Tag Archives: Westport Astronomical Society

Roundup: Vaccines, Christopher Plummer, More

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United Way of Connecticut is expanding availability and access to vaccine scheduling.

Beginning Monday (February 8), 125 contact specialists will take phone calls to schedule appointments from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week. They can book up to 10,000 appointments at 12 locations across Connecticut. Call 877-918-2224.

For more vaccine information, click here. The state is focused on vaccinating residents 75 and older, but priority groups will expand this month as more vaccine becomes availabl.e

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In the wake of Christopher Plummer’s death yesterday in Weston, Hedi Lieberman sends along this video of a “CBS Sunday Morning” profile from 2011. It includes scenes of the legendary actor at the venue where he made his American stage debut in 1953: the Westport Country Playhouse.

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Yesterday’s Friday Flashback offered some long-forgotten views of Westport during the 1950s construction of I-95 (Connecticut Turnpike).

They showed Saugatuck and the South Compo areas. But Beachside Avenue was also impacted and altered, as a new bridge rose then between Greens Farms Road and Burying Hill Beach.

Nearly 7 decades later, it’s being replaced. The result is a novel look at the area — whether you’re driving past on Greens Farms, or underneath on the highway.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

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Longtime Westporter John Caggiano died peacefully at home last month, of complications from Alzheimer’s.  He was 82 years old.

Growing up in Brooklyn, his family instilled in him a great love of his Italian heritage. It stayed with him all his life.

John studied art after high school, then went into advertising. He spent most of his career at Doyle Dane Bernbach, rising to creative director and driving award-winning campaigns for Volkswagen, IBM, Sony, Hershey and Colombian Coffee. He brought originality and flair to every project.

After retirement John pursued art with a passion, honing his sketching and painting skills at the Silvermine, Rowayton and Westport Arts Centers, and the Westport Senior Center. His work was often seen at local art shows.

He enjoyed the many activities activities Westport offers, including boating, tennis and golf at Longshore, and Old Mill and Compo Beaches.

John loved animals. He loved walking his rescue dog Bella around Compo Beach and Winslow Park. He was known and adored by both the humans and dogs who visited these spots.

John is survived by his wife of 57 years, Anita; his son Marco, daughter-in-law Elena, and beloved grandchildren Caroline and John; son Roman; sister Linda Brienza (Dr. Gene); sister-in-law Dolores Paliseno, and nieces and nephews.

John was filled with bluster and heart.  He was known for his humor and his legendary stories.

Donations in John’s memory can be made to the Westport Senior Center, 21 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT, 06880, or Homes With Hope, PO Box 631, Westport, CT, 06881.  A memorial service will be held in late summer.

John Caggiano

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The other day, Rindy Higgins gave herself a 72nd birthday present: a penguin mold.

Here’s the result, on the corner of Madeline Avenue and Harbor Road. At least, it looked like that a couple of days ago. It’s all melted now.

(Photo/Rindy Higgins)

Just wait. There’s a winter storm warning for tomorrow. An accumulation of 5 to 7 inches is forecast.

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Next up in the Westport Astronomical Society’s free virtual lecture series: “Mapping the Haystack While Finding the Needles: How Crowdsourcing Science is Solving Big Data Problems in Research.”

Dr. Lucy Fortson of the University of Minnesota speaks February 16 (8 p.m.). Click here for the link.

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And finally … in one of his most famous roles (“The Sound of Music”), Christopher Plummer’s voice was dubbed by Bill Lee. Here is a clip from that film, with his singing “Edelweiss” himself:

Roundup: Income Tax Help, Teachers Return, More

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Need help with taxes? (Besides having more money, that is.)

Westport’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program — free state and federal preparation — runs from now through April 15. IRS-certified preparers assist seniors and low- to moderate-income households, virtually or through a limited in-person scanning option. 

The national program is run locally by the Department of Human Services.

The virtual option provides uploading of  information via a secure encrypted site A specialist reviews and follows up for additional information as needed. Click here to participate.

The limited, on-site scanning capabilities at the Senior Center is offered Tuesdays (1 to 4 p.m.) and Thursdays (9 a.m. to noon). Participants complete a phone call to confirm what documentation is required to participate. Call 203-341-1071 for an appointment.

More than 700 returns were prepared and filed last year in Westport, with total refunds exceeding $350,000.

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Elementary school students have returned to full-time, in-person learning for the first time in 10 months.

Yesterday, the Kings Highway PTA welcomed teachers and staff with this sign:

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Last night’s full wolf moon was beautiful even with the naked eye.

If you were lucky enough to view it through the Westport Astronomical Society’s telescope at the Rolnick Observatory, it looked even more spectacular:

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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Westporter Joshua Aronson — who teaches applied psychology at New York University — heads a panel on “The Anti-Racist Policy Agenda: Education” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom).

Along with educators and politicians, he’ll discuss racial disparities in the educational system, their political impact, and the future of educational equity in Connecticut.

Sponsors are the Democratic Women of Westport and the Staples Young Democrats. Click here to register. For more information, email dww06880@gmail.com.

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Work continues on the Beachside Avenue I-95 overpass. The bridge is now down to its skeleton. Renovation will continue for several months.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

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And finally … on this day in 1861, Kansas was admitted as the 34th state in the union.

Roundup: Academic All-Americans, Art Gallery, Ice Giants, More


For the 18th time in 20 years — and the 15th season in a row — the Staples boys soccer program has been honored with a national award for academic excellence.

And they did it with a record-setting GPA, one far beyond the already high standard.

A squad must have a 3.25 grade point average for all varsity players. The award is given for the previous academic year. In 2019, Staples’ varsity players had an average GPA of 3.76 — way higher than the previous record of 3.43.

The Academic All-America award is given by United Soccer Coaches, a 30,000-member national organization. The Wreckers’ coach, Dan Woog — hey, that’s me! — says indications are good that the 2020 squad should also qualify for  the honor.

The 2019 Academic All-American Staples boys soccer team. (Photo/Christina Bassler)


The arts scene in Westport just got even more interesting.

George Billis Gallery has relocated from New York City to Westport. The new space is 166 Main Street, next to Simon Pearce. It features work by national and international emerging and established artists.

When the gallery was established in1997, it was the 12th to open in the Chelsea Arts District. In 2004, Billis opened a 2nd location in the burgeoning art district of Culver City, Los Angeles.

Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment (203-557-9130). Click here for the website.

George Billis art gallery on Main Street.


It’s a new year, and our thoughts turn to … Uranus and Neptune.

On January 19 (8 p.m., Zoom and YouTube) the Westport Astronomical Society hosts a virtual lecture with Dr. Heidi B. Hammel. She’ll talk about a new concept to return spacecraft to explore the 2 “Ice Giants.”

This Dr. Hammel’s 3rd WAS appearance. A rock star in her world, she is vice president for science at AURA, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope and many other observatories. Click here for more information.


And finally … on this day in 1959, Alaska was admitted to the union, as our 49th state. The next year Johnny Horton sang the theme from the film “North to Alaska,” starring John Wayne, Ernie Kovacs and Fabian. Horton was killed in an
automobile accident the day after the movie was released.

Roundup: Accelerating Universe, Mozy Blanket, Knicks Memoir, More


You may not have heard of Alex Filippenko.

But astrophysicists have.

The University of California professor of astronomy is the only member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe, which led to a Nobel Prize. He’s been voted the Best Professor at Berkeley a record 9 times.

On December 15 (8 p.m.), he’ll visit the Westport Astronomical Society — virtually — for a free lecture on “A New Surprise in the Accelerating Universe.” It’s available on Zoom, and YouTube.


Mozy is a new member of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. The local company produces a “lower-body thermal wrap engineered to keep you 100% warmer than most blankets.”

It’s perfect for “game day, drinks on the deck or a sunset hike” — and the “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Blanket) outdoor dining initiative championed by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Click here to buy online, or email for in-person pickup: hello@getthemozy.com.

A few Mozys.


The Strickland is a new website about the New York Knicks.

They just released their first book: “Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.” Author Fred is also from Westport. The 1971 Staples High School graduate is well known to “06880” readers as a frequent commenter on a variety of topics, a documentary filmmaker, an off-Broadway producer, and a keeper of the flame of local musicians like the Remains and Charlie Karp.

Fred’s Knick bona fides go back decades. He was at Madison Square Garden for the “Here comes Wilis!” game. He stayed up late the night before the SATs to watch a big game on the West Coast. In law school he chose where to live based on which neighborhood had a team cable TV package, then chose an apartment in Manhattan based in part on proximity to Madison Square Garden.

Along the way, Fred might have inadvertently caused Jerry Lucas to have one of the worst shooting nights of his playoff career, drove with Earl Monroe to a business meeting, and sort of sued Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to get revenge for Knicks fans.

Fred is a truly good guy. He’s donating 100% of the royalties from his pandemic project to the John Starks Foundation, which provides grants to college-bound high school seniors with academic excellence, financial need and a commitment to community service.

Click here to order. Click here for more information about Fred’s memoir.


During COVID, many folks are drinking alone. Now you can do it without shame — and with the knowledge you’re helping raise money for great causes.

The Westport Woman’s Club is sponsoring a “Swirl & Sip” wine-tasting fundraiser (Wednesday, December 9, 6 to 7 p.m.). For just $25, Castle Wine & Spirits is providing sparkling wines from Italy and Spain. Silver Ribbon donates the door prize: a $200 gift certificate.

Proceeds from the virtual event help fund grants to local non-profits, and need-based college scholarships. Cheers!

Click here for tickets and more information.


MoCA Westport’s Holiday Open House has been postponed from this Saturday to next (December 12, noon to 5 p.m.).

The outdoor event includes caroling by the Staples High School Orphenians, free admission to the World Peace exhibition, performances by teachers and students of the Westport School of Music, and a holiday-themed project for kids.

There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, and food trucks for purchases. There is no admission fee, but MoCA suggests bringing an unwrapped toy for the Westport Police Department’s annual drive.

 


And finally … in honor of the Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture on the expanding universe:

 

Roundup: Absentee Ballots, Pumpkin Recycling, Black Holes, More


Counting Westport’s approximately 8,000 returned absentee ballots began at noon yesterday. The goal was to finish today, and attempt to reach voters whose ballots were rejected beginning tomorrow morning.

A herculean effort resulted in the opening of all ballots by 6 p.m. last night. Astonishingly, only 5 ballots were rejected, for errors like improper insertion of the inner envelope, or lack of a signature.

Registrars of voters will contact those individuals. They will be able to vote on Election Day.


Your Halloween candy may be all gone (given away and/or eaten). Your pumpkin probably is not.

No problem!

Bring it to the Westport Farmer’s Market (Imperial Avenue parking lot) this Thursday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. They’ll “recycle” it.

It’s one small way to lessen the 1.3 billion pumpkins that end up in landfill each year. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)


2020 may seem like a black hole. The real black holes, of course, are in outer space.

On November 17 (8 p.m.), the Westport Astronomical Society presents a virtual lecture. Yale astronomy and physics professor Priyamvada Natarajan’s talk is titled “Searching for the Elusive Population of Intermediate Mass Black Holes.” It’s available via Zoom and YouTube.

The WAS is also selling their 2021 calendar. It includes astrophotography from talented members, and daily astronomical data.

The cost is $15 for members, $20 for non-members, plus $5 shipping for 1 or 2 calendars, $10 for 3 to 5. Supplies are limited. Email alex@was-ct.org, and include the number you’d like and mailing address. You’ll be invoiced via PayPal.


And finally … if you’ve made it this far without realizing you gained an hour of sleep last night:

Pic Of The Day #1262

One of my “06880” Pic of the Day rules is that all photos show some recognizable feature of Westport. No pure “nature” shots — no matter how gorgeous.

Tonight, I’m making an exception.

Several Westporters sent photos of last night’s spectacular Harvest Moon. It’s tough to capture the moon well — particularly (or course) when it’s dark.

But Franco Fellah did. an avid member of the Westport Astronomical Society, he’s got access to equipment the rest of us don’t.

Here’s what he saw. I know: This could have been taken anywhere.

Trust me. It’s from Bayberry Lane.

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

Roundup: Mental Illness, ABC, WAS, More

 


Luisa Francoeur — a longtime Westporter, and a sister and parent of people with mental illness — reminds “06880” readers that this is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Local resources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Connecticut chapter, and Positive Directions.


A Better Chance of Westport’s “Dream Event” is one of the highlights of our fundraising year. It’s a chance to honor the students, graduating seniors and alumni of the program, which brings youngsters from underserved schools to Staples to study, and Westport to live.

COVID pushed the gala back from June to November 13. However, with restrictions still in place, organizers must cancel altogether.

ABC welcome scholars back last month. Resident directors and tutors returned too. They’re all adjusting to the “new normal,” including hybrid learning at Staples High School.

Cancellation of the Dream Event is a big blow to the organization, which relies heavily on community support. Click here to learn more.


Talenthood is a new app that connects families with children (K through 7th grade) and Staples students with talent in different areas. The focus is on sports, music, technology, creative hobbies and academics. There are also babysitting and lifeguard services.

A portion of the profits goes to charities. Amanda Rowan — a Staples student directing the service, who loves working with youngsters — has chosen the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Pink Aid.

Click here for more information.


Dr. Bob Dempsey — flight director for the International Space Station — Zooms into Westport on October 20 (8 p.m.) for an online talk.

The Westport Astronomical Society-sponsored event is open to the public. Click here for details. It’s also available on the WAS’ YouTube channel.

The online talk is open to the public: we are one of the few things you cando in Westport that is free and greatly expand your knowledge.


After 57 years of broadcasting from the University of Bridgeport, WPKN (89.5) has moved. The new studio — recently renovated Bijou Square, in downtown Bridgeport — will be the new home for Westporters like programmer Ina Chadwick, fundraiser and development director Richard Epstein; Staples graduates like communications guru Jim Motavalli, and the station’s enormous stable of Westport fans.


And finally … we won’t have ABC’s Dream Event this year. But we can have:

 

Roundup: CHT Outreach, WPD Distracted Driving, More


Every year at this time, the Men’s Group of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church cooks beef through the night. In the morning they carve it up, and serve sandwiches for the parish picnic.

This year, COVID canceled the picnic.

But the Men’s Group still cooked the meat last night. This morning, CHT Outreach volunteers and the Women’s Spirituality Group made sandwiches. They brought them to King’s Pantry in Bridgeport, which will distribute them to the homeless.

Taking a break from cooking (from left0: Randy Abrams, John Sarsgard, Lloyd Nash and Rob Feakins.


Never drive distracted.

Especially from October 1 through 15. That’s when the Westport Police Department plans a high-visibility enforcement campaign.

Distracted driving includes talking or texting on a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in the vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that divers attention from safe driving.

Texting may be the worst. Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with eyes closed.

Connecticut fines for distracted driving start at $150. They rise to $1,000, depending on the operator’s driving history and location of the offense.


Due to heavy cloud cover, the Westport Astronomical Observatory will not be open for tonight’s International Observe the Moon Night.

You can of course try to see the moon at home. It’s still there.

Rolnick Observatory will not be open tonight. (Photo/Frank Rosen)


And finally … I never heard of Sterling Magee. But the bluesman who died this month of COVID, at 84 — sounds fascinating. His New York Times obituary say he “played a furious, thoroughly original style of blues under the name Mr. Satan, first as a solo act on the streets of Harlem and then as part of the duo Satan and Adam….

“Half bluesman, half street preacher, Mr. Magee was a fixture on 125th Street throughout the 1980s, parked one block east of the Apollo Theater, where he drew crowds of curious onlookers and fans. He played electric guitar, sang and stomped out a rhythm with a pair of hi-hat cymbals simultaneously, a feat of musicianship often overshadowed by his otherworldly charisma, bushy Moses-like beard and koan-like sayings.” Click here for the full story, and below to hear Mr. Satan.

Roundup: Old Dominion, The Sun And The Moon, More


COVID kept the live audience away from last night’s 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

But a nationwide television audience watched Old Dominion walk off with 2 huge awards: Best Group and Best Song (“One Man Band”).

Country music may not be huge in Westport. But we’re hugely proud of Old Dominion. Lead guitarist Brad Tursi is a 1997 graduate of Staples High School, where he was known not as a musician, but as a soccer star. He’s in the far right in the clip below, wearing a flannel shirt.  (Hat tip: Claudia Bradley)

He’s the first musician shown, in the official “One Man Band” video too:


Staples High School sophomore Phoebe Miller took this picture yesterday evening. She says that smoke from the wildfires out west has drifted far east. It blocks the sun’s rays, making it appear much larger and more orange than usual.

(Photo/Phoebe Miller)


This news will brighten your day:

International Observe the Moon Night will be celebrated in Westport (and everywhere) on Saturday, September 26. The Westport Astronomical Society says the annual worldwide public event “encourages observation and appreciation of the moon.

“All are invited to observe the moon, learn about NASA planetary science and exploration, and celebrate cultural and personal connections to our nearest neighbor. All you need to do is look up!

This year the moon will be just past 1st quarter – a great phase for evening observation.

If the skies are clear, the WAS will open the dome to its observatory on Bayberry Lane. Telescopes will be available.

The WAS adds: “The giant satellite has been our constant companion for 4.5 billion years, and viewed by every human who ever walked the Earth. It’s one of the solar systems’ most remarkable objects, and is quite likely a major reason that life even exists on our planet.”

Amazing full moon at Compo Beach (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)


Seen at Compo Beach. Beware!

(Photo/Les Dinkin)


Crank up The Machine!

The final Supper & Soul drive-in concert of 2020 features The Machine — a longtime internationally touring Pink Floyd-style band. The event — co-sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library — is set for Saturday, October 3 (7 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Tickets for the always-popular event are $150 per car (5-person maximum. They go on sale tomorrow (Friday, September 18) at 10 a.m. Click here to purchase.


And finally … in honor of International Observe the Moon Night (see above):

$10,000 Non-Profit Grants Available From Westport Woman’s Club

In 2015, a $5,000 grant enabled Earthplace to update maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Visitors can now find all trails — including those suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

In 2016, a gift of $10,000 helped Project Return repaint their historic North Compo Road home.

A 2017 grant of nearly $5,000 gave the Westport Astronomical Society a new solar telescope for its Rolnick Observatory.

Last year, Wakeman Town Farm used $1,200 to purchase an innovative mobile chicken coop.

Wakeman Town Farm’s mobile chicken coop.$10.

All of those “Ruegg Grants” came from the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.

Other previous recipients include ITN Coastal Connecticut, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Hall-Brooke Hospital, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.

Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through March 8.

The Westport Woman’s Club is no Jenny-come-lately to the field of philanthropy. Since 1907 they’ve supported area educational, charitable, cultural and health services. (Their first projects: sidewalks, bathrooms at Compo Beach, and hot lunches and vaccinations in schools.)

Ruegg Grants are now one of their signature projects. For an application, click here. To learn more about the Westport Woman’s Club, click here or call 203-227-4240.