Category Archives: Library

I Figure Memorial Day

Spring arrived at 6:28 this morning.

But no matter how nice the weather gets, this pile o’ smushed-together, salted-in, iced-over snow won’t melt any time soon.

(Photo/Britt Steel)

It’s not the only one. An even bigger and blacker mound looms over the Compo Shopping Center parking lot, opposite Planet Pizza.

But this photo is the one I’m running.

Because I really want to know why there’s a highway cone sitting on the hood of that Mercedes.

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Unfortunately, it’s not Christmas.

It’s 4 days before spring.

And we could get 3 to 5 inches of snow on Saturday!

Westport Library Books Alan Alda

Some Westporters know Alan Alda for his role as Captain Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H (1972–1983). Others identify him as Arnold Vinick in The West Wing.

He was also the long-running host of Scientific American Frontiers, a TV show that explored cutting-edge advances in science and technology. He’s now a visiting professor at Stony Brook University; a founder and board member of the university’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Future of Life Institute; a board member of the World Science Festival, and a judge for Math-O-Vision.

Alan Alda

Alan Alda

So it’s fitting that the multi-talented polymath will be this year’s Westport Library “Booked for the Evening” honoree. The library is one of our town’s most diverse and wide-ranging institutions, welcoming and embracing people of all ages, interests, talents and passions.

But the Westport Library is also a place for books. And Alda has just written his 3rd: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.

Alda joins an all-star — and very diverse — group of “Booked” honorees. Previous Westport Library Award recipients include Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario and Ron Chernow.

The event is set for Monday, June 5. Tickets are available May 1. To receive a mailed invitation in late April (or discuss sponsorship), email   cclark@westportlibrary.org or call 203.291.4824.

TEAM Westport Essay Contest Adds Anonymity Option

TEAM Westport’s 4th annual essay contest — on the topic of white privilege — has grabbed international attention. Coverage on CNN, in the New York Times, The Guardian and on alt-right websites caused some high school students (and their parents) to wonder what might happen if they go public with their writing.

Realizing the importance of expressing one’s views — but also the reality of privacy — organizers are offering the option of anonymity.

When the 3 winning essays are announced on April 3 at the Westport Library,  students who chose private acknowledgement of their accomplishment will have their essays read by contest judges. Those who chose public acknowledgement can read their essays themselves. All winning essays will be published — without names, for those who wish to remain anonymous.

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay -- and published under the pseudonym "Publius."

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay — and published under the pseudonym “Publius.”

“The national and international coverage surrounding this year’s TEAM Westport teen diversity essay contest has provoked verbal and written harassment of some committee members, and Town of Westport employees and personnel,” sponsors said in a press release.

“The majority of this type of correspondence appears to have originated from out of town and, generally, from out of state. There is concern, however, that this increased coverage may have made potential contestants reticent to submit an essay for fear of similar harassment. Because the well-being of young people in the community is a priority, the essay sponsors have determined that the option of anonymity is appropriate.”

The deadline for submission is Monday (February 27). The contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere. Click here for the application.

TEAM-Westport-logo2

Fund Set Up For Reda Gul’s Family

Last week, “06880” reported the tragic news of the death — in a Pakistan automobile accident — of Reda Gul. The 2016 Staples High School graduate had returned to her native country, to study medicine.

Many Westporters know the Gul family. Reda’s father Zahoor works as a handyman and taxi driver. He previously worked at the Westport Library, stacking shelves and doing other tasks.

He is beloved by older Westporters. He shovels their walks and cleans their gutters.

Reda Gul

Reda Gul

Keeping his family — there are 2 younger brothers — afloat in Westport is a constant struggle. But he knows the schools are good, and it’s the best thing for them.

Somehow he manages to send money home, to his extended family.

Reda’s mother, Nishat, is a cashier at CVS. You may have seen there.

While at Staples, Reda worked at Lester’s clothing store, across from Fresh Market. A kind and cheerful girl, she earned extra money as a babysitter.

In the wake of this tragedy, Westporter Jim Kremens organized a GoFundMe page. The goal is to help the family pay for the considerable and unexpected funeral expenses, which included sending Nishat to Pakistan on short notice. Funds will also enable the Guls to maintain some financial stability through this difficult time.

To aid our Westport neighbors, click here.

Friday Flashback #28

Before South Moon Under. Before Klaff’s. Before Muriel’s Diner, shaped like a trolley car.

Before all that — on the block between what is now Taylor Place and the Taylor parking lot, across the Post Road from what is now Starbucks and what was then the very new Westport Public Library — stood this very handsome row of buildings.

klaffs-block-in-1915

Click on or hover over to enlarge. 

According to Seth Schachter — who sent this fascinating 1915 postcard — the area was traditionally called “Hulbert’s Block” (or perhaps “Hurlbutt’s,” for the famed Weston family). This is the first time he’s seen it called “Post Office Block.”

The post office is at the far right (with a bicycle leaning against the pole). A store belonging to Wm. E. Nash is in the center.

As a bonus, here’s the back of the postcard:

friday-flashback

The sender — “Leffer” — tells Miss Jeannette Smith (in beautiful penmanship) that’s he (or she) has marked the building in which he (or she) will live with an “X.” You can see it on the far right of the postcard — just above the post office.

Meanwhile — totally coincidentally — just yesterday I received this photo from Lee  Saveliff.

It shows the entire block — this time, from the perspective of the corner of the Post Road near Main Street. Taylor Place is on the left. Club Grill later became Muriel’s Diner. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

taylor-place-and-club-grill

Lee says that her great-grandparents — Leonard and Julia Gault — owned the Club Grill building. The larger one — closer to the river and bridge, with Pat’s Diner and Achorn’s Pharmacy (!) — was owned by the Klaff family.

This shot looks to be from the 1940s or ’50s. In November of 1974, the block burned to the ground. Lee saw the flames from her home, on Imperial Avenue.

Maker Faire Moves From Mini To Massive

Six years ago, Mark Mathias and a small group of believers brought an intriguing event to Connecticut.

They hoped 800 people would share and enjoy interactive, interdisciplinary, interesting exhibits.

They got 2,200.

The event — called a Mini Maker Faire — grew each year. Over 25,000 folks — of all ages, genders and from 100 miles away — have come at least once.

Interactivity is a major draw for the Maker Faire.

Interactivity is a major draw for the Maker Faire.

This year, Mathias expects a record 10,000 attendees. It will be especially notable for 2 reasons:

  • It’s set for Earth Day (Saturday, April 22), and …
  • It’s no longer “Mini.” The event is now an honest-to-goodness, full-fledged, grown-up-but-still-way-cool “Maker Faire.”

maker-faire-logoMathias is very excited about this 6th annual celebration, at the Westport Library and Jesup Green. He and his crew have drawn together a community of young and old males and females of all races, religions and economic levels. They’re technology enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists and students. All share a love of creativity, innovation, tinkering and fun.

Some show off their work, in a dazzling variety of fields. Some wander around, observing and questioning and learning. Some do both.

Small businesses find customers, inventors and suppliers. Large businesses showcase their products and employees — and find talent and ideas.

"The Great Fredini" is constructing an entire scale model of Coney Island, with a 3D printer. Faire-goers could have their own body scanned -- and printed -- to be included.

“The Great Fredini” is constructing an entire scale model of Coney Island, with a 3D printer. Faire-goers had their own body scanned — and printed — to be included.

The theme for this year’s Maker Faire is “Earth.” Organizers hope it will be Fairfield County’s main Earth Day celebration.

As the Maker Faire has grown (and shed its “mini” status), Mathias and his fellow devotees have continued to do yeoman’s work. Right now they’re seeking makers (those who showcase their work); volunteers (who make it all happen), and sponsors (corporations, philanthropists and foundations).

To be a maker or to volunteer, click here; then select the “Participate” menu. If you’d like to be a sponsor, email mark@remarkablesteam.org, or call 203-226-1791.

See you at the Faire!

Word!

It wasn’t quite curling up with the New York Times crossword.

More like racing through it, trying to beat dozens of other crossword aficionados. The grand prize: A book (about words) donated in your name to the Westport Library.

Your name on a new plaque.

And — 24 hours before the Super Bowl — the knowledge that you’re a champion in a competition using (instead of destroying) brain cells.

It happened this afternoon: the Library’s 18th annual Crossword Puzzle Contest.

Jeff Wieser was ready for the Crossword Puzzle Contest. The countdown clock is in the background. There were 3 preliminary rounds, of 20 minutes each.

Jeff Wieser was ready for the Crossword Puzzle Contest. The countdown clock is in the background. There were 3 preliminary rounds, of 20 minutes each.

I was there for the 1st time. The McManus Room was filled with fellow puzzlers. Many had come to previous contests. A few had been to every one.

Eric Maddy came all the way from Huntington Beach, California (and wore shorts). He seemed to know a lot of folks. Crossword solvers have created quite a community.

But there were plenty of familiar faces. Sitting across from me was Jeff Wieser, CEO of Homes With Hope. On my right was Alan Southworth, the 2010 Staples High grad/musician/marathon runner/crossword creator (he hopes Will Shortz will select one of his puzzles for the Times).

Will Shortz: New York Times puzzle editor, Westport Library contest host, all-around cool guy.

Will Shortz: New York Times puzzle editor, Westport Library contest host, all-around cool guy.

Shortz himself — the Times puzzle editor/NPR host/Indiana University enigmatology major — was at today’s contest too. He served as the genial, wisecracking, challenging host.

The diverse, high-energy crowd was perfect for Shortz. And he had 3 strong puzzles — a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (in ascending order of difficulty) for us.

I did not win. I did not make the cut as one of 3 finalists. I am, however, extremely proud to say that I did receive a perfect score on all 3 puzzles.

I earned a certificate for that, signed by Will Shortz himself.

A couple dozen others got certificates too. It was that kind of group.

And that kind of only-in-Westport afternoon.

PS: The 3 puzzles will be published in upcoming Times editions. Will gave us the back stories about them. One is by the youngest creator in Times history. When we heard that, no one in the room felt smart at all.

You might even call us clueless.

The 3 finalists. Andy Kravis (right) of New York City won, finishing a Friday puzzle in a blazing 4:50. Eric Maddy (center) finished 2nd. He came all the way from California -- and received ed a Westport Library tote bag in appreciation.

The 3 finalists. Andy Kravis (right) of New York City won, finishing a Friday puzzle in a blazing 4:50. Eric Maddy (center) was 2nd. He came all the way from California — and received a Westport Library tote bag in appreciation.

From now on, the winner's name will be etched on a plaque bearing the name of Howard Brody. As the

From now on, the winner’s name will be etched on a plaque honoring longtime puzzle fan Howard Brody. As the award notes, he “never had a cross word for anyone.”

The Last Night Shall Be First

Tonight, Westport celebrates the final night of 2016 with a First Night celebration.

The family-oriented event includes a slide at Saugatuck Elementary School …

first-night-2016-slide

… Dennis the Train Man at the Westport Library …

first-night-2016-trains

… and a telescope for stargazing on the banks of the Saugatuck. In the background are launch boats, for the 8 p.m. fireworks.

first-night-2016-telescope

Hundreds of volunteers — including 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Jacqueline Devine — make First Night possible:

first-night-2016-jim-marpe-and-jacqueline-devine

It all takes place in and around downtown. There’s music, magicians and more at Town Hall, Toquet Hall, Jesup Green, the Westport Historical and Christ & Holy Trinity Church, through 10 p.m.

first-night-2016-light

Last-Minute Shopping At The Library

Folks flock to the Westport Library for many reasons. We check out books and DVDs. We conduct research, use the computers, enjoy the Maker Space, meet in conference rooms, hear a speaker, grab a coffee.

Now there’s another attraction: holiday shopping.

The gift shop — really just some tables near the circulation desk — is stocked with unique gifts for all ages, interests and styles. Manager Heli Stagg has found an “Abe” locket made from real pennies; small tech gadgets, games and toys; even literary temporary tattoos produced by Staples High School grads Danny and Corey Fein.

"Literary tattoos," created by a pair of Staples grad brothers...

“Literary tattoos,” created by a pair of Staples grad brothers…

All proceeds help support the library.

But time is tight. They’re open until 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow (Thursday); from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday — then closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

... and other holiday gifts available at the Westport Library.

… and other holiday gifts available at the Westport Library.