Jennifer Lawrence: She’s What Lynsey Addario Does

Jennifer Lawrence has beaten out Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman for the chance to be Lynsey Addario.

That’s because Steven Spielberg outbid George Clooney — and other big names — to snag the film rights to the Westport photojournalist’s memoirIt’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

Media reports say that Warner Bros is finalizing a big-ticket deal. The bidding war broke out after the New York Times Magazine excerpted compelling sections of what quickly became a best-seller. Addario details her work in combat zones around the world, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Darfur and the Congo — and the pregnancy that followed.

According to the Daily Mail, Addario met personally with some of the bidders. They were amazed by her story.

Sometime in the future, movie-goers around the world will be too.

Separated at birth? Jennifer Lawrence and Lysney Addario.

Separated at birth? Jennifer Lawrence and Lynsey Addario.

ABC House Now Offers “A Better Connection”

In less than a decade and a half, A Better Chance of Westport has impacted the lives of dozens of young men. It’s helped provide excellent education, a chance at college, a boost up in life. (It’s also benefited many Westporters, who have learned plenty from the ABC scholars. But that’s another story.)

Though still in their 20s, ABC graduates are making their mark in business, finance and the arts.

And — as young as they are — they’ve already decided it’s time to give back.

A Better ChanceCharles Winslow leads the charge. Raised by his father in Brooklyn, he first heard of the national ABC program from his 8th grade guidance counselor. His initial reaction — “No way! I want to be cool in high school” — slowly gave way to the realization that it might open some doors.

He went through the process — SSATs, recommendation letters, interviews, a visit to Westport — and in 2005 arrived at Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

“I was a 13-year-old African American boy from Brooklym, in an affluent town of Caucasians,” Charles recalls.

“It was a culture shock. The academics at Staples were rigorous. I didn’t know what I got myself into. I called my dad every day.”

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008.

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008…

Like the other ABC scholars, he studied 3 to 4 hours a day. He did chores. Gradually — with help from older boys in the house, the house parents, and a cadre of ABC volunteers — he made his way.

Then he made his mark.

Charles became a 3-year volleyball starter, and senior captain (and won state and FCIAC championships every year he was on the team). He was co-vice-president of Junior Achievement, made money for the club, and traveled to Canada for a conference.

ABC graduate Savion Agard encouraged Charles to apply to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Charles was hesitant, but — with the help of Freudingman & Billings — he got in.

Charles continued to thrive at Cornell. He played club volleyball, tutored children, and spent a “life-changing” Semester at Sea, visiting the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Vietnam, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Panama Canal.

He’s now an analyst in the real estate division of Goldman Sachs. During lunch breaks, he volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But he wants to do even more.

and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

…and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

When he was at ABC House, Charles realizes, there were not yet any graduates making it in the working world. He had no professional role models from the program; no one to ask questions only a former ABC scholar would know how to answer.

Now there are.

Charles spoke with Steve Daniels — a Westporter, African American and corporate executive who’s been a great mentor to many ABC scholars. They devised an idea for an informal mentorship program, matching young ABC graduates with current scholars. ABC vice president Lori Sochol helped Charles refine the plan.

“There are so many things to talk about: grades, being away from home, assimilating, careers.” Charles says. “Every year we come back for the Dream Event [annual fundraiser], but we don’t really know the guys who are in the house now. This is a way to enhance that, so we can use the networks and relationships we’ve formed to help them.”

This month, the program — called A Better Connection (get it?) — begins. Charles has recruited a group of mentors. Each is assigned a mentee. They’ll talk for a minimum of 30 minutes every 2 weeks. Hopefully, deeper relationships will follow.

Charles envisions more, too: social events, a listserv to share ideas and information.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

“As students of color, we got a great education in Westport,” Charles says. “But it’s important for those of us who are doing great things now, thanks to that, to help and network with younger students of color.”

This year’s Dream Event is Saturday, March 28 (7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club). Charles will be there, speaking about A Better Connection. He and other ABC grads will meet the current scholars — and their individual mentees.

One of Westport’s most valuable and meaningful programs is about to get even “better.”

(For more information on the Dream Event, click here.)

Happy Anniversary To Me. Now Pony Up!

This week, “06880” turns 6 years old. My blog has already lasted longer than “The Twilight Zone” (5 years). And it will soon surpass “I Love Lucy” (6).

Both of which — as alert readers know — have very strong Westport ties.

That’s the thing about “06880”: You never know what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, there will be some connection to this town.

When I hurled my 1st post into cyberspace in 2009 — click here for that baby — I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If spring ever comes, you'll read about it first on "06880."

If spring ever comes, you’ll read about it first on “06880.”

I thought I’d offer some moderately interesting stories about the people, places, events and history that make this town our home. My goal was 1 post a day.

I had no idea — even though my tagline was “Where Westport meets the world” — that I would find connections everywhere: from Broadway to the Boston Marathon bombings, from Saugatuck to Syria.

I had no idea either that so many talented, accomplished people could suck so bad at parking. I did not realize that — right here at home — so many amazing people are doing such amazing things. Children, teenagers, busy businesspeople, retirees, merchants, volunteers — this town rocks the universe.

That 1 post a day is now, sometimes, 4 or 5. In 6 years, I’ve posted more than 4,200 stories. You’ve read this far, so I’m guessing you like at least some of them.

For me, “06880” is a labor of love.

But like any love, it takes work.

As “06880” has grown, so have the hours I spend on it.

Will work for food.

Will work for food.

There’s writing, sure. But also interviewing, researching, responding to comments (public and private), moderating comments (removing those from people who do not use full, real names), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate) graphics.

I spend a few bucks too. I pay to keep “06880” ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.

So, once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.

If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

If my 4,200 stories are worth a penny each, that’s $42. If half of them are worth a dime each, that’s $210. I’ll leave other calculations to you.

I hope that if “06880” has ever

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development in town
  • delivered news about a favorite person or store
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • paid tribute to someone you loved or admired
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • given you a voice in the “Comments” section
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “holy f—!”)

— you will consider tossing something my way.

Only a suggestion.

Only a suggestion.

Thanks for 6 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

We’ll still have our now-annual summer “06880” party at the beach. Plus the weekly photo challenge.

But hey. You tip a taxi driver you don’t even know for a 5-minute ride, right?

You can donate by PayPalclick here. It’s easy (and safe)! You don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, try www.paypal.comthen log in, create an account, or send money from the drop-down menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. Or click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880.”

Checks may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #9

You guys are smart. Within minutes of posting, you nailed what I thought was a tough one: the old Texaco/King’s Service Center sign at what is now Sunny Daes.

So you think you’re observant? Then where is this? You’ve seen it many times, for sure.

Click “Comments” if you can identify it. Add the back story, if you know that too.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

 

Best Buddies Spread The Word — In The Very Best Way

Wednesday is a special day for special education students — and their many friends.

It’s “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day. The “word” is “retard” (or “retarded”). The aim is to draw attention to the casual use of that offensive, derogatory term — and end it.

Every year, the Staples chapter of Best Buddies makes a PSA for the day. This year, the group did something — well, special.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Wyatt Davis and Taylor Harrington.

Best Buddies fosters 1-on-1 friendships between intellectually and developmentally disabled students, and their classmates. Taylor Harrington — a 4-year member — put her iMovie skills to great use.

She asked “buddy pairs” — who have been matched together based on mutual interests all year long — to help out. “I wanted viewers to see our buddies as people just like them, with their own talents and interests — not ‘that kid in a wheelchair’ or ‘in special ed classes,'” she explains. “Best Buddies focuses on our buddies’ abilities — not their disabilities.”

Everyone was excited to take part. Three students cannot speak. So their iPads were programmed so they could say their lines.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Megan Nuzzo and Alexander Baumann.

Filming was fun — filled with laughs. Alexander Baumann, a very popular senior, was “so in his element,” Taylor says.

“He was hanging out with his friends, having such a good time.” (He’s the one at the end of the video, flexing his muscles and tickling his buddy Megan Nuzzo.)

Taylor’s buddy is Wyatt Davis. She is thrilled that the video helps other people know “he’s a crazy music lover. He goes to so many concerts with his family. That’s something you wouldn’t know from looking at him.”

The finished product is great. It’s already gotten over 1000 views on Facebook. It’s been shared a lot — even by students not involved with the club.

It will be shown at Best Buddies’ fashion show, silent auction and dinner this Saturday (March 7, 6 p.m., at Staples — all are welcome!)

In the meantime — today, Wednesday, every day — “spread the word to end the word.”

Spread the video, too!

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

Library’s Latest Shout-Out: Forbes.com

Forbes may be “the capitalist tool.” But it’s got a soft spot for a certain everyone’s-equal space: the Westport Library.

Forbes-logoForbes.com carries a story — “Remarkable Lessons in Innovation From a Public Library” — by Westporter Bruce Kasanoff.

He begins: “There are two ways to run a public library in a small town: the traditional way, or the Maxine Bleiweis way.”

After praising the director for being “a vibrant tool for bringing out the best in others,” he cites her for not knowing the definition of “can’t.” Her library, he says, can be “noisy, boisterous, provocative, outrageous (and) entertaining.”

Kasanoff adds that Bleiweis’ best talent may be bringing out talents in other people. He cites these traits that we all should emulate:

Boldness: If it will benefit the library, Maxine will ask anyone to do anything. She enlists CTOs of Fortune 50 companies, top journalists, famous authors, and a huge corps of enthusiastic volunteers. Just as importantly, she always has a bold idea and a few “asks” ready; if she spots you in the library, the odds are 100 to 1 that she’ll tell you about her latest projects and how you can help.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech writer-video star-guru happily obliges.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech guru-writer-video star happily obliges.

Warmth: The Westport Library is partially funded by the town, and also depends on donations from its supporters. There’s never enough money, especially now that the library is embarking on a capital campaign to reshape the building to be much more of a gathering, social and performance space. Leaders in such an environment don’t get to bark orders. Maxine leads with warmth, charm and enthusiasm. She understands that her role is to be uplifting and aspirational.

Imagination: What if we turned the middle of the library into a Makerspace? Could we teach kids to program computers by buying two Aldebaran robots for them to program? Maxine discovered the answers to both these questions was “yes.”

The Westport Library's Makerspace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

The Westport Library’s Makerspace has a prominent position in the Great Hall.

Kasanoff concludes:

Maxine taught an entire town not to be limited by outdated conceptions of what you or your organization is supposed to be doing. She showed an entire generation that you are limited only by your own imagination, creativity and willingness to whatever it takes to bring your dream to life.

Most importantly, she showed us what happens when people with diverse talents, abilities and interests work together to uplift a community. The answer, of course, is that magic happens.

Art About Town: It Really Is About The Art

In 5 short years, Art About Town has cemented a spot on the spring calendar. From a small Sconset Square start in 2010 to last year’s exciting reveal of Miggs Burroughs’ “Tunnel Vision” project, the late-spring event draws plenty of attention. And thousands of celebrants.

But though the opening night street party — featuring performers, dancers, live music and art demos — gets deservedly great coverage,  the rest of the month-long celebration is sometimes overlooked.

At its heart, Art About Town is an homage to local artists, and their creations.

Kim Porio

Kim Porio

Kim Porio is one such exhibitor. A 1983 Staples High School graduate and Providence College marketing major, she did not pick up a brush until 14 years ago.

But she studied well with Arlene Skutch, and learned quickly. The 2nd year of Art About Town, her application was accepted. She sold an oil painting that spring — and was thrilled.

Kim is just one of many local artists whose work is displayed — throughout the entire month — in downtown stores. When her paintings were in Loft, she sold 4.

“It’s awesome exposure,” Kim says. “People come from all over. And it’s a whole variety.”

Art About Town artists range from relative newcomers to very experienced. (Miggs Burroughs exhibited in Matsu Sushi a couple of years ago.)

Westport Downtown Merchants Association organizers are now accepting applications for this spring’s show, through March 20. A special application fee of $25 for artists up to age 25 encourages younger participants (regular fee: $35). Staples High School students are especially welcome to apply. For more information, click here.

An oil on canvas, by Kim Porio

An oil on canvas, by Kim Porio

100+ Women Who Care

Like many women, Tracy Yost’s volunteerism revolved around her children’s activities. Community service was a resume builder. Life was busy; time was tight.

Then, in 2013 — having just moved from Fairfield County to Santa Cruz, California — she discovered “100+ Women Who Care.”

Founded in 2006 in Michigan, it’s an organization so clever I barely know where to begin.

100 Women who CareEvery 3 months, there’s a 1-hour meeting. Each member brings a check for $100. Any member can nominate  local charities, non-profits or worthy causes. All names are put in a hat.

Three names are drawn, randomly. The 3 members who nominated them make 5-minute presentations, “selling” their causes.

Everyone then votes on which cause to support. The winner gets all the checks — made out to them, on the spot.

100 women = $10,000. Amazing!

Within a year, Tracy’s nominee — Coastal Watershed Council — was drawn. She spoke passionately — and won.

“It was an amazing, powerful experience,” she recalls. “I felt so empowered, and so connected to the community.”

Tracy Yost

Tracy Yost

A few months later, her husband was transferred back to this area. Tracy knew she wanted to start a “100+ Women Who Care” chapter here.

A woman in Wilton had the same idea.  Beth Kisielius contacted — out of all 150 or so chapters in the US and Canada — the Santa Cruz one for help. The 2 women connected quickly, and fortuitously.

Tracy arrived in Westport on January 16 (her birthday — go figure). Within a week, she and Beth had planned a working dinner.

Since then they’ve set up Facebook pages, a website and newsletters. Neither woman had ever done something like this, but clearly they are on a mission.

Now they’ve set a date for the 1st Fairfield County meeting. It’s Tuesday, March 10 (DoubleTree by Hilton, Norwalk). A social hour (5:30-6:30 p.m.) precedes the “business” meeting (6:30-7:30).

“We’re looking for women who are too busy to volunteer, or who like to know all the little things going on in the community, who like to get involved outside of their children’s schedules,” Tracy says.

100 women who care santa cruzShe is passionate about the impact 100+ Women Who Care made on her life, in a little over a year in Santa Cruz.

“I felt connected to the community,” she says. “I felt empathy, because I heard very personal stories about people who struggle. I felt part of a group who strives to make a difference locally.

“The group not  only donates 4 times a year. They connect people. They seek out ways to help. They raise the bar. They empowered me.”

Your charity doesn’t even have to win, for you to feel good. “It’s great just to tell 100 women about a really terrific cause,” Tracy notes. “And sometimes you spark an interest, and end up with new volunteers for your organization.”

(For more information on 100+ Women Who Care — including the March 10 meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Norwalk, click here.)

It’s A Tough Winter For Everyone

Alert “06880” reader Richard Jaffe was in his kitchen a few minutes ago. He looked outside, and saw:

Richard Jaffe - 1

Richard Jaffe - 2

Hey — at least they weren’t in his kitchen.

Jessica Gelman, Tom Haberstroh Star In Special “Super Bowl”

When Jessica Gelman starred on the Staples High School basketball court in the early 1990s, Tom Haberstroh was just entering elementary school.

As he grew up — and became a Wrecker hoops player himself — their paths crossed occasionally. Tom says, “She was the first athlete to teach me that girls could kick guys’ butts.”

Jessica Gelman, at work. (Photo/Sports Business Journal)

Jessica Gelman, at work. (Photo/Sports Business Journal)

Jessica went on to star at Harvard, play professionally in Europe and enter the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. After earning an MBA at Harvard, she’s now a high-powered vice president with the Kraft Sports Group, handling marketing strategy for the New England Patriots and Revolution. Last year, Sports Business Journal named her to their “Forty Under 40” team.

Tom’s path took him to Wake Forest. He’s been an ESPN NBA analyst since 2010.

Jessica Gelman fights for a rebound, as a Staples junior.

Jessica Gelman fights for a rebound, as a Staples junior in 1992.

Both Jessica and Tom are numbers guys people. She took high-level math classes at Staples, learned to use data as a pyschology major in Harvard, and became an early leader in the field of sports analytics. (Her database of 3.4 million names makes Kraft the envy of the sports world.)

A decade ago, she taught a course on sports analytics at MIT Sloan School of Management with Daryl Morey. When he got a new job — general manager of the Houston Rockets — they turned the class into a conference.

The initial event, in 2006, drew 150 people. (“Half of them were my friends,” Jessica jokes.) Nine years later, she’s still the chair.

This year’s conference — tomorrow and Saturday (February 27-28) — will draw over 3,000 industry leaders. Michael (“Moneyball”) Lewis, statistician Nate Silver, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, and league commissioners Adam Silver and Rob Manfred are among the presenters.

So is Tom Haberstroh.

Tom Haberstroh, as a Staples senior in 2004.

Tom Haberstroh, as a Staples senior in 2004.

Like Jessica, he’s a sports industry leader in the field of analytics. He parlayed his background — which included Jen Giudice’s AP Statistics course at Staples, and the strong influence of math teacher Rich Rollins — into a highly respected specialty.

(In a small-world coincidence, Jessica’s former colleague Daryl Morey used an ESPN statistical segment of Tom’s to promote Dwight Howard for the NBA All-Star game.)

A few years ago, Tom introduced himself to Jessica at the Sports Analytics Conference. They kept in touch. This year, Jessica asked Tom to moderate a panel on the growth of sports science and data collection.

The 2 former Staples basketball players are huge fans of each other.

“Jess just won the Super Bowl with the Patriots,” Tom says. “Now she’s running a Super Bowl conference of her own.”

Tom Haberstroh

Tom Haberstroh

“Tom’s stuff is great!” Jessica replies.

Both look forward to this weekend’s conference. Tom jokingly calls it “the Super Bowl for sports nerds.”

Don’t be fooled. If the conference adds a 2-v-2 basketball game to the agenda, Jessica Gelman and Tom Haberstroh will kick everyone’s butts.