50 Years of Apollo

On July 21, it will be FIFTY years since mankind first walked on the Moon.

Although the Russians – with superior rocket power – managed to get not only the first satellite in space, but the first man in orbit, first woman in orbit, and smash the first man-made object into the moon, it wasn’t until May of 1961 when President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech, challenging America that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

United for the Cause

Perhaps no other statement since Roosevelt’s “Date which will live in infamy…” speech has done more to stir an entire nation in a single united direction. Congress allotted funding. The infant technology industry ramped up. Mylar was invented. Velcro found a use. Manufacturing learned to miniaturize (in a time of bulky tubes and transistors, when each reel of magnetic computer tape could hold a whopping 184 Kilobytes of memory [for reference, an MP3 recording of the Star Spangled Banner runs around 900 Kb – half your memory]). The entire country surged forward with that dream, no doubt spurred on as an homage to Kennedy following his assassination. TV picked up the dream with serious and non-serious programs like Star Trek, Lost in Space, Dr. Who, and more. Movies gave way to huge spectacles, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and a few thousand campy pulp films. Food wasn’t left out: the need to eat in space gave us the use of TANG, dehydrated ice cream, and Pillsbury Space Food Sticks.

The Final Frontier

The road to the moon was littered with failures – we didn’t even manage to smash a probe onto the moon until 1962. We made it through the Gemini program, only to learn that some things couldn’t be rushed or corners cut when the Apollo 1 crew – Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee – burned to death in an oxygen fire in a test module, because the pressurized doors opened the wrong way. This led to a pause – there was no Apollo 2 or 3, and 4-5-6 were all unmanned. If ever there was a lot of pressure on a crew, Apollo 7 was the first 3-manned crew to blast off Earth, period. Missions 8-10 looped the moon, giving us the famous Earthrise photo.

Apollo 11 pulled it all together. With less computer capability than an Apple watch, the lunar lander settled on the moon,  Armstrong sent out the famous words, “The Eagle has landed,” followed shortly by Armstrong’s historic “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” At the end of an incredibly violent, divisive, depressing decade, the entire world came together for a few brief moments to rejoice.

Fifty years later, we sit back on our Tempur-pedic cushions with our cell phones, tablets, LED lights, and flat-screen TVs, watching through scratch-proof lenses or LASIK-fixed eyes (all outgrowths of the space program),  and marvel at a time when space exploration was our future.

Deniers

How do we know it wasn’t faked? Like everywhere Man goes, we left our garbage behind – landing modules, rovers, flags and plaques – more than 400,000 pounds worth, and though they can’t be seen by any telescope on Earth (you’re talking a 10-foot object from 239,000 miles away), they can by orbital satellites around the Moon.  The path to space is far too complex for a blog post, so grab a good book, watch a good film (join us for a viewing of the documentary Apollo 11 at CPL on July 18), and think on just how different our lives would be if we never tried to reach for the Moon.

             

                       

                           

Inconceivable! An Interview with Wallace Shawn

Legend has it “It” girl Lana Turner was “discovered” at a soda counter in 1937. Outside of perhaps Hedy Lamar, who invented some heavy military tech in WWII, most of the actors in the “glory days” of Hollywood were not known for smarts but for looking glamorous. Hollywood was the way for good-looking people from the back fields of America to break free and become wealthy and “cultured.” They had to speak well, dress well, stay thin, know their lines and marks, and obey the studio.

Times have changed. While good looks are nice, there are plenty of successful actors who have never been considered heart-throbs (Steve Buscemi, Clint Howard, Vincent Schiavelli, Mike Smith, Linda Hunt, etc). Hollywood may have its mega-cash flow (A-listers make $15-20 million per film; Dwayne Johnson had 9 films 2016-2018), but many stars aren’t afraid to flaunt their smarts and get that college degree, knowing how fickle the acting business is. Jodie Foster has a degree from Yale, Natalie Portman from Harvard, Emma Watson from Brown, Mayim Balik has a PhD in Neuroscience, Gerard Butler a law degree, James Franco is finishing a PhD from Yale, and more.

Smart AND Talented

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting actor Wallace Shawn, listening to him speak and interviewing him briefly. Never heard of him? I’ll bet you have. Perhaps most famously he is known for the Inconceivable role of Vizzini in the cult classic, The Princess Bride. Currently, he plays the Professor on the TV show Young Sheldon. He’s had roles in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz, Bojack Horseman, and if you had children any time in the last 20 years, he’s the voice of Rex in Toy Story. You might not know his name, but you probably do know his face and voice.

And what an interesting man he is!  Soft spoken and humble, he loves to chat, and was charmed by all the happy faces he met. Shawn graduated from no less than Harvard, with a degree in history and the hope of becoming a diplomat – so far as spending a year in India teaching English. Acting was never on his radar – in fact, he was known far more for being a playwright, with such well-received plays as Grasses of a Thousand Colors, Marie and Bruce, My Dinner with Andre, A Master Builder, and Evening at the Talk House. His acting career came about due to a friendship with play director Andre Gregory, with whom he collaborated on the semi-autobiographical My Dinner with Andre, and he’s never stopped working since.

He’s also published books of essays, including one titled simply Essays, and his 2017 collection entitled Night Thoughts, which he admits is a bit political. Although biographies will give more clues to his opinions, in person Wallace treads a neutral line, doesn’t give many clues as to his feelings, and tries to keep many of his opinions private. Originally he considered writing to be selfish and self-indulgent, but then realized it was a satisfying creative outlet.

Heavy Reader

photo: Dawn Swingle

So what does a highly educated actor and playwright like to read? What authors does he favor? Wallace preferred to side-step the question a bit, citing that he likes to keep those things private. In the past, his favorite book was The Idiot by Dostoevsky, because it contained just about everything you could ever want to know about the human condition – not the kind of answer I expected, far heavier than I would have imagined. He admitted to liking Japanese literature, including Yasunari Kawabata and Haruki Murakami. The man is far deeper, and a deeper thinker, than I ever would have imagined.

Time with Wallace Shawn is like spending time with a favorite uncle who comes to Sunday dinner. While his movie and television roles may portray him otherwise, he’s sweet, personable, and down to earth. He admires Woody Allen, spent much time with him, and does not believe the accusations against him. His environmentalism showed when asked what he would have liked to have told his younger self, and he remarked he never realized “when he was young that the most destructive animal on Earth was ourselves, that what we put into our cars would destroy everything not only locally, but globally, that butterflies and bees would be dying, and only a handful of people would even care about it.”

Wallace Shawn: actor, voice actor, playwright, author. If you can’t catch one of his plays, check out his movies and TV shows. Truly, a man who is much greater than the sum of his roles!

  

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in March

In like a lion, out like a lamb, and in between there’s a month full of marvelous programming at Cheshire Library. Here are the highlights for March:

Terrific Tweens

Wednesdays, March 6 and 20, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Kids are invited to drop in for fun with art, science, technology, and games. We’ll assemble robots & contraptions, play with our food, create fun works of art, and bring video games to life,  something different each time! For grades 5-8, no registration required.

New Movie Thursday: Bohemian Rhapsody

Thursday, March 7, 2019, 5:45 – 8:00pm

Did you miss the screening of a film you wanted to see in theatres?  Join us for the first Thursday of the month for a screening of a recently released film. This month we are screening Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Oscar-winner Rami Malek as the unconventional lead singer of the celebrated band Queen. Rated PG-13. Registration is appreciated for the adult program.

Game Night : Dominion

Thursday, March 7, 2019, 6:15 – 8:00pm

Spend your evening meeting new people or with your family and friends playing tabletop games! There will be a different game each month for you to try and to enjoy, this month we are playing Dominion.   Staff will be available to teach you how to play. Light refreshments will be served.  Registration required for this adult program.

From Jazz to Soul with Rhonda Denet and her trio

Sunday, March 10, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Rhonda and her trio will perform jazz and soul standards from the 1930s through the 1960s, paying tribute to song stylists from Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin. The trio features Mike Bardash on piano, Gene Torres on bass, and Chuck Batton on drums. No registration required, but get here early for the best seats!

Author Talk: Xhenet Aliu, author of “Brass: A Novel”

Monday, March 11, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Please join us as we welcome Xhenet Aliu, Waterbury native and author of Brass: A Novel, who joins us on her U.S. promotional tour of the paperback version of her bestseller. Told in parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story. Bookclubs are encouraged to attend. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing, registration is required.

Comics Club

Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Bang! Pow! Join us for a new graphic novel book club for kids!  Make comic strips, play games, and other fun activities. This month we are discussing Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke. You can pick up a copy of the book at the children’s information desk starting on February 15. For kids in grades 2-5, registration is required.

Art in the Afternoon: A Cheshire Public Library & Artsplace Collaboration

Saturday, March 16, 2019, 1:00 – 4:00pm

Have you always wanted to try a class at Artsplace? Here is your chance to sample up to three classes at no charge! Four artists from Artsplace will be giving free mini-lessons during the afternoon sign up for 1 or more.

  • Sketchbook 101 with Linda Marino
  • Ink & Watercolor with Bob Noreika
  • Felting with Robin McCahill
  • Colored Pencil with Rita Paradis

Pre-registration is necessary as class sizes are limited.

“Headin’ Home” St. Patrick’s Day concert

Sunday, March 17, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Hailing from Cheshire, the father- daughter duo Headin’ Home creates a joyous sound. Dan Hedden (guitar/vocals) and Christine Hedden (fiddle) dig into the soil of New England and Irish traditions, playing both traditional tunes and songs as well as originals grown from these traditional seeds. No registration required.

Italy: A Cultural Journey

Monday, March 18, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

When one thinks of Italy the usual thoughts come to mind: great food, great wine, beautiful countryside. But delve deeper into this rich and complex country and you will actually find a melting pot of cultures. We will explore the regional differences in a slide presentation which takes us on a colorful journey from north to south and even to the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Registration is required.

Historic Homes of Cheshire

Thursday, March 21, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Robert Kerson will discuss the historic Nathaniel/Benedict Ives Homestead, the historic Deacon Joseph Ives home, and the Steven R. Bradley house. Learn more about these hometown historical properties! Registration is required.

Kensett Birthday Party Celebration

Friday, March 22, 2019, 3:00 – 5:00pm

Join us for a celebration of John Frederick Kensett’s 203rd birthday!  Cheshire native Kensett was a renowed landscape painter and a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We will enjoy cake and activities for both children and adults, including pop-up cards. Sponsored by Artsplace, registration is required.

Cuba: More Than Rum and Revolution

Monday, March 25, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

For decades, US tourism to Cuba has been illegal , and the importation of Cuban coffee, rum and other goodies has been banned, but no longer. Join Dr. Cynthia Pope of the CCSU Geography Department as she talks about the link between our two countries and takes a look at why Cuba is a worthy destination for travel. Registration is required.

Kids Yoga

Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Get moving at the library with fun and relaxing yoga games, songs and stretches! Yoga helps kids with relaxation, focus, balance and flexibility. This class will be taught by one of our children’s librarians who is also a certified kids yoga instructor. For kids in grades K-6. Registration is required starting March 1st.

Renovation Celebration! Concert & Reception featuring the CONN-MEN

Sunday, March 31, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Join us for a reception, concert and library tours to celebrate Cheshire Library’s newly renovated space!  The concert will feature the CONN-MEN, UCONN’s premier all-male a cappella group. No registration required. This concert is made possible by donations given to the Friends of the Library in loving memory of Janice Miner.

More Than Oprah

Many people are aware that Oprah Winfrey is the richest black woman in America, with a net worth of more than 2.8 billion dollars (which still doesn’t put her in the top 10 richest American women). She is, however, in the top 10 richest self-made billionaire American woman – and the only African-American woman to make the cut. But long before Oprah, there was Sarah Breedlove.

Success Started Early

Breedlove was America’s first self-made female millionaire. Born in 1867, she was an orphan by the age of 7, a domestic by the age of ten, and married her way out at 14. After several marriages that ended in widowhood or divorce, in 1905 Breedlove began her own line of beauty and hair care products for African American women (under the name Madame C.J. Walker), many of whom were going bald because of the harsh lye soaps of the era. The need was great, her products worked, and she went on to become an American philanthropist.

To a degree. Marjorie Joyner was one of her employees. Marjorie became the first African American woman to be issued a patent – for the first machine to permanently wave hair (no Toni kits back then!). However, she never saw a dime for her creation – the royalties and rights went to Madame C.J. Walker! Next time you go to a salon or use a home perm kit, remember to think of Marjorie Joyner.

When we think of African-American women in history, we seem to get stuck on Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and Coretta Scott King, but they are just the very tip of the iceberg.

The Long Hard Climb for Recognition

It’s been a slow, hard climb for African-American women. While Hattie McDaniel won a Best-Supporting Actress Oscar for Gone With the Wind in 1939 (the first African American to do so), a Best Actress award didn’t come until Halle Berry won in 2001 for Monster’s Ball. That’s a long wait. While the first white woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was in 1909, the first African-American woman wasn’t until the great Toni Morrison won in 1993. Although actress Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame showed African-American women as educated members of space crews in 1966 (and gave television’s first interracial kiss), Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut, didn’t make it to space until 1992. To this day, African American women are disproportionately victims of more violent crimes than any other group of women – by more than double. While more African-American women are enrolled in college than any other group (9.7%), they make up only 8% of the workforce, and earn only 64¢ on the dollar compared to 78¢ for white women; 21% of African-American women live in poverty, compared to just 9% of white women. Only now, decades later, are we beginning to appreciate the remarkable contributions of African-American women in the fields of science and math, such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who helped launch NASA’s space program by doing the math in their heads.

Making Strides

While there is still so far to go in equalizing opportunities for minority women, the 21st century has shown remarkable gains, with not only Condoleeza Rice becoming National Security Advisor and then Secretary General under President Bush, but with Michelle Obama becoming the First Lady of the United States.  African-American women continue to enter politics, with record wins in 2018, including the first African-American women elected to Congress from Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. So grab a novel, a biography, a great DVD on the lives and achievements of African American women, and catch up on some of the great history you never learned about in school.

 

         

  

             

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in February

February is “Love Your Library” Month, and there’s plenty to love at CPL! Jane Austen fans will want to check out the “For the Love of Austen” events scheduled all month long, and we’re celebrating the Chinese New Year this month, too. Happy Year of the Pig!

Dramatic Reading : Darcy and Elizabeth

Sunday, February 3, 2019, 2:00 – 3:00PM

Join us for a dramatic reading of Darcy and Elizabeth presented by; the Cheshire Community Theatre. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy take center stage in this one-act version of Jane Austen’s beloved romance. Registration is appreciated.

Create Valentine’s Cards

Monday, February 4, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00PM

One of the many joys of the Valentine season is sending cheerful cards to the ones you love. Join France Angle and create beautiful Valentine Cards using rubber stamps, ink and Stampin’Up products. Space is limited and registration is required.

Tai Chi

Tuesdays, February 5 – March 19, 2019, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Tai Chi Instructor Kathy Brenner will lead six weekly sessions of Tai Chi and Qigong, on Tuesdays, February 5 through March 12. Join her in an easy to follow series of low impact and aerobic exercises, (please wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing). Space is limited and registration is required.  Register online or call 203-272-2245, x4.

Library After Hours: Chinese New Year Celebration

Friday, February 8, 2019, 5:00 – 7:30PM

Join us for a celebration of the Chinese New Year featuring an acrobatic performanace by Li Liu, mask-making, a dragon parade and more!

Pizza and drinks will be available for purchase. There is no admission fee, but donations to the Friends of the Library are appreciated and help defray the cost of these special events. Please note that the Lower and Upper Levels of the Library will not be open to the public. Please register so that we know how many goodies to have!

New World Trio Concert

Sunday, February 10, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30PM

For more than three decades, the New World Trio, featuring Anhared Stowe on violin, Peter Zay on cello and Pi-Hsun Shih on piano, has brought the excitement and intimacy of chamber music to live audiences throughout New England. Today’s program, “The Influence of a Woman”, will feature Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A Minor op.50 and Debussy’s the Premier Trio in G Major and highlights the influence of Nadezhda von Meck on both composers.

The Romance of Jane Austen

Thursday, February 14, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Professor Rebecca Adams will discuss Jane Austen and the ideals of Romance. Learn the expectations for women during Jane Austen’s life, as well as a description of Jane Austen’s life and the real life characters who inspired some of her more famous characters (Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins). Registration is required.

Create Zentangle

Monday, February 18, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00PM

Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.  Each patron will learn the Zentangle method and leave with one landscape artwork. Registration required for this adult program.

The Importance of Tea in Chinese Culture

Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Tea is an important aspect of Chinese tradition. Join Vivian Huang and learn about the different types of tea, find out why tea become an essential part of Chinese culture and learn to write “Tea” in Chinese calligraphy. Registration is required.

Silk’n Sounds A Capella Concert

Sunday, February 24, 2019, 2:00 – 3:00PM

Silk’n Sounds is greater New Haven’s premier auditioned women’s a cappella chorus. Dedicated to excellence in the performance of four-part harmony in the American barbershop tradition and in other musical traditions, he chorus performs a broad repertoire of songs in traditional and contemporary musical styles.

Regency Dance Lesson

Thursday, February 21, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Do you love to watch Jane Austen Movies and the lavish balls?  Have you ever said to yourself; I would love to learn how to dance like that?  This is your chance to learn!  One night and one night only join us for fun evening of dance.  Come dressed up if you so choose and please bring good shoes to dance.  Space is limited for this adult program and registration is required.

Shades of Jane Austen

Thursday, February 28, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Join us as we learn about the world in which Austen grew up, mainly rural England.  With the aid of beautiful slides, including many of paintings of the time, Patricia Carr will help us enter that world and learn a little more about what life was like for the country gentry. Registration is required.