, was a co-edited interpretive reader on the Iraq War of 2003. Published by Oxford University Press in 2010, it chronicled the planning and execution of the war as well as the prevalent themes of the time: civil war, democracy, human rights, and oil politics. 

Her most recent publication, Patriotic Ayatollahs: Nationalism in Post-Saddam Iraq, was recently published by Cornell University Press in 2018.  It explores the critical role of the grand ayatollahs of Iraq in shaping the state, and is also the title of her presentation.

A reception on the second floor of the Crozier Student Center will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the main event beginning at 6 p.m. The presentation is a part of the SECWAC 2018-2019 Speaker Series.

For non-members, tickets ($20) may be purchased at the door or securely online prior to the event; ticket cost can subsequently be applied towards a SECWAC membership. Attendance is free for SECWAC members (and their guests); members can RSVP online. Membership September 2018 through June 2019 is $75; $25 for young professionals under 35; free for area college and high school students.

Immediately following the presentation, SECWAC meeting attendees have the option for $35 to attend a dinner with the speaker at Connecticut College. Reservations are required by Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, via online pre-registration, calling 860-912-5718, or emailing info@secwac.org.

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Letter to the Editor: Pre-K for Some, But Not All

SEE COMMENT ADDED 1/27. According to the writer of the Comment, the Region 18 Board of Education has changed its proposed policy to include children born between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31

To the Editor:

The LOL Board of Education has proposed to expand the current special-needs lottery pre-K program into one available to all children in the district. This is great news!  Unfortunately, there is a gaping hole in the proposed program. It introduces a September 1st age eligibility cut off date even though the state of Connecticut strongly encourages children turning five before January 1st to enter kindergarten. This discrepancy means that children born after September 1st cannot participate in the program the year before they are slated to begin kindergarten.

Leaving out children born in the last four months of the year results in one out of every three children in a potential incoming kindergarten class being excluded from attending pre-K. It seems to directly contradict the stated intentions of the program. If the proposed pre-K program wants to “ensure limited variability among kindergartners in terms of skills and school readiness,” then why are we leaving out one in three kids?  Surely kindergarten teachers would prefer all of their students, not just some, have access to pre-K before coming to them.

This program has the potential to be a transformative equalizing force for our children and for our town, but it needs to truly include every child in order to do so. If the program is just available for some of our children while leaving out the youngest members of an incoming kindergarten class, it becomes instead something great for only some and a way for others to be left behind, and that isn’t universal or fair.

If you are interested in signing a letter in support of having the LOL pre-K expansion program’s age eligibility align with that of Connecticut kindergarten, please go to https://tinyurl.com/preK4all and thanks!

Sincerely,

Danielle Kuczkowski,
Old Lyme.

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Wildcats Secure Two Victories on the Road to Continue Unbeaten Conference Season

Tonight, Kirk Kaczor’s Wildcats crushed the East Hampton Bellringers away 67-40. Junior Aiden Using, pictured above, led all scorers with a powerful 19 points while Connor Hogan contributed 13 vital points and eight rebounds.

Brady Sheffield notched 11 points along with eight steals and completing the tally of double-digit scoring was Jared Richie with 10 points.

Old Lyme is now 11-1 overall and 11-0 in the Shoreline.

Last Tuesday, Old Lyme soundly defeated Coginchaug 63-44.  Employing the defensive tenacity of a five-person guard rotation comprising Brady Sheffield, Ray Doll, Connor Hogan, Quinn Romeo, and Liam Holloway, the Wildcats took control of the game at an early stage. 

Brady, Jared Ritchie and Aedan Using combined to score a remarkable 47 points. 

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Old Lyme’s Mya Johnson Named ‘Female Athlete of the Year’ by CT Sports Writers’ Alliance

Mya Johnson, a senior at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, is the recipient of the Hank O’Donnell Female Athlete of the Year Award, named in honor of a former sports editor and columnist for the Waterbury newspapers whose career spanned 61 years. Johnson tallied 19 goals and 10 assists in 2018 to lead Old Lyme to its fourth straight Class S state soccer championship.

Lyme-Old Lyme Senior Captain Mya Johnson, who was named the Hank O’Donnell Female Athlete of the Year yesterday by the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance. Photo by Jennifer Alexander.

She was at her best in the big moment, scoring the Wildcats’ final five goals of the tournament, including a hat trick in a 3-1 semifinal win over East Hampton and both goals in the 2-1 state title victory over longtime powerhouse Immaculate.

Trailing by a goal in the finals, she tied the score by booting home her 100th career goal, then converted the game-winner for number 101.

Johnson scored both goals for the Wildcats to defeat Immaculate 2-1 in the 2018 Class S CIAC state championship.

The list of Johnson’s awards and accolades is remarkable, reflecting her exceptional talent. She was named an All-New England player in 2018 and 2017, and selected in 2018 as The Day’s All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year and named to the Class S All-State Team both for the third time. 

Johnson, who is also an outstanding artist, will continue her career close to home next fall at Connecticut College.

Harry Stanton, a 2018 graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown and three-time college All-American lacrosse player, will receive the Bill Lee Male Athlete of the Year Award, named after a longtime sports editor and columnist who wrote for the Hartford Courant for nearly half a century.

Stanton, a former three-sport athlete at New Canaan High School, led Wesleyan to the school’s first-ever team national championship, an 8-6 win over Division III power Salisbury at Gillette Stadium. Stanton netted two goals and added an assist in the championship contest to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

Johnson and Stanton will be honored at the 78th Gold Key Dinner on Sunday, April 28, at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Gold Key Award recipients for 2019 are former college and pro basketball standouts John Bagley and Chris Smith, longtime NFL coach and Super Bowl champion Chris Palmer, St. Thomas More basketball coach Jere Quinn and ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen.

The Gold Key Dinner was inaugurated in 1940, with baseball legend Connie Mack and golf superstar Bobby Jones among the initial recipients. The roster of honorees since then reads like a Who’s Who of Connecticut sports – Joe Cronin, Julius Boros, Willie Pep, Andy Robustelli, Lindy Remigino, Floyd Little, Joan Joyce, Carmen Cozza, Otto Graham, Calvin Murphy, Joe Morrone, Gordie Howe, Bill Rodgers, Tony DiCicco, Geno Auriemma, Rebecca Lobo, Brian Leetch, Kristine Lilly, Marlon Starling and Dwight Freeney are just a few of the past Gold Key winners. A complete list is available at www.ctsportswriters.com.

Tickets to the Gold Key Dinner are $75 apiece, and may be reserved by contacting CSWA President Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp. at tim.jensen@patch.com or 860-394-5091.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Bo Kolinsky Journalism Scholarship, named after a longtime Hartford Courant sportswriter and past CSWA president who died unexpectedly in 2003.P

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Lyme, Old Lyme Town Halls, Libraries Closed Today to Honor MLK Day

Lyme and Old Lyme Town Halls and libraries will be closed Monday, Jan. 21, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Transfer Station in Lyme will also be closed on Monday.

There is no change to the trash or recycling pick-up schedule in Old Lyme on Monday. 

A new 2019 color coded recycling calendar for Old Lyme is available on the Old Lyme Sanitation website and on the Town website under Trash & Recycling

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Third Annual ‘Women’s March on Washington’ Sister Vigil to be Held This Morning in East Haddam

Together We Rise – Building Bridges For Justice has announced that East Haddam, Conn., is again registered as an Official Sister Event location for Connecticut, along with Hartford and Kent, for the Jan. 19, 2019, Third Annual Women’s March:#WomensWave March on Washington.

Together We Rise will join more than 650 sister events/marches throughout the World, when an outdoor gathering and vigil will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café, located at 374 Town St. in East Haddam, CT at the junction of Rtes 82 and 151.

Those interested in participating in the Together We Rise Jan. 19 Sister Event vigil should register by going to  https://www.womensmarch.com/2019/ and clicking on Sister Events, and entering zip code 06469. 

Participants are encouraged to arrive early. Parking Monitors will be on site to direct participants to parking venues near Two Wrasslin’ Cats.  Parking in Two Wrasslin’ Cats parking lot is available only to those with disabilities. 

Speakers at the Together We Rise Vigil in East Haddam will include Christine Palm, Emily Gerber Bjornberg, Marta Daniels and Ella Briggs.

Palm is the newly elected State Representative for the 36th Legislative District covering Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. A lifelong Connecticut resident and progressive Democrat, her social justice advocacy began in high school when she marched with Caesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Palm’s work has culminated in her strong desire today to champion public policy that reflects the aspirations and concerns of people in the lower Connecticut River Valley.

Palm has been a journalist, high school teacher, communications manager, and small business owner. Most recently, she has served as Women’s Policy Analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children and Seniors, a group that advocates for policies that enhance the safety and economic security of these three under-represented populations. Before that, she was Communications Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. 

Daniels is a writer, activist, and public historian. Her 35-year professional career has focused on expanding and improving civic engagement in public policy issues on peace, justice, and the environment.

She was director or co-director of half a dozen national and state educational organizations and also served as a consultant for several environmental and humanitarian organizations. Daniels is the author of several books on peace, many research papers and hundreds of articles and op-eds on peace and disarmament, and US-Soviet relations.

Daniels lives in Chester and is an active member of the Chester Democratic Town Committee, the Historical Society, and the Land Trust.

Briggs is the 2019 Connecticut Kid Governor.  She is a 5th grader at Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary Magnet School in Avon, CT.  Ella lives with her family in East Hampton.

In addition to these speakers, music will be provided by Thomasina Levy and Diane Adams. Levy was Connecticut State Troubadour for 2005 and 2006. An award-winning mountain dulcimer player, singer, poet and songwriter, her performances weave together traditional and contemporary folk music.

Adams is a local musician, who has performed at a variety of public events celebrating justice and equality including Together We Rise’s 2018 March for Our Lives event.

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CANCELLED: Today’s ‘Creatures of the Night’ Program with Live Animals at Lyme Library

1/16: WE HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. See comment below. Many thanks to Gary Jenkins for the update.

Lyme Public Library hosts Creatures of the Night with live animals from Dennison Pequotsepos Nature Center on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m.

Join wildlife biologist Kris Vagos from the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge for an entertaining and informative nature program about
nocturnal animals.

This family-friendly program about owls, bats, opossums, flying squirrels, and other fascinating creatures of the night will be great for all ages. There will also be live animals at the library, courtesy of Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.

This event is free and open to all 

Call to register at 860.434.2272

The Lyme Public Library is located at 482 Hamburg Rd, Lyme.

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Wildcats March on with Unbeaten Record in Shoreline

Coach Kirk Kaczor (center) leads the traditional Old Lyme boy’s huddle before resuming play after a time-out.

Continuing their dominating season Old Lyme defeated Hale Ray 59-31 last Thursday, using a 12-0 blow-out late in the third quarter to secure their fifth win in succession.  Brady Sheffield led the scoring with two three-pointers during that stretch.

Sheffield ended the night with 15 points, while Aedan Using notched 14 points and Quinn Romeo scored 10 points with nine rebounds. Liam Holloway contributed four steals.

Old Lyme is now 8-0 in the Shoreline Conference and 8-1 overall.

Jan. 14

Old Lyme crushed North Branford 86-47 in a Shoreline Conference game with Aedan Using leading the scoring for the Wildcats with 26 points and seven assists. Brady Sheffield added 13 points and seven assists to take Old Lyme to its fourth straight victory.

Mike Sitro led North Branford’s scoring with 16 points.

Old Lyme is now 7-0 in the Conference and 7-1 overall.

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The Movie Man: The Joy of Going OUT to the Movies

As the calendar progressed through December, most people were looking forward to Christmas with joy and anticipation.

For me, as I looked at the calendar last year, I found myself looking back to a December from my childhood. The year is 2003, and I am recalling the day I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on the big screen; to this day it remains my favorite movie-going experience of all time.

I’m writing this because one of my recent reviews published in LymeLine.com was for a direct-to-Netflix release, not by some forgettable children’s movie, nor an attempt at slapstick by Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler … rather it was a film by the Coen brothers.

Years ago, we witnessed the vanishing of record stores with the digital revolution via iTunes. I was not alive when it was a social occasion to go to the record store and check out whichever new album had been introduced, but I did have a high school teacher who still raves about that to this day (I’m talking to you, Mr. Braychak.)

Going to the movies has always been magical for me. I recall that Steven Spielberg shared on Inside the Actor’s Studio that even he still takes his family to the theaters.

Years ago, I wished there were ways for me to see classic films on the big screen … how they were originally released. Lately, I’ve been able to see that wish fulfilled by catching The Big Lebowski, The Shining, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly courtesy of promotions by Regal Cinema, and the treasured Coolidge Corner Theatre (for those of you who have been in the Boston area).

And I firmly hold that catching a film on the big screen in its original run is as exciting and memorable of attending a live sports event. Both sources of entertainment you can watch at home, yes, but there’s nothing like being caught up in the energy of the moment.

A while ago, I developed the mindset of thinking that seeing a film by your favorite actor or director on the big screen is akin to seeing your favorite athlete compete. I am proud to share that I frequented Fenway Park and saw David Ortiz play. In time, I’ll talk of that in the same way that older folk today mention having seen Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams play.

Similarly, the day will come when Leonardo DiCaprio departs this world, and people will tell the younger generations about being caught up in Leo-mania with Titanic; or when George Lucas leaves us, people will recount the time they saw the unexpected sci-fi empire of Star Wars take flight at their local theater in 1977.

But as this ‘release via Netflix’ trend continues to gain momentum, I have to ask if we can really imagine replacing certain occasions that are meant for the theater to be changed to accommodate the streaming method? So many romantic relationships have begun with a date at the movies (Barack and Michelle Obama saw Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee on their first time out together).

Imagine this … “Alright! I got the computer ready … wait, the battery’s dead. Let me grab my iPad! Yeah, I heard this is supposed to be really great, didn’t you say you had a crush on … oh, come on! The Wifi is down? I thought I took care of that! Give me a couple of minutes to fix this!”

It just does not work.

Photo by Julien Andrieux on Unsplash

Going to the movies is quite simply magic … even if the movie does not entertain you. I always loved the process of lining up for my ticket (and skimming the list of other flicks that are playing), getting the drinks and popcorn, and picking my seat during the idle pre-showing ads.

Then the lights slightly dim for the previews, and you make remarks to either your friends or self as to whether the movie looks interesting or you plan on skipping it. Then the lights dim all the way until they’re out, save the little ones in the aisle.

Then the real magic begins.

And when it’s over, you leave, and you chat with whoever you came with about what you thought of the movie. Good, bad, whatever, and you marvel about the people attached to the project, and when their next movie is coming out.

Photo by Karen Zhao on Unsplash

The Lord of the Rings remains one of my all-time favorite movies. My love for the trilogy is increased all-the-more whenever I recall the day I went to see the final installment on the big screen on Dec. 20, 2003 … mainly because I felt like I was on my own personal quest towards seeing this film.

From Christmas of 2002 until the day I saw The Return of the King, I was on a metaphorical journey through the trilogy, in which I waited several months for opportunities to see each installment on DVD. This was also accompanied by a move to the home in which I would spend the rest of my childhood. Granted it was from Old Lyme to Lyme, so I would not be dropped somewhere with which I had no familiarity whatsoever, but leaving the place I had spent two thirds of my life was a big deal.

Not exactly like being taken halfway across the country and plopped in a totally foreign environment, like some others experience. But I was leaving the home that I had lived in for nearly nine years — three quarters of my life. It was all I knew.

We moved from Chestnut Hill in April of that year. But we did not move into our eventual home on Hamburg Road until that November. The home’s previous resident had dozens of animals on her property (some of you may be fondly smiling as you will recognize to whom I’m referring) and her new residence was not finished.

We therefore arranged a real estate deal that involved us renting the home to her, and since we had already sold our home, we briefly rented a home on Griswold Point. It was a beautiful home right on the Lieutenant River, and my mother raves that it was her favorite house. The only downside for my brothers and me was … it had no cable. Not something kids want to hear. But no cable meant … more time for The Lord of the Rings.

When we finally moved to Hamburg Road that November, the adaptation of the journey’s end in The Lord of the Rings seemed to go hand-in-hand with the fact that my own residence journey had also ended. All I had to do was wait another month.

But lo and behold, I was never a good student, and I got in trouble academically, resulting in the loss of my media privileges for over a month, which, in turn, meant I could not see The Return of the King.

What a devastating blow to the gut!

However, my mom understood how much this movie meant to me, so she made a compromise: if I went an entire week without a teacher calling to say I was missing homework, my punishment would be lifted (how bad a student do you have to be for a compromise like that?)

Luckily for me, I made it in time, and the Saturday after the film was released, Dec. 20, I ventured off with a friend to the Marquee Cinemas in Westbrook to catch the final installment. I remember standing in the long line, fretting over whether we would find a seat with a good view, drinking all of my soda before the movie started (and subsequently suppressing my need to use the bathroom for the next three hours), and once the movie was over … clapping vigorously when the words ‘The End’ appeared on the screen.

I left the theater more than satisfied.

I left fulfilled.

But I wonder how different this story would be had Netflix started the streaming business back then, and Peter Jackson opted for this method? I could not imagine myself getting hyped up for a groundbreaking movie that I would watch at home, leaning forward on my couch at the TV, no matter how sophisticated the device is?

If this is an action/adventure movie, and special effects are supposed to be out of this world, do I really want to see it on a 50-inch TV, and miss out on the sound system the theaters have? As much as we rave about Game of Thrones and treat each new episode as a social occasion, we can tell the special effects are not of the same quality as those we enjoy in full-length features. It’s almost as if everybody in the entertainment industry understands this.

Should the next Star Wars movie have the option for watching at home, I surely would skip that and go through whatever it might take to see it on the big screen, as it deserves. My plea to Hollywood legends is to not opt for the easier option, regardless of how much profit it might generate.

I certainly pray that if Mr. Spielberg reads this (first, I would faint upon learning he decided to read LymeLine.com!), he continues to respect the importance of the social aspect of movie-going … and that the rest of movie-dom join him in that belief.

Editor’s Note: Top photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

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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‘Birds Bring Benefits’ Presentation Tonight at OL Library

Jenny Dickson, Wildlife Biologist at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), will present ‘Birds Bring Benefits,’ Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library. This engaging presentation will discuss the economic and ecological benefits of birds and other wildlife in the Lyme Forest Block Important Bird Area (IBA).

A brown sparrow sits on a branch. Sadly, many birds are experiencing long-term population declines locally. Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Connecticut’s woodlands are home to some of the highest concentration of bird species breeding in the continental United States. In 2016, the Lyme Forest Block, which includes Old Lyme, was recognized by the National Audubon Society and the State of Connecticut as an IBA.

Unfortunately, many birds are experiencing long-term population declines in the area, but local landowners and residents can learn how to help halt these declines.

This event is co-sponsored by Audubon Connecticut and is part of a presentation series offered by the Lyme Forest Block Conservation Project.

For more information on the project, visit http://ct.audubon.org/lyme-forest-block-conservation-project.

To register for this program, visit the Library’s RSVP page.

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Sing Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ with Cappella Cantorum in April 14 Concert

Join the Cappella Cantorum Masterworks Chorus for registration and its first rehearsal of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” on Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m., at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 Winthrop Rd., Deep River (use rear entrance).

The lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color in “Elijah” reflect Mendelssohn’s genius as an early Romantic composer.This inspiring work will be performed in concert Sunday, April 14, at John Winthrop with professional orchestra and soloists.

Simon Holt of the Salt Marsh Opera will direct. All singers and high school students are welcome; auditions are not required.

Registration is $50 plus cost of music. Late registration is the following Monday, Jan. 14, same time and place. Singers may register on-line or in person at John Winthrop.

For more information, visit www.CappellaCantorum.org or call 860-526-1038.

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College Steps Offers New Program at Conn. College

College Steps is launching a new program for Fall 2019 at Connecticut College to provide supports for young adults living with social, communication, or learning challenges through a unique, individualized, and peer-based model serving high school transition students interested in a college experience prior to graduation, those exiting high school, as well as students already enrolled in college.

College Steps’ primary goal is to prepare students for meaningful careers and autonomy after graduation from college, placing a strong emphasis on self-advocacy, social competencies, employment, and independent living skills. Students work with trained peer mentors who are supported by a full-time, on-site Program Coordinator at Connecticut College.

Prospective students, families, school district personnel, and advocates interested in learning more about this exciting new initiative are invited to attend public information sessions hosted by Family Wise Solutions on Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12, with light fare catered by Mystic Market.

Register at admissions@collegesteps.org to confirm attendance.

Attendees will learn about specific services offered, including the individualized support model, admissions process and associated costs.

These information sessions will be held at Family Wise Solutions at 4 Broadway Avenue Extension (3rd Floor), Mystic, CT 06378. *The location is on the 3rd floor of the building and unfortunately there is no elevator access. Reach out at admissions@collegesteps.org to arrange an individualized meeting if
this does not meet your needs.

The priority application deadline for Fall 2019 enrollment with College Steps at Connecticut College is March 1, 2019.

Additional information is available at www.CollegeSteps.org.

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Fifth Risk’ by Michael Lewis

Is our government too bloated, too intrusive, too expensive?

Is it a “swamp” that needs to be drained if we are to survive?

Michael Lewis, the author of such jewels as Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short, Flash Boys (see my review of 12/15/2014) and The Undoing Project (see my review of 1/22/2018), has been stimulated by the election of Donald Trump and Trump’s “willful ignorance” and “subsequent incoherence” to step back and take a serious look at a few departments of our government.

Lewis has selected the work of the Departments of Energy (controlling nuclear waste), Commerce (predicting the weather), and Agriculture (assuring food safety), and using in-depth discussions with selected government servants illustrates what is seldom acknowledged – the long-term contributions of much of what goes on at the federal level.

Part of the problem in Lewis’ word is that we have ”two million federal employees taking orders from four thousand political appointees. Dysfunction is baked into the structure of the thing …”

He leads this analysis with the words of John MacWilliams, the Department of Energy’s “first ever chief risk officer.” MacWilliams offers his top four risks as the threat of nuclear disaster, North Korea, Iran, and protecting our electrical grid from cyber-terrorism.

But topping all four is the broader inadequacy of “project management” in the US. MacWilliams states, “managing risks (is) an act of the imagination. And the human imagination is a poor tool for judging risk … They (humans) are less good at imagining a crisis before it happens—and taking action to prevent it.”

Lewis goes on to explain, “ … the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions,” results in, “ … the innovation that never occurs, and the knowledge that is never created.” He concludes, “We need doubtful and forever curious students of possibilities.”

Lewis’ answer is that the long-term and continuing government work of managing the risks of nuclear waste, unusual weather, and food safety has been successful … if not exceptional.

But is this work threatened by the current administration?

To Lewis, “Trump’s budget … is powered by a perverse desire—to remain ignorant.” And that seems to have led to “a rift in American life … between the people who are in it for the mission and the people who (are) in it for the money.”

So what is “risk”?

Lewis quotes David Friedman, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who says, “Risk is uncertainty about the outcome.” We can never be certain of what will occur, but we can certainly try to be.

And that leads to his final sentence, “It’s what you fail to imagine that kills you.”

A most provocative and coherent analysis.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Fifth Risk’ by Michael Lewis is published by W. W. Norton, New York 2018.

Felix Kloman

About 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, which 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 Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Tonight, Lyme-Old Lyme HS Show Choir Debuts Story of Local Syrian Family; All Welcome, Ticket Includes Pre-Event Dinner

On Thursday, Jan. 10, Lyme-Old Lyme High School’s (LOLHS) Show Choir, Amped Up, will debut its 2019 competition show, Rise, to the community in the high school auditorium. The show will be preceded by a Gala Dinner in the high school commons starting at 6 p.m., during which soloists will perform.

Members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High Show Coir rehearse ‘Rise,’ which will be performed Thursday in an event open to the community, which includies a Pre-show Gala Dinner.

What is this ‘Show Choir,’ you may ask? Well, it’s group of people singing and dancing to songs that link together to tell a story.

Think Glee. 

But this story means a great deal more than just sparkly costumes and bright lights. Darin Hamou, a junior at LOLHS, fled her home in Syria with her family two years ago and came to Old Lyme. It was then that she joined the LOLHS Chorus and met Kristine Pekar, the choral director at the high school. 

“I love her so much,” says Hamou, adding, “She is a second mom to me.”

Pekar, affectionately known as “KP” by her students, constantly works to provide the best possible experience for every child she teaches. She is always searching for new ways to share her love of music while continuing to inspire both herself and others. Her passion for performing and deep desire to continue experimenting with new ideas led to the creation of Amped Up in 2017. 

This year’s show, titled “Rise,” follows Darin and her family’s journey to the United States, featuring songs like I Gotta Feelin’ by the Black Eyed Peas, Rise by Katy Perry, and Come Alive from The Greatest Showman. The original choreography is by Ashley Racicot. 

“We hear about wars in far-flung parts of the world and the refugees spawned by conflict, but then we go about our usual lives and routines without really processing what it means on a human level,” says Pekar. “I think the show opened up a dialogue between Darin and the students here at LOLHS.”

She continued, “They now have a personal connection to Darin and have heard first-hand of the hardships she and her family faced. They now understand that this is a reality for many people in the world.”

Lyme-Old Lyme High School junior Darin Hamou, center in foreground, teaches a Kurdish dance to members of the LOLHS Show Choir in preparation for the upcoming performance of Rise. The show is based on the real-life story of her family’s escape from Syria as refugees and ultimate arrival in Old Lyme.

The students have had the opportunity to learn traditional Kurdish dancing and a few words of Arabic from Darin, a completely new experience for them. Not only have they learned about the work required to put on a performance, but they have also had the opportunity to gain an understanding of different cultures. 

Telling such a meaningful story has helped the students feel connected to the songs they are performing. “I am honored to be representing the Hamous,” says Philip Sweeney, the soloist who portrays Darin’s father in the show. “I hope this story can inspire people to help those who are struggling and provide light to this important issue.”

Other soloists include senior Hannah Morrison, who portrays Darin’s mother, and junior Emma Bass, who plays Darin. “It feels really special to know that we are representing the Hamous,” says Bass. “I think it’s making us work harder to try to make them proud of the way that we are portraying their story.”

“Telling this story through Show Choir is powerful because the audience not only sees the family and their journey through life, but they also experience that journey through music and dance,” adds Morrison. She notes, “The tones of the songs are very purposeful in that they serve to draw the audience into the story and make them feel as though they are a part of the story, rather than solely the viewers of it.”

Amped Up would like the whole community to be a part of this story. The performance on Thursday at 6 p.m. will include dinner in the LOLHS Commons while students perform solo numbers, followed by the debut of the show in the adjoining auditorium.

All net proceeds from the event will help the Show Choir offset the costs of their costumes, equipment, and other competition expenses. 

“By presenting the story with music, we can connect more to the emotions of these terrible experiences and realize that this is happening to people just like us,” says Pekar. “I hope people come to the gala to enjoy a great dinner and see a meaningful, exciting show.”

Tickets at $25, which include hors d’oeuvres, a catered buffet dinner and dessert, can be purchased at https://lolhschoirs.ticketleap.com/amped-up/

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All About Alewives: Hear About Their Impact on Rogers Lake at RLA Meeting

Looking for an opportunity to learn much more about Rogers Lake?

The Lyme/Old Lyme Rogers Lake Authority will host Professor David Post of Yale University at their next monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m. Post will give a presentation titled, “Alewives, and the Ecology and Evolution of Rogers Lake.”

Post and his associates have been undertaking studies on Rogers Lake for over 15 years.

He will discuss his team’s findings and observations along with the impact of alewives on fishing and water quality. Surprisingly, alewives impact both water quality and bass fishing in Rogers Lake.  

Alewives

The event will be held at the Rogers Lake West Shores Association
Clubhouse, 75 Rogers Lake Trail in Old Lyme.

All are welcome including Rogers Lake residents, fisherman and concerned citizens

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SE CT Legislators Including Sen. Formica & Sen.-Elect Needleman, Submit Bill To Allow Online, In-Person Betting at CT Casinos

(Press Release) State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and members of the Southeastern Connecticut legislative delegation have submitted a bipartisan bill for the 2019 legislative session that would amend Connecticut’s existing state laws to allow for online and in-person sports betting at Connecticut casinos.

State Senator-Elect Norm Needleman
State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th)

The proposed law would include age and location verification requirements designed to block online access to persons under the age of 21 from betting on sports.

Since last May, when the United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law banning sports wagering, eight states now offer legalized sports betting, including nearby Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. New York has passed enabling legislation but has not yet instituted sports betting, and several other U.S. states – including Connecticut – are now considering it.

Rhode Island – which just launched sports betting in November – estimates it will collect $11.5 million in new state revenue in its first seven months of operation.

“Connecticut needs to play catch-up with surrounding states if we’re serious about modernizing our existing gaming industry. Fortunately, we can do that with a relatively simple regulatory fix,” said Sen. Osten, who represents Ledyard and a portion of Montville, home to Connecticut’s two Native American tribes that already operate gaming casinos.

She continued, “The U.S. Supreme Court decision last year paved the way for the expansion of private-sector sports betting, and I think Connecticut is in a good position to take advantage of that. We have the infrastructure with the tribal casinos, we can use the new revenue, and we’ve got bipartisan support. This should be an early session success story.”

“Neighboring states are already ahead of Connecticut on sports betting, but I think it’s an issue we can quickly catch up on that will have positive employment, economic and revenue impacts on Connecticut, “ said Sen.-elect Norm Needleman (D-Essex). 

He noted, “Two of Connecticut’s top-10 largest employers will benefit from this bill. The U.S. Supreme Court has already cleared the way legally, so I believe it’s incumbent on us as state policymakers to do what’s necessary to remain relevant and profitable in a rapidly expanding new national industry.”

The bill, with the current working number of LCO 578, is co-sponsored by Sens. Osten, Steve Cassano, Paul Formica, Heather Somers, and Sen.-elect Needleman, and by state Reps. Ryan, Christine Conley, Emmett Riley, Joe de la Cruz, Susan Johnson, Doug Dubitsky, Mike France and Holly Cheeseman.

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Wildcats Overwhelm Bellringers 70-29, Continue Unbeaten Conference Run

Playing on their home court, Old Lyme crushed East Hampton Monday evening ultimately winning by 70-29. Coach Kirk Kaczor said by email, “The boys played their best game of the season.” 

Aedan Using leaps to make a shot in this file photo from the Old Lyme game against the Haddam-Killingworth Cougars.

Aedan Using led the team with an extraordinary 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals. 

Brady Sheffield added 11 points and, in Kaczor’s word, “… did a fantastic job of setting the tone on the defensive end.”

Connor Hogan added 10 points. 

The win advances the Wildcats to 6-1 overall and 6-0 in the Shoreline Conference. 

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