June 22, 2017

A la Carte: Corn and Chicken Chowder

My friend Lisa Marber-Rich, who spends about a quarter of her time in the town of Madison, is a marvel. In addition to working full-time in New York City and Los Angeles (she has a talent agency and a partner who lives on the West Coast, and has two teenage sons and a divine husband), she arranged for her younger son, Dashiell, to have a bar mitzvah party over the last weekend. She had family and friends for a little Friday evening supper for around 40 at their home and arranged for a dessert party at the synagogue just a few hours later (with her cousins). The next day, after the bar mitzvah itself, there was a lunch. That night there were to be two parties, one for the younger set (bar mitzvahs take place right around the son or daughter’s 13th birthday) and, at the same time, a party for the grownups, close to a hundred people at the Surf Club in Madison.

Then came the weather report of teeming rain and gusty winds. With just two days to go, Lisa was able not only to change the venue to the synagogue’s hall, but also the decorations and the food (no lobster rolls or fried clams in the temple). She and her amazing family and friends were still blowing up balloons an hour after the party. The next day there were friends and family again at their house for brunch. ”What would she do once everyone went home,” I asked, laughing. She said there were two things, but I can only tell you the first: a nap. What is most amazing? That she would still have time leftover for the other.

Only once did I plan a fairly big party: my daughter’s wedding at Old Sturbridge Village. The buffet dinner was catered by a friend of mine who made the wedding cake (a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), my mother got shingles and couldn’t come for the celebration, and my brother got roaring drunk and, according to my daughter, fell flat while dancing. Even worse: the marriage was over in less than two years. These days I make dinner for eight to ten people who don’t expect me to be the hostess with the mostest. The one thing I did for the bar mitzvah: cornbread for 150, to go with the fried chicken. I decided to make it in disposable pans and to slice it thin. It wasn’t as good as it should have been.

In the meantime, I still have lots of sweet corn in the freezer, so I am making a big pot of corn and chicken chowder this weekend.

 

Corn and Chicken Chowder

Adapted from “50 Chowders” by Jasper White (Scribner, New York, 2000)

 

3 ears corn (about 2 cups of kernels), fresh or frozen

4 ounces slab bacon, diced into one-third-inch dice (I used 4 ounces of bacon, diced)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (salted is fine here)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

½ large red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 cups fresh chicken stock or low-salt commercial chicken stock

kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into one-inch chunks

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup (or less) heavy cream

 

If you are using corn on the cob, husk corn, remove silk by hand, cut kernels from cobs and place in a bowl. Use back of knife and scrape down cobs, adding the milky substance to the corn.

Heat 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over low heat and add diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase heat to medium and cook until bacon is crisp. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, leaving bacon in the pot.

Add butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally, with wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until onion and pepper are tender but not browned.

Add corn, potatoes and stock, turn up heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some potatoes will have broken up. Use back of spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against side of pot. Reduce heat to medium and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken and cook until hot.

Stir cornstarch mixture and slowly pour into pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from heat and stir in cream. Adjust seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

When ready to serve, reheat chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowl and sprinkle with chopped chives or thinly sliced scallions.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

 

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A la Carte: Turkey Meatball Vindaloo

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo - Food Network magazine

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo – Food Network magazine

Oh lord, that drive up I-91 to the Mass Turnpike and that interminable New York Thruway is a killer. Four groups of us made the trip to Rochester, most in separate cars: son Peter and his daughter Laurel; me alone in my car; daughter-in-law Nancy with another daughter, Casey; and another set of grandparents, Nancy’s parents Vange and Jordan Chatis. Peter called from his phone and said he and Laurel were going to detour to Troy, New York, and Famous Hotdogs for a late lunch. I met them there, ate four with the works (each hot dog and bun are three inches long) and some fries and an RC cola. Hit the Thruway at 1:30 in driving rain almost to East Bloomfield, my sister-in-law’s house, four hours later.

From that point on, it was an incredible weekend. Made pasta Bolognese, salad and lemon cake for Roslyn, her son Arran, his wife and their daughter. Later, Peter and Laurel arrived and ate, too. Breakfast was great fun the next day. That night we ate great steaks and apps and salads and dessert at Black & Blue in Pittsford (why don’t we get one of those on the shoreline?). On Sunday granddaughter Sydney graduated from University of Rochester. Driving home, it was sunshine the whole way. I got home at 4:30 and by 7:30 saw the movie “Dough” at the Garde.

Now the question: what to make for dinner and, if was good enough, write an A la Carte column. Here it is:

Turkey Meatball Vindaloo 
From Food Network magazine, May 2016, “Weeknight Cooking,” page 88

Although I don’t watch the Food Network much anymore, this magazine has some of the best recipes ever.

Yield: Serves 4 (it’s delicious the next day, too)

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion (1/4 grated, 3/4 diced)
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
2 to 3 teaspoons hot Madras curry (or regular curry mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
15-ounce can no-salt fire-roasted tomatoes (regular if you don’t have fire-roasted)
3 cups cooked white rice (or brown rice, for that matter)

Preheat boiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, ½ cup cilantro, grated onion, 2 teaspoons ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until just combined. Form into 20 meatballs (about 1 and 1/2 inches each). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and bell pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger and the curry powder. Cook, stirring to coat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1 ½ cups water and ¼ teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, broil meatballs until lightly brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Nestle the meatballs in the sauce, cover, and cook until slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in half of the remaining cilantro; season with salt. Serve meatballs and sauce with the rice, and top with more cilantro, if you like.


 Nibbles: Cinnamon Ice Cream 

Almost 40 years ago, I lived in the Rochester, New York, area. I wasn’t much of a cook then. There were many supermarkets and none of them were of interest to me. I bought flour and sugar in small amounts and after years, they wound up with little black bugs in them.

Some years later, there came a supermarket called Wegman’s. It was, and is, a family-run business in Gates, New York. There are supermarket consultants that call Wegman’s the best supermarkets in the United States. Last weekend, by myself, I went to one in Canandaigua, New York. I spent more than an hour there. It is better than Whole Food, Trader Joe’s and all other supermarkets combined. I bought a pint of Wegman’s cinnamon ice cream. It was fabulous. I figured Wegman’s didn’t make it themselves. Indeed, it is probably made by Blue Bunny. Locally, Walmart and Shop Rite sell Blue Bunny. See if they have cinnamon ice cream and let me know!

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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A la Carte: Coconut-Lime Pork Stew

Coconut Lime Pork Stew - Associated Press

Coconut Lime Pork Stew – Associated Press

A few weeks ago, I began to think about what I might make in late spring and summer, since I had just paid for my CSA (community-supported agriculture). I had already put away my pressure cooker and decided to put my slow cooker way high up over a cabinet, thinking I might not be using it until late fall, when the cooler temperatures begins, maybe mid-October. Then I thought about hot the kitchen might be in the summer, and decided I would keep it in a cabinet, since I could make desserts in it, when it is too hot to turn on the oven.

This, of course, brought me back to my computer, thinking about doing pudding cakes in my slow cooker since I love coconut and anything lemony or limey. What did I find: a recipe for a pork stew scented with coconut milk and lime juice. A stew, I thought? In May? Truth is, it is cool enough, especially at night, that it is still too cold to put my basil plants in yet.

Off I went to my faraway freezer, about a block away from my condo. Know what I found? A boneless pork roast, maybe bought in the winter when it was on sale. I know it’s odd, but I always have canned coconut milk in the pantry, a knob or two of ginger in the refrigerator’s freezer, and limes (and lemons) in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. The next day, after the roast was thawed, I made this recipe. It was delicious.

Coconut-Lime Pork Stew
Adapted from Jim Romanoff for the Associated Press

Serves 6

4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper (I used maybe 1/2 teaspoon)
3-pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1-inch chunks
flour, salt and pepper in a zippered plastic bag
14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2-inch strip (or more) lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 pound baby carrots
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions and saute until they begin to color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large plate.

Return the Dutch oven to the burner. Increase heat to high and add a couple of tablespoons of the oil. In batches, add pork to the plastic bag holding seasoned flour, toss, then put chunks in Dutch oven and cook until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate. Brown remaining pork in 3 batches, adding oil as needed.

Return onion mixture and browned pork to pot; stir in coconut milk, lime zest and juice, brown sugar, bay leaves, salt and baby carrots. Bring mixture to a simmer, cover and place in oven for 1 ½  to 1 ¾ hour, or until pork is tender. Taste; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve stew over saffron or any rice (I use those packets of flavored rice I get at Ocean State Job Lot or most supermarkets). Toss peanuts on top, if desired.


Nibbles:  Café Routier

A week or so I went to see “Keanu” at the Marquee Theater in Westbrook with my friends Nancy and  Andy, because Nancy and I love kitties and cats and the cat is the protagonist. We met at the cinema and, on the way, they made a reservation for dinner at 9:15 p.m. This is usually way past my bedtime, but a trip to Café Routier is a great reason to stay awake.

I knew what I wanted, because nobody around here does steak frites like Routier does, but the waiter first told us about the specials. One entrée include sauce Bearnaise. I asked our waiter if I might have a ramekin of that sauce, my favorite in the whole world. As we ate (oysters remoulade and trout for both of them), I ate about a quarter of the fries, dipping each into the béarnaise. And this, friends, is why I love Café Routier. The next day and the day after, I ate the steak (on a salad one day, a stir fry the next). Few places either serve great sauces or are willing to give me a few tablespoons with no questions asked.

Café Routier
1353 Boston Post Road
Westbrook
860-399-8700

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Talking Transportation: The ‘Lock Box’ is Log-Jammed in Hartford

locked_chestI hope you’ve been following CT-N to watch our dysfunctional legislature in recent weeks as they struggle to fill a $900 million budget gap.  Not only could they not get a new budget together before adjourning (only to be summoned back mid-May for a special session), but the legislative logjam left several important measures in limbo.  Among them, the long debated “lock box” for special transportation funding.

As I wrote weeks ago, none of Governor Malloy’s plans to spend $100 billion to rebuild and expand our transportation systems over the next 30 years can go anywhere without an agreement to safeguard those funds from misappropriation by putting them in an untouchable “lock box”.

Because the legislature couldn’t pass such a bill or even put it on the ballot as a potential constitutional amendment referendum, that puts the entire Malloy plan on hold.  Without a lock box, nobody trusts Hartford with money raised by tolling or taxes, nor should they.

The lock box idea is not new.  In fact, it was Republicans who suggested it years ago.  But when Malloy appropriated the idea as his own, GOP lawmakers saw the Governor’s version as more sieve than safe, and they held up a vote.

Folks, if lawmakers can’t agree on an annual budget, let alone a way to keep transportation funding secure, how can we trust them with $100 billion in new money?

The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) track-record on private-public partnerships for transit-oriented development also gives one pause.  For example, consider the Fairfield Metro train station where a private developer went belly-up, leaving CDOT to finish the job, sort of:  the beautiful new station they built still has no waiting room.

Or consider the ongoing saga of the Stamford rail station garage.  It’s been almost three years since CDOT tapped a private developer to demolish the old garage, replace it with a high-rise office / condo / hotel and build new commuter parking lots within a quarter mile from the station.  In three years, nothing has been done because there is still no signed contract.

Yet, that project is wrapped in such secrecy that nobody understands the delay.  Or why the CDOT is even still negotiating with this laggard “developer of choice.” It couldn’t be because the developer contributed $165,000 to the Malloy campaign that he’s being given so much time, could it?  Nah, that would never happen.

So here we are, fellow Nutmeggers.  Lawmakers deadlocked.  A $900 million budget deficit to fill this year and another $2 billion hole in years ahead.  State workers are being laid-off.  State funding to towns for education is being cut (meaning local taxes rise).  Billionaires are bailing (a third of our taxes are paid by the top 1 percent).  And no prospects for a lock box … let alone more funding for transportation.  Yup, just the same old stuff as ever.

No wonder they call us “the land of steady habits.”

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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A la Carte: Asparagus Soup Two Ways

asparagusmainpic_2203991bThis is the time of year I always yearn for. I think about what is available in the supermarkets (rhubarb is in!) and I will buy asparagus.

I have a few tips for you about asparagus. Buy your asparagus with tips tightly wound. It can be thin or thick (I prefer the thick ones). I cut about half an inch or an inch from the bottom with a sharp knife (I do this five or six stalks at a time). Then I peel around the stalk 2 or so inches from the top. This way, every stalk is incredibly tender.

I love roasting the asparagus in a little oil and salt. But I also love to blanch the stalks in boiling water for maybe 3-4 minutes. I serve it with a little butter and salt. Sometimes I make a hollandaise sauce, which I adore, but it may be gilding the lily (or gilding the asparagus).

I am also crazy about risotto. I would add asparagus stalks, cut on the diagonal, each about 1 inch, and add them about halfway to the point when the risotto is ready, about 10 minutes.

Here is a lovely recipe for asparagus soup from Julia Child. If you need a recipe for risotto, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I will send it to you.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed about 2 inches from bottom
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (use black if you don’t have white)
1/2 cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green tips from the asparagus stalks. Drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I strain the water into the mixture). Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley food mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color; to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold. If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Legal News You Can Use: Divorce and Your Teenager

parents-arguing-350-300x200Sponsored Post: Divorce is painful for children, no matter how old they are. How kids deal with divorce greatly depends on their age and level of maturity. While younger children may cling to parents, teenagers often pull away and become uncharacteristically rebellious.

To make things even more complicated, social media has made the landscape much more dangerous. However, there are warning signs you can look out for, and the good news is that there are clear ways to make the separation and divorce process easier for teens.

How does divorce feel?

Always keep in mind that although your teenager may appear mature physically, he/she is still growing emotionally, and is not an adult on the inside. Teens have a lot going on, and divorce can pile on more drama than they are equipped to handle. They may feel angry and embarrassed. Or, they might feel responsible and blame themselves. Teens often feel torn between their loyalties to each parent. When children have been dealing with disharmony and parental fighting for a long period of time, divorce may even come as a relief. Remember, this is also the time that adolescents start thinking about their own future love life. Divorce may make them feel like they have less chance for success in love. This is all very scary and confusing for a teenager.

Struggling for independence

The teenage years are when adolescents begin to strive for more independence from family. Sometimes this desire accelerates with divorce. Kids may withdraw emotionally as a form of punishment. They may put their peers ahead of family time more than usual. This can make teenagers more susceptible to drug /alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity. It’s very important to set limits and enforce rules, while also being flexible and understanding. Your teen may not want to visit the non-resident parent. Neither parent should take this personally, and teens should be given some say in visitation schedules while still maintaining routines. Letting your child bring a friend during visitation is sometimes a nice compromise.

Social media issues

These days, almost all teenagers have cell phones and multiple social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other platforms. Make sure to enforce the same rules about cell phones and posting at both parents’ homes, and monitor social media activity. Clearly explain that everyone MUST keep personal family information and situations out of posts. Aside from obvious privacy concerns, when personal information is broadcast in a public forum, it can impact your divorce case.

Warning signs

Keep an eye out for the following behaviors in your teenager:

-Change in eating or sleeping habits

-Appearing withdrawn or depressed

-Mood swings or emotional outbursts

-Aggressive behavior; lack of cooperation

-Problems at school; drop in grades

-Losing interest in activities that were once very important to them

Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings. Be available and make sure they can always reach you. Teens need to be able to talk to either parent whenever they want, even if it’s during the other parent’s scheduled parenting time. If you are uncertain about your child’s well-being, be sure to seek professional help.

Ways to make the process easier

– Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your kids

– Don’t use your teen as a confidant to talk about new relationships

– Don’t make your teenager change schools if at all possible

Never try to be a friend rather than a parent, and DO NOT allow underage drinking or illegal activities to occur in your home.

– Do respect your teenager’s feelings, and keep his/her confidences

– Do make time for your teen, and schedule some activities individually with each child

– Do keep regular routines without being stubborn or unyielding

– Do try to attend meetings at school, doctors’ appointments, etc. with the other parent

– Do ask other adults about how your child is doing (teachers, friends’ parents, and coaches)

– Do get the support you need, from friends, family or a trained counselor. Having a healthy outlet will help you to be a better parent during this difficult time

It is achievable to have an amicable divorce, and to start a healthy new life for both you and your children.

Attorney Robert Tukey

Attorney Robert Tukey

About the author: Attorney Robert G. Tukey is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in family law. Contact him via email at rtukey@sswbgg.com or via phone at 860-442-4416 with questions about divorce and custody matters.

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Letter From Paris: Madrid and the Incredible Wealth of its Museums

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The silent crowd stands with emotion as it would in a cathedral, keeping respectfully a few feet away from “Guernica” – the huge (11 by 27 ft. ) scene painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937 after the bombings by the Nationalist forces led by General Franco of the Basque village of Guernica.

A weekend spent stomping the art collections of Madrid is mind-boggling. Spend six hours a day and you will only have a glimpse at the Thyssen museum, the Prado, the house studio of Sorolla and the Reina Sofia modern art museum.

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza and his son Heinrich had an unusual flair when they selected outstanding works of art in the 1920s and 1930s to create one of the world’s richest private collections.

Some of the early masterpieces at the Thyssen include, “The portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni,” (1480), which is a beautiful example of Florence Quattrocento, showing the idealized profile of a woman. “A young man in a landscape” was painted by Vittore Carpaccio, probably from the Venetian school. Nature is codified, each animal has a symbolic meaning related to good and evil.

In his “Jesus among the doctors” (1506), Durer – the most important representative of German Renaissance – the 12-year-old Jesus is surrounded by a group of old men. Some of them have been touched by grace, some have sin written all over their ugly faces, hands like claws threatening the child. In The “Portrait of a lady” (1530?) painted by Hans Baldung Grien – the remarkable disciple of Durer – the influence of Cranach the Elder is noticeable in the rendering of the decorative elements of the dress, necklaces and large hat with feathers of a supremely elegant model.

Flanders – or modern Belgium and Netherlands – was part of Spain in medieval times and the Prado has many Flemish paintings, which reflect the highly sophisticated culture of the trading towns like Ghent or Bruges. Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Gerard David or Hans Memling are the best representatives the 15th century “Northern Renaissance.”

Contacts were frequent between artists who traveled from the “Low Countries” of Northern Europe to Italy. Unlike the Italians who painted with tempura and an egg base applied over a thin layer of wet plaster,”gesso,” Flemish painters used oil directly on panels of wood without knots, such as mahogany or oak.

The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

The “Garden of Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch is one of the highlights of the Prado — it is a display of amusing, bawdy or frightening details intended to give a didactic message to the population of his time. The Flemish landscape painter Joachim Patinir (1480-525) offered panoramic views, with details at times naturalistic, at times fantastic. Instead of using linear perspective, which Florence artists had mastered at that time, his way of showing distance was by drowning the landscape in bluish colors.

One room of the Prado is turned into a gallery of family portraits of the Spanish dynasty of the Hapsburgs. An equestrian painting of Charles V (1500-1558) at the battle of Mulhberg, by Titian, shows the most powerful sovereign in the world. His kingdom went from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Velasquez painted many of his descendants: Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV and his son, the young prince Balthazar Carlos, riding a frisky horse. His death, at age 17 from small fop was a tragedy. And there is poor Charles II, the end of the Hapsburg dynasty, a total mental and physical disaster because of repeated consanguine marriages.

“Las Meninas” (ladies in waiting), also by Velasquez, is one the most famous paintings ever. It is a complex composition, which has puzzled art historians through the centuries. At the center stands the five-year-old infanta Margareta Teresa, Philip IV’s daughter. Velasquez is looking at us and working on a huge painting, which he never painted. The infanta’s parents are not far away and we see their reflection in a mirror. There are two sources of light, which is quite unusual. In 1957, inspired by the masters of the past, Picasso tackled the deconstruction of “Las Meninas,” particularly of the dog.

Velasquez (1599-1660) was the leading painter of the Spanish “Golden Age,” during the Baroque age which lasted until 1690. As a court painter, he had an immense influence living and working in the el-Escorial palace and was not only honored as an artist but also as the curator of the Kings’ art collections.

The love for animals is strong in Spanish painting. Just two examples: “Agnus Dei”, by Zurbaran (1640) showing a lamb with its four legs garroted is probably the most heartbreaking sight in the Prado, with the animal accepting his fate. The other one is a dog by Goya. In an undefined brownish background of sand and sky, a dog is looking in panic at his master as he is being pulled down by quicksand.

It was not until 1840 that Spanish art began to be known in France. The Pyrenees constituted an insurmountable barrier separating Spain from the rest of Europe. In 1835, French King Louis Philippe sent Baron Isidore Taylor to Spain to acquire some Spanish paintings intended for the future Galerie Espagnole or Spanish Gallery at the Louvre. After his visit to Spain in 1865, Manet said, “the scales fell off my eyes.” The Spanish influence on Manet and Courbet is clear, especially their use of black.

Beside the works of the well-known artists like Miro, Dali or Juan Gris, the presence of Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945), Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923), Santiago Rossignol (1861-1931), and Ramon Casas (1866-1933) at the Reina Sofia museum attests to the importance of Spanish contemporary art.

'Guernica' by Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It hangs today in the Reine Sofia Museum in Madrid.

In the attic of the old convent of Grands Augustins, near the Seine, Picasso completed “Guernica” – probably the most important artistic statement of the 20th century against war. The Spanish civil war from 1936 to 1939 left 500,000 dead. Dora Maar, his companion, photographed each stage of the work , leaving a unique document on the creative process of the artist.

The composition is a frieze, powerful, fluid, easy to read and devoid of any narrative. The horse and the bull – the main actors of the bullfight about which he was so passionate – are treated like human characters. The horse underwent many changes from deep suffering to the defiance he shows in raising his head. The bull is aloof and protective of the population. The dead warrior lying on the ground has the profile of Marie Therese Walter, his previous companion. To balance the duo of bull and horse, Picasso created a screaming mother, head thrown back, with a tongue like a dagger, her dead child hanging limp from her arm.

Painted in May and June of 1937, “Guernica” traveled the world, stayed several years at MOMA at the request of Picasso, then returned to Spain in 1981 and hangs today in the Reina Sofia museum of Madrid, never to be moved again.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Talking Transportation: The Quiet Car Conundrum

quiet-car-newerSixteen years ago a group of regular commuters on Amtrak’s early morning train to DC had a great idea. Why not designate one car on the train as a “Quiet Car,” free from cellphone chatter and loud conversations. The railroad agreed and the experiment proved a great success.

But as early as 2006, when the same idea was suggested to Metro-North, it was rejected outright. Then serving on the Commuter Council, I persisted and finally, in 2011, the railroad agreed to a trial with one car on each rush hour train dedicated to what it called a “Quiet CALMmute.”

Almost immediately the plan ran into trouble. Not because it wasn’t wanted but because it wasn’t enforced.

There were no signs in the cars and only occasional PA announcements before departure reminding folks of the quiet, library-like environment that was expected in the car. Most of all, conductors wouldn’t enforce the new rules.  But why?

Conductors seem to have no trouble reminding passengers to keep their feet off the seats or put luggage in the overhead racks. But all that the railroad expected them to do to enforce the Quiet Car rules was to pass out bilingual “Shhh cards” to gabby violators. It seemed left to passengers to remind fellow riders what a Quiet Car was for, and confrontations resulted.

Then this spring the railroad surprised even me by announcing an expansion of the program: every weekday train, peak and off-peak, would now have two Quiet Cars!  Sounds great, but without signage or education, the battles continued.

One commuter from Fairfield recently e-mailed me with a typical tale: Riding in a Quiet Car he became annoyed when a fellow passenger was yakking on her cellphone.  He tapped her on the shoulder and told her, “We’re in a Quiet Car” and she freaked, telling him to “keep your @&%! hands off of me” and continuing her chatter by telling her caller that “some guy” just tried to tell her to get off her phone and what a fool he was to think this was some kind of quiet car.

Of course there was no conductor around (all tickets having been collected) and lacking any signage in the car to point to, the offended passenger was made to feel like some sort of jerk.

On Amtrak trains, those violating Quiet Car rules have been thrown off the train and arrested. Even Chris Christie had to move his seat on an Acela once for jabbering with his staff in the wrong car.

Nobody wants these kinds of altercations on Metro-North. But why initiate and then expand such a passenger amenity as “Quiet CALMmute” without proper education and enforcement? A few signs and friendly reminders from conductors should make passengers aware that “train time may be your own time” (as the railroad’s marketing slogan says), but it’s also shared time. And I, for one, want a quiet commute.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

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A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Thighs

I am basically a homebody. I build my own nest and I like being there. I sit on the couch, put a cushion on my lap and ask Elderlee, one of my two cats, to sit with me, although she  doesn’t need convincing; when I say I have to get up, she stretches, hopefully without her nails deep into my legs (hence the cushion).

A couple of weeks ago I spent almost eight days away. During those nights and days, I was on four different planes, or in my brother’s car (in Pittsburgh) or my own (Newbury, Massachusetts, or Portland and Kennebunkport, Maine). I got home on Easter. The following day there were meetings. I stayed up late to see the UConn women beat Texas. I am tired.

But, as Evita sang, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.” While away, I had dinner at Lidia’s in Pittsburgh, Lidia Bastianich’s first outside-of-New-York-City restaurant (the food was delicious) and had poutine at Duck Fat in Portland (Belgian-cooked french fries drenched in duck gravy and topped with fresh cheese curds and chives—not for everyone but I just love it). Also in Portland, dinner at Fore Street (an amazing restaurant), bought two different kinds of boules and baguettes at Standard Bakery and finally, the last night, at a restaurant at Outlier (maybe better than Fore Street).

When I dropped my daughter-in-law and two of my granddaughters at their home, I perused the Boston Globe. I asked my daughter-in-law if I could cut out a recipe for chicken thighs from the magazine section. When I finally drove my car into the garage at home, I took a package of chicken thighs out of the freezer. Yesterday I made the following recipe. It is simply delicious. I think it will be even better tonight.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Cinnamon, Cumin and Garlic
From Weekend Roasted Chicken by Adam Ried (Boston Globe magazine, Sunday, March 27, 2016

Serves 4 (2 thighs apiece)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced or grated garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
A couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a small bowl, mix garlic, cinnamon, cumin, parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and oil into a uniform paste (you should have about 1/2 cup). Rinse and dry chicken pieces. Rub the chicken pieces with mixture, carefully loosening the skin to work some paste over it, and then replace the skin. With a sharp paring knife, cut a 1-inch slash into the skin on each. Refrigerate (or not) for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. With the rack on the center position, set the baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces skin down on the hot baking sheet and roast until skin has begun to render and brown, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over (taking care not to rip the skin) and continue roasting until the skin is somewhat dark brown, the meat begins to pull away from the bone and the chicken registers 180 to 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Switch the oven setting to broil and broil the chicken until skin is deep browned and very crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, to a platter and rest 5 minutes. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them, if desired, and serve.


Nibbles: NV Bakery & Market

A few mornings ago, with errands to run from New London to East Lyme, I stopped at NV Bakery & Market for a quick breakfast.

It is really something else. There are crepes and breakfast items and sandwiches and more crepes (really, can there possibly be too many crepes ever?) and salads and coffee and pastries. And there are shelves and shelves of gourmet products (Italian, French, Greek and a few boxes of matzo and jars of gefilte fish). I ordered an egg and bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee while I read The Day (I had my own, but there are lots of newspapers available to read for free). The sandwich was just delicious. By the way, the ladies who own the restaurant NV across the street own this place, too. It, too, feels like you are in their kitchen.

NV Bakery & Market
40 Boston Post Road (in Benny’s parking lot)
Waterford
860-574-9038

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Op-Ed: Proposing a Memorial to Dick Smith

Like so many of our Deep Riverites, I am saddened beyond words by the sudden and truly tragic death of our dear First Selectman Dick Smith.

Few among us are not aware of how he labored continuously for years and years for the physical improvement of our town in so many ways as well as the enhancement of life for all of us who call this home.

The question now is,  what would be a meaningful and enduring memorial to remind us and those who will follow us of his great efforts?

Suggestions will come up, I’m sure.  And the more, the better.

I would like to propose one right now.  Simple.  I suggest re-naming our Plattwood Park “The First Selectman Dick Smith Memorial Park.”

After all, I for one have no idea why it was ever called Plattwood.  That has no emotional or historic pizzazz for me.  If it does for you, please let me know.  But I would find calling it the Dick Smith Park very powerful.

As we know so well, it was Dick who spear-headed the transformation of Plattwood from a weedy, don’t-bother-to-look-at-it-twice waterhole to the great and beautiful recreational complex that it is today—and with the ambitious work still going on.  A park that is the envy of many other small towns, which have become aware of it!

I further propose that a big, handsome boulder chosen with care from the quarry next door be set at the very entrance to the Dick Smith Park.  With a bronze plaque set into its face that would have both a smiling profile of Dick, yes, in genuine  bronze, plus our words of praise and pride and thanks.  He’s earned them.

Thus would his love of Deep River and his long and record-setting career of service for our town (and us) be proclaimed to all who enter the park.  He deserves no less.

One more thought: we might organize a tribute-writing contest for the plaque.  We have a lot of talent in town … 

A maximum number of abc’s (words and spaces) would be allowed for the plaque.

The especially appointed plaque committee would reserve the right to select the best submission in whole.  Or, if it chooses, just thoughts and phrases from the top three submissions, say.  With these best thoughts and phrases to be assembled into a final, terrific composite.  Of course, prizes would be awarded.

After all, those are the words that would be read by all entering our wonderful Dick Smith Park for decades and decades to come.

I suspect Dick is in a place where he’d be aware of this going on and would break out into an even bigger smile.

P.S. A very fine chairman for this committee would be Rev. Tim Haut.  A very fine member would be Jonathan Kastner.  I would ask for recommendations for another three, say.  Making sure there would be at least two women.  One of these would be our fine local professional writer and editor Christine Woodside.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of John Guy LaPlante.

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Letter from Paris: Moderate, Radical Islamists in France — a Difficult Cohabitation

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Introduction 

For years the buzz word in France has been “amalgam.” On ne doit pas faire l’amalgame entre Islam modéreé et Islamisme radical. (One must not confuse moderate Islam and radical Islamism.)  After the repeated terrorist attacks in France and Belgium and with the discovery of other jihadist enclaves, it is hard to keep making that distinction.  The voice of moderate Muslims has been barely audible lately.  Until they start speaking with a stronger voice, the cohabitation within our democratic and secular society is becoming more difficult.

Belgium

Belgium was the last victim of terrorist attacks when, on March 22, 34 people died at Zaventem airport and at Malbeek metro station (close to the European Commission offices) combined.

Why Belgium?  For the past two decades, it has been a divided country between Flemish and Walloon languages and cultures.   It remained without a central government for 18 months.  How can such country produce six parliaments and six governments? asked David Van Reybrouck, a Dutch-speaking Belgian writer in Le Monde dated March 28.  The author of the article adds with irony, “… and the icing on the cake is the creation by the government of a Commission communautaire commune” (joint Commission of communities.)

It was in Molenbeek that the four and a half month-long chase of Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in the Nov. 13 Paris attack, ended.  Molenbeek is one of  the 19 Brussels municipalities — it has a population of 93,000 with 80 percent of them Muslim, 56 percent of them unemployed and 24 mosques.  After the closing of the coal mines and the steel plants in northern France in the 1980s and 1990s, many of the workers  emigrated to Belgium.  Molenbeek is a typical agglomeration of a second generation Maghreb population – more specifically of Rifains, coming from the Rif mountains of Morocco.  It constitutes almost a self-ruled community, many of whose members are related and even siblings.  No better safe haven for people running away from the law. 

Belgium has been described as the “ventre mou” (litterally the soft belly), in other words, the weak link, of Europe. Patrick Kanner, one of the French ministers made the chilling remark, “but there are tens of Molenbeeks in France “.

France on the front line

France is, in fact, on the front line of the confrontation with radical Islamism.

The weekly Le Point‘s issue of March 24 describes the long history of France’s interaction with the Arabs. It started with the 732 AD defeat of the Saracens at Poitiers by Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne. Then came The Crusades and subsequently Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt in 1798.  The French began their conquest of Algeria in 1830 and made it a part of France.  The country gained its independence after the bloody war of  1954-1962.  France established protectorates in Tunisia in 1881 and in Morocco in 1912 until 1955.  At the present time, France has become the “gendarme” across the Sahel region, ready to deploy its forces to stop extremist groups. 

Gilles Kepel, professor at Sciences Po and an authority on Islam, has  just published “Terreur dans l’Hexagone – Genèse du Dhihad Français,” in which he stresses the deep-rooted antagonism of the North African population for the former colonial power and the existence of a specific French jihadism.  Acts of terrorism in France are accomplished by individuals with French nationality. The country holds the sad record of having the highest number of jihadists in theEuropean Union who have gone to Syria. 

Eiffel-Tower-322x252Kepel, sees a correlation between politics and the spread of Islamism in France.  He remarks that, during the 2012 elections, François Hollande benefited from 93 percent of the Muslim electorate voting for him.  Kepel believes, as most other Islam scholars do, that the problem our society is facing is cultural.  He criticizes the unpreparedness of the political elites for the ongoing debate about religions.  He deplores the fact that insufficient public funds have been allocated both to research and Middle East studies.

Mohammed Sifaoui is a brillant French journalist born in Algeria, who is quite forthright in expressing his opinions.  He advocates a relentless reprisal against the preachers of violence in the 2,000 mosques and Koranic schools of France.  Sifaoui’s opinion is that we have to abandon the attitude that only the FN (Front National party) has a right to fight back against the Islamists.  Besides, he says, we should stop treating these people as victims from discrimination.

Daesch

After the fall and occupation of Fallouja in Irak in 2014, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi became the self-appointed ruler of the Islamic State organization or Daesch. (The “ch” sound stands for “sham” meaning Levant in Arabic ) The objective of this organization is to re-create a caliphate reminiscent of the golden years of  the 661-750 AD Ommayad and 750-1258 AD Abbasid caliphates. The totalitarian organization banished the Wahhabism and any other doctrines of Islam and has broken all ties with Al-Qaeda.  Al-Baghdadi gave his founding speech at the great mosque of Mossoul, dressed in black like the Abbasids. 

Mathieu Guidère, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toulouse 2, a learned scholar in geopolitics with a PhD in the Arabic language, believes that the objective of Daesch is to build a state, anchored solidly in a territory, with the elimination of the 1916 Sykes-Picot borders.  Its aim is also to break up the cohesion of Europe.  So far, we are still only at the initial stage of “collateral terrorism,” comments Guidère. 

The riposte

Alain Bauer, professor of  applied criminology at the Conservatoire  des Arts et Metiers, former advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and Manuel Valls on security and counter-espionage, says, “The problem is that we seem to have too much information and not enough analysis.  We still do not have the ability to connect the dots.  We have a brain and two ears and four ears will not help ” He concludes, “What we need is a return to Human Intelligence.”  Bauer and Guidère agree that there should be a European Intelligence agency but several states oppose it for fear of losing part of their sovereignty.  The creation of a PNR (personal name register) still awaits a vote.

Euro 2016 – the European soccer championship – will be held in France in June. This means, on the one hand, a great deal of excitement for millions of spectators, but on the other, an equal — or even greater amount — of nervousness for the security forces.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Talking Transportation: Why There’s No Wi-Fi On Metro-North

wifi-train-600x397A few weeks ago a friend was showing me his new Chevy Volt.  Not only does the hybrid-electric car get 42 mpg, it has its own Wi-Fi hotspot.  That’s right.  The car is a Wi-Fi device, so kids in the backseat can watch YouTube.

Days later we were on a road-trip from the Maryland shore when we caught the Lewes – Cape May ferry.  Onboard the vessel they offered passengers free Wi-Fi.

Airlines have offered flyers Wi-Fi for years now. Discount bus lines like Megabus have free Wi-Fi.  Even Connecticut’s new CTfastrak commuter bus system to Hartford gives its passengers free Wi-Fi.

But there is no Wi-Fi on Metro-North.  And the railroad says none is planned, even though the new M8 railcars are ready for the needed gear.  And therein lies a story.

Offering Wi-Fi on a moving vehicle usually involves cellular technology.  That’s how the first airline Wi-Fi was offered by companies like Go-Go, though JetBlue and Southwest now rely on proprietary satellite systems, which are much faster (up to 30 mb per second.)

When Amtrak first offered Wi-Fi on its Acela trains between Washington and Boston, they immediately had bandwidth issues.  So many passengers were using their cell phones and tablets, speeds dropped to 0.6 mb per second and the complaints came pouring in.

That’s part of the reason that Metro-North is reluctant to offer Wi-Fi:  if an Acela train carrying 300 passengers can’t handle the online load, how could a 10-car train carrying a thousand commuters?  The railroad has enough complaints as it is.

Metro-North’s experience with on-board communications has left them feeling burned.  Remember years ago when the railroad installed pay-phones on the trains?  Great idea, until a year later when costs came down and everyone had their own cell phone.  Those pay cell phone booths went unused and were eventually removed.

Back in 2006 then-President of MNRR Peter Cannito said Wi-Fi would be built into the new M8 cars, both for passengers and to allow the railcars to “talk” to HQ by beaming diagnostic reports.  The railroad issued an RFP for ideas and got a number of responses, including from Cablevision, with whom they negotiated for many months.  They even initiated on-train testing of Wi-Fi gear on one railcar.

But Metro-North insisted any Wi-Fi would have to cost it nothing, that all the expense and tech risk would be borne by Cablevision or its customers.  And that’s where the negotiations deadlocked.

Today the railroad sees Wi-Fi as just a convenience.  Smart phones and cell-card configured laptops can access the internet just fine, they say, using cellular technology.  But to their credit the railroad is trying to get cell providers to fill in the coverage gaps, for example, in the tunnels and at GCT.

So don’t look for Wi-Fi anytime soon on America’s biggest and busiest commuter railroad.  It’s not seen as a necessity … except perhaps by its passengers who really have no other transportation option.

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Letter From Paris: The Immortal Chekhov Rises Again in Paris

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Chekhov will never die!

This winter four of his plays appeared on the Paris stages: two short one-act plays (“The Swan” and “The Bear”) at the Studio de la Comédie Française, “Three Sisters” at theTheatre de la Colline and “The Cherry Orchard” at the Theatre de l’Ile Saint Louis-Paul Rey. I chose the latter.

The first time I saw a play by Chekhov was at the Moscow Art Theater (MXAT) in downtown Moscow in the mid 1960s. The production and the reception by the public were electric. In those days, theater was the only possible evasion from a drab and controlled life for Soviet citizens. The audience knew by heart and relished every single line beautifully spoken by the adulated actors. Period clothes, settings and furnishing provided an authentic reconstitution of life in a run-down country estate.

What is amazing is that Anton Chekhov’s plays, written under the Tsarist regime, lasted through the Soviet era, although he depicted members of the idle bourgeoisie, about to disappear from the surface of the earth. Other playwrights were not so lucky. Some of the controversial plays – Bulgakov’s for instance – did not make it through censorship and were suddenly removed from Moscow stages.

Chekhov’s universal message explains why his plays still attract huge audiences around the world — in different languages and re-adapted by directors. His “inward-looking” realism came from a traditional line of dramatic art founded by Constantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938), one of the greatest founders of theater staging and philosophy of all times.

The_cherry_Orchard‘The Cherry Orchard,’ created at MXAT in January, 1904, was Chekhov’s last play. Six months later he died in his Yalta “white house.” Obliged to live far away from Moscow, in the warmer climate of the Crimea because of his tuberculosis, it was hard for him to give long-distance stage directions to his high-spirited wife, actress Olga Knipper.

In the play, Liubov Andreevna Ranevskaya, her daughter Ania, age 17, and adopted daughter Varia, age 30, just returned to Russia from five years spent in France. The family was crippled with debts and the creditors were forcing the sale. A retinue of servants, some of them providing a light touch of vaudeville, and penniless hangers-on, are part of the large household.

The main character is Ermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin, full of energy, ideas, and, apparently money. He is trying to convince Liubov Andreevna to sell the estate with the cherry orchard to a developer who will build small houses for vacationers. But she is not interested in money; if things do not work out, she will return to Paris and live off an inheritance. Lopakhin was a slave or “soul” owned by the Liubov’s family. This former muzhik is now rich and ambitious.

His antithesis is Petr Sergueevich Trofimov, the eternal student who lives in a world of noble ideas, philosophy and poetry. He tells Lopakhin, “Soon you will be a millionaire. Sharks are needed also.” Such archetypes exist in many countries.

The Theater of Ile St Louis is the smallest theater in Paris with only 50 seats. The full cast of 12 characters barely fitted on the tiny stage and looked like giants. The set was limited to two benches and the period clothes to the slim laced-up boots of the women. When, at the end of the play, the spectators heard the chain saw felling the cherry trees and noticed the very old servant forgotten in the locked-up house, the emotion was intense.

I went on feeling that emotion while walking along the rushing grey waters of the Seine river.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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A la Carte: Celebrate Spring with a Little Lamb Stew

Braised Lamb with Spinach - Gourmet magazine

Braised Lamb with Spinach – Gourmet magazine

Last Saturday, I took a bunch of hamburgers along with some hamburger rolls out of the freezer. It had been a nice week, and I thought I might fire up the grill and pretend it was almost summer. After all, not only were my crocuses up and gorgeous, but so were my little daffodils. I hadn’t seen my lilies of the valley, but it is my birthday flower and, I thought, they would be popping up soon.

Then Sunday happened. By the time I woke up, there had been a little snow but the temp was in the high thirties. I made a chicken soup with carrots and celery and onions, since I was going to drive to Cromwell to see a middle school show directed by Tom Sullivan. His wife, Barbara, and I have become good friends and she mentioned that Tom had a horrible respiratory upset but had been working all week to get the show on the stage. What could I do but make chicken soup for him?

I left the house at 11:30. There had been snow, odd snow, gigantic flakes, maybe hail? I made it to Cromwell, adored the play and, then drove to Norwich to watch the women’s game. No problem driving home and I watched the second game and went to sleep. The cats let me sleep until 9:30. I opened one eye. No, it couldn’t be. Snow! Not one to let a little bad weather stop me, I had to make a decision—would I drive to Connecticut College to hear Bryan Stevenson talk about his book, Just Mercy? Sure, why not? Got there okay but scared myself to death driving home. Once into the kitchen, I tossed the hamburgers and rolls back into the freezer and took out some lamb. Tomorrow I will make lamb stew instead.

Braised Lamb with Spinach
From Gourmet, March 1991

Serves 4-6

8 garlic cloves
1 ½-inch cube peeled fresh gingerroot
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
3 onions, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 and one-quarter pound fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted lightly

In a blender, purée the garlic and the gingerroot with 1/3 cup water; set aside. In a heavy kettle, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then brown the lamb, patted dry, in batches. With tongs, transfer lamb as it is browned to a bowl. To the skillet add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, heat until hot but not smoking, and fry the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until the cloves are puffed slightly. Add the onions and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic purée and cook the mixture, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and yogurt, simmer the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the lamb, salt and 1 cup water.

Bring the mixture to a boil and braise it, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the lamb is tender. The lamb mixture may be prepared up to this point 2 days in advance. Let the lamb cool, uncovered, then chill it, covered.

At serving time, reheat the lamb mixture. In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch water to a boil, add the spinach, and steam, covered, for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Drain the spinach in a colander.
Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Distribute the spinach over the stew and stir it in gently. Transfer the stew to a heated serving dish and sprinkle with the pine nuts.


Nibbles:  Coney Island Hard Root Beer

One of the perks of writing about cooking, instead of writing restaurant reviews, is that I can go to restaurant press dinners, since being anonymous isn’t necessary anymore.

Last Friday I went with friend Elise Maclay to Tale of the Whale in Stamford. The food was almost all seafood, from tuna tartare (one of my very favorite dishes) to fish tacos and an edgy bouillabaisse with at least five or six different fishes. Did I need dessert? Not really, but along came a Celebration Sundae (with at least a quart of ice cream and toppings), chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches and an adult root beer float. I decided against the first two but fell in love with the float. The next day I stopped at a local liquor store and asked if there was such a thing as adult root beer. I bought a six-pack of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. A 12-ounce bottle is 5.8 percent alcohol. I don’t drink hard liquor (or beer) but, in a tall glass with good ice cream and whipped cream, I could be converted.

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A la Carte: Ricotta Cheese Pie

2013-04-05-springform-pan-pouringcheesecake_580This was an odd Easter weekend for me. On Good Friday, I picked up my daughter-in-law Nancy and second-youngest granddaughter Casey in Newbury, Massachusetts, then drove up to Kennebunkport Inn.

It all began with an e-mail from the beautiful hotel in Maine. It is less expensive to spend a day or two there in the late fall, winter and early spring, but the advertisement said it would be even less so for March and April, with a special discount of 29 percent. Hmmm, it was time to visit my cousins from Portland (she a breeder of Corgis, he a retired AP reporter). Perhaps a Friday night dinner at Fore Street (one of the many in Portland) and a visit with cousins Adrienne and Jerry. So I called Nancy, and asked if it was time for a road trip. (Our last had been last year in Boston to see a Bette Midler concert and an overnight stay in a boutique hotel in walking distance from the concert.) She was game and said, since it was a school holiday for Casey, could she come too? What a treat I said. She is a high school sophomore and great company.

I called the Kennebunkport Inn, doubting there would be rooms available, but we got one big room with two double beds and a twin for Friday and Saturday. Not only that, I got a reservation for us at Fore Street on Friday night. By the way, Nancy and Casey are Greek; my cousins are Jewish, as am I; so we celebrate Greek Easter and Passover (which isn’t a Jewish Easter but a spring kind-of festival) later this spring.

In any case, I didn’t make Easter dinner for anyone and, hopefully, I will be invited to Greek Easter. Here is what I will make. It is a luscious dessert that everyone loves.

Ricotta Cheese Pie

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:
1 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar (no sugar if using cookie crumbs)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer cookie or vanilla wafer crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy aluminum foil.

To make the crust, in a bowl combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter (this can be done in the food processor). Press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan, saving a few for the top. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the cheesecake filling, in your food processor or electric mixer, mix ricotta, cream and sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in flour and salt; then add eggs, one at a time, processing or beating until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla extract and cinnamon and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to overmix.

Bake about 50 to 60 minutes, or until cheesecake is set, yet moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the edges of the cheesecake will have some browning). Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.


Nibbles: Perk on Main

A couple of weeks ago, I judged the 14th Annual Chocolate to the Rescue. For the past few years, the fundraiser benefits the Middlesex Family Shelter and, according to John Roberts, executive director, I have judged each year since its inception.

As always, the chocolate was delicious. I am not sure who won but the chocolate seems to get better and better every year. My favorite this year was from Perk on Main, primarily because it was warm crepes folded around warm chocolate, raspberries and blueberries. Even better, it is a café that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in two different locations: 6 Main Street in Durham and 20 Church Street in Guilford. And if that were not enough, there is Perk on Wheels. Check out www.perkonmain.com.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Letter From Paris: A Divided Europe is Too Weak to Resist Turkish Pressure

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The European Union (EU) is going through what most consider the toughest times in its history. The surge of migrants, not only from the Middle East but also from South East Asia and Africa, has provoked an untenable human crisis on the continent. It is threatening the fundamental principles on which the (EU) was built. In desperation, Europe turned to Turkey for help and became the prey of an authoritarian government whose main objective is to force its way into the EU.

More than ever Angela Merkel has become the homme fort (the strong man) of Europe. She is the only one among the 28 heads of state of the EU to have taken a clear stand on how to manage the migrant crisis – albeit without a well-thought-out plan. The general opinion here is that, as a good pastor’s daughter, she has been motivated by a sense of moral duty when she opened her arms to the migrants at the end of 2015.

German Chancellor Angela merkel shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the historic agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the historic agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

On the flip side, her methods have irked many Europeans such as her several one-on-one talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The day before the crucial March 7 meeting in Brussels, she met Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davitoglu for a six-hour long discussion, which lasted late into the night in an hotel near the Commission. The only officials present were Jean Claude Junker, president of the European Commission and Netherland Mark Rutte, president of the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Council).

The French daily Le Monde described what happened in an article titled, “The night when Angela Merkel lost Europe.” On the morning of March 7, diplomats and EU officials were stunned to discover the text of the pre-agreement. None of them had been in the loop, not even Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, who had talked to every single EU leader state seeking to create a consensual policy.

To speak in the German Chancellor’s defense, however, one should stress the pitiful lack of solidarity between the 28 EU members. From the start the Visegrad group (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic) – a remnant from the former Iron Curtain countries – closed their borders to the migrants. Other East European countries like Bulgaria and Rumania are also opposed to mandatory refugee quota.

The chancellor felt betrayed when, on Feb. 24, Austria called a meeting of the Balkan states to stop the influx of migrants. Greece, the Balkan country most affected by the migrant crisis, was not invited. Neither Brussels nor Berlin was notified. David Cameron is too embroiled with his Brexit issue to get involved.

France has its own problems — it is still recovering from the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, it does not want to help the right wing Front National by opening its borders too much and it is busy fighting radical Islam in five countries of the Sahel. The “Franco-German couple” was described by some people as “moribund.”

As regional elections were approaching, Merkel made a 180 degree turn by tightening her immigration policy. It was back to realpolitik lest public opinion forgets that she is a tough politician.

The German elections on March 13 did reflect the growing opposition to the influx of migrants. The populist parties made substantial gains in the three Landers, both in the affluent West and in the remnant of the poorer RDA : in Bad Wurtenberg the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) gained 15.1 percent and in Rhineland Palatinate 12.6 percent. In Saxe-Anhalt , AfD placed second, right behind the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) with 24.3 percent of the votes.

Daniel Cohn Bendit, former “green” euro-deputy commented, “What is important is that 55-60 percent of the German population still supports Angela Merkel’s policy regrading the migrants. Such scores would make many politicians green with envy.”

On March 18, the negotiations between the EU and Turkey toward the final agreement looked like a haggling process with a “toxic but needed partner,” to use the words of Pierre Servent, military expert. Immediately the text raised violent criticisms across the board.

The plan concocted by Davitoglu is complicated, requiring extremely challenging logistics to implement. The objectives are to stop the drownings, curtail the despicable activities of the passeurs (smugglers), legalize entry into Europe of persons entitled to asylum and send back to their countries of origin the “economic refugees.” From now on all the migrants arriving in Greece – whether “real” refugees or not – will be shipped back to Turkey. Then, for one Syrian refugee leaving Europe, one Syrian refugee will return to Europe through an humanitarian corridor.

Turkey will be the central player of the plan, which it will co-steer with the UN Frontex agency. For this job Turkey expects to receive another three billion Euros. Some commentators describe the whole process as a mass deportation. Legal experts find the plan to be a violation of human rights as written in the European constitution and in the 1949 Geneva convention on the right to asylum.

The task is herculean, commented Jean Claude Yunker. A heavy responsibility is being placed on Greece. Judges, translators, and up to 4,000 people will have to be hired to process the human flow. France and Italy worry that the migrants, in order to avoid Turkey, will look for other access routes to Europe .

Turkey demanded two sets of compensation for services rendered: simplification of visa requirements for Turkish individuals traveling to Europe and acceleration of Turkey’s acceptance into the EU. At first the European negotiators wanted these topics to be red lines not to be crossed. They had to be satisfied with the inclusion of a few caveats in the text — 72 criteria for obtaining a visa; only one chapter open for the membership discussion and not five as Turkey wanted.)

It is to be expected that Europe will drag its feet to accommodate Turkey. After 52 years, its position on Turkey still has not changed — it does not think Turkey belongs in Europe.

The migrant crisis has left Europe weaker, not very proud of itself and more divided than ever.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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A la Carte: Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

I love social media, but before I tell you why I do, here is what I do not love. I never, ever have a meal, at my house, someone else’s house or in a restaurant with my cell phone next to my plate. If I forget to turn my phone off at a movie, I turn it off as soon as the note on the screen asks. If I am in a meeting and forget to turn it off and someone calls me, I turn it off without looking to see who called. I don’t text. My friends know that. As soon as someone tells me why I should text, I listen to their reasons. No one has yet convinced me.

Here is what I love: I have met friends from high school, many decades ago, and I am thrilled we are “friends” again. I love seeing what cookbook authors, chefs and teachers are up to. I love the fact that I can order tickets, books and gift certificates for myself, my friends and my children and grandchildren. Yesterday I bought four sets of tickets for the UConn women’s basketball games at Gampel. When the brackets were set, UConn e-mailed me the tickets. I print them.

I also love that I can “meet” friends I have never met. Seven years ago, I wrote about the fact that my husband had died. Sybil Nassau had just lost her husband and we e-mailed back and forth for years. A few weeks ago, we met at the Shoreline Diner in Guilford. She reads my columns; I e-mail her when I know about gluten-free menus, recipes and new products. She herself is gluten-intolerant (though she does not have celiac disease). I am not. She is branch manager of GIG, Gluten-Intolerance Group. Her daughter writes the newsletter. She gave me a copy in which there are a dozen recipes. So many supermarkets have shelves and shelves of gluten-free products. Even the King Arthur catalog has pages and pages of gluten-free products (kingarthurflour.com). This recipe looks great.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together apples, sugar, water, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg until well combined. Set aside.

Make the oatmeal topping*: In a bowl, gently combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and butter until crumbly.

Place apple mixture in the dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are cooked through, juices are bubbling and topping is browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*You can quadruple or even more, then save the topping in little plastic and freeze for more crisps you might make.


Nibbles: Tiano Smokehouse

On a recent Sunday morning, before I had to drive to Middletown to judge chocolate at Chocolate to the Rescue, a fundraiser for Columbus House, I read a review in the New York Times. Tiano Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Middletown, got a rave from Rand Richards Cooper. As Joan Gordon and I drove to Middletown, we talked about stopping at Tiano to get some ‘cue. (Joan is the only friend I have who would, for sure, go to a restaurant right after we judge chocolate.)

What a find this place is. We took lots of food for takeout. I ordered a pulled pork dinner—half a pound of pork so perfect that I never added barbecue sauce on it, creamy mac and cheese (they also have one they called macaroni Alfredo), creamed spinach and a luscious piece of cornbread.  I figured I would eat half that night and the rest the following night. Ate it all in one sitting.

Tiano Smokehouse, 482 South Main Street, Middletown, 860-358-9828

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

 

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Talking Transportation: Is Uber Really a Bargain?

In the almost two years since Uber rolled into Connecticut, the state’s car/taxi service business has been rocked to its core.  But is Uber competing on the same level as taxis and car service companies?  Of course not, which is why it’s so successful.

I spoke with Uber’s Connecticut Manager Matt Powers and Drivers Unlimited (a Darien car & limo company) owner Randy Klein to try to get an objective comparison of the services.  (Full disclosure:  I have been a customer of both firms.)

While Uber does offer a “black car” (premium) service, my comparisons are with their more popular Uber X service … private cars driven by non-chauffeurs, 7,000 of whom have signed up as drivers in CT, according to Powers.

VEHICLES:  Car services opt for Lincoln Town Cars and SUV’s.  Uber X just requires drivers have a 4-door car, less than 10 years old with a trunk big enough to carry a wheelchair.

MAINTENANCE:  Klein owns and maintains his own fleet, inspecting all cars weekly.  Uber relies on its X drivers to do upkeep.

DRIVER SCREENING:  Klein does his own background checks on top of the DMV screening required for a CDL (commercial drivers license).  Uber says it does “rigorous” screening of drivers, including terrorist watch lists, but requires only a regular driver’s license.  Klein’s firm also does random drug testing of his drivers.

INSURANCE:  Klein has coverage of up to $1.5 million for every driver.  Uber relies on the individual driver’s personal insurance but layers a $1 million policy on top when they are driving Uber customers.

RATINGS:  Uber asks drivers and passengers to rate each other after every trip.  Klein asks passengers to rate drivers but says it’s unfair to allow drivers to rate customers. “We’re in a service business,” he says.

BOOKING:  Klein says most of his reservations are made two to three weeks in advance.  Uber doesn’t do advance bookings, though, in personal experience, I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a car.

FARES:  Though not an apples-to-apples comparison, an average car service ride from Darien to LaGuardia Airport is anywhere from $130 – $180, one-way.  Uber’s quote for an X car is about $75.

SURGE PRICING:  When demand is highest, Uber adds a surcharge to fare quotes, sometimes doubling the fare.  Klein says his rates are the same 24 x 7.

IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS:  Klein says his office can be reached anytime by phone, toll-free.  Uber’s website offers a template to file complaints online.

So, is Uber really a bargain?  Let me answer with a hotel analogy.  Sometimes I love staying at the Ritz Carlton with its plush rooms and fabulous service.  Other times, a Motel 6 or LaQuinta is fine, though there’s always the risk of a “surprise”.

I see car services the same way.  With a plush Lincoln SUV and chauffeur you get what you pay for.  But sometimes all you want is to get from home to the airport and an Uber X is just fine … and a lot cheaper!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Letter From Paris: The Trump Phenomenon – a View From Europe     

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Editor’s Note: With a pivotal day happening today in respect of the Republican Presidential Primary, we feel this latest article by our columnist from Paris is perfectly timed. Nicole Prévost Logan lives in Essex, CT, during the warmer months and winters in Paris, France. For these reasons, she is ideally placed to write a commentary on the ‘Trump Phenomenon’ through European eyes … but with American understanding. She also she has a lifetime of diplomatic service behind her and we venture to suggest that she understands the complexities of foreign diplomacy significantly better than several of the current US Presidential candidates!

Public opinion in Europe continues to follow the US 2016 elections in real time. The interest went up a notch after “Super Tuesday” — for election analysts, it is a campaign unlike any other. They describe it as a contest between moderates and radicals rather than between Democrats and Republicans. Donald Trump’s performance intrigues every one and is being closely scrutinized by both seasoned and brand new election-watchers.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Trump does not fit in with the traditional image of a GOP candidate. Commentators here label him as a “national populist” combined with a vision of the American dream, i.e., you too can become rich like me. French ambassador Bujon de l’Etang writes that Trump is not a real Republican since he advocates an interventionist government which would take such protectionist measures as taxes on imports.

Journalist Andre Bercoff, interviewed on France-Inter, described Trump’s campaign as an “Uberization” of the society — or elimination of the middle man and rejection of the Establishment and along with that, of course, Washington.

According to the French observers, Trump is a demagogue and as such, does not want to leave anyone by the side of the road. His discourse is full of contradictions and vascillates, depending on the situation.

Just a few examples … he wants to build a wall to stop mass immigration from the south but not at the expense of the Hispanic votes, and besides, he is now leaning toward selective immigration in order to attract brains.

Is he pro-life or not ? The answer is yes and no.

To win over the workers, he will help them by stopping the outsourcing of jobs. He feels the middle class has not profited from the growth of the economy stating that only 1 percent of the population did.

He does not seem to have worked out a foreign policy with any resemblance of the subtlety of diplomacy.

Thus far, his black and white remarks are rather frightening.

His tax plan is a mixture of unrealistic and sound ideas. He thinks that hedge fund managers should be taxed more and forced to repatriate the billions of dollars they have stashed away in off-shore accounts. He declared that couples earning less than $5,000 per month should not be taxed .

How long will Donald Trump be able to keep his lead in the race ? If he does, would he have a lasting power? An analyst here commented that Silvio Berlusconi (the former Italian Prime Minister) – a very comparable politician – lasted eight years in power.

Trump is the mirror of the rising populist movements in many countries: Viktor Orban in Hungary, increasing populist opposition in several German ‘Landers’, 40 percent of favorable votes for the ‘Front National’ in France, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and many others. The surge of migrants is the main cause of the closing of borders within the European Union (EU).

Professor Nicole Gnesotto, Board President of the National Defense Graduate School, “It would be a catastrophic scenario if the next presidential elections were to bring populist leaders in the US, France and Germany.”

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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A la Carte: Chicken Salad from Poached Chicken Tenders

chicken salad photo 2In early February, the members of Groton’s Board of Education met for its retreat. Since I am a new member, I was truly excited to sit with my fellow members along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. I didn’t actually realize that many of us are new members, since some are two-year members and some four-year members. Each is elected and, in many cases (including mine), the roles changed from Democrats to Republicans.

I thought there might be some partisan bickering (see Trump and all the Republican skirmishes and Clinton-Sanders disagreements), but in Groton it was non-partisan before the election and after. I liked the concept of a retreat, off the record and into a new venue, this year at the Submarine Museum. For four hours we newbies asked questions for which the superintendents and the veteran members had answers.

Best of all was the food. I agreed to make the desserts, which everybody enjoyed. (Restaurant  owners know that if the meal is mediocre, delicious desserts can save the day.) But Andrea Ackerman, former Groton teacher and principal, handled the savories. I think it is fun to make pastries and sweet stuff, but when I smell cabbages and quiches, I begin to salivate. I especially like standby dishes that include twists and turns that I never thought would work.

Andrea’s chicken salad was my favorite. For me, chicken salad (and I do love chicken salad) is always the last thing I make with the roasted chicken that goes from Sunday dinner, to a chicken and gravy sandwich, to an omelet with vegetables and chicken, and, three days later, chicken salad. For Andrea, it is the first meal, which begins with poached chicken tenders. And she says it is even better the next day.

Chicken Salad
From Andrea Ackerman, Ed.D.,  Nonaka resident and assistant chair of the Groton School Board

As with most savory dishes, this is approximately how Andrea makes it.  If you like more of one thing or less of another, taste as you go.

Yield: serves 2 (for dinner) or 4 (for lunch)

1 pound chicken tenders
Sprinkle with garlic salt, steam and let cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise (she likes Cain’s but I’m sure Hellman’s would be fine)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
1 full teaspoon celery seed

Mix:
Cubed chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼  cup chopped walnuts
Season to taste with garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper

Fold in dressing. Add more mayonnaise if it seems dry.

Again, these measurements are good guesses, and everything tastes better the next day.


Nibbles: New (to me) Restaurants

I don’t write restaurant reviews anymore. Mostly I cook, write about cooking and eat my own food. I do go out to eat, but often only to restaurants I love. But in a one-week span, I ate at two new restaurants and one I reviewed almost 25 years ago.

The nearly-three-decades-old restaurant is the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic. It is bigger, as is the menu. We shared barbecued pork sliders and chicken pesto sliders. Both were luscious.

At a new place in Norwich, These Guys, I had a superb Caesar salad, a roast vegetable grilled cheese sandwich and, instead of fries, I had a side of Brussels sprouts. All terrific.

At Smokash, in Uncasville, I had pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Two days later I ordered it again and took it to a Polish friend who was in the hospital.

Restaurants are alive and well, even north and west of the shoreline.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Letter From Paris: Cameron Obtains (Some) Concessions From Europe in Effort to Prevent ‘Brexit’

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

After 30 hours of negotiations at the European Council on Feb. 18-19, British Prime Minister David Cameron could claim some measure of victory in terms of the new concessions he obtained from the European Union (EU) to make Britain’s special status even more favorable. It is clear that he had to appear victorious in order to impress his electorate and convince Eurosceptics in his country to change their mind and vote against the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union — dubbed ‘Brexit’ — at the June 23 referendum. Cameron is obliged to hold the referendum as part of his election platform.

As he left, Cameron declared “I do not like Brussels.” A French analyst commented that was a strange way to convince his own people not to leave Europe. Although the talks lasted through the night, the process was, in fact, surprisingly rapid. There are two possible reasons for this: Cameron believed England’s economy would lose more from a ‘Brexit’ than Europe, so he had to be flexible in his demands. Furthermore, the British prime minister was fortunate to benefit from the presence of a Europe busy with more serious problems such as the migrant crisis or the surge of populism.

Since 1973 — the date of its entry into the European Union under the pro-European government of then Prime Minister Edward Heath — the United Kingdom has had one foot in Europe and one foot out: it is not part of the Eurozone, nor of the Schengen space and it did not adhere most of the fundamental principles inscribed in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. For a long time, it benefited from a special status within the EU.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

The demands Cameron just presented to the European Council were therefore intended to reinforce that different treatment regarding social benefits for migrant workers, independence of ‘The City’ (the financial center of London) from European financial regulations, refusal of a “Supra State” infringing upon British sovereignty, and the right to refuse further integration of the EU.

The debate over a possible ‘Brexit’ is asymetric. For England, Europe is basically a profitable market for more than 40 percent of its exports. For the core and early members of the EU – Germany, France, Benelux, Italy – the arduous construction of Europe over decades since the 1950 European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) is an ideal and has long-term objectives.

For Europe, to part with England would have dangerous consequences by creating precedents regarding the other 27 EU members’ requests. Cameron’s suggestion to use “red cards” to give the right to national parliaments to oppose the decisions made in Brussels if they could gather 54 percent of the votes was turned down, lest it lead toward the unraveling of the European structure.

The reactions and the final comments of the main players at the negotiations were mixed.Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, called the text of the agreement “honest.”Donald Tusk,Head of the European Council, approved “a done deal.” Germany’s President Angela Merkel was putting all her energy to block a Brexit, overlooking the big English deficit (larger than that of France) and departing from the harsh words she had for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the height of the Greek debt crisis.

French President François Hollande acted as a mediator during the proceedings and also fought against the Brexit. Cameron was taken aback by Hollande’s determination to set as a red line a right of veto by Britain over the decisions taken by the Eurozone. England has only a “droit de regard” (a right to look), in the same way as the other 19 non-Eurozone members.

Cameron does not want “The City” to submit itself to European regulations and lose its beneficial tax position. The “single bookrule” of the Central European Bank (ECB) should apply to Britain without making any exception, stressed Hollande. However, England is obtaining a “discount” on the funds it paid the ECB to help with the Eurozone crisis. A letter, co-signed by the 200 largest British companies, warned Cameron against ‘Brexit.’ When the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced he was a partisan of “Brexit,” the English pound lost 2.4 percent against the US dollar – its lowest level since 2009.

For 20 years, from 1993 to 2013, the foreign-born population in Britain has more than doubled from 3.8 to 8.3 million.In the London area, 39 percent of the population is of foreign origin. A few thousand workers from Eastern Europe were expected but, in fact, 850,000 Poles arrived.This explains why Britain is protecting itself from the recent waves of immigration .

By a bilateral agreement signed at Le Touquet in 2003, England and France placed the border at the Gare du Nord railroad station in Paris. This is where all the border controls take place before boarding the Eurostar train to London. But the Le Touquet agreement did not foresee the 2015 and 2016 arrival of close to 6,000 migrants on the French side of the English Channel (called La Manche by the French) near Calais. What if ‘Brexit’ became a reality? Would the border move to Dover on the English coast? That is perhaps a strong argument against ‘Brexit’!

A frequently acrimonious attitude between England and Europe does not reflect the deep ties they share. Many British people own houses or come for the weekend to le Touquet. Go to a town market in a Perigord village and one is surrounded by people speaking English. For the two million British people living on the continent, ‘Brexit’ is a very real threat.

Nicole LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Talking Transportation: Cross Country by Amtrak

An Amtrak dining car, from the Amtrak blog

An Amtrak dining car, from the Amtrak blog

A recent business trip took me to Dallas on a crowded, turbulent 3 ½ hour flight from LaGuardia. But the return trip was a real treat:  two days and nights on Amtrak, for free.

Riding a lot of Acela trains in the Northeast Corridor, I’ve built up a ton of Amtrak Guest Rewards points, augmented by their co-branded credit card. So when I checked my calendar and the Amtrak website, I saw an opportunity to enjoy a leisurely ride home in a full bedroom, meals included, gratis.

The long distance trains I rode from Dallas to Chicago (The Texas Eagle) and Chicago to Washington, D.C. (The Capitol Ltd) were all “Superliners”, i.e., double-deck cars with a variety of accommodations, including coaches and sleeping cars.

Each train also had a diner and an observation car, though the sightseeing through Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois wasn’t exactly memorable. But the second leg of the trip through the hills and river valleys of Pennsylvania and Maryland was gorgeous. “Fly over” country sure looks different from an elevation of about 20 feet.

My bedroom was equipped with a big couch that folded down into an almost queen-sized bed, surprisingly comfortable for sleeping. The private commode doubled as a shower.

Firing up my radio scanner, pre-set to the railroads’ frequencies, I followed the action as the conductor and engineer received instructions from a dispatcher hundreds of miles away.

The food was good, all cooked to order, and included in my first class fare. Dining was communal, one of the fun parts of train travel:  getting to meet real folks from across the U.S., chatting about their travels, their work – everything except politics.

In Chicago and Washington D.C., where I had time between train connections, I enjoyed Amtrak’s “Metropolitan Lounge” for first class passengers, complete with free Wifi, snacks and priority boarding. I also had time to explore those cities’ beautifully restored train stations jammed with commuters, Amtrak passengers, shops and restaurants.

To their credit, Amtrak does a great job with their money-losing long distance trains. The service is truly First Class, the ride smooth and, for the most part, on time (thanks to a heavily padded timetable).  We had only two small delays… one caused by another Amtrak train colliding with a truck at a grade crossing (no injuries), the other by a boulder on the tracks that needed to be removed.

Because demand is high and the supply of sleepers is low, fares for long distance Amtrak trains are pricey and booked many weeks in advance. Roundtrip airfare from New York to Dallas is as low as $230.  But one-way on Amtrak is $299 in coach and $700+ in a roomette.  Of course with Amtrak it’s like getting two nights of hotel plus meals, but to me it’s well worth it.

So next time you’re planning a long distance trip, turn it into a journey. Take the train!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

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Letter From Paris: To Primary or not to Primary, That is the Question … for the French

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

It is an interesting time when the US has started the Primary process and the French Socialists are debating whether to hold Primaries before the 2017 presidential elections.

The French public is following with great interest the twists and turns of the American campaign and was fascinated with the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.  It is surprisingly well informed (mentioning for instance the exact number of delegates each primary will bring to the national conventions).  For a non-American, such a campaign is a real spectacle.

What is appealing to Europeans is the town hall format with a grass roots approach — the open debates when the candidates are bombarded with questions on a wide spectrum of topics.  Besides, the European public likes a democratic process allowing candidates to be chosen by the people and not imposed from the top.

If primaries are systematic in the US, it is not the case in France.  The primary system is already in place for the right wing party Les Republicains or LR, and also for the center, (UDI and Modem).  But it is not with the left.

Thierry Pech, general director of the Think-Tank Terra Nova.

Thierry Pech, general director of the Think-Tank ‘Terra Nova.’

At this time there is an ongoing debate as to whether to make primaries the norm in left- wing politics. This debate reflects the division within the Socialist Party (PS).  Thierry Pech, general director of Terra Nova, a think tank, has been most vocal since 2011 in advocating the adoption of a primary by the left.

The PS is divided since the “Frondeurs”  (rebellious ones) have  become a splinter party.  Furthermore part of Europe-Ecologie les Verts or EELV (the Greens) have deserted the PS.  The fracture within the left appeared quite blatantly during the Feb. 10 vote at the Assemblée Nationale on the inclusion in the Constitution of the dechéance de la nationalité  (the loss of  nationality) for terrorism acts.  Half the Socialist deputies voted against their own government’s proposal.

Recently, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, caused quite a stir when she slammed the door and resigned from the cabinet over her disagreement on that very topic.  Within 24 hours, she was giving a lecture at NYU!

On Jan. 11, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, ex-green European deputy (hero of the May 1968 uprising) and Thomas Piketty, 44 (nominated as the best young economist of France in 2002), headed a group of politicians and intellectuals who  published a manifesto in the daily Liberation.   The manifest called for a primary in order to reanimate a political debate of ideas.

Jean-Louis Bourlanges

Essayist and science professor Jean-Louis Bourlanges

“The quarrel about having a primary …” said Jean Louis Bourlanges, professor at Sciences Po and essayist, ” … reminds me of what Churchill said: democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”  Bourlanges continues, “The Socialist militants are less and less representative.  The proposition is like poker-liar: one pretends to have ideas, then one incarnates those ideas within a person.”

Many Socialists are opposed to the prospect of a president involved in months of campaigning while he should be concentrating his attention on governing the country and jumping into the fray as late as possible.  For the time being, François Hollande is waiting and will not declare his candidacy until he sees a reversal of the unemployment curve.

On Feb. 11, the Elysée announced a government reshuffle. The objective was to remedy some of the internal division of the PS by bringing three ecologists into the cabinet and widening its base. The parity – 19 men, 19 women – is maintained.  Jean Marc Ayrault-  prime minister until two years ago – returns, but this time as minister of foreign affairs. Except for the positive asset of having a German-speaking and pro-European new prime minister, the changes in the composition of the executive were met with disappointment and criticism across the board.

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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A la Carte: Pork Roast with Maple and Rum Glaze

Maple-Glazed-Pork-Roast

Maple Glazed Pork Roast, Yankee magazine

Just before I went to bed on a Sunday or two ago, I watched Lady Edith call Lady Mary a “bitch” more than once. (That’s “Downton Abbey,” for those of you not hooked on this Masterpiece Theatre show, which will end maybe by the time you read this. Sob.)

My reading matter was “Five Days at Memorial,” a nonfiction book about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. But before I began the book, I decided to read my new issue of Yankee magazine.

I have been subscribing to Yankee for years and the food editor is Amy Traverso. The recipes she chooses are always good. In the new issue, there is a story about maple syrup season. I loved a feature about two sugar shack competing owners in Vermont and a “flatlander” who decided to move to Vermont just over 10 years ago. (“Flatlanders,” according to Vermonters, are those who haven’t lived for at least a couple of generations in their gorgeous state.)

Dori Ross convinced the two owners to allow her to market their maple products. By the way, Ross, who got this article into Yankee, is a marketing guru because the owners are making a lot more money now.

There were recipes, of course, and reading them had me salivating. I don’t make pancakes or waffles at home, but I am crazy about maple anything. I was planning to make dinner for my neighbors, so when I saw a recipe for a pork roast using maple syrup, I was hooked. I rarely give you recipes I have not tried myself, but, just by reading the ingredients, I know it will be absolutely delicious.

Soon, I plan to make a spinach, feta and grape salad with maple-soy vinaigrette and maple affogato, an ice cream treat, also from that article.

Maple-and-Rum-Glazed Pork Roast
From Yankee magazine, March/April 2016

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 3-pound boneless pork-loin roast, tied at intervals with kitchen twine (perhaps the butcher at the supermarket will do that for you)
2 teaspoons plus 11/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set a rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle pork all over with 2 teaspoons salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Now make the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together syrup, mustard, cider vinegar, rum, cinnamon, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt until blended.

Place the pork, fat side down, in a 9×13-inch roasting pan (Pyrex would be good) and pour the glaze over the meat. Transfer to the oven and cook 30 minutes, basting halfway through.

Remove meat from oven, turn it fat side up, baste and return to the oven. Cook, basting every 15 minutes until the meat reaches 150 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove meat from the oven and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve with additional glaze on the side.


Nibbles: Chicken Fried Chicken

Generally, I avoid medium-sized, medium-inexpensive franchising restaurants, the ones I used to call fern bars. There are a few that are standouts for certain menu items: the Cobb salad at Chili’s and risotto with chicken and butternut squash served with a Caesar salad at Brio. But generally, I would rather get a burger and fries at Five Guys or choose the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.

But now I can add the chicken fried chicken at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub. In the group of $9.99 dinners is the chicken fried chicken, a pounded-thin chicken breast, lightly battered and fried, a lovely mound of mashed potatoes and, for a vegetable, sweet corn. Best of all, like its sister, chicken-fried steak, it is topped with white, somewhat peppered country gravy. No, it is not on my healthy, low-calorie diet, but sometimes one must splurge. This is a nice splurge.

Around the Valley Shore area, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub is at 117 Long Hill Road in Groton. A few Other Connecticut restaurants are in Cromwell and Glastonbury and Norwich.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Wild Places’ by Robert Macfarlane

The_Wild_Places_by_Robert_MacFarlaneLast year, at our son’s suggestion, I read and reviewed with enthusiasm Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways (2012), his recounting of extensive walks in Great Britain, Spain, Palestine, and Tibet (see LymeLine.com review of Oct. 12, 2014) That led me to his Landmarks(2015), and now to an earlier work, The Wild Places.

What begins as a eulogy for our disappearing wilderness becomes an elegy, even a celebration of remoteness, privacy and “the wild.” But the reply of the wild, wherever he finds it, at the remote corners of the British Isles or in his own Cambridge backyard, is “reports of my demise are premature!”

Macfarlane, a don at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, mixes remarkable research, reading and language, to explore both geographic and intellectual wildness. On his perambulations, he is always picking up small rocks, leaves, stems, feeling them, admiring them, and saving them for his library. He links every trek with apt, far-ranging quotations from a global entourage of writers. And his words, what words …

Consider:

  • “ideas like waves have fetches.”
  • The sky a “slurless blue”
  • The “grain of the mind”
  • “a row of hawthorns quaffed eastwards by the onshore winds”
  • the “krekking of a raven”
  • “small waders – knots, plovers, turnstones – form their palping jellyfish-like shoals”
  • “a gang of rooks chakked over the corn stubble”
  • “I had a heptic memory, too.”
  • A rock that was “knapped out.”

Do you recognize any of the places he visited: Ynys Enlli (Scotland), Coruisk (Isle of Skye), Rannoch Moor (near Glencoe), Black Wood (east of Rannoch Moor), Cape Wrath (Scotland north coast), the Holloways (Dorset), Orford Ness (Suffolk), and Burren (north of County Clare, Ireland)? Macfarlane comes to acknowledge that wildness is often found close to home. How many of us know Hog Pond (the old name), Cedar Pond, Brown Hill, Joshua Rocks, Whalebone Creek, Nickerson Hill, Moulson’s Pond, Oliver’s Hole or Rat Island?

Wildness, to this professor, is “a quality to be vanquished and to be cherished.” It has “implications of disorder and irregularity” but it is also “an expression of independence from human direction . . . containing an energy both exemplary and exquisite.” Wild places remind us “of the narrow limits of human perception, of the provisionality of (our) assumptions about the world.” Our response: “a brief blazing perception of the world’s disinterest” in what we humans have created — they give us “this sense of the human presence as being something temporary.”

Fellow wanderers appear. Macfarlane asks a “Helen” to join a walk seeking birds: falcons, tiercels, ospreys, goshawks, and peregrines. None other than Helen Macdonald, also a professor at Cambridge, whose H Is For Hawk I enjoyed earlier this year.

The Wild Places reminded me of my own traipsing along the public footpaths of West Sussex and the South Downs, in the fall of 1978, and along the wanderwegs of St. Gallen and the Appenzell in Switzerland in the 1980s and 1990s. Plus the trails of Nehantic State Forest in the 1990s …

Macfarlane suggests wildness is an attribute to be carefully enjoyed, with both sight and sound: “rooks haggled in the air above the trees … the noise of the wood in the wind; a soft marine road. It was the immense compound noise of friction – of leaf fretting on leaf, and branch rubbing on branch.”

His admonitions: listen and look. Wildness may be close at hand.

Editor’s Note: The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane was published by Penguin, New York, 2007.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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Our ‘Movie Man’ Correctly Predicts DiCaprio to Win Academy Award for ‘Revenant’

therevenant10For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, give Leonardo DiCaprio his long-overdue Academy Award!

This was all I was thinking as I sat through Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film, The Revenant. Apart from the infinite number of beautiful shots depicting the American West through virtually all climates, my attention was fixed on the memorable performance of its lead, our boy Leo. This is not the Leo from post-Titanic Leo-mania, whom my cousins fell in love with and helped contribute to James Cameron’s romantic drama’s reigning status as the highest grossing film of all time until 2010.

This is a gritty and horrific depiction of a man who survives a brutal bear attack and must endure the cold of winter in order to trek across the wilderness in order to fulfill a quest for revenge on John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who decided to leave him for dead.

This is a memorable performance on DiCaprio’s part. And while its acclaim may not be based in eloquent command of speech, as legendary Shakespearean actors like Olivier, McKellen, Gielgud, or the chilling sophistication of Anthony Hopkins as the cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, DiCaprio’s run as Hugh Glass will forever be etched into our minds due to his conveyance of pain. Foaming at the mouth, shouting through his teeth and unable to make intelligible sounds, lighting gunpowder in an open wound on his neck in order to clot the bleeding, this man, we must believe, truly did survive a bear attack. There is no question.

In fact, he does not speak much throughout the movie as he journeys back home. On top of (spoiler alert) pulling a move in which he imitates Han Solo providing a seriously injured Luke Skywalker shelter in a dead tauntaun in The Empire Strikes Back … give him the Oscar right now!

Another performance that must be recognized is that of Englishman Tom Hardy, who takes on a Southern accent and ultimately gives it a creepy delivery, reminding us of the yokels seen in Deliverance or Errol Childress in the first season of True Detective. Hardy has also lent his unique voice to another character best remembered for his speech,  the villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. It is as if the lack of speech on DiCaprio’s part is made up for by Hardy’s yokel delivery.

My complaint about this film is the depiction of Glass’ journey back to his home fort is a bit dragged out at times, and could have been cut shorter.

Award season is approaching us, and DiCaprio has already won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and he has received his fifth acting-based Academy Award nomination, having already lost to Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, and Matthew McConaughey. And we have all seen the internet memes poking fun at his losses, such as placing his head on Mr. Turner in a memorable scene from The Fairly Odd Parents, and losing to Jennifer Lawrence despite being the only listed candidate for an award. Another meme came forward that was not connected to his snubs, but depicted his audience with Pope Francis, in which the Pontiff tells him that he was rooting for the bear earlier in the movie.

Iñárritu may also have a great chance to win his second consecutive Best Director Oscar, having last year won for Birdman. Nobody can argue with his ability to depict the American pioneer life, as well as masterfully paint the picture of Glass’stherevenant10 revenge. But even if Iñárritu wins again, his victory will definitely be overshadowed by the anticipation of Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the finest living actors of our generation.

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

 

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Legal News You Can Use: Is My Case a Personal Injury or Worker’s Compensation Claim?

WorkersCompAs an attorney who practices both Worker’s Compensation and Personal Injury Law, I find that many people are confused as to if and where these systems overlap. Although there are many similarities between these two areas of law, there are a number of significant differences that make the representation of clients in either scenario unique.

Personal injury claims fall under the broad area of law called torts, and arise out of what is known as the “common law.” The “common law” is derived from the English legal system and is essentially a set of laws and rules that have developed over hundreds of years of court and appellate decisions.

It is a body of law that is constantly changing as courts review prior decisions and either affirm, or modify the decisions that came before. Although there are certain statutes (written laws passed by the State and Federal Legislatures) that govern personal injury actions, by and large most personal injury actions are based on common law decisions.

Specific to personal injury actions, it is the law of the land that all individuals or entities (like businesses) owe a duty to all members of society to act in a way that is reasonable and does not intrude on anyone else’s safety. If a person or entity breaches that duty and someone gets injured, that someone (who is now a potential plaintiff) has a cause of actions against the breaching party (now a potential defendant). In these claims the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is at fault. If they win, they are entitled to recover money for both economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and non-economic damages (including pain and suffering).

In Connecticut these claims can be brought in court if the parties cannot agree to a settlement. There the claims can either be tried before a judge or a jury of six. In the alternative, if the parties agree, the claims can be privately mediated outside the court system. If the plaintiff prevails in his or her claim, most often the damages are awarded all in one shot. No matter what though, eventually every case comes to an end by way of settlement or trial and verdict and very rarely will a plaintiff receive any type of compensation until the case is over.

Although a form of lawsuit, Worker’s Compensation is the exclusive remedy for injuries that occur on the job. Claims are brought before the Worker’s Compensation Commissioner and an injured worker cannot sue their employer at common law. Why? Because around the turn of 20th Century, with industrial production in America in full bloom, workers injured on the job had the right to sue their employers for injuries on the job. As the advent of the contingency fee allowed people who could never afford it before, access to the courts, and employers pressured the legal system to come up with theories to limit recovery, something had to give.

It was actually employers (who wanted to be able to cap their potential exposure in the event they were sued) who pushed for Worker’s Compensation laws. Under virtually every Worker’s Compensation scheme injured workers are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. However, a big difference between Worker’s Comp and personal injury is that Comp is a “no-fault” system. An injured worker need not prove that his/her employer was at fault for his/her injuries. He/she need only prove that they were injured while in the scope and course of their employment. How it happened is relatively unimportant.

If the injured worker can establish that, then they are entitled to benefits. But unlike personal injury, what the injured worker is entitled to is entirely dictated by statute rather than the common law. In addition, because it is “no-fault,” whatever they are entitled to, they receive as soon as it becomes due. The trade-off is that there are built in caps on these statutory benefits.

For example, there is a maximum weekly compensation rate you can receive regardless of how much money you make, and irrespective of how badly you are hurt. Likewise, there are statutory rules governing exactly how much pain and suffering you can receive based on a scheme too complex to explain in this brief article. However, unlike a personal injury suit, a Worker’s Compensation case never has to come to an end. Although Comp cases are often permanently settled, neither side is obligated to do so and the claim could remain open until the death of the claimant.

Regardless of which system you are looking at, as someone who has practiced in both areas for almost 25 years, they represent a good faith attempt to make whole those individuals who unfortunately need to avail themselves of these laws. Although far from perfect, they are part of the fairest and most accessible legal system on the planet.

About the author: Attorney Robert B. Keville is a Director at Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. If you have questions about these topics or other injury matters, he can be reached via email at rkeville@sswbgg.com or by phone at (860) 442-4416.

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Letter From Paris: Aleppo — an Orientalist’s Nostalgia

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Agatha Christie stayed there.  So did T.E. Lawrence, King Faysal from Iraq and General de Gaulle: at the famous Hotel Baron in downtown Aleppo, Syria.  At that time, Aleppo was an exotic and cosmopolitan city where Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian cultures coexisted.

A photo of the Citadel at Aleppo taken by Nicole Logan in 1957.

A photo of the Citadel at Aleppo taken by Nicole Logan in 1957.

The medieval citadel, with the most impenetrable “glacis” ever built in history, dominated the town.  Aleppo was a bustling place, which I was able to witness first-hand during a drive from Ankara to Beirut in 1957.  Vienna was just a comfortable train ride away on the Orient Express as early as 1913.

But all this was before the Syrian civil war.

Another photo of the medieval Citadel, which is now in ruins after repeated bombings, from the author's 1957 trip.

Another photo of the medieval Citadel — now partly in ruins after repeated bombings — from the author’s 1957 trip.

Aleppo, like many other historical Syrian cities, is being crushed by daily bombings.  The devastation is concentrated on this region with the intent of cutting off the road to the north toward Turkey.  Today the Bab el Faraj – one of the main squares – is in ruins; the 11th century minaret of the Omayyad mosque lies on the ground among fallen stones; in July 2015, a bomb placed in a tunnel destroyed part of the citadel.  The second largest metropolis of Syria is now a pile of rubble.

In a few magical pages, Mathias Enard, winner of the 2016 French Prix Goncourt for his novel entitled “Boussole” (compass), brings back to life the colorful Aleppo of a bygone era.  His hero, Franz Ritter,  is a Viennese musicologist fascinated by the Orient.  He belongs to the group of  “Orientalists” –  archaeologists, linguists, historians, architects, diplomats, spies – writes Enard, “found side by side at Hotel Baron dabbling in the pleasure of  Arab grammar and rhetoric.”

Enard’s rambling style, oozing with culture, takes the reader from Austria – the outpost of the West on the edge of the Ottoman empire – to the Middle East.  Besieged by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1529, Vienna was threatened for the last time by the Ottoman Empire in 1683 in its final effort to flood the Danube valley.

Refusing to draw bitterness from the century-long tug-of-war with the Turks, Franz the hero of “Boussole” believes in cross-pollination between the Western and the Oriental worlds.  As a musicologist he is able to detect in the works of Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg or Debussy, the influence of Arabic music’s harmony with its microtones and absence of tonal structure.

"The Moroccans" by Henri Matisse.

“The Moroccans” by Henri Matisse.

There has long been a tradition of literary and artistic attraction by the West toward the Orient.  But it is Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaign to Egypt (1798-1801), which opened the floodgates  and made the 19th century West smitten with the Orient.

John Singer Sargent's "Smoke of Ambergris",

John Singer Sargent’s “Smoke of Ambergris.”

And so were French poets like Chateaubriand or Arthur Rimbaud.  Painters found inspiration in the Arabic world of North Africa or the Levant.  John Singer Sargent’s 1880 “Smoke of Ambergris” – the emblematic jewel of the Clark museum in Williamstown, the 1909 Vassilly Kandinsky’s “Improvisation 3” and Matisse’s “The Moroccans,” are but a few examples of the East and West symbiosis.

The “Orientalists” could be found around some of cultural centers like the French, German, English or American Institutes in Syria, Lebanon, Beirut or Baghdad.  They were a privileged group, somewhat disconnected from the real world.  With some sarcasm but much honesty, the author acknowledges that the “Orientalists” took advantage of the comfort provided by the law and order of the police state of Hafez el Assad, father of Bachar.  The “Orientalists” lived their dream, Enard writes, “under the amused look of the Syrians.”

At the present time Aleppo is at the epicenter of an imbroglio of violence and destruction and caught in the middle, tragically, are the refugees.

Why do we not take a brief pause and return to a more peaceful time when wars and religious intolerance were not destroying societies?

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter.  She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries.  She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe.  Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents.  Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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A la Carte: Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Terrific Winter Comfort Food

Curried vegetarian shepherd's pie

Curried vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I bought a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes, planning to make scalloped potatoes for Super Bowl Sunday. Then I didn’t. I looked at the amount of food I made, which included pink beans (because I love pink beans), kidney beans and black beans for chili; lots of tortilla chips for guacamole; cheeseburger pie; and Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes; plus a pie for dessert. We didn’t need any more starch.

But I still have all those potatoes and I want to make mashed potato bread, so I looked for a recipe I could use up at least some of it. In the new Food Network magazine, I spied recipes for Shepherd’s Pie. One called for just veggies. I made it. It is terrific.

As with winter comfort food, I would add more carrots, maybe more mushrooms, maybe more peas. I find turnips a bit sweet (although I’m not sure many other people find that to be true). I like curry so I might add more. I might use some winter squash …

Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
From Food Network magazine, March 2016

Yield: serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 carrots, chopped
1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced one-inch thick, rinsed well
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup frozen peas
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a separate large saucepan with 6 cups water; add bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, rutabaga, turnip and leeks; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid, then drain the vegetables. Discard bay leaves and thyme. Pat vegetables dry; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms; cook until they release their liquid, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium; cook until liquid is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour, coriander and nutmeg; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved vegetable liquid and ¾ cup half-and-half. Bring to a simmer; cook until thickened, 3 minutes. Stir in the carrots mixture, peas and lemon zest and juice. Return to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and stir in the parsley.

Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly Return to the pot and add the curry powder and the remaining 4 tablespoons  butter and ¾ cup half-and-half. Season with three-quarters salt and mash well.

Spread mushroom mixture in a 3-quart baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top; spread with back of a spoon. Bake until bubbling around the edges and the topping browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Let rest before serving.


Nibbles:  Pat LaFrieda Hamburgers

I believe very strongly that when a restaurant specializes in a certain kind of food, that is what you should order.  There are two restaurants, one in Guilford (Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave at 346 Boston Post Road) and one in Mystic (Go Fish at Old Mystick Village), where I order a hamburger because they serve Pat LaFrieda hamburgers.

Pat LaFrieda and Son Meat Purveyors has been in business in New York City for over 90 years. I am sure all their meat is amazing, but the burgers are beyond incredible. I learned about the company when Pat Jr. was on one of Bobby Flay’s Food Network shows. I had one of his burgers at the Shoreline Diner about 10 years ago. And, while I often have fish at Go Fish and used to eat vegetarian at Shoreline Diner, I just love those burgers.  I order mine medium rare. Just thinking about them makes so hungry.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. 

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Talking Transportation: The Secrets of Riding Metro-North

logoEach week, dozens of people ride Metro-North for the first time.  This week’s column is to let both new and veteran commuters in on the secrets of a successful rail commute.

PARKING:
You can’t take the train if you can’t get to the station, so invest in your commuting future by getting your name on your town’s (and neighboring towns’) waiting lists for annual parking permits. In four or five years, when your name rises to the top of the list, you’ll thank yourself. Meantime, opt for legal day-parking, find a friend to ride to the station with or try biking.  There are free bike racks at most stations.

PLATFORM POSITIONING:
There’s a science to deciding where on the platform to wait for your train. Many commuters position themselves at the front or rear of the train for a quick get-away when they arrive in Grand Central. Contrarian that I am, I tend toward the center of the train because that’s where there’s a better chance of getting a seat.

FINDING A SEAT:
Believe me, your commute will be a lot better seated than standing.  Seats are in short supply, so here’s the strategy.  As your train pulls in, scan the cars that pass you and see how the passenger load looks. As the doors open, move quickly inside, eye-ball your target seat and get there fast. Put your carry-ons in the overhead rack and sit down.  If you hesitate, you’re toast and will be a standee.
On trains leaving Grand Central, you may be able to get onboard up to 20 minutes before departure. Take a window or aisle seat on the three seat side. The middle seat next to you will be the last to be filled.

STANDEE STRATEGY:
If you didn’t get a seat on boarding, don’t give up. A few people on most trains get off in Stamford, so look for them and position yourself to get their seat before it gets cold. Here’s the secret: intermediate passengers have seat checks with a tear down the middle or a torn corner.  Look for them and just before Stamford, position yourself near their row and, bingo, you’ve got a seat!

TICKETS:
Do not make the mistake of boarding a train without a ticket, or you’ll get hit with up to $6.50 penalty for buying a ticket on the train with cash.  But if you’re thrifty, don’t buy a ticket from a ticket window or ticket machine.  No, the cheapest tickets are only available online at www.mta.info. Go for the ten-trip tickets for an additional discount.

ON-BOARD ETIQUETTE:
Train time is not “your own time,” but shared time. So be considerate of your fellow commuters.  Don’t hog empty seats, use the overhead racks. Keep your feet off the seats. If you must use your cellphone, go to the vestibule.  Be like the Boy Scouts:  anything you carry onto the train (including newspapers, coffee cups, etc.) carry off the train and dispose of properly.

If you’ve got your own “secrets” for a successful commute, send them along and I’ll include them in upcoming columns.  Just e-mail me at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Letter from Paris: Europe and the Migrant Crisis

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

During the month of January 2016, 55,000 migrants have crossed the Aegean Sea, or 21 times the number that made the same journey in January 2015. In 2015, a total of 856,000 arrived in Europe, 90 percent of them coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, there is an urgency in the face of this inexorable phenomenon, which is bound not only to continue but also to increase. It is expected that with the spring’s milder weather, there will be a surge of four times that number. The net result — Europe has a window of six to eight weeks to manage the crisis.

Everybody agrees on what should be done to stop the flow of refugees: end the war in Syria; defeat ISIS; provide financial help to the countries that have taken in the most refugees, i.e., Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey; police the Mediterranean by destroying the derelict boats ferrying the migrants and put a stop to the profitable business of the smugglers. But there has been an absence of a leadership in carrying out a common plan of action.

At the outset of the crisis Angela Merkel was the only one to offer a clear strategy. For her, Turkey was the key country to work with since three quarters of the migrants pass through its territory. She even made the trip to meet President Erdogan in Antalya. She supported the European Commission’s decision to pay Turkey three billion dollars for keeping 2.2 million refugees. The Turks demanded that amount every year, Europe settled for a bi-annual payment. Driving a hard bargain, the Turks demanded that Europe wave its visa requirements for Turkish nationals traveling to Europe. Ankara even asked for the resumption of the process of adhesion into Europe – a demand the European Union is refusing unanimously today as it has for 52 years..

Last September, Merkel announced she would welcome 800,000 refugees in Germany but she had not predicted the ensuing surge and her policy has backfired. She has become increasingly isolated as those countries, at first favorable to her policies, started closing their borders, practicing more restrictive policies toward the migrants, and expelling the ones not qualifying for the status of “refugees.”

After the alleged mass rapes of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, German public opinion has become increasingly hostile to the presence of hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men not used to mixing with women in public places. This event was reminiscent of the plight of many German women at the end of the Nazi period. “The collective memory of outrage has overcome the compassion for the migrants,” declared Michaela Wieger, the French correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on a radio talk show Jan. 30.

ARTE, the Franco-German television channel gave an overview of the migrant’s situation on Feb. 2. The three-hour- long documentary takes the viewer from Calais to Montenegro to Spain.

The situation in Calais in northern France is a festering problem. The number of migrants, who live in abysmal conditions, has grown from 2,000 a year ago to 6,000. Their lifeline is provided by humanitarian aid. The mood is explosive and turning ugly. The migrants are endangering the safety of the Euro-tunnel, which has been turned into a fortress.

The picture so far is positive in Germany, which finds in the migrants a much needed source of labor. The town of Passau, Bavaria, which is situated on the Danube, is the hub of communications. This is where the trains full of migrants converge. In an efficient manner, the new arrivals are greeted, trained and encouraged to learn German. In Leipzig, workers are building wooden homes that can house 60 people. The houses come in a kit and can be assembled in one day. A German firm has outsourced the construction of containers – turned into living quarters – to a Polish factory. The units cannot be built fast enough to meet the demand. However, all the people interviewed in the ARTE program say that they have already reached their saturation point and will be unable to absorb more migrants

There is consensus today that the priority for Europe is to protect its external borders. Greece is described as the number one “hotspot” whose job is to screen and process the migrants. This task is colossal and it is understandable that Greece cannot cope. Being reluctant to impose its own sovereignty, Brussels has decided to give the country three months to improve its work. If it does not, a large contingent of European Frontex officials and additional reserves will be sent as substitutes.

In addition, the EU may decide to deactivate Article 26 of the Schengen treaty. This will mean the suspension, for at least two years, of the free circulation of persons, goods and capital between the 28 member states.

Brussels would hate to make that very serious decision.Schengen has been called an “accelerator of growth,” since its creation, says Wieger, but it was intended to function in normal times, which these clearly are not. The cost to reestablish internal borders will reach at least 100 billion Euros a year.But, more importantly, the “Schengen Space”is one of the main pillars of Europe.Indeed, it is a core principle.

“The problem of migrants is, in fact, in front of us,” commented Sylvie Kauffman, senior editor of the French daily Le Monde. “Next, we will have to face massive flows of economic refugees from Africa, due to its demography”.

It is a difficult time for Europe, and for the French in particular, to abdicate sacred principles such as the right of asylum and to see the very existence of Europe threatened.

Nicole Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter from Paris: Marmottan Monet Museum Offers Rare Glimpse Inside Villa Flora

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

It is a well kept secret that Switzerland’s private foundations own a wealth of art works. Swiss law does not require them to be registered commercially and offers them favorable tax and legal conditions, creating thus a “paradise” for art collectors. The Villa Flora, in Winterthur near Zurich, is one of the richest of these family foundations. Since the museum is under renovation this winter, its contents found a temporary home at the Marmottan Monet museum in Paris and currently form the Villa Flora exhibition subtitled, “A Time of Enchantment.”

In 1898 Hedy Hahnloser inherited from her father, a well-to-do textile industrialist, a large house and moved in with Arthur, her husband. For a short time, Arthur practiced ophthalmology in the clinic he installed on the property but soon the couple became fully engaged in the passion of their life, which was to create long-lasting friendships with painters and to collect their works.

Over the years, the rambling house was turned into a studio and an art gallery — every available space was used to place the paintings. Hedy had always been interested in arts and crafts and in the English movement by that name. She decorated her house’s parquets and wainscots with the geometric designs characteristic of the 1897 “Viennese Recession” led by Gustav Klimt.

A trip to Paris in 1908 was for the couple a total immersion into the frantic artistic scene of the French capital. Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubism, while the Fauvist movement was at its pinnacle. The natural flair of the Hahnlosers in selecting art work was sharpened by their contacts with art merchants like Ambroise Vollard and Gaston Bernheim.

During that trip they met and struck up a friendship with Felix Valloton (1865-1925), who became a close friend, spent much time at the Villa Flora and also introduced them to the artistic circles of Paris. They remained friends until his death. For the Swiss couple to welcome artists and hold Tuesday coffees became a way of life.

One can compare their creative and welcoming home with the boarding house in Old Lyme, Conn., where Florence Griswold invited American Impressionists. Or consider Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo who, like Arthur and Hedy, opened their “salon” on 27 rue de Fleurus to artists and writers. And in yet another example, in the late 19th century, Russia also had its own artist colonies, which grew around enlightened members of the nobility. The best known was Abramtsevo, near Moscow, created by the industrialist Savva Mamontov.

Pierre Bonnard, Débarcadère (or L'Embarcadère) de Cannes, 1928-1934

Pierre Bonnard, Débarcadère (or L’Embarcadère) de Cannes, 1928-1934

The Hahnlosers’ collection contained works by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, the symbolist Odilon Redon and many others. But it is the abundance of Nabis’ art, which made it quite unique.

It was a post-impressionist movement in the mid 1890s. “Nabi” means prophet in Hebrew and Arabic. The leading members of this group — Maurice Denis, Felix Vallotton , Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard — considered themselves as the prophets of a new era in the arts. Each one had his distinctive style, but there was always a message behind their way of depicting reality, whether it was religious, intellectual or emotional. They were versatile artists, working in oil, and also lithography, wood cuts, satirical drawings, and book or poster illustration.

Vallotton stylized his subjects and used the technique of “aplats” or flat areas of contrasting colors with sharp outlines. There is a feeling of enigmatic emptiness in his works. “La Charette” or cart drives away on a deserted dirt road, two slender umbrella pines contrast with the darker mass of trees bordering the road.

man&woman
Le provincial,” pictured above, shows a couple in a cafe. One barely sees the profile of the elegant woman wearing a huge hat. The feather on the hat and the ruffled blouse are the only bright notes in this scene of a non-communicating couple in the male chauvinistic society at the turn of the 20th century.

Vallotton’ masterpiece is “La Blanche et la Noire” (The White and the Black). A white woman is lying, unabashedly naked, on a bed while a black woman is staring at her with insolence and a sort of inappropriate familiarity, a cigarette is sticking out of her mouth. The painting is reminiscent of the “Olympia” by Manet but with a different underlying story.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bonnard’s paintings have an effusive and warm quality. His colors are luminous, his brush strokes seem unbridled, full of life. He is inspired by the intimacy of domestic scenes — “Le Tub” is a picture within a picture thanks to the mirror placed at the center of the composition. A plunging angle reveals Marthe, his wife and beloved model, near the tub.

Pierre Bonnard, Le Thé, 1917

Pierre Bonnard, Le Thé, 1917

Bonnard cherished his villa in the Var, not far from Cannes. “Le Thé” is a peaceful scene of young women having tea . He plays with an array of hat colors. The vegetation seems to overflow into the porch. On “Le Debarcadère” or pier, young people lean over a railing, as if frozen in the contemplation of the rough Mediterranean waters.

This is indeed a rare opportunity to see an exceptional private art collection created by two extraordinary citizens, who according to the exhibition’s guide, lived their lives by following a simple mantra, “Living for art. Collecting. Such was the raison d’être of [this] couple.”

Nicole Prévost LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter from Paris: Exhibition Explores the Elegance, History of Louis Vuitton’s Luggage

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The exhibit “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” (Fly, Sail, Travel) at the Grand Palais takes the visitor to the elegant world of travel in the early 20th century.  It is a retrospective of the luggage, which created the Vuitton dynasty’s fame.  Every  item is beautifully crafted of wood, cloth and leather, such as the famous “sac Noé” created in 1932.

caroussel_grandpalais_460x550_v02These luxurious objects make travel by air, train or sea glamorous and modern. The visitor rides an old-fashioned, wood-paneled train and feels transported into the “Out of Africa” world of Karen Blixen, as the Kenya savannah speeds outside the windows.

Several pieces of the Vuitton family’s private luggage — first seen by the public at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World Fair) — are scattered  on sand dunes, evoking the beautifully photographed scene of a couple riding  in the desert near the Pyramids in the 1978 Agatha Christy’s movie “Death on the Nile.”

A huge sail reaches all the way to the ceiling.  On the deck of a yacht are displayed a wooden trunk,  fragrant with camphor wood and rosewood; a “wardrobe” trunk whose drawers and hangers contain  an elegant passenger’s apparel;  a gentleman’s  personal case complete with crystal flasks; and fancy hair brushes.

Luxury goods – labeled as “consumer discretionary” in Wall Street jargon – are an important sector of the French economy.  They combine traditional savoir-faire acquired over many generations (the Maison Vuitton has existed since 1835; the Maison Hermes since 1837) with the creative talent of artists and decorators along with  the highly complex robotic machinery used to fabricate, clothes, bags, shoes and more.

At Hermes, silk screen scarves are made from raw silk spun under the constant scrutiny of a worker; artists, assisted by colorists, create the designs.

For decades, not a single famous woman – from Jacqueline Kennedy to French actress Catherine Deneuve – has been seen without the iconic Chanel purse.  The making of the little black purse, with its gold chain, and its distinctive padded outer shell stitched in lozenges, requires the skilled delicate work of 17 people.

The world of fashion and luxury objects could not exist without money — lots of money.  In 1987, the merger of Louis Vuitton fashion house with Moët et Chandon and Hennessy champagne – produced the LVMH multinational conglomerate.  It brought together 90 of the most famous brands of wines and spirits, fashion and luxury goods, as well as perfume and cosmetics.  Dior is the major shareholder with 40 percent of the shares.

Bernard Arnault is CEO of both Dior and LVMH.  He is the richest man of France and holds the fifth largest fortune in  the world — his worth is about 30 billion dollars.  When Arnault arrived in Shanghai for the opening of a new Vuitton boutique, he was received like a head  of state.

It is not uncommon for a tycoon to be a philantropist and an art collector.  In the late 19th century, two Russian businessmen were instrumental in bringing French art to their home country — Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin introduced Impressionist art to Russia after a trip to Paris, and similarly, Ivan Morozov was a major collector of French avant-garde art.

Arnault won a resounding victory over his rival Francois Pinault when he was able to build his art museum on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.  (Pinault “only” owns a few islands of Venice.)  In order to promote artistic creation, Arnault built a museum, which he called the Fondation LVMH — it was designed by the American architect Frank Gehry.  At the time of its inauguration in 2014,  it was met with a mixed reaction but gradually it has become part of the landscape. It did help rejuvenate the dilapidated  Jardin d’Acclimatation, a 100-year-old zoo and children’s attraction park, beloved by the Parisians.

Gehry created a wild structure of huge, curved glass panels flying in all directions, like spinnakers blowing in the wind.  To create an area of 125,000 square feet of molded glass, 100 engineers were employed who were supported by Dassault Systèmes, the leading French company specializing in aeronautics and space.

The inside structure, called the “iceberg,” is erratic and disorients visitors. Several intricate levels and vertiginous staircases lead to the upper terrace offering  a view over the Bois in which the skyscrapers of La Défense district appear to be framed by the glass panels.

Nicole Prévost LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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The Movie Man: Latest ‘Star Wars’ Extravaganza Forcefully Rebukes Critics

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

A young and ambitious filmmaker named George Lucas created Star Wars, which changed the face of the movie industry forever. Since its release in 1977, the Star Wars universe has expanded into other forms of media, such as books, video games, television, music, toys, and more. It spawned two sequels, which were received as well as the first film, and eventually spawned a prequel trilogy, which, well, did not fare so well, mainly due to poor stories, poor acting, and overemphasis on green screen visual effects.

And three years ago, when George Lucas’ studio, LucasFilm, was sold to Disney, and its new owner announced more movies to come, many of us groaned. How could they take this galaxy to an even lower level after Jar-Jar Binks, and shoddy acting by Hayden Christensen as a young Darth Vader?

This past week changed our opinions. On Dec. 17, the United Kingdom got the first glance at Star Wars, Episode VII- The Force Awakens, directed by big and small screen legend J. J. Abrams. To play on the immortal words of Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of Disney haters were suddenly silenced …”

Yes, The Force Awakens can be honorably added to the Star Wars saga, not out of necessity to tell the backstory of the legendary Darth Vader. Now we get to see the continuity of our heroes Han Solo, Princess – sorry, General – Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker. There are also newcomers to the story, with Oscar Isaac as pilot Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and John Boyega as Finn, and last but not least, Adam Driver as villain Kylo Ren.

All performers do not disappoint … although it is very unlikely in the first place, I would have nominated them for a Screen Actors Guild Ensemble award. And who can forget the new droid, BB-8, who caught our attention the moment we saw him in the teaser trailer released last Thanksgiving?

What’s even more amazing is that BB-8 is not CGI, he is, in fact, built as a real robot. Which is another theme in this film, being that those behind The Force Awakens only used CGI effects when necessary, preferring to use practical effects — similar to those used in the original trilogy — in order to give it a more believable visual feel (the major mistake George Lucas made from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith was using the computers as much as possible).

And, of course, there returns the music legend John Williams to conduct the score

But the big question we have been asking since the second trailer was released this past April is: where is Luke Skywalker? He has not appeared in the trailers since, and is not on the poster for the film? This has spawned many fan theories that he is, in fact, the villain, Kylo Ren, who wears a mask, or that he is dead. When asked by Jimmy Kimmel the reason behind Luke’s absence (on the poster), Harrison Ford quipped, “They ran out of room.”

Readers, your questions will be answered right away upon screening. And you will see that there are many similar events that took place all the way back with A New Hope. You will perhaps see them as foreshadowing events, or even tributes, since the only way one could dislike this film would be if one is a Holden Caulfield hipster, who is critical of anything mainstream.

The film will not disappoint. And (cue the hand wave) you will return to see it multiple times.

And I can state unequivocally, I will return to see it multiple times …

(Heads up: I already saw it twice within 36 hours)

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Letter From Paris: Welcome ‘Le Grand Paris!’ New Geographical Region Becomes a Reality

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

On January 1st, 2016 the “Metropole du Grand Paris” became official .  This new territorial organization, named Etablissement Public de Cooperation Intercommunale (EPCI),  includes Paris plus parts of three departements Hauts de Seine, Seine St Denis and Val de Marne– with seven millions inhabitants.

What is the Grand Paris ?  Why is it a necessity?  Is it a decisive step forward? Does it have models in other countries?  What are the  problems it is facing ?  Anyone curious to learn how France works and what lies in the future might be interested in having a look at this new concept.

The project was born in 2007 under President Sarkozy’s mandate.  When the Socialists came to power in 2012, they immediately modified the initial proposal.  But the authors of the project kept plodding away.  Its official status represents a progress toward the long term objective, which is to be ready for the Olympic Games in 2024 and the 2025 World Fair, in the event Paris is chosen.

The French capital is choking inside the beltway and something had to be done:  the town of Paris is too small and too expensive even to accommodate the middle class; suburbia, which used to provide a labor force in the former industrial economy, is hit today by unemployment ; this same suburbia feels isolated because of inadequate public transport (if you drive into work you might spend hours in bouchons or traffic jams on the highway).  The RERs (Regional Rapid Transit) are overcrowded and often unsafe.

reseau-de-transport-grand-paris-1

In the new project (see map above), the backbone of public transport will be the Grand Paris Express, six new lines of totally automated trains circling the Paris agglomeration  and connecting, for the first time, the suburbs.  For instance it will be possible to go directly from Boulogne at the west of Paris to Marne la Vallée  (the location of Euro-Disney) in the east.

Until now any change has been hampered by administrative complexity – layer upon layer of  authorities, like a millefeuille  – (a well known and sinful pastry).

The Grand Paris will  include 132 communes.  Mayors wield enormous power in France.  That power is particularly obvious at election time when building permits seem to multiply.  The mayors will have to learn how to live together and adapt to the new administrative structure, which now includes other layers of the bureaucratic millefeuille, namely the departements and the regions (this year they have been reduced from 22 to 13), piled on top.

France is essentially a centralized state.  Culture, finance, education of the elite,  research and development, luxury shops,  are heavily concentrated in Paris and the Ile de France.  Napoleon, Baron Haussmann, General De Gaulle are the great historical figures who left their imprint in the centralization process.  What we are witnessing today is an explosion of the center.  It is even likely that the boundaries of the Grand Paris may expand.

The Grand Paris will be made of ‘clusters’ (in English in the French text) to bring Paris to par with New York , London or Tokyo.  According to the official description of the project, “Greater Paris relies on seven thematic competitive clusters.”  The list includes : Air Space, Trade, Sustainable City, Digital Creation, International Trade, and Life Sciences.  A financial center already exists in the Defense district, which looks like a mini-Manhattan. ,

Saclay, 20 kilometers south of Paris, is the most impressive and modernistic of these clusters.  Until recently an agricultural land, it is now the hub of Research and Development.  Many élite Grandes Ecoles, like Polytechnique,  have  moved there, as well as 23 universities and the headquarters of major companies.  Its emblematic building, spreading over the fields like a giant flying saucer, is the Synchroton Soleil with its accelerators to study light.  Pierre Veltz, an engineer and former head of Saclay, is confident that it will become an European Silicon Valley.

Nicole Prévost LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Talking Transportation: Speed Limits, Safety and Fuel Efficiency

65-mph-speed-limit-signCrawling along I-95 the other day in the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic, I snickered when I noticed the “Speed Limit 55” sign alongside the highway.  I wish …

Of course, when the highway is not jammed, speeds are more like 70 mph with the legal limit, unfortunately, rarely being enforced. Which got me thinking: who sets speed limits on our highways and by what criteria?

Why is the speed limit on I-95 in Fairfield County only 55 mph but 65 mph east of New Haven?  And why is the speed limit on I-84 just 55 mph from the New York border to Hartford, but 65 mph farther east in “the Quiet Corner”?  Why does the eastern half of the state get a break?

Blame the Office of the State Traffic Administration (OSTA) in the CDOT.  This body regulates everything from speed limits to traffic signals, working with local traffic authorities (usually local Police Departments, mayors or Boards of Selectmen).

OSTA is also responsible for traffic rules for trucks (usually lower speed limits) including the ban on their use of the left hand lane on I-95 in most places.

It was the Federal government (Congress) that dropped the Interstate speed limit to 55 mph in 1973 during the oil crisis, only to raise it to 65 mph in 1987 and repeal the ban altogether in 1995 (followed by a 21% increase in fatal crashes),  leaving it to each state to decide what’s best.

In Arizona and Texas that means 75 mph while in Utah some roads support 80 mph.  Trust me … having recently driven 1000+ miles in remote stretches of Utah, things happen very fast when you’re doing 80 – 85 mph!

About half of Germany’s famed Autobahns have speed limits of 100 km/hr (62 mph), but outside of the cities the top speed is discretionary. A minimum of 130 km/hr (81 mph) is generally the rule, but top speed can often be 200 km/hr (120 mph).

Mind you, the Autobahn is a superbly maintained road system without the bone-rattling potholes and divots we enjoy on our highways.  And the German-built Mercedes and Audis on these roads are certainly engineered for such speed.

American cars are designed for maximum fuel efficiency in the 55 – 60 mph range.  Speed up to 65 mph and your engine runs 8 percent less efficiently.  At 70 mph, the loss is 17 percent.  That adds up to more money spent on gasoline and more environmental pollution, all to save a few minutes of driving time.

But even bigger than the loss of fuel efficiency is aerodynamic drag, which can eat up to 40 percent of total fuel consumption.  Lugging bulky roof-top cargo boxes worsens fuel economy by 25 percent at interstate speeds.  So does carrying junk in your trunk (or passengers!):  a 1 percent penalty for every 100 pounds.

Even with cheaper gasoline, it all adds up!

Jim Cameron

Jim Cameron

Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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The Strangest New Year’s Day Ever

John Guy LaPlante

John Guy LaPlante

We’re pleased to republish a column by John Guy LaPlante today — this column was originally published on Jan 1, 2013, and we thought it would be timely for readers to have a chance to enjoy it again today.

It was the strangest New Year’s Day ever … and I never expect another like it.

All my life, like you probably, I have celebrated New Year’s Day in winter—most often in a cold, icy, snowy winter. Not a Florida winter.

Winter arrives on Dec. 21, of course, and New Year’s Day 11 days later, on Jan. 1.

My saying this seems silly, I know, but I say it for a reason.

My seeing the New Year in, as for you, has often meant stepping outside into freezing cold air that takes my breath away and then suffering in my frigid car until the engine begins to blow in wonderful hot air.

For many decades this was always the way I experienced New Year’s Day.

With just one exception …

That exception came eight years ago when I traveled around the world for five months. Yes, nearly all of it alone—147 days, 20 countries, 36,750 miles by plane, train, and for only $83 per day, with everything included, right down to every snack and phone call and all the visas required. That trip was my present to myself for my then approaching 75th birthday.

It was a grand adventure. More than that, an odyssey. It led to my book, “Around the World at 75. Alone, Dammit!” It’s a book still selling, and in fact, one that got to be published in China in Chinese—well, Mandarin, which is the principal language.

As New Year’s Day approached, I arrived in Durban, South Africa. That’s nearly as far south in Africa as you can go, and I had come a long way, all the way from Cairo near the Mediterranean in the far north.

I arrived on Dec. 28, I think it was, just seven days after the start of winter and three days before the new year dawned. However, I had crossed the Equator to get here and in fact was far south of it.

But the seasons are opposite on the other side of the Equator. Yes, it was December, but it was not winter. Summer had just started here and it was summertime, with long daylight, short nights, shirtsleeve temperatures, even bathing suit temperatures. How remarkable. How wonderful.

Durban is a big city. An impressive city. And I was here to enjoy it . I was lucky. I was staying in a nice hostel right downtown, the Banana Backpackers. Not hotel. Hostel. I was using hostels because they were cheaper (hotels for five months can get expensive) and I got an experience more true to my purpose.

Don’t ask me why that name. I never found out. And I was making friends. And I was making the most of the city, taking in everything I could—its bustling downtown, its historic and tourist attractions, its museums. It’s all in my book.

New Year’s Day was a great celebration here, too. It’s a big day all over the world. I read everything I could in the big Durban daily about activities coming up. English is the official language. There would be all the usual merry-making. I was looking forward to it. Planned to enjoy it as much as I could.

New Year’s Day rose, bright and sunny and warm and beautiful. But none of my senses told me that this was New Year’s Day. This was so dramatically different. But my brain did.

Durban is right on the Indian Ocean, just north of where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans merge below Capetown. Durban has great beaches. I had not glimpsed them yet, but I knew they were gorgeous. I intended to get to them today. They were not far, at the end of a broad avenue that nosed right into them. A cinch. I could get to them in just a few blocks.

But imagine my surprise. My stupefaction. Thousands of people were planning to do the same thing. I noticed that the minute I stepped out of Banana Backpackers. People jammed the street, walking in from various directions.

So many. Amazing. The boulevard was closed to vehicles for the day. People were heading south on it in a broad torrent. They took up the whole width of the street. All going the same way, toward the salt water. Some on bikes but most hoofing it. Carrying all the usual stuff—towels, picnic baskets, folding chairs, parasols, toys. Many with children in hand.

Instantly I saw they were all black. Durban is a typical South African city. It has the usual mix of blacks and whites, but the blacks were there first and predominate. In fact, apartheid had been the law of the land until quite recently. Apartheid mandated the enforced separation of the races, the same as in many places in our U.S.A. when I was young, but even more severely, I’ve read.

Right away I saw this was a black crowd. I could not see any whites. Of course, white people like nice, warm, sunny, summer beaches, too. Why this river of people was all black, I don’t know. And I didn’t find out. I still don’t know. But right away I decided, this is just too much. No way can I walk with them.

I gulped hard. I was so disappointed. But then I braced up. A main reason for this big and crazy adventure of mine–I knew some thought this–was to visit other countries, and the more different the better. I wanted to see what they were really like. I was deliberately staying clear of the heavy tourist areas. I wanted to see the real people in their real everyday life. So how could I chicken out now?

Uptight I was, but I stepped forward and slipped in among them. I saw dark eyes studying me but I looked straight ahead and walked on. I was uncomfortable. Nervous. Apprehensive. I admit it and am embarrassed to say so. I was tempted to drop out and head back to Banana Backpackers. What I was experiencing, of course, was plain, classic culture shock.

My head was battling with my emotions. My head was telling me that 99 percent of these people were good, fine, no-problem people. I knew that this was true of people all over the world. Yellow, brown, red, black, white, mixed. In every country the bad ones—the malicious ones—are a tiny minority. True, too, in our U.S.A.

The only thing these folks had in mind was getting to the beach for a fine New Year’s outing.

My heart made me fearful, insecure, borderline panicky. But I walked on. I was feeling this way because they were so many and they were all black and I wasn’t used to this and there was no other white person around. But on I went.

I wasn’t going to the beach to sun myself or swim. I did like these things back home. I was going because I wanted to see the Indian Ocean and smell the sea air and be part of the festivities and observe everything going on and get some exercise and see what a New Year’s Day was like in this country and how folks enjoyed it.

We got to the beach. A great big, broad stretch of sand. The Indian Ocean stretched out ahead, clear to the horizon, with not even a tiny island in between. A few pleasure boats, yes.

But know what? The Indian Ocean didn’t look a bit different than many other stretches of salt water I have gotten to see. The only reason I knew that this was the Indian Ocean was because I was told it was, period.

What I noticed was the great numbers of people. Right away I thought of Coney Island. Who isn’t familiar with Coney Island? I’ve never been to Coney Island. But I’ve seen the photos of the packed crowds on the Fourth of July.

For sure this huge turn-out would rival Coney Island in the Guinness Book of World Records. And of course all these people were black. But they were behaving just like white people would.

I became more relaxed. I began walking around. I roamed the beach. I made my way between all these people. Families in tight clusters. Kids frolicking and romping and tossing balls. Couples making out. People reading, snacking, applying suntan lotion, snoozing.

Not easy to walk in that loose sand. I made my way down close to the beach and walked along the shore on the packed sand, moist from the outgoing tide. Some people were in the water, swimming, splashing, floating, but quite few. Which is typical on any beach anywhere.

I walked a long way to the left, then a long way back and to the right. Some people looked at me and followed me with their eyes. Most people were too busy. I had my camera and I began sneaking pictures. I learned long ago it was not smart at times to face whoever I wanted to photograph and snap a picture.

I had developed a different way. I would spot someone I wanted to focus on. Then I would turn 90 degrees and face in this new direction. But slowly I would turn my camera back 90 degrees. Very stealthily, all while gazing straight ahead. And click the shutter. Sometimes I missed the shot. But often I got the good candid shot I hoped for. Rarely did anybody catch on.

Now I got bolder. I even walked up to some people. Made sure I smiled. And asked if I could take their picture. Nobody said no.

It was all pleasant. I was happy to be part of this. But this was a film camera. And of course my roll of film got used up.

In all this, I did not come upon another white person. How come? Maybe this was a traditionally black beach. Maybe there was a traditional white beach elsewhere. But I thought of this much later.

Satisfied and content, I walked back to the Banana Backpackers. I quit long before the others did. There were just a few of us heading back. I was happy I had not caved in to my apprehensions and had had what turned out to be a most pleasant experience.

Back at the hostel, I found practically nobody around. That evening I ran into a couple of people and mentioned what I had done. But they were foreign tourists, too. They were interested. But they had nothing to say that enlightened me.

Later I had another thought. It was about black people in the U.S.A. Men and women of all ages born there and grown up there. Like me. Just as much an American citizen as I.

And I thought of the many times when for sure they must find themselves alone among whites. At times they must feel as alone and isolated and apprehensive as I on this New Year’s Day. This is probably a common experience for them in our section of Connecticut where blacks are still a small minority, although the situation is changing a bit. And surely they get used to it, adapt to it, and develop a certain comfort.

I felt these disturbing emotions just for a few hours on just one day. I’m sure some of our blacks back home must feel it frequently, on and on, all their lives.

That New Year’s Day in Durban made me more understanding. More sympathetic. I learned a powerful lesson. And the lesson has stuck. We’re all much alike. Little reason to be nervous among strange.

I’d like to include some of the photos I took that day but they’re not at hand. Sorry.

Happy New Year to you, one and all!

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The Movie Man: “Spotlight” Explores How “Globe” Reporters Exposed Priest Sex Scandal

Spotlight_movieTonight, I look back to a scandal that has rocked the institution that preserved Western Civilization in the Dark Ages, transformed hospitals, and, believe it or not, science. Thirteen years ago, the Boston Globe revealed a series of stories to the public, and many in the world began to distrust her. What I speak of is the Catholic Church, and the priest sex scandal.

This is a New England film, as many big parts of New England life are displayed throughout it via product placement. Dunkin’ Donuts, W. B. Mason, and other familiar logos are seen throughout it. For those of us who know Boston well, many popular, yet not mainstream popular, or, rather “hipster” streets are seen and spoken about through dialogue.

We begin in 1976, in which a bishop visits a Boston Police station in regards to a priest who abused a young boy, and he assures the boy and his parents they will never hear from the priest again, and the bishop and the priest then drive off. Twenty-five years later, members of the Boston Globe have a goodbye party for one of their editors who is stepping down after the New York Times bought out the newspaper.

New editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) comes in from Miami and expresses interest in going deeper into a case involving a priest, who severely abused countless children, as he feels there is something that is being hidden from the public.

How could somebody take on a church? This is the basic theme that is dealt with as the journalists from the Globe’s Spotlight section begin to dig deeper and deeper into this horrible scandal. A member of a survivor group, SNAP, comes to them, having previously tried to contact the paper many years prior. While his organization is small, comprised of only 10 members, Spotlight eventually catches on and realizes there has to be a scandal in their midst.

While they are presented with the same facts that we are today when we discuss the scandal, that perhaps only a very small percentage of ordained priests have engaged in such awful activities, they realize they need to take action because there are numerous victims out there with stories to be heard.

Several scenes take place in which the journalists meet with the survivors (as one asserts they are survivors because some ended up taking their lives) and they tell their stories. It is a completely heart-wrenching ordeal to listen to, as they describe being initially excited that their parish priest took an interest in them, only to violate the in the most unimaginable way.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston at the time, is our enemy, despite his cheerful and outgoing personality. The stories of Church corruption in the Middle Ages suddenly return to 21st century America. Cardinal Law is reaching out to officials, taking advantage of loopholes to keep legal documents confirming his corruption away from the public’s eyes.

And though he only appears in three or four scenes, he does not have the lasting effect of the antagonizing villain that we see in other films, such as Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs consisting of only 16 minutes of screen time, but earning the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and being ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest villain in the history of film.

Many interesting points are made, as people bring up that these stories were brought to the newspapers on many occasions, but turned down. Michael Keaton’s character, Walter “Robby” Robinson, notes that he originally shot down the claims when he worked for a different section of the Globe 20 years prior, and another brings up that we all stumble around in the dark and only realize what has happened when the light enters. Boston is a tightly-knit community, one character says, pointing out that if it’s true it takes a village to raise a child, as he quips, it also takes a village to [destroy him].

I will not post a disclaimer to share that I am a lifelong Catholic, myself, and have been brought up in the Church in a very intimate manner. Baptism, CCD, First Communion and Reconciliation, Confirmation, Catholic high school, and even participated in campus ministry as a student at Quinnipiac. I do not intend to bash Catholicism, as journalists such as Christopher Hitchens might have done when reviewing a film like this, nor do I seek to engage in apologies, but rather to show the honest side of the faith.

This film has been received well by the Church, of all viewers, especially by Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Law’s replacement as Archbishop of Boston, who claimed the investigation by the Globe prompted the Church “to deal with what was shameful and what was hidden.” Vatican Radio also shared similar words, calling the film honest and compelling. Anyone who is involved with their local church can describe how there is now a zero-tolerance policy for things of this nature, and how Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have made these events a main focus during their papacies.

I will close with a reference to Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, since I read all three volumes this summer … to my surprise. Plus, who doesn’t feel super smart when they close an article with a quote from a piece of classical literature?

(Dante addresses a pope who is confined to be buried face down into a furnace, who is guilty of simony [buying of sacred things])

And were it not that I am still constrained by the reverence I owe to the Great Keys [1] you held in life, I should not have refrained from using other words and sharper still; for this avarice of yours grieves all the world, tramples the virtuous, and exalts the evil.

Of such as you was the Evangelist’s vision when he saw She Who Sits upon the Waters locked with the Kings of the earth in fornication.[2] Gold and silver are the gods you adore! In what are you different from the idolator, Save that he worships one, and you a score?

Inferno, Canto XIX

[1] Papacy, the “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” given to St. Peter by Christ.

[2] The Whore of Babylon, from Revelation 17-18

Kevin Ganey

Kevin Ganey

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Letter from Paris: COP 21, Part II — Reaching Consensus was a “Tour de Force,” But Much Work Still To Do

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

cop21-logoAt 7.26 p.m. precisely on Saturday, Dec. 12, Laurent Fabius, president of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 21 , choking with emotion, announced that an  universal accord had been reached.  The several thousand people in the audience rose in a standing ovation and started congratulating each other.

After two sleepless nights, the “facilitators” wrenched out an agreement by consensus from the 195 Convention’s members.  The suspense lasted until the absolute final minute when Nicaragua tried to interrupt. It was too late — the president had already snapped down his gavel.  The conference could very well have been a failure – it had to overcome a block from the oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia –  but on that last day, there were no grim faces, as had been seen in Copenhagen, only a general enthusiasm. 

Credit should be given to the involvement of the French organizers.  For two years they traveled several times around the world to meet every leader.  President François Hollande was talking to president Xi Jinping just one month before the start of the Convention.  All paid homage to the professionalism of Fabius who seemed on a mission throughout the process. “You did an amazing job,” commented John Kerry,  while  Al Gore added, “This is the finest diplomatic performance I have seen in two decades.”

In a nutshell, the agreement reads as follows: 

  • its main objective is to limit the increase in temperature to “well below” two degrees by the end of this century 
  • developed countries should reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas and the developing countries should “mitigate” them 
  • Article 9 stipulates that “developed country parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries” 
  • the agreement, which will be ratified in April 2016, requires an annual payment of 100 billion Euros, with a revision every five years

President Barrack Obama is expected to use an Executive Order to avoid the likely opposition of the Republican majority in the Congress; in the absence of coercion and sanctions —  a mechanism of control by satellite (France is financing the “MicroCarb” satellite) — provides an attempt at transparency and ongoing verification by a committee of experts thus making the agreement de facto binding.

Never before has there been such an awareness of the threat caused by global warming. The vagaries of the climate and the fact that 2015 is the warmest year in recorded history contributed to this sense of urgency.  Today any debate about climate skepticism has become obsolete.  

What makes the Paris conference different from all the ones before is a groundswell of positive intentions.  For the first time the main polluters of the planet – China, the US and India – are on board and are determined to make the agreement work.  Already 187 out of the 195 countries have announced their voluntary contributions.

Today the action of society as a whole is crucial.  It is important to note that, at the Bourget, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), private associations and a number of organizations  were working just a few steps from the UN “Blue Zone” for government officials  (at the Lima, Peru, COP, they had been “exiled” 15 kilometers away).  Giant screens in the hallways made it possible for the general public to follow the proceedings, breaking away from the closed door policy of the past.

After the initial euphoria felt on Dec. 12,  a number of questions remains unanswered, some of the objectives are unclear – no date was set as to when to reach the greenhouse gas neutrality nor when to end the use of fossil energy, no price was put on carbon – and the unfairness of many decisions has become apparent – such as the financing  and the sharing of responsibilities between the “North” or rich countries and the developing countries — or to put it another way,  who pays whom and for what?  Until now Europe, and France in particular, have been paying a great deal.  A country such as Russia has not paid one cent so far.  Are China and India – the big polluters of the planet – still considered as part of the developing world and expected to be on the receiving end of hundreds of billions of Euros?

Nicolas Hulot, militant environmentalist and an icon in France, deemed  the agreement very positive even though it was not perfect.  “Such a movement of solidarity around the planet has never been seen before,” he stated, adding, “There is a momentum, which needs to be seized and followed by action.” 

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Letter from Paris: COP 21 Tackles Climate Change in Challenging Times

Nicole Prevost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

All eyes are on the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change taking place in Paris from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12. The “Conference of Parties” or COP, have been held every year since COP 1 in Berlin, in 1995.

In the middle of nowhere, in an industrial and non-descript vacant lot – a preview of what our world will become if the conference does not bring concrete results – the Bourget site has been turned into an ephemeral city of tents, movable partitions and kilometers of carpets. The recyclable constructions will all disappear at the end of the conference. More than 3,000 journalists are covering the event.

The circumstances were exceptional, barely two weeks after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks. France is living under emergency rules and the danger is still present. More than 120,000 police, army and special forces are deployed throughout the country. Terrorism and global warming were on a collision course. It was a huge challenge for France to organize the conference. The highways and part of the beltway were closed to facilitate the arrival of the thousands of visitors. The Parisians had braced themselves for total chaos … but it turned out to be the most peaceful two days in a long time.

The inaugural day was quite a show of protocol. There was first the greetings of the 150 leaders, followed by photo-ops and smiles. Elham Aminzadeh, the vice-president of Iran, dressed in her long robes, walked past the French president and prime minister to shake hands only with Segolène Royal, French minister of the environment. Then everyone scrambled to find his or her place for the giant “family pnoto.” Leaders of Israel and Palestine or of Russia and Turkey had to stand apart to avoid a diplomatic incident.

This year the heads of States spoke at the outset of the COP. It was believed that their declarations of intent — powerful but brief (three minutes each) — would galvanize the public and give a boost to the working sessions to follow. One sensed a definite will to reach the objective of limiting the global warming to below two degrees by 2100. “Greenpeace could have signed Francois Hollande’s speech,” commented Jean Francois Julliard, the director of Greenpeace France. Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi announced his country’s support of an ” International Solar Alliance.” China is becoming the world first producer of renewable energy. The liberal new prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is changing his country’s attitude about the environment.

Early in the conference, 11 developed countries, including the US, France, England, Germany and Sweden, made the solemn commitment to contribute 250 million Euros for a transfer of renewable technology to the poorest countries.

In the 1970s, the advocates of ecology were not taken seriously and pretty much disregarded. Things have now come a long way from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which so few countries ratified or from the 2009 COP 15 of Copenhagen, which ended up with a weak and non-binding text.

At the midpoint of COP 21, its president, French minister of foreign affairs Laurent Fabius, exhorted the participants to seize the momentum. He urged delegates not to wait until global warming becomes irreversible.

The pollution of the atmosphere is measured in particles per million or “ppm.” To-day it is 400 as compared to 250 in the pre-industrial era. In Peiping, pollution is 25 times higher than that of Paris on it worst day.

In 1990, the developed countries (also labeled as the “North”) produced 14,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the emerging countries 7,500. In 2012, the North had slightly reduced its emissions to 13,000 and the “emerging countries “, called G77 + China , ( actually numbering 134 now), almost tripled their emissions to 20,000. It is ironic that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is still included among the “emerging” countries.

The main stumbling block at the COP 21 is whether the developed world will have to pay 100 billion Euros per year to the other countries even though they are profiting from the technology it created. Besides, if one has to wait for the “big emergents,” headed by China and India, in the name of “climate justice,” to catch up, the planet will be gone by then.

In the early evening of the inaugural day, I saw a convoy with blue strobe lights, going against traffic in a one-way street in front of my windows. Who could that be, I wondered? It turned out it was President Barrack Obama driving toward the very secluded three-star Ambroisie restaurant on Place des Vosges. In the elegant dining room, under crystal chandeliers, the president, John Kerry and their party seemed to have a great time with Francois Hollande and his cabinet ministers.

Nicole Prévost LoganAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter from Paris: ‘Francofonia’ Explores German Attitude to Louvre Art During Occupation, but with Broader Message

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Like irritating mosquitoes on a hot summer afternoon, three fighter planes of the German Luftwaffe fly over a majestic and impregnable Louvre museum.  This is the opening image of Francofonia, a documentary reflecting on art and the courage of men fighting to protect it against forces of destruction.  A most appropriate and needed interlude at this particularly tense time for the humanity.

Although labeled a documentary, Francofonia – a Russian-German-French production – is part newsreels, part fiction, part poetic images. The film, directed by the well-known Alexander Sokurov, won an award at the September 2015 Venice Film Festival.

Count Wolff Metternich, a German officer of Prussian origin, walks down a vaulted hallway. He is there to meet  Jacques Jaujard, the French director of the Louvre.  The two men are stiff and on their respective guards.  Metternich asks Jaujard, “Do you speak German?” “No,” responds Jaujard, “The answer is, I am very French.”

A scene from 'Francophonia.' Image courtesy of Films Boutique.

A scene from ‘Francophonia.’ Image courtesy of Films Boutique.

Ironically both men are on an identical mission.  In 1939, most of the Louvre’s art work, including the “Victory of Samothrace” – the museum’s most illustrious treasure – was removed by the staff and hidden in the cellars of French castles.  Metternich had done precisely the same thing with the collections of the Cologne cathedral before the start of the war.

With an element of pathos, Sokurov imagines the visit of German military to  the Louvre.  Did they realize it was an empty place except for Assyrian winged bulls and other monumental sculptures, which might have been left on purpose to act as the watchdogs of an idea?

Two iconic guides take us through the deserted Grande Gallery.  A fat-bellied Napoleon, behaving like the host, points at the David’s painting of his coronation.  “This is me,” he says proudly. But  it is with irony that Sukurov shows “Napoleon crossing the Alps” by Delaroche as an undignified and tired man riding a mule  rather than the dashing rider imagined by David.  Our other guide, Marianne, wearing the distinctive Phrygian bonnet, repeats over and over  “Liberté,  égalité, fraternité.”

Sukorov accompanies us through an empty museum filled with the memory of treasures now gone.  A hand touches the diaphanous finger tips of a statue;  Clouet’s delicate portraits come alive;  and so do Millet’s peasants, sitting  by the fire, their deeply-lined faces showing their exhaustion.  The greyish, almost sepia, quality  of the photographs adds to the eerie feeling.

The camera moves in and out of the Louvre and depicts difficult scenes, which demand pause for thought.  A tanker is struggling in the fury of the Baltic. Will the works of art it carries in its containers survive or be crushed by the waves?  The frozen body of a well-dressed little girl lying on a street during the siege of Leningrad evokes the human suffering caused by war.

Francofonia is a complex film, which can be read on several levels.  It came on the Paris screens not long after the blasting of Palmyra and other archaeological sites by Daesh (ISIS).  The message is crystal clear — art, which is the legacy of our civilization, is too precious to die.

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Social Conquest of Earth’ by Edward O. Wilson

SocialConquest_Mech.inddWho are we?

This has been the eternal question of our curious and self-reflective species. Paul Gauguin, in Tahiti in 1897 in his final painting, expanded this question into three: D’ou Venons Nous? Que Sommes Nous? Ou Allons Nous?  (Where do we come from? What are we? And where are we going?) As the weather cools, it is time for some serious reading …

Edward O. Wilson, the noted Harvard chronicler of ants, has embarked on a trilogy to try and answer all three. The first, The Social Conquest of Earth, addresses the Gauguin threesome in short, pithy chapters, easy for today’s creatures accustomed to electronic social networks. No Proustian rambling for him!

“We have created a Star Wars civilization,” he begins, “with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.” His argument, which represents the story of the evolution of social life and its driving forces, is controversial.

It goes like this: “The social conquerors of Earth” dominate today, but they include not only homo sapiens but also ants, bees, wasps, and termites, species that are possibly more than 100 million years older than us (we emerged several 100,000 years ago, only spreading across this globe over the past 60,000 years). It is altogether probable that these other “eusocial species” — less than two percent of  the one million known species — will remain long after we disappear.

Our human condition is both selfish and selfless: “the two impulses are conflated … the worst of our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be.” Our “hereditary curse” is “our innate pugnacity … our bloody nature (in which) individuals prefer the company of others of the same race, nation, clan, and religion.”

Wilson continues, “The biological human mind is our province. With all its quirks, irrationality, and risky productions, and all its conflict and inefficiency, the biological mind is the essence and the very meaning of the human condition.”

In answering the question, “What are we?” Wilson explores the origins of culture, language, cultural variation, morality, honor, religions and creative art, suggesting “human beings are enmeshed in social networks.” And in these networks, we express our “relentless ambivalence and ambiguity … the fruits of the strange primate inheritance that rules the human mind.”

Wilson submits that religions are logical hallucinations in response to the ever-unanswered question, determining that, “ … religious faith is better interpreted as an unseen trap unavoidable during the biological history of our species. Humankind deserves better … than surrender and enslavement.”

The final chapter of this engrossing and illuminating exploration asks, “Where are we going?” Do we have free will? Wilson answers his question thus: “We are free as independent beings, but our decisions are not free of all the organic processes that created our personal brains and minds. Free will therefore appears to be ultimately biological.” Are we social creatures? Wilson suggests, ” … group selection (is) the driving force of where we have been and where we are going.”

We, a convoluted and introspective species, live in an “extremely complex biosphere” in which we must respect the “equilibrium created by all the other species, plants, animals, and microorganisms around us.” Failure to do so may mean our collapse or even that of the entire system.

But Wilson concludes on an optimistic note, saying, “Earth, by the twenty-second century, can be turned, if we so wish, into a permanent paradise for human beings, or at least the strong beginnings of one.”

This first philosophical exploration of human existence has been followed by the second, The Meaning of Human Existence, published in early 2015, and the third, The End of the Anthropocene will follow shortly.

Together they require serious reflection.

Editor’s Note: The Social Conquest of Earth, by Edward O.Wilson was published by W. W. Norton & Co., New York 2012.

Felix Kloman_headshot_2005_284x331-150x150About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction that explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farms Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His wife, Ann, is also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a bubbling village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visit every summer.

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The Movie Man: See ‘Spectre’ … Though It’s Not Bond’s Best

Headshot_v2We’re delighted to welcome a new writer to our fold today. Kevin Ganey joins us as our movie critic: he will be submitting regular reviews of movies in a variety of genres. He has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at Shoreline Web News LLC, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

He opens his column series with a review of the latest Bond movie, ‘Spectre:’

"Spectre poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“Spectre poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“Bond. James Bond.”

Since the 1962 release of Dr. No, six actors have had the pleasure of playing the iconic James Bond, or 007. For many years, it had been consider blasphemy to assert that any of the six actors aside from Sean Connery was Bond, as in he truly embodied the character and was the first actor moviegoers would think of when somebody brought 007 up in conversations. However, on a cold night in November of 2012, as I left the Niantic Cinema after seeing Skyfall, I literally proclaimed to others that Daniel Craig, not Connery, was Bond.

I do not think that I am alone when it comes to this opinion. My younger brother shares it, and he also proudly tells people that he knows every line to Craig’s first film as Bond, Casino Royale. We are fans of Craig’s gritty approach to the character, a quiet man with a killer’s stare, a force with which to be reckoned. He was not as comical as Roger Moore, or as suave as Pierce Brosnan, or, as my mom says, “campy” like Sean Connery. Each actor brings a new approach to Ian Fleming’s iconic spy, and I must say that I am more than satisfied with Daniel Craig’s interpretation.

So, it was with great pleasure that I embarked on a journey to Westbrook’s Marquee Cinema 12 on the premiere date for Eon Production’s 24th film about the secret agent, Spectre. When I was 11-years-old, my parents gave me a DVD collection that contained seven Bond films, which included Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Licensed to Kill, Goldeneye, and Tomorrow Never Dies, and I was quickly captivated by this heroic figure. As soon as I learned this film’s title, I immediately remembered the organization of the same name that Bond was constantly combating in the earlier films. The name stood for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion.

This film begins just weeks after Skyfall left off, with Judi Dench’s M still in the memories of all MI6 agents, replaced by Ralph Fiennes. Bond has just completed a semi-rogue mission in Mexico City (ordered by Judi Dench’s M just before she died in a video message), thwarting a terrorist attack during a Day of the Dead celebration. Grounded by the new M, Bond requests help from Moneypenny and Q to make him disappear in order to find more information in regards to the mission he just completed.

He is led back to a member of QUANTUM, a criminal organization — Mr. White, whom he encountered in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, now leads him on the trail to the even bigger organization “Spectre,” headed by a mysterious man named Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz. M also deals with the emergence of a young government official, whom Bond calls C, running a new organization that monitors criminal activity, who also seeks to bury the Double-O system.

This film brings the previous four Bond films together, as all the villains were connected somehow before, and, without giving away too many spoilers, Oberhauser reveals this to be a form of revenge against Bond, as he knew him very intimately in the past. And I take a further risk by saying this to ardent Bond fans: Oberhauser reveals himself to be a memorable character from the earlier films.

I was expecting a great performance from Waltz, since he has won two Academy Awards over the last five years, but sadly, I was unhappy with his portrayal of a Bond villain. And my disappointment was compounded because Javier Bardem, who played the villain in Skyfall, and is also an Academy Award winner, gave what I consider to be one of greatest performances as a bad guy in that movie.

But Spectre does have its redeeming qualities. Sam Smith’s credit song, “Writing’s on the Wall” (I think this was also a reference to an exchange between Bond and Q in the 1995 installation, Goldeneye) was enjoyable and had a similar approach to Adele’s “Skyfall.” Q provided entertaining gadgets, including the classic donation of a multi-purposed watch, as well as humorously “giving” Bond an incomplete Aston Martin.

The main team that we are familiar with at MI6 (M, Q, and Moneypenny) is much more hands-on than they have been in the past, with all members in the field, partaking in the missions, in contrast to previous installments when Q stays in his lab, Moneypenny helps brief Bond and shows hints of her crush, and M behind the desk scolding Bond for going rogue.

But the way I saw it as I entered the movie theater, as long as you did not have a song by Madonna or an invisible car (both came from Die Another Day, which was the reason for rebooting the series), we were in for a good Bond film. Granted I should not enter a movie theater thinking “as long as it was not as bad as X, then it’s a great movie!”

What I will say is that it was a decent film, worthy of being a part of the Bond series. It is not the best, as I came in expecting greater things, but nonetheless, I have no problem including this on a list of Bond films to binge watch (an interesting millennial term) in a weekend. I would definitely recommend this movie to fellow movie-goers, not because of its critical value, but simply because it is an installment of the world’s most famous spy.

Who’s the other guy again? Jack Ryan?

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Letter From Paris: Thoughts on the Aftermath of Friday the 13th

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.10.55 PMThe Nov. 13 attack was not the end of it.

The Parisians lived through a first somber weekend listening to the non-stop sirens of police cars. On Nov. 18, RAID (Recherche-Assistance-Intervention-Dissuasion), assisted by hundreds of special police forces launched a massive assault in St Denis, barely one kilometer from the Stade de France and next to the 12th century basilica of the kings of France. At four in the morning and for seven hours the tiny street became a war scene of incredible violence. Explosions shook the shabby buildings so much that walls and floors collapsed.

Two suspects, a woman and a man, unidentified for almost two days, were found in the rubble. Terrorist Salah Abdelslam was still on the run. Every day the police uncovered new details about the terrorists — in Montreuil and in the 18th arrondissement. On Nov. 23, a belt with explosives was found on a sidewalk in Montrouge, south of Paris. The Belgium connection intensified, particularly in Melenbeek, a town with a mostly Moslem population and 85 mosques. One week after the French attack, a major terrorist threat forced the Belgian capital to shut down for several days.

How are the French coping? They feel “80 percent anger and 15 percent pain,” commented Thierry Pech, head of the Terra Nova Fondation. One feels outraged that petty delinquents, often on drugs, would commit such atrocities. A mood of mourning and solidarity spread throughout France.

We are now in another era, prime minister Manuel Valls declared, and we will have to learn how to live with terror but must not give in to it. The French people have heard this sobering message and are behaving with great dignity, albeit with nervousness. At no point did the citizens feel an infringement on their personal freedom. Public debates , such as the Friday night TV show “Ce soir ou Jamais”, are more heated than ever.

There was a temporary disconnect between the politicians and the general public. During a stormy session at the Assemblée Nationale, Les Republicains (LR) (new name of UMP) gave a hard time to the prime minister. Catcalls and jeers made his speeches barely audible. The right wing daily Le Figaro explained how Christian Jacob, leader of the LR parliamentary group, instructed his party to calm down. On the following day, the behavior of the deputés was exemplary as they voted unanimously to prolong the Etat d’urgence (state of emergency) for three months.

To reassure the population, the government took several security measures including the creation of 10,000 posts in the police and border control personnel. A major change in the Code Pénal was put in place to facilitate searches of private homes and house arrests, as well as preventive arrests without the intervention of a judge. Close to one thousand searches were carried out last week, which is more than during a full year under normal circumstances. To enhance the efficiency of the police, the definition of legitimate defence is being altered.

The Patriot Act, signed into law by the US Congress on Oct. 21 2001, developed surveillance on the whole nation and the gathering of “metadata.” It is very different in France, since the new administrative and judiciary steps, taken by the Executive, are targeted at a concrete enemy of about 11,000 dangerous individuals, registered on the “S” form, living in the midst of the population, practically next door. In the US, the task of protecting the country is shared between the Justice Department, the Homeland Security, the FBI and the 50 states. In France, overall responsibility lies with the Ministre de l’Interieur – at present Bernard Cazeneuve.

When it became known that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was finally identified in the St. Denis assault, a co-author of the terrorist attack of Nov. 13, had been on the loose for several months, it literally infuriated public opinion. Flaws in the surveillance system became obvious. That man was well known by the Intelligence officials, had taken part in four out of six recent aborted attacks, and, at one time, was convicted to 20 years in prison. He made several round trips to Syria and apparently passed easily through porous airports, including Istanbul.

Close to one million migrants have entered Europe since the beginning of the year and there is no end in sight. Should the Schengen principle of free circulation of people and goods within the European Union (EU) be suspended? The Paris correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung thinks that, to abandon Schengen, would be a very serious threat to the survival of Europe.

But many disagree with that opinion.

The “Schengen Space” was created in 1985 for five countries and intended to function in peaceful and normal times when the external frontiers were real. That is not the case any more. How can Greece, financially broke, stop or at least control 80 percent of the migrants who have landed on their shores?

The European Commission is trying to alleviate the situation somewhat. One decision is to apply the PNR (passenger name record) even on EU nationals entering the continent. The other is to intensify the controls of arms and assault weapons’ spare parts coming mainly from the Balkans. The idea of depriving bi-national jihadists of one of their nationalities is also being considered.

On the diplomatic and military scenes, the repercussions of Nov. 13 have been huge. It seems to have caused a major turn- around in the main powers’ policy – a 180 degree shift, one might say. No one wanted to admit they were making concessions, but they did. Suddenly Putin recognized that the Russian plane had indeed been blown up over the Sinai desert. He changed course and started limiting his air strikes to Daesch (ISIS) and no longer to Syrian rebels. In a recent interview in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace, John Kerry did not mention the ousting of Bachar al-Assad as a preliminary condition to negotiations. The French, who had been the most hawkish among the warring countries prior to 2012, skipped Assad’s removal as well. It is concentrating the action of its Rafales on Rakka, the self-proclaimed capital of Daech. At this point, none of the main powers are willing to put “boots on the ground.” The only boots one has seen so far are Kurdish boots.

This will be a marathon week for François Hollande: Cameron on Monday, Obama on Tuesday, Merkel on Wednesday and Putin on Thursday. His objective is to build up a single coalition against Daech.

Intense soul-searching and analyses by experts are going on to try and understand a conflict to which we have never before been exposed. Can we win a war against terrorism? No, said former minister of foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin. We cannot defeat this invisible enemy, which we have helped create.

What is Daesch really and what does it want? To destabilize our society by increasing the divide between Moslems and our secular values, says Gilles Keppel, professor at Sciences Po and a specialist on Islam. Philosopher Alain Finkelkraut believes that Daesch is not just reacting to the bombings. He says that by nature it is a conquering culture and today it is on a crusade to destroy the West.

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter from Paris: Je Suis en Terrasse — Reflections on Life After the Terrorist Attacks

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

For the second time in 2015, Paris was the target of the terrorists. But, in contrast to the “Charlie Hebdo” massacre, the attacks were not made in the name of an idea, like freedom of expression — especially of the press, or to single out the Jewish community, but aimed at French society as a whole. The blind rampage was intended to butcher the greatest number of normal Parisians having fun on a Friday night.

The killings took place almost simultaneously in five places obviously following a well prepared scenario acted by three professional and heavily armed commandos. Never before had the French been exposed to kamikazes. The carnage left 129 dead, 355 injured including more than 99 in critical condition.

Logo_French_flag

It all started at 9.20 p.m. at the Stade de France, north of Paris, on Friday, Nov. 13, where the Bleus were playing against a German soccer team in front of 80,000 spectators. President François Hollande was in the crowd. He left discreetly at half time. In spite of two explosions, the match went on uninterrupted to avoid the panic. Afterwards the public lingered on the lawn, still dazed. Spontaneously the crowd started singing the Marseillaise. Outside the stadium, the double suicide had left a scene of destruction. The social networks went to work. Taxis offered free rides. Twitter launched an operation “open doors” to disoriented people.

In rapid succession , the terrorists drove from one crowded place to another in the 10th and the 11th arrondissements to proceed with their slaughter: Le Petit Cambodge, the Carillon bar, the Cosa Nostra restaurant and finally La Belle Equipe on Rue Charonne,

An American rock group was on stage when four terrorists broke into the concert hall Bataclan packed with an audience of 1,500. They started shooting blindly at people. From the account of a seasoned policeman, the scene of horror was apocalyptic. Bodies were lying in pools of blood. After holding a group of hostages for three hours and using them as ramparts against the assault of the special forces, the terrorists blew themselves up, using their belts padded with sophisticated explosives.

Why was the 11th arrondissement again the main target of the terrorist attack? Since I live there, I have pondered over this question. Ann Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, gave some of the answers during an interview on TV. The 11th, she said with some pride, is a multi-ethnic, socially mixed population with large and visible religious communities. It has a distinct personality, rebellious and rather impertinent. The French call these types of people “bo-bo” (meaning bohemian-bourgeois.) It is an unpalatable cocktail for the IS (Islamic State).

The other reason why terrorists seem to be attracted to the 11th might be the availability of good hiding places in this working class arrondissement – the largest of Paris. Geographically the 11th is close to “difficult” suburbs. Finally, It is near the highway leading to Brussels. The inquiry has revealed connections between the authors of the Paris attack and the Molenbeek district, a hotbed of radical Islam in Belgium.

Eiffel_Tower_model_flowers

As it is often the case at time of crisis, people show their best side. It certainly was true with the French who rose up above their usual attitude of self-disparagement. Here are just a few examples — the police, the SAMU (ER), the Red Cross, the army, the BRI (brigade de Recherche et d’Investigation), the RAID (Recherche-Assistance-Intervention-Dissuasion) and other elite units could all be considered as heroes. Doctors and surgeons happened to be on strike on Friday Nov. 13, but returned to work with news of the killings. Some even volunteered in services other than their own. At the Pompidou hospital, dozens of volunteers waited three hours to donate blood. People living near the attacks opened their apartments to wounded victims.

François Hollande acted as a compassionate and strong president during the crisis and announced immediate security measures to reassure the population. He declared a etat d’urgence or highest state of alert, suspending temporarily individual liberties and including the delay of all street manifestations, of public gatherings and the closing of monuments, etc. It was a bleak sight for the tourists to see the Tour Eiffel lost in darkness. To emphasize national unity, Hollande convened a Congress made up of the National Assembly and Senate in solemn Versailles. It was the first time that had happened since the Algerian war in 1962.

The French colors appeared on monuments around the world in an amazing show of support. President Obama was the first leader to make a declaration; Angela Merkel, who marched in the streets of Paris on Jan. 11, extended her message of friendship; David Cameron declared – in French – Nous sommes tous solidaires. The Moscovites laid flowers in front of the French embassy in Moscow. In a different tone, Bashar al-Assad told the people of France: you suffered last night, but think of what the Syrian population has lived with during the past five years.

One detects an acceleration of terrorist attacks: Ankara in October, Lebanon and the crash of a Russian plane in November. IS is now exporting its war to other countries. It is an assymetric war since one side welcomes death. Zero security is impossible to guarantee. All one can do is to minimize the danger .

For the past 15 years, France has been on the front line of the war against radical Islam and acted alone in the Sahel, Mali, Nigeria, Chad. For the past two and half months, France has taken part in the air strikes over Syria. This is a brave but dangerous policy, probably untenable in the long term.

Bernard Guetta, specialist in geopolitics and commentator on France-Inter, described the Nov. 13 tragedy as a shock therapy, which might lead to a strong coalition able to defeat IS.

On Sunday, two days after the attack, the Parisions were still nervous. I was walking on the Bastille square when police cars suddenly cordoned off the avenue — rumor of an explosion spread. In a panic, people started running. I had to run also so as not to be caught in the stampede. Thankfully, it was a false alarm!

It is your duty as a citizen, a comedian joked on the radio the other day, to sit on the terrace of a cafe and have a drink to show you are not afraid. To-day, one does not say, “Je suis Charlie,” but rather, “Je suis en terrasse.”

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Legal News You Can Use: The Gift of Real Estate From Parent to Child

real-estate-giftShould I gift my house to the kids now, or leave it in my estate? This can be a tricky question. There are also many other factors to consider, including mortgages, capital gains tax, Medicaid regulations, and other risks.

GIFT TAX

The current federal law gives each donor (maker of a gift) a $5.43 million lifetime exemption from the federal gift tax. The Connecticut statutes provide for a $2 million lifetime exemption from the Connecticut gift tax. Therefore, there is no gift tax due unless the donor has made more than $2 million in taxable gifts during his/her life.

Each donor receives a $14,000.00 annual gift tax exclusion per donee (receiver of a gift) for gifts of a present interest, meaning that the recipient can use and enjoy the gift immediately. For example, the exclusion for a gift from a parent to two children may total $28,000. If both the donor and their spouse join in the gift, the exclusion would be $56,000.00. That is, the value of the gift for gift tax purposes would be reduced by $56,000.00.

The $14,000.00 annual gift tax exclusion is not available for gifts of a future interest, such as a gift of real estate in which the donor reserves a life use. So, if your total estate is below the $5.43 million federal estate tax exemption and the $2 million Connecticut estate tax exemption, there is really no practical difference in this case.

MORTGAGE

Most mortgage documents prohibit the borrower from transferring an interest in the real estate without the lender’s written consent. To be assured of avoiding trouble with the lender, be sure to seek this consent before making a transfer.

CAPITAL GAINS

A donor may have purchased real estate many years ago at a price that is much lower than the property’s current value. Because the gift recipient’s basis for capital gains tax purposes is the same as the donor’s basis, if and when the donee children sell the property, they could anticipate paying capital gains tax on a substantial gain.

By contrast, if the children were to inherit the property at the parent’s death, the children’s basis would be the fair market value of the property at the parent’s date of death. In that case, if the property were eventually sold, the gain upon which capital gains tax may be due would be much smaller than it would be if the property were received by gift and then eventually sold.

MEDICAID

The current Medicaid regulations provide that if a person makes a gift of assets, and subsequently applies for Medicaid sooner than five years from the date of the gift, a period of ineligibility based on the value of the gift will apply. For instance, if a parent gifted real estate to a child on September 1, 2014, and the parent or the parent’s spouse needed to apply for Medicaid to pay for the cost of long term nursing home care prior to September 1, 2019, the parent or their spouse would be ineligible for Medicaid. Because of this five year look back rule, it is important to examine what other assets are available to pay for long term care.

OTHER RISKS

What if your child passes away before you do? As much as we don’t like to think about these scenarios, this can be particularly problematic if the parent has not reserved a life use in the gifted property. In this case, the deceased child’s interest would pass under his/her own estate plan documents, possibly to a spouse or to the deceased child’s own children.

Other unexpected events such as bankruptcy, or an accident suffered by one of the donee children, or a divorce, could leave the gifted real estate vulnerable to claims of creditors or claims of the child’s spouse.

The long and short of this complicated discussion is that it is very important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before making the decision to gift property to your children.

Attorney Jeanette Dostie is a Director at Suisman Shapiro in New London, CT, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. She has a wide experience in estate planning, ranging from simple wills to complex estate plans designed to maximize estate tax savings for clients. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860) 442-4416. Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320.

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Letter from Paris: Fabulous FIAC Celebrates Contemporary Art Throughout Paris

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

She’s back! We’ve probably been asked more often about what has happened to Nicole Prévost Logan than any other of our wonderful writers. You see, Nicole takes a break from writing for us in the summer when she is living in Essex, Conn. But now she has returned to her house in Paris and (metaphorically) picked up her pen again … and we’re delighted … along with many of our readers!

fiac_2012_jardin_des_plantes

In late October every year, France attracts visitors from around the world to take part in the FIAC (Foire Internationale de l’Art Contemporain.) Multiple exhibits open, not only in museums, but also hors murs (outdoors) on the grounds of historical monuments like the Chateau de Versailles, or on public squares and parks like Place la Concorde or the Jardin des Tuileries .

For a few days, Paris becomes the capital of arts, fashion and design. The main event of the FIAC takes place in the Grand Palais and was attended this year by 75,000 professionals in the arts and owners of the 173 most prestigious galleries of the world. (not individual artists.) The high entrance fee was set at $40. The works exhibited were in all media – paintings, sculptures, videos, installations. Values of the objects varied from a few thousands euros to several millions.

What makes the specificity of the FIAC is that it expands every year and becomes increasingly accessible to the general public. The French minister of Culture and Communication Fleur Pellerin, who occupied the media center stage during the week, stressed the civic importance of the richness and diversity of culture open to all in the public space.

When walking around Paris it seemed impossible not to stumble over some work of art: on the banks of the Seine in the new Cité de la Mode et du Design, in the department stores or the elegant lobbies of five-star hotels palaces. In the historical districts of the Marais, or St Germain des Prés, unbridled art creations were the norm. The “off” art found additional space under white tents. Digital art celebrated its tenth anniversary near the Alexandre III bridge.

The “Outsider Art Fair” (art brut) – made up of the works of mentally disturbed , marginal or self-taught artists – placed its 38 stands in a private mansion. It included the works of the well known American artist Henry Darger whose permanent collection is in the New York American Folk Art museum.

To stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries was to be in for a great treat. One could admire whimsical, mostly thought-provoking artistic creations on lawns, near the two pools, along the tree-lined paths. Young and articulate art students from the Ecole du Louvre described the works to the curious passers-by.

Just two examples. Heimo Zobernig, who lives and works in Vienna, created a tall androgynous statue. The body was made of three pieces from three different sculptures scanned in 3D. The head, legs, and torso were assembled digitally, raising the question of figurative sculpture. On the Tuileries bassin rond, a transparent sphere, of about 10 feet in diameter was floating under the motion of a crystal chandelier hanging inside and spinning around. The artist’s intention was to show the hidden properties of objects by the incongruous mix of an inflatable toy, a scooter’s chain and a 24 volt rotating mechanism.

The visitor reaches the Place de la Concorde. Four pavilions mesmerized the crowds. They had been erected by St Gobain – the French company specialized in construction material for the past 450 years (it built the Louvre pyramid.) The pavilions showed the company’s innovations for the future: how can sensorial modules create thermic and acoustic comfort or a 21st house being built entirely from materials created by 3D printers.

After an absence of a few months, what better way than the FIAC to reacquaint oneself with the Paris scene?

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Legal News You Can Use: Know Your Rights When Unexpected Injury Occurs

Car_accidentAn unexpected injury can be frightening and disorienting, whether from an automobile accident, slip-and-fall, or a “freak” accident. It is helpful to know your rights, and consider in advance the important steps you should take in these situations.

#1. Seek Emergency Medical Care

This may seem obvious, but take a minute to be sure you’re alright! If you are able to do so, check on any passengers in your vehicle, or on others who may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident. Once you have taken precautions for your safety, move your vehicle out of the lane of travel, if possible. Then, call 911.

If you refuse treatment at the scene, go directly to your doctor or the local emergency clinic to be checked out, even if you think your injuries are minor. Often times it is well after the adrenaline wears off that we start to experience pain.

#2. Inform Authorities and Get Copies of Reports

Wait for the police to arrive on the scene, and, respectfully ask that the other driver do the same. If you have been injured in an accident on the premises of a business, notify the manager or supervisor immediately, or, inform the homeowner if you have been injured on residential property. Always remain calm during the course of any conversations with the police, authorities, business representatives, or other parties involved. Remember to ask for copies of any accident reports that are generated.

#3. Exchange Insurance Information and Take Photos

Try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver. If you were injured on residential or commercial premises, ask for contact information for the appropriate insurance company. Take photos of any visible injuries and damage to your vehicle or property.

#4. Don’t Ignore Follow-up Medical Treatment, and Keep Good Records

Don’t skip follow-up appointments, and be sure to obey the recommendations of any medical professionals who are treating you. Not keeping your medical appointments or failing to follow your doctors’ advice may hinder the healing process, and can also have an impact on any compensation to which you may be entitled. Insurance companies often try to reduce compensation for failing to do these things, calling it “failure to mitigate damages”. Your medical records will provide documentation in the event that the insurance company asks for it. Save copies of doctors’ notes, time off from work, and receipts from any expenses incurred.

#5. Seek Legal Counsel

It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. It usually takes time to assess the full nature of your claim, including your injuries, property damage, loss of wages, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the claim, etc. Do NOT sign any documents, releases or checks from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.

Beware of insurance companies who are quick to offer you cash after you have been injured. Often, accepting a cash payout from an insurance company shortly after the incident means signing a written promise that you will not bring a claim or a lawsuit against the insurance company or the party they insure. If you discover additional injuries or property damage after you have made this promise, you may inadvertently waive future recovery to which you may be entitled.

#6. Claims

Many, but not all, motor vehicle collisions have a two-year statute of limitations. This means that you have the right to bring a lawsuit claiming damages arising out of the collision up to two years after the date on which it happened. On the other hand, in some situations, if you fail to notify certain parties within as little as 60 to 90 days that you intend to bring a claim, you may forfeit certain legal rights. The time limits prescribed by Connecticut law vary depending on the type of accident and if the responsible party is an individual, business, municipality, or other entity; where the accident occurred, and other factors.

It is wise to consult with a competent attorney who can advise you as to the statute of limitations that applies to your particular situation. It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. Many people mistakenly assume that if they file a lawsuit, they will be required to go through the stress and anxiety of a court trial. However, the majority of lawsuits that are filed settle before reaching the point of a trial. Following the important steps above will help make the road to physical, emotional and financial recovery much smoother.

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Attorney John A. Collins III

Editor’s Note: Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services. John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT 06320

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Lori Warner Gallery Hosts Ann Lightfoot Jewelry Summer Sale Today

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A plethora of jewelry by Ann Lightfoot. Photo courtesy of Ann Lightfoot Jewelry

CHESTER — In appreciation of their customers’ loyal support and enthusiasm, Lori Warner and Ann Lightfoot have teamed up to host the Ann Lightfoot Jewelry Summer Studio Sale on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Earrings by Ann Lightfoot. Photo courtesy of Ann Lightfoot Jewelry

Find a curated mix of samples, one-offs, past seasons’ pieces, as well as many designs offered exclusively at this event, all at deeply reduced prices.

A portion of all sales will help fund the art programs in local public schools through the Lori Warner Gallery Scholarship Fund.

The Lori Warner Studio/Gallery is a unique source for artwork and objects that make a lasting impression. The gallery exhibits a small number of exclusive and award winning work and regularly hosts informal events featuring their represented artists and designers.

The gallery is located at 21 Main Street in Chester, Connecticut.  For more information, visit www.loriwarner.com or call  (860) 322-4265.

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Nibbles: Summer Just Isn’t Summer Without Ratatouille (and a Five-Bean Bake!)

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal -- or as a meal on its own.

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal — or as a meal on its own.

I am so enjoying this summer.

I do love my CSA baskets (Hanukkah or Christmas every Tuesday afternoon), but I still delight in visiting my local farm and farm markets twice a week to get more tomatoes and sweet corn, either at Whittle’s in Mystic or Becky’s in Waterford.

If that were not enough, a neighbor, who is a scientist at Pfizer, asked if I liked tuna. “Fresh tuna?” I asked. Sure enough, her colleague was going tuna fishing the next day and she came home with two simply gorgeous tuna fillet.

The next day I marinated it with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon. Aside from the fact that I overcooked the tuna, it was amazing and my plate shared space with two big tomatoes with burrata (from Fromage) and sweet corn. Life can be pretty darn good.

Over the July 4 weekend, I went to a party at John Colton’s house in Lyme. His sister, Beverly Picazio, made two salads—ratatouille with fresh vegetables and another that can be whipped up with pantry staples.

I loved both of them so you might consider making these from your next potluck or party. The ratatouille is not only a great side dish, but, with a crusty loaf of bread and a salad, it is a terrific vegetarian dinner.

Ratatouille

Slightly adapted from recipe of Beverly Picazio of Stonington

Yield:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 4 large cloves of garlic, minced

One-half teaspoon crusted pepper flakes

2 medium-sized eggplants, peeled and chopped

3 zucchini, chopped2 green peppers, chopped

2 8-ounce packages of sliced mushrooms

4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 can lima beans

1 yellow squash, chopped

2 28-ounces crushed tomatoes

Fresh ground fresh black pepper and salt, to taste

Chop all vegetables to about the same side.

In a large (or Le Creuset) Dutch oven, saute garlic in oil. Add pepper flakes. Stir in all the vegetables, including the tomatoes. Bring ingredients to a simmer, then cover and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Beverly thinks the dish is better made a day or two earlier. When reheating, water if ratatouille is too thick.

Five-Bean Bake

From Beverly Picazio of Stonington

Yield: serves 12 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

8 bacon slices, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 28-ounce can Bush baked beans

1 19.75 ounce of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can lima beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup ketchup

Three-quarter cup firmly packed brown sugar

One-half cup water

One-quarter cup cider vinegar

Cook bacon I a large skillet over medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Add diced onion and saute until tender. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.

Add all ingredients into a 9-inch by 13-nch baking dish and cook in the oven covered for 1 hour; uncover and bake another 30 minutes.

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