Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Hearty Welcome to Trader Joes: the most pleasant grocery shopping experience in town

Trader Joes opened its doors about one month ago at the High Ridge Cener and the store is already a hit.

As you enter the store, you sense you are going to experience an unhurried, unharried pleasurable experience. And indeed it is!

You are first hit with a colorful and artful display of fruits and vegetables at very reasonable prices:  bananas 19 cents per pound, red yellow and orange peppers at $1.19, all varieties of apples from 69 cents to $1.79, with fujis and galas under a dollar.

Strawberries are always fresh and sweet and lower in price than competitors.

Many of their products are marked kosher.  For instance, their 73% Cacao chocolate comes in a number of varieties such as super dark chocolate with almonds and dark chocolate 73% cacao super dark. Both are delicious and economical.

They are always giving away free samples of their coffees and other delectables.

They carry a nice assortment of their own Trader Joes Butcher Shop Kosher beef. I purchased a rib eye steak, added some spices, cooked it medium rare and then proceeded to enjoy dinner with the slices of meat melting in my mouth.

They also carry Kosher chickens and challahs as well.

To me, the sign of a good store is when employees exude a feeling of being happy with their jobs and the ambient atmosphere. Here every employee displays a smile and goes out of his/her way to answer any and all questions.

There are never any lines for checkout. If a counter is open, the checkout person at the station acutally walks over and invites me to follow him to one without a line.

Kudos to  Trader Joes for a most pleasurable shopping experience.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

...And the winner of the Citizen of the Year Award goes to Bob Dilenschneider and Stamford's Mayor Michael Pavia

Bob Dilenschneider the man behind 
the Civility in America series 
Courtesy of the Hearst Media Group

"There is no man that embodies civility, decency and love of country and community more than this man."

These words of praise for the creator of the concept of Civility in American Series, Bob Dilenschneider, were pronounced by Joel Klein at The Ferguson Library as he began his talk on civility in education.
Joel Klein, former Chancellor of New York City 
Department of Education
courtesy of

These two leaders in their respective fields of Public Relations and Education  have known each other for over 10 years and exude tremendous respect for each other. (click here to watch the entire segment).

I must wholeheartedly concur with Joel Klein's assessment and, for  reasons I will elaborate on, award Citizen of the Year award to both Bob Dilenschneider and  Mayor Michael Pavia of Stamford. The latter was instrumental in bringing the series to the Ferguson Library and  passionately exemplifies the values of open discourse in governing.

Under his aegis, Stamford has become, arguably, the most civilized city in our country.

Michael Pavia, Mayor of Stamford 
courtesy of archive

In introducing the Civility in America series, back in September 2012, Dilenschneider remarked that an unfortunate incident erupted in his Public Relations business that underscored the need for there to be a rational and national discourse about what constitutes civility in various categories.

In this CBS radio broadcast of September 2012, hosted by Fran Schneidau, Bob is heard saying that the idea of civility has entered Presidential politics where it "has been elevated to a new level." (click here to access the printed story and when on the page click again on right arrow under the bold heading reading WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau on the Story to hear the interview)

Bob's brilliance and acumen is demonstrated by his elevating the level of discourse in many fields including but not limited to  ART, EDUCATION, BUSINESS, POLICE RELATIONS, ADMINISTRATION OF BASEBALL, THE MANAGEMENT OF SPORTS FRANCHISES AND, OF COURSE POLITICS.

We are so appreciative that he has decided to extend this amazing program's lineup of speakers into its THIRD YEAR. The next speaker in the series is George Martin, former defensive end of the New York Giants on Tuesday, January 14th at 6 PM. He will discuss civility on the gridiron. You can register at Contact  203-351-8231

Olympia Snowe
courtesy of wikipedia

Judging from the turnouts, the most popular speaker was undoubtedly Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. There was an overflow crowd so many of us were shuttled off to another Ferguson room where there was a large screen TV set up.

She has vacated  her Senate seat to focus exclusively on restoring civility to a Congress that has been in a gridlock mode. Here is a link to my blog on her speech.

On the value of a liberal arts education in promoting civility, please read my blog on Georgia Nugent's speech

Special mention must be made to sponsors of  the series: The Hearst Media Group, Purdue Pharma, The City of Stamford, The Ferguson Library and  Sacred Heart University.

Great Holiday Story Synagogue about to close because of expensive repairs is saved by members of a nearby Mosque

Symbol of Muslim Jewish Cooperation
courtesy of

What better way to enjoy and celebrate the Holidays surrounding the New Year of 2104 than with such a feel good story as this one. 

In an English city where the Muslims outnumber the Jews 129,041 to 299, a Mosque raised enough money so that its nearby neighboring Synagogue, much in need of repairs, would not have to shut its doors.

What a beautiful model of cross cultural co-operation.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Thirteen Top News Stories for 2013 and who will be our Citizen of the Year....

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, 13 May  2008
Courtesy of Wikipedia

From a letter to Winnie Mandela in Kroonstad Prison, dated 1 February 1975
 Mandela,Nelson, Conversations with Myself,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010,
Pages 211-212

1. Nelson Mandela dies and leaves a rarefied legacy demonstrating an amazing transformation during his 27 year jail sentence. He metamorphosed from being a radical and violent protester to one who seeks and then effects reconciliation and compromise. What is notably praiseworthy and unusual is that he worked his MOJO, not only on his adversaries, such as de Klerk, but particularly with his supporters whom he convinced to lay down their ammo and negotiate. He spearheads the end of apartheid.

FW de Klerk and Mandella (File, AFP) 
The two shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. 

3. Sports Wire: Events surrounding Lance Armstrong (stripped of 7 titles) and A-Rod (suspended for 211 games), both who have taken PED’s, show that various sports authorities have not been able to police and enforce a consistent anti-doping policy.

   The NFL shells out  nearly $800 million to settle SOME concussion lawsuits.

4. Issues concerning the disastrous effects of climate change continue to plague us and thus loom large a year after Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast. New York and New Jersey are still prone to massive displacement/uprooting of its loyal denizens and massive power outages.

5. Two fifty year milestones were remembered with a media blitz including fantastic coverage in magazines, newspapers, C-Span, the History Channel, the major networks and radio.

View from the Lincoln Memorial to 
The Washington Monument on August 28, 1963
(courtesy of Wikipedia)

The March for Freedom and Jobs was led by Dr. Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963, 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and King asserts that despite the passage of  5 score years, "the negro is still not free." He will only be free when "justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like  a mighty stream". His speech culminates with his resounding cry of "Free at last, free at last, free at last." Click here to hear his speech.

The march also heralded the powerful message of Rabbi Joachi Prinz, the Rabbi of Berlin before World War II, who addressed the marchers and condemned not those who harbored hatred and bigotry, but those who remained silent in the face of injustice, brutality and mass murder.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz speaking at the March for Freedom and Jobs

50 years after the assassination of JFK, the country still struggles with whether his short tenure as President merits to be called the reign of Camelot or reign of mediocrity. Can we trust Jacqueline’s assessments?

6. The President continues to be vilified by his Republican political enemies despite an S&P that has soared nearly 30%, an unemployment rate that continues downward, with more and more people signing up for the Affordable Care Act and despite the fact no American blood has been spilled --through our diplomatic overtures-- and black ops, no doubt-- in the Middle East.

7. Pope Benedict XVI announces his retirement and is replaced by a little known cleric who is getting good press for the Vatican--which, unfortunately, desperately needs it! 

8. Atmospheric carbon pollution is to be attacked on two fronts. First, the President has the Executive authority to impose stricter standards and controls on mid western coal- fired industrial plants. Meanwhile, the Eastern States have petitioned the E.P.A to improve the air quality coming from the Rust Belt. Kudos to Governor Daniel P. Malloy of Connecticut who is leading the Eastern governors in the petition.

Coal-fired industrial pollution
Courtesy of

9. In a bold radical move designed to reform and improve our faltering and embarrassing early education system, the President calls for universal pre-kindergarten education. Serious debate must be forthcoming as America's education system fall further behind those in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.  
(A MUST READ: Why Other Countries Teach Better)

Isn't it time for a bottoms up overhaul, fellow citizens?

10. Volcker rules are enacted to stem the proprietary trading by financial institutions.They are enacted to protect the rights and trust of innocent investors in these institutions and to avoid problems of TRANSPARENCY.

11. Putin continues to play the strongman TSAR, posing at times like a bare chested Charles Atlas. Is he trying to reconstitute and rebuild the old empire now that Russian population stands at only 180 million?  Is he only trying to prevent the Ukraine’s (45M population) entry into the EU, or is this only a power play to serve as a diversion as he casts his eyes over all the other former republics of the USSR?
Putin's latest move is a $15 billion bailout which was accepted by beleaguered Ukrainian President Yanukovych.

12. Relief at the pump:  the US stands to surpass both Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil production as early as 2015.  Gas prices are coming down at the pump with regular selling in NJ for $3.20 per gallon.
In 2014, Toyota will be introducing a car that runs on natural compressed gas to cost about $1 a gallon to run. T. Boone Pickens has been seen driving a Honda Civic GX, available in 35 states and he wants you to know it.(click here).

Honda Civic GX, Third Generation
courtesy of Wikipedia

      Is the gas car the wave of the future? 

Stay tuned.

There is one caveat: The pros and cons of fracking are a hot issue and won't simply evaporate!

13. Kudos must go to an unsung teenage heroine: to 16 year old Malala Yousafazi raised in the Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan. She was shot in the neck and head by the Taliban in a school bus as she left school for daring to flout and publicly denounce their orders banning girls from getting an education, going to the market, watching TV, listening to music, etc. The Taliban has leveled school after school killing students, teachers and innocent bystanders in the Swat Valley because the Taliban have embraced the violent interpretation of Sharia. Despite the Taliban’s threats, Malala continued attending her dad’s school for girls in Mingora. In 2009, she began “The Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl,” a blog for a BBC website. 

Congratulations are in order for Malala: In October, she was awarded the European Union's top human rights award, the Sakharov Prize and then named one of 6 recipients of the coveted United Nations Human Rights Award. The latter is granted every 5 years and counts Nelson Mandela and Amnesty International as prior honorees. 

 Please respond by posting  your comment  within the next 72 hours. It's a formidable task, but with your help, I think we can whittle our task down to ONE CLEARCUT CANDIDATE. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

3717 and still counting: Reverse syncing the ipod Classic and Rediscovering two musical giants : Pablo Rosenberg and the recently departed Hank Jones (1918-2010).

The ipod Classic with 80 gigs of memory

Milestones need to be publicized and celebrated.

So, why is this such a monumental event for me??

Two years ago, two cyber events happened just about simultaneously,

My 5 year old PC crashed as did my ipod. No problem for the PC.  I simply purchased a new one at Staples. However, it's not a simple matter when a carefully selected  collection of 3717 songs-suddenly disappears.

The collection was 5 years in the making... and I had good reason to be upset.

So, I invested a few dollars in an ipod recovery program and several hours later had my original 3717 back on board. One small problem arose: several albums came up as file/digital  numbers rather than as the usual analog/ letter signatures. Oh, well I could always go to my itunes library on the pc and id the elusive Pablo outstanding balladeer who serenades us in both his native Spanish and Hebrew.
Pablo Rosenberg in concert
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

So, now I being serenaded (on a you tube playlist) by Pablo and Shlomi Shabat  in their memorable La Ultima Noche and I highly recommend you discover this fabulous entertainer as I did over 10 years ago.

Miles Davis (followed by John Coltrane) is by far my favorite entertainer, judging by the number of singles of his on my Classic--close to 200 and still counting--representing about 5% of my digital library storage.

Hank Jones on piano
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Buried in the 3717 is one group, a gem of a trio, I had nearly forgotten. Its the Great Jazz Trio led by the awesome Hank Jones on piano  accompanied by Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams (1945-1997) on drums. Tony was a very young member of the Miles Davis band in the early 1960's.
Ron Carter Bass 
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The album I am listening to is At the Village Vanguard Again. Though recorded in the late 70's, it was not released until the digital age. Each of the five plays is a gem-- a model of loose, freewheeling, lilting uplifting, ever expanding rhythms.

Tony Williams, Drummer
Courtesy of www.lastfm

Each player is an outright star in his own right, yet when they combine, it is as if the rhythm of threesome is magnified three fold. The five I uploaded include: Hi-Fly, Sophisticated Lady, Softly As in a A Morning Sunrise, Wave and My Funny Valentine.

Kudo's to three classy classsics: Apple's ipod Classic and  two classical entertainers of the musical world:  Pablo Rosenberg and Hank Jones

Hail to the CLASSIC,

Friday, November 29, 2013

Flash: How a Starbucks triptych-like mural upends The Hopper view of the universe

This blog follows an earlier blog on two Edward Hopper works of art hanging in the Yale Gallery of Art. Click here to read the earlier blog first.

Enter a Starbucks today, any Starbucks and you are hit smack in the face by the pleasant aroma of Pike, Sumatra, Christmas blends, etc.

And so often, the lines are ten to 15 people in front of you. In other words, you come square smack into the middle of humanity.

There are often masses of people, so once you pick up your order, there is no seating left.

In other words, the cafe is where people have congregated and continue to do so to share ideas over java.

But little noticed until recently is a sepia toned triptych mural that dominates the once bare walls of some of the coffee bars.

Now, when you look up you see familiar, family, street scenes with the characters connecting to each other and their surroundings. These images that follow are composites  from the Starbucks at the Ridgeway Center, Stamford and the 37th Avenue Starbucks in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Here are some:

In this first image,  the Starbucks, has actual live customers standing in a cue waiting each his turn to place an order. A biker passes in front of the cafe on her way home or to work. People here have a purpose, they are trekking, gliding along the path of life. 

A solitary guitarist, perhaps a troubadour,  stands in front of the store, but he is not truly alone as he serenades the customers as they enter and leave. The air is alive with the sound of music. 

In this second image, we find a flower shop to the left. It is en plein air and the visible and tangible and aromatic bouquets are beckoning customers to walk right in and do some impulse purchasing; indeed, there is commerce going on her.

But, there are theatrics, along with music very possibly being performed here.Why do I say that? Notice that drawn curtain seen through the left side of Starbucks exactly where the biker's head is located.

Where does the curtain lead to?  An area obstructed by the flora in which could be seated musicians and the standing man in the background, who I presume is owner, is doubling as an actor. 

 Besides the biker, there is a guy and his gal friend on the sidewalk surveying the flowers. In the background, there is also another fellow at the extreme left with a newspaper tucked under his arm. Perhaps he is waiting at a bus stop while catching the entertainment.

 There is also a subtle triangulation here at Starbucks that,  unlike the dissonance evoked by figures of the woman, the artist and the denim jacket  in  Hopper's Western Motel, underscores harmony and connectivity. 
 Here's how it works:   if you draw a line from the biker to the couple and stage performer and then another line back to the man in the street with newspaper under his  arm and continue the line from him to the biker you have created a near isosceles triangle of humans--all simpatico, all an intricate resonant part of the fabric of humanity. 

I would call this phenomenon complementary triangulation,  as opposed to the uneasy, disquieting dissonant triangulation discussed  in the earlier  blog on Western Motel. 

To the right of the Starbucks is  a produce market en plein air, enticing impulsive customer viewing--as much or even more so than the stores of its  two neighbors.

  We see a dog standing in front-- which while leashed to its master who has stopped to peruse the 'wares' --gazing, toward the street, transfixed by the approaching biker-a beautiful bidirectional connection of animal to two humans simultaneously.

   The fruits and vegetables are alive with their radiant display of various shades of  reds, yellows, oranges and greens-- thanks to the intensity of the conical beams of light lavishly spread out on the scene.

How does each artist, Hopper in the case of Western Motel (shown below) and the Starbuck artist of this triptych- mural use lighting to effect his/her message?

 Hopper uses his lighting to underscore his view that people are separated, i.e. the woman in   "Sunlight in a Cafeteria" (see previous blog) sits alone swathed in the streaming sunlight of early afternoon and the Motel lady, pictured above, similarly sits bathed alone in the later afternoon western rays.

We have discussed how the Starbucks artist uses flood lights to bring out the rich colors of  the flora and especially the produce which serves to draw people together to shop and frequent the cafe where they share their humanity via music, theater and through the exchange of conversation.

One final amazing detail, which adds a particular poetic license, an acute sensitivity and creativity to the Starbucks installation in Jackson Heights. Do you notice the the two bright lights in the image below?

They are not, I repeat not, part of the painting. They are a part of our sit down cafe. And so the artist and/or the installer has very cleverly magnified the amount of light  by creating an illusion that the lamps are a part of the triptych.

Kudos to the Starbucks artist who has upended  Hopper's awesome and powerful focus on individuals-- depicted very much alone in their universes-- by connecting, people to their places, friends and objects.

But, who is he? (his artwork is not signed and a nearly exhaustive online search is still ongoing).

And, of course kudos to Hopper who-- through attention to details -- has painfully, slowly and laboriously created a universe of fascinating, intriguing and enduring  isolated souls.

It is not fitting to say that Hopper truly stands alone and supreme among 20th Century American artists?


Edward Hopper paintings at the Yale Gallery of Art: His vision is embedded in subtle details

I recently made my first  visit to  the newly remodeled Yale University Gallery of Art on Chapel St. in New Haven.

 I took the elevator up to the third floor American wing and immediately made a bee-line to the Hopper paintings in the museum's possession. The one I focused on first  was "Sunlight in a Cafeteria." (1958)

  Sunlight in a Cafeteria by Edward Hopper
Courtesy of

What struck me first is the solitary plant that sits on the window sill. 

The early afternoon rays of the streaming sunshine illuminates a barren empty scene.

 Indeed, one would be hard pressed to identify it as a cafeteria. Cafeterias, after all are built to serve people and where are the customers at this early hour? 

The cafe is empty of life, but for two solitary souls. Though the businessman is facing the lady, there is no indication of any eye contact, let alone any conversation.

The impression is one of loneliness and isolation.

Western Motel (1957)

The second Hopper that caught my eye is Western Motel.

Western Motel continues  Hopper's presentation of loneliness, the aloofness of his subjects--people isolated on their own private islands of existence and experience. 

The woman poses on the edge of the bed in front of the artists's canvas as is if she being photographed--by her husband or lover?

There are two pieces of luggage -suggesting she has a roommate.

There is a jean jacket loosely thrown across the armrest of the sofa chair at the extreme right side--probably belonging to the artist/photographer.

Indeed, there is a subtle triangulation and consequent tension in which the jacket plays a key role.The lady casts her gaze at the artist and the artist is throwing in the details suggesting his rendezvous with his subject. These details tell a story of their own which entails the artists' careful planning, often through story boarding--i.e. making lots of drawings-- in order to determine what details he wishes to include.

If we stand where Hopper is gaze toward the denim and follow the denim  to the lady and her gaze back to Hopper, we have created a virtual linear triangle.

This indicates a connection that goes beyond one of artist and patron.

This is indeed not a stretch of the imagination. The artist did not have to include the piece in the painting at all. He did not have to place that sofa chair with denim facing his subject.

Let's go a little more into depth here.

The slanting rays of sun, as well as darkening blue skies, coming from the west-- suggested by the title--  suggest a late afternoon time of perhaps 5 or 6 PM. Darkness will descend in about 2 hours.

 It is thus more likely that the couple has just arrived.

The emptiness,  barrenness and linear boredom of the interior is suggested by the similar qualities in the landscape outside the large open window.

The tawny mono-color nondescript landscape in the near distance appears as if the rear of sprawling commodious sofas. These images exude a feeling of  plush sensuality, which we will explore next.

The green 1957 Buick  seems to protrude from her scarlet midriff--perhaps a hint of sexuality, virility.

That Buick belongs to her guy.

 Strangely, he is not present at least visually, for we know he is opposite her, as his jacket is too!

And indeed, scarlet, symbolic of warmth, ardor, sensuality is the color of choice for the armchair and bed as well.

Her man, as I have suggested, could be the painter himself--who captures his lady in the lens of his canvas.

And as we know the lens or canvas is an interposition, a subtle distancing of subject and object (on this subject, tomes have been written..)

Still, though highly charged with sensuality, the scene, frozen in time, is the prelude to a potential connection .


Hopper intrigues and fascinates me as he captures and explores through minute carefully planted details the individuality, the aloofness and aloneness of  his subjects.

If the reader wishes to explore Hopper's story boarding, his creating as many as 54 preliminary drawings as in New York Movie (to see all 54, click here), then get hold of a Whitney Museum publication  Hopper Drawing, organized by Carter Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.

New York Movie, 1939 

Kudos to the Yale Gallery of Art and its Hopper paintings.

NEXT:   How a certain triptych-like mural featured at selective Starbucks is upending Hopper's view that man stands alone in the universe?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Richard and Pat Nixon filmed at the Kennedy State Funeral: What is on Nixon's mind?

Pat and Richard Nixon at the JFK funeral
Footage courtesy of NBC News and American History TV, CSPAN 3

He is GLUM lost in deep thoughts with hands clutched fast to his chest. So what occupies his mind?

For starters, he may be feeling how ironic that the man that barely bested him at the last election lies shrouded near him in a state funeral, career over, KAPUT. 

He could be thinking, WOW, if I were the one elected, what happened to JFK could have befallen me and my career--serving as Congressman from Whittier California area, as Senator from California 
and then as a 2 term Vice President under Eisenhower would have been in  vain.

And my darling Pat would be the grieving widow, not Jacqueline! 

My goal has always been to occupy the oval office. 

Can it be then that Nixon, sometimes referred to as Tricky Dick has assumed the serious clutched position of  grimaced pain?? to hope that someday his dream, his avowed goal, would be realized.

Next what do we make of Pat's more relaxed smile. What does she know that perhaps, we, or even her
hubby, does not.

Fill in the unanswered questions for yourself.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Amazing Revealing letter from Krushchev to JFK during the missile crisis

Photo courtesy of the AP

Thanks to Martin Sandler, editor of  "The Letters of JFK" we now know that many letters were exchanged by the two world leaders at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some  of these letters were 35-40 pages long. 

On a recent C-Span books interview, Sandler related that he had read them all and the most compelling is one that stated: 
 "If we don't solve this and we don't solve this now, the living will envy the dead." 

You would have thought the speaker was JFK. After all, it was our country that was under the  potential attack-- that was orchestrated by the Soviet Premier.  

However, what is amazing is that the writer - counterintuitvely-- was Khrushchev himself --not JFK-- as most would think

January 6, 1958 Cover of Time Magazine
Did  he merit the honor too soon?

After all, it was Khrushchev who ultimately authorized the placement of Soviet Made missiles within 90 miles of our coastline. 

This whole event sends more than than just a frisson of horror across one's being. 

Just how close we came to a nuclear holocaust will never be fathomed.

To access the entire Sandler C-Span Book presentation, click on this link:

Here's a  review of Sandler's book by The Guardian.

Friday, October 18, 2013

At Ferguson library , former President of Kenyon College stresses value of liberal arts education in Civility in America series

Georgia Nugent addresses the subject of civility in 
society Tuesday night  at the Ferguson Library in Stamford 

In her informative and entertaining presentation at the Ferguson Library Tuesday evening, Ms. Nugent laid out her case for both the enduring and civilizing value of a liberal arts education and the reasons for attending one of the 600 plus small private colleges in the United States.

Ms. Nugent attended  Princeton cum laude and is a member of its first graduating class to include women (1973).

She went on to earn her Ph.D in Classics at Cornell; then she taught at Swarthmore, Brown and  Princeton. 

She has the credentials to be an Ivy League President, but elected to be President of Kenyon College, a small top-rated liberal arts college with only 400 students in each class. 

Although she has strong affiliations with Ivy League institutions, it is not hard to imagine her strong attraction to Kenyon which sits on 1200 acres and where "it is hard to tell where the Kenyon College campus ends and where the small downtown begins."

She referenced a recent survey in which 71% of those polled indicated that civility is on the decline and 51% felt that civility continues to decline.

She first discussed the meaning of civility (Latin civis, "citizen") in Greece of the 5th century; It was in the nature of Greeks to live in the city. Socrates was perhaps the foremost philosopher of the era.

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David, 1787
 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The questions he  posed to the youth of Athens in the agora concerned how to live the virtuous(arete in Greek) life; in other words, how can one achieve one's potential?  He asked them questions such as what is justice, what is the best form of government and what is the best life.

The unexamined life is not worth living exclaimed Socrates as he refused to bow to the authorities and admit he was corrupting their youth. He drank hemlock and perished giving up his life in defense of his core principles.

True civility is not a live- and let- live proposition; it is not taking a whatever attitude and walk away.

True civility is confrontational. (more on this in Part II of this subject)

Plato from School of Athens by Raphael (1509)
The Raphael Rooms in the Vatican
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Socrates' student Plato catalogued his mentor's teaching in his Apologia.

Aristotle, Plato's student studied civility from the point of view of the polis (Greek for "city"). His motto was that "man is a political animal."

President John Adams, the second leader of our country
courtesy of Wikipedia

Our founding fathers Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton- all studied the classical writers and foremost in their minds in establishing our republic was writing a constitution of laws that would promote civility. It is important to keep in mind that their education was in institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton which were primarily divinity schools.

Implicit in their thinking was that only citizens living a life inspired by biblical and classical precepts would possess the necessary preparation and skills to form a government and then enter public office to lead the republic.

Ms Nugent then linked the modern day liberal arts education to the classic teaching of Greek and Roman philosophers and the political philosophy of our founding fathers.

 She concluded her talk by doing some myth-busting.

1. A liberal arts education is only for the elite since terribly expensive. In fact 40% of liberal arts students come from lower income households. There is substantial financial aid and the net cost is the same as that of public schools. 28% liberal arts majors graduate without any debt .

2. The liberal arts education is impractical:  Included in the curricula are courses geared for the new digital age: courses in programming, web design, city planning, digital photography, online newspapers and magazines, bridge engineering, etc.

Governor Marion Cuomo of New York
speaking at a rally in 1991
photo courtesy of wikipedia

3.The graduates of liberal arts schools are unemployable. Mario Cuomo former governor of New   York State was an English major at St. John's College, Barbara Walters was an English major at     Sarah Lawrence College, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was an English Major at Holy Cross University and film director Steven Spielberg was an English major at California State University at Long Beach.

Kudos to Dr. Nugent for an excellent presentation.

P. S. There are still some major unanswered questions that I will simply   pose now; but know, dear reader, they must be dealt because the very survival of our global community depends on our duty, as Americans, to know in depth the history of other civilizations, especially the avowed strength and power of  China.

For instance, a major issue is whether the liberal arts education in a small private college setting will be more conducive to a rational civil  non-polarizing discourse between opposing parties than a similar program on the stage of a public university.

A second issue is whether Dr. Nugent can team up with another speaker we heard in Stamford's Civility in American series--  ex-Senator Olympia Snow of Maine.  (As you might remember from my prior blog, that amidst congressional gridlock, she abruptly quit her reelection campaign to focus on solving the near stalemate intransigent polarization that has beleaguered Congress)

And finally, why should NOT two other major global forces- the Islamic and Chinese cultures (including each one's  history, major influential writings, art and music ) be included in the so-called Core Course curriculum (click here for background) introduced by Columbia College nearly 100 years ago?

Have they not proven that they merit serious study--in light of major turbulences of the first 13 years of the 21st century-- and discussion alongside  traditional Western Civilization courses?

So stay tuned.....

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chase bank is expanding to Newfield Green Shopping Center in Stamford

As I drove by the Newfield Green Shopping Center about a week ago, just shortly before 7 AM, I espied workers erecting the framework for the new Chase Bank which will adjoin the Grade A Market.

This is the fourth Chase branch in our community.

The others include, 2169 Summer Street, 1037 High Ridge Road  and 45 Prospect Ave.

There was talk that the Grade A was planning to expand into a superstore and take over the Chase location which was occupied by the Dynasty Szechuan Chinese restaurant.

Chase will join existing tenant Hudson City Savings Bank to provide financial services.

Welcome to Belltown,  Chase.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A New Big Kid is coming to town: Now hiring in Stamford for its newest location: Trader Joe's is a comin' soon

Trader Joe's representatives interviewing prospective 
employees at the High Ridge Center Parking lot last Thursday

About two and a half years after Borders Books sadly closed its doors at its High Ridge Road location in Stamford, workers have been busy finishing the transformation and fleshing out of the skeleton of Borders into a unique grocery shopping venue.

 This past week Trader Joes has been actively hiring personnel  under an open canopy in the High Ridge Center parking lot adjacent to its new location.

The fifty- five year old chain began in California and has over 470 stores, most of which are in the Golden State. Its nearest store is in Darien.

The Supermarket activity is heating up in our community.

Just two years ago, The Fairway Market opened up in the South end.

The High Ridge Road area near exit 35 already has a number of established markets: notably the A&P store adjacent to the Merritt and Mrs.Greens located on the opposite side of High Ridge just south of its newest competitor.

It looks like Mrs. Greens is gearing up for the competition.

I made a recent visit to the store and there is a major revamping of its aisles.

Word is out that Mrs. Greens is planning a new store in New Canaan.

Prepare  for an exciting holiday shopping our community: we will have so much to choose from.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kudos to the Symposium sponsored by Stamford Achieves at the Ferguson: Why the urban student need not fail and how to remedy a failing education system

At last Wednesday night's Success Symposium, hosted by Stamford Achieves, Ms. Sylvia Abbati, Asst. Superintendent of Union City New Jersey's school district said that in the High School's General Education the pass rate had been 30% for students (excluding limited English proficiency and  special needs students). This past year, the pass rate had jumped up to 70%.

Stanley Sanger Superintendent of Union City, NJ Public Schools 
He has been at the helm for the last 12 years and 40 years in the district

Mr. Stanley Sanger  the Superintendent of the Union City school system presented the audience with some amazing numbers. 97% of the children are Hispanic, 34% are English Language Learners, 12% are special needs and 45% are at risk. 

The keynote speaker, Dr. David Kirp, who has written a book on the success of  Union City Schools, told a room full of educators and guests that the community's  High School graduation rate is currently an astounding 90%;  this compares with a national average of  75%. 

25 years ago, Union City had the second worst graduation rate in New Jersey--just behind Camden. 

Stamford's High Schools'  graduation rate stands at 80%. 

What are the secrets of the Union City model?

1. The consistency of setting a rigorous core of standards and a skilled teacher that engages the students in the learning process so that he/she not only learns facts but can analyze and synthesize these facts through the process of higher thinking. 

   Learning by rote is being replaced by learning through doing: computer interactivity, drawing, acting projects, etc. 

     This process begins in pre-k and is developed incrementally, systematically and  consistently through elementary school to high school. 

 2. Retention of personnel. Out of 993 educators in Union City, only 3 left last year. Clearly teachers are getting results, are given recognition and excellent remuneration.

     Joshua Starr Stamford's previous superintendent, an outside hire, left after only 6 years at the helm in 2011. Winifred Hamilton, a 40 year veteran of the district was appointed Superintendent starting in the fall of 2013 after serving as interim appointee at the helm for two years.  
 3. Strong Central leadership:  the members of the Union City Board of Education are appointed--not elected.

    This is indeed controversial, but has proved successful.  

     Lining up Board members who are united in thinking can achieve amazing success. Many a school district falters because of division, dissension and the playing of politics. (see my blog on the bitter friction between Greenwich Superintendent of Education Sidney Freund and his board of education and his subsequent resignation after only five years.)

    This dissension trickles down from the board to the Principals, then to the APs, to the teachers and ultimately the students suffer. 

     Union City has the formula and hopefully this will inspire other schools systems such as ours to rethink its current practices and long term vision.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill into law giving undocumented immigrants the right to get a driver's license

Governor Jerry Brown of California
(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Governor Jerry Brown of California passionately declared yesterday on the steps of L.A.'s City hall:
"The rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice.
No longer are undocumented people in the shadows. They are live, well and respected."
But is he really advocating driving licenses for the approximately 1 million undocumented immigrants in California, but not in the U.S. legally?

The response is yes; however, there are many restrictions.

California is indeed the first state to issue licenses to those eligible for work permits under a new policy by the Obama administration.

Immigrants could work in the US for two years without fear of deportation; they would be able to use those documents they received through this federal program as proof of legal residence with which to obtain the license.

Exclusions apply:  they would have to be between the ages of 15 to 31 and have arrived in this country before the age of 16. Estimates are that only 1 in 4 would quality

The licenses, once granted would have many restrictions: they could not be used to fly, to obtain voter registration or to receive benefits.

The key question still stands: Will the roads be any safer?

 Although those applying will have taken a driver's test, what percentage of those not owning their own cars will be driving with insurance?

The licenses will be issued starting in January, 2015.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Stamford is a great place to live in

I could have entitled this blog: We commemorate the end of the Third quarter with 10 good reasons to celebrate living in Stamford and looking forward to the fourth quarter.

 1. The weather has been great the last few days temps in the 70's and cloudless skies and there is no finer place than Stamford downtown to dine alfresco; the restaurant patrons have been out today at tables set up in front of San Remos Pizza and Lucky's Restaurant basking in the sun.

 2. The road maintenance crews do a great follow-up job; during the summer they dug up streets laying new pvc tubings; they are now out in full force in my neighborhood preparing the roads to lay down new smooth surfaces.

 3. Stamford's Ferguson library has been hosting The Civility in America series with the support  of Mayor Pavia and the City of Stamford , The Dilenschneider Group,  Purdue,  Hearst Media Services and Sacred Heart University. We have been fortunate to hear Senator Olympia Snow, Faye Vincent, William Bratton and Joel Klein  to name a few personages.

 Set aside Tuesday, October 15th at 6 PM.  S.Georgia Nugent, past president of Kenyon College in Ohio is an advocate for liberal arts education. She will be speaking about Civility in American Society.

 4. Stamford Downtown hosts an outdoor summer art show entitled Art in Public Places. This summer thanks to presenting sponsor SAC CAPITAL ADVISORS and many other local supporters, we had 43 sculptures by 18 artists. 

 5. Our town has other permanent outdoor pieces such as J. Seward Johnson's Uninvited Advice. See the slide show by clicking here.

 6. The Curtain Call theater has been  presenting free outdoor Shakespeare performances On the Green for the last 14 years. . This year we enjoyed Othello under the stars.

  In nearby Rowayton, Shakespeare on the Sound performed As You Like it

 7. Major stars host performances in our town. Art Garfunkel, a classmate of mine, can be seen at Stamford's Ferguson library on November 8, 2013.

 8. Mill River Park has recently opened. Designed as a downtown oasis of walking paths, lawns, cherry trees, plants, benches, a carousel, skating rink and fountain, the Park now consists of 12 acres and will grow in future years to 28 acres.

     Projected cost will be $60 million. of which $14 million has been raised.

 9. Excellent public schools is another draw.

  Success Symposium 2013, featuring a panel of educators, will discuss strategies for public education. David Kirp, professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, is the keynote speaker. It airs at Ferguson Library this Wednesday, October 2nd from 4 to 6 p.m.

 10. Stamford hospital boasts the Van Munching facility, one of the Northeast's premier acute inpatient rehabilitation centers.

All of the above are good reasons Stamford stands out....