Sunday, December 21, 2014

Simultaneously shocking, satisfying, and apt...

Even (David Trevellyan, #1)Even by Andrew Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've recently reviewed several of Steve Hamilton's books about Alex McKnight, the hero I contrasted to James Bond - McKnight is "a hero who bleeds," and who suffers for seeking justice and upholding his values. David Trevellyan, hero of Andrew Grant's recent series, takes punishment but doles out a lot more - to those who have "earned" it with their evildoing. I saw his most recent book on the new book shelf at the Oxford Free Public Library in Massachusetts and was about to take it home, then decided to read his first book first. I'm glad I did. Now I have a couple of sequels to look forward to. I would be reading the next one already, except that my reserve came in for Steven King's new book, Revival, and that goes to the top of my reading pile. Andrew Grant's prose is so well crafted that my disbelief isn't just suspended, it's cast aside. I grabbed the book at every free moment to find what would happen next. He manages to come up with an ending that is simultaneously shocking, satisfying, and apt. Well done, Andrew Grant. Thank you.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Devil shares secrets to successful life on earth.

Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and SuccessOutwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success by Napoleon Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tremendously enjoyed this imaginative book in which – 76 years ago – Napoleon Hill recorded his “Interview with the Devil.” I took extensive notes and recorded many quotations. I’ll share a few to give you the flavor of the writing. For the Q&A the questioner is Hill and the answers are by the Devil. Who is this Devil anyway? p. 99-100: “You know that I exist only in the minds of people who have fears… You know that my hell is here on earth and not in the world that comes after death. And you know also that drifters supply all the fire I use in my hell. You know that I am a principle or form of energy which expresses the negative side of matter and energy, and that I am not a person with a forked tongue and a spiked tail.”

p 116 “Q: Which do you prefer to serve as your propagandists – the young or the old? A: The young, of course! They can be influenced by most bribes [temptations] more easily than people of mature judgment. Moreover, they have longer to remain in my service.” [This was written in 1938, long before the “youth culture” and advertisements using young people to serve as trendsetters.]

p 140 “The highest power in the universe can be used for constructive purposes, through what you call God, or it can be used for negative purposes, through what you call the Devil. And something more important still, it can be used by any human being just as effectively as by God or the Devil… you have but one source available through which you may appropriate the benefit of universal power, and that is by trusting and using your own power of thought. This is the direct road to the universal storehouse of Infinite Intelligence. There is no other road available to any human being.”

If you ever thought there was a satanic element to the promises and lies of marketers you may find this quote as amusing as did I: p 149-150 “Q: Why doesn’t your opposition [God] give your secret to all people by telling them to avoid you through definiteness of purpose?... A: Because I am more clever than my opposition. I draw people away from definiteness with my promises. You see, I control more people than my opposition because I am a better salesman and a better showman. I attract people by feeding them liberally of the thought-habits in which they like to indulge.”

Here is one more quote, a magnificent one: p 197 “A… There is no human being now living, no human being has ever lived, and no human being ever will live with the right or the power to deprive another human being of the inborn privilege of free and independent thought. That privilege is the only one over which any human being can have absolute control. No adult human being ever loses the right to freedom of thought, but most humans lose the benefits of this privilege either by neglect or because it has been taken away from them by their parents or religious instructors before the age of understanding. These are self-evident truths, no less important because they are being called to your attention by the Devil than they would be if brought to your attention by my opposition.”

This book is full of self-evident and not-so-evident truths. Whether they are called to our attention by the Devil, or by Napoleon Hill, I am grateful to have been exposed to them. I recommend this to anyone interested in enjoying and sharing the joy of our life on this Earth.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Antidote to Magical Thinking

Here is a link to an opinion piece I really enjoyed from today's Boston Globe, by Carlo Rotella, Director of American studies at Boston College. [If you tried the link earlier, please click again on the article title, as I have repaired the link.]

The Boston Globe | Opinion

Why we need financial doomsayers

By Carlo Rotella | GLOBE COLUMNIST | NOVEMBER 22, 2014

Rotella begins by assuring us that he has little interest in finance, but "pounces on" each issue of Jeremy Grantham's quarterly newsletter. Why?

"To begin with, he’s a doomsayer, a Cassandra with a bracingly clear vision of looming difficulties... I appreciate doomsaying as an art form..."

Note: The article uses a more current picture of Grantham than this one from Google Images.

He quotes Grantham on one specific challenge we avoid facing: "We owe almost everything we have had in the way of scientific and economic progress and the growth of the world’s food supplies and population to fossil fuels" which are becoming harder and costlier to produce.

I love his conclusion about our self-delusion and (intellectually) lazy self-indulgence:

"We want to hear good news and assume that present conditions will persist, we tend to be bad with numbers and uncertainty, and we take comfort in short-term-oriented herd behavior of the sort that characterizes the financial industry. We need doomsayers like Grantham to counteract these tendencies."

The quote in a text box in the article goes beyond Greenspan's irrational exhuberance: "Grantham’s quarterly letters feel like an antidote to the magical thinking purveyed by Congress and hysterically optimistic stock-pickers."

Friday, November 21, 2014

I "had it figured out" more than once...

Misery Bay (Alex McKnight, #8)Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hamilton interlaces an unfamiliar technique through this satisfying mystery. The familiar elements of Alex McKnight, the reliability of his steadfast friends and the frightful Upper Peninsula environment confront twists and turns of evil that keep you guessing - and reading. I "had it figured out" more than once, only to find the plot bobbing and weaving and deflecting my comprehension. While reviewing the fourth in the series, North of Nowhere, I wrote, "The satisfying conclusion left questions hanging about the fate of a couple of the characters." One relationship in particular (no, not a romantic one) I hoped to see evolve in an ironic yet believable way. Hamilton finds a way to accomplish this that doesn't insult the reader's intelligence, but rather feels inevitable and "bonds" the reader even more closely with the characters.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recycling "My" first Public Library Building

The previous post was partly inspired by my daughter's posting of this article about the fate of "the Old Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library." I tracked down those old pictures of Jody and me in front of it, then I grabbed the image to the right from Street View on Google Maps. (I hope they don't mind.)


Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dudley accepts doughnut shop owner's bid for former library building


DUDLEY — Selectmen have accepted an $85,000 bid from the owner of the Dippin' Donuts on West Main Street for the vacant building that served as the town library for more than 100 years.

Donna Karapatsas' was the higher of two proposals for the 3,000-square-foot brick building located on the other side of Village Street from her business.

"It met the specifications and also offered the town the highest amount of money," Town Administrator Greg L. Balukonis told selectmen Monday.

He recommended the board accept the bid from Ms. Karapatsas because it was "highly advantageous and in the best interests of the town."

Mr. Balukonis said her proposal stated the old library parking lot would be used for doughnut shop employees. The building interior would be renovated for storage and office space. Renovations to the exterior, he said, would be in keeping with the present building's style.

"I think the new owner will be a good steward of that property," Selectman John J. Marsi said.

The library, built on the edge of a prominent mill village in 1901, had served the town for more than a century when it closed four years ago.

Town meeting voters authorized selectmen to dispose, sell or transfer it, yet an attempt last year to sell the property for $75,000 failed to attract bidders.

In putting the site up for sale in October, Mr. Balukonis said, the town's goal was to eliminate the expense of maintaining the old building while generating revenue.

To aid in its sale, the library was among four parcels on Village Street that were rezoned from residential to business by voters at the October town meeting.

By way of requirements set in the request for proposals, the town sought to retain the integrity of the building exterior because of its significant history.

Henry Hale Stevens incorporated Stevens Linen Assoc. in 1846 and constructed the main mill near the library in the early 1860s. Its twin six-story towers stood over what became the largest of five mill villages in Dudley. Mr. Stevens donated land for the town to construct the library in 1901.

In 1972 it was renamed in honor of former trustee Pearle L. Crawford for her many contributions to the library and the community.

After 109 years, the small confines of the library at 1 Village St. were replaced by a new library on Schofield Avenue.

A little-known worry for Library Directors

The story below is familiar to many Directors of multi-level libraries. [I originally wrote "multi-story libraries" but even the smallest library has many "stories." Ouch, bad pun.] Worrying about elevator inspections may be the last thing most people associate with a Library Director's work. For years staff shortages in the inspection department made it impossible to schedule timely re-inspections - something I had to explain repeatedly to concerned patrons who saw the out-of-date certificates.
When I was at the original Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library (my first Library Director position) this was not an issue...

The Boston Globe | Metro

State audit cites backlog in elevator inspections

By Travis Andersen

More than one third of the registered elevators in Massachusetts — 14,211 in all — had expired inspection certificates in 2012, according to findings released by the office of state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump on Tuesday.

Bump’s office said in a statement that an audit of inspections statewide showed 25,250 elevators, or about 64 percent of the 39,461 registered, had valid certificates as of October 2012. More than 1,700 certificates had been expired for more than four years, auditors found.

“Uninspected elevators not only represent a safety risk to the public but also lost revenue to the Commonwealth,” Bump’s office said. The auditor said that Massachusetts may have missed out on more than $3 million from inspection fees that the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the inspections, did not collect during that period.

The Public Safety department disputed the findings, however, saying that the compliance rate as of October 2012 was approximately 72 percent. The department also noted that elevator owners are responsible by law for renewing their certifications.

In addition, the department said it began sending notices in the spring of 2013 to alert elevator owners that their inspection certificates will expire in 90 days. The agency also said it will launch an updated inspection system later this year.

Currently, the compliance rate for inspections has risen to more than 80 percent, based on monthly benchmark reports, said Terrel Harris, a spokesman for Public Safety.

But Bump on Tuesday urged continued vigilance. “The Department of Public Safety is the public’s watchdog to ensure building owners are held accountable and elevators are safe,” she said. “To be accountable itself, the agency must raise itself to higher standards.”

The audit — which also reviewed the state’s oversight of amusement rides and ticket reseller operations — was made public months after a woman was seriously injured in May when she fell down an elevator shaft at Fenway Park after a Red Sox game. The elevator’s inspection certificate was valid at the time.

The team’s majority owner, John Henry, also owns The Boston Globe.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen

[NOTE:] The article as posted had the following paragraph, which I believe I corrected by moving the quote to the end of the preceding one beginning "But Bump..." I think a wayward click may have inserted what I moved into the middle of the word "ride."

The audit — which also reviewed the state’s oversight of amusement r“The Department of Public Safety is the public’s watchdog to ensure building owners are held accountable and elevators are safe,” she said. “To be accountable itself, the agency must raise itself to higher standards.” ides and ticket reseller operations — was made public months after a woman was seriously injured in May when she fell down an elevator shaft at Fenway Park after a Red Sox game. The elevator’s inspection certificate was valid at the time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Worcester - where I began my career

This article was part of the information for prospective applicants for Library Director at the Worcester Public Library. (I do not plan to apply, although friends have urged me to come out of retirement to the place where I began my professional career.) I don't see any mention of the Residency Requirement that used to govern WPL employees. I wonder if they have eliminated it. I love Worcester - my daughter and granddaughter are natives - but would not give up a home I love that is less than 9 miles from the Library. A fun coincidence is the mention, under Pro/Parkland that "Elm Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted..." My final Library Director position was at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts, where the landscape architecture was also designed by Olmsted (and the building by Henry Hobson Richardson - I was blessed to be in beautiful environs.)

The Boston Globe | Real Estate

What is it like to live on Worcester’s West Side?
By Vanessa Parks


“Worcester’s counterpart to the tony suburbs of Wellesley, Brookline, and Newton” is how a City of Worcester website describes the West Side. Indeed, the neighborhood is so pretty that a newcomer traveling through the city and ending up here might feel a bit like Dorothy: I don’t think I’m in Worcester anymore. Despite the distinctly suburban feel, yes, it is Worcester.

Lovers of old homes will salivate at the grand houses. In fact, Worcester has three historic districts, two on the West Side. The Massachusetts Avenue one, established in 1975, encompasses 21 properties covering roughly 14 acres. The neighboring Montvale Historic District includes 57 properties north of Salisbury Street, one of the main roadways on the West Side. Both historic districts predominately comprise turn-of-the-last-century homes of varied architectural styles.

While the homes are every bit as beautiful as similar ones closer to Boston, the prices are much lower. And though Worcester doesn’t have everything Boston has to offer, it boasts the Worcester Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, Mechanics Hall, great hospitals, professional sports teams, ethnic markets, and restaurants galore, particularly on Shrewsbury Street, in the city’s traditionally Italian neighborhood. Meanwhile, the second largest city in New England is undergoing a revival. (No, really, this time it’s actually happening.) The $563 million CitySquare project in downtown Worcester is creating more than 2.2 million square feet of retail, medical, and residential space, as well as a more pedestrian-friendly street pattern.

“The Woo” is set to wow.

By the numbers


The amount that graphic artist Harvey R. Ball, a Worcester native, was paid to create the Smiley Face button as part of a employee morale campaign for a local insurance company in 1963.

10 minutes

The time it took him to draw it, according to the Worcester Historical
Museum . Others have claimed credit for it — and made a lot of money.


To date, the number of infected or at-risk trees cut down in Worcester and some neighboring towns to control infestations of Asian longhorned beetles. A local initiative recently celebrated the planting of 30,000 trees.


The best a Massachusetts team has ever done in the Little League World Series US final, achieved in 2002 by the West Side’s Jesse Burkett Little League All-Stars and a team from Saugus the following year.

Pros & Cons


Housing stock

Beautiful homes at comparatively low prices. On the West Side, a gorgeous 3,721-square-foot home on Lenox Street updated but with loads of old-house-details preserved, recently sold for $385,000.



Though it’s known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth” (which is why the city seal and flag bear a heart), it’s likely you’ve heard it referred to as the “armpit of Massachusetts.” So, if you live here, you may have to put up with that anti-Worcester attitude. Call it the ignorance of the arrogant.



Elm Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In all, there are about 1,250 acres of parkland in Worcester.



It’s improving, but for a city with 10 colleges and universities (Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the College of the Holy Cross among them), the hip factor is fairly low.

[If you click on the link above or here you can see the article with 7 more photos giving the "flavor" of Worcester's West Side. Harry The Librarian]

More coverage:

- The home your money buys on Worcester’s West Side

Vanessa Parks is a freelance writer in Central Massachusetts. Send e-mail to [sic]

Monday, November 3, 2014

I am famous - surely fortune will follow!

It is nice to be acknowledged and wonderful to get free publicity. I've been announcing at Brockton Symphony Orchestra concerts for six years, and asked if I might be listed in the program book. How sweet to see that my informal title has been formalized and preserved for posterity. "The voice..."

It is also nice to see an entire gallery of photos from yesterday's magnificent concert, including one of yours truly at the microphone, in the Brockton Enterprise.

From the Enterprise web site (bold article title links to the photo gallery)
Brockton Symphony Orchestra concert
The Brockton Symphony Orchestra performed on stage during a concert at Oliver Ames High School in Easton on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014.
Posted Nov. 2, 2014

As soon as I saw the photos I posted a link to the article on Facebook, noting a couple of possible errors, I immediately wrote, "One caption referred to the violas as violins, another called the bass a cello, but they got the French Horn right and didn't call it a tuba..."

Shortly after posting that I started to feel guilty and mean-spirited, so I added a comment saying, "Perhaps I'm being hasty. The caption said 'violinists...perform' while showing viola players - are they violinists rather than viola-ists? I don't know for sure. [I think the proper term is violist, but my research has proved inconclusive.] Same for the bass. Caption says'"cellist plays' not 'plays the cello in this picture.' How do I know the fellow playing the bass in the picture is not also a cellist? Pardon my rush to judgement and play for cheap laughs."

If you click on the link you can see all 17 photos by Scott Eisen/The Enterprise. Thank you Brockton Enterprise for sharing this positive news about our "Greater Brockton Treasure" The Brockton Symphony Orchestra!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Announcements at a Magnificent Concert

After today's uplifting "Rhine Journey" concert, Brockton Symphony Treasurer Susan Caplan complimented me on my "performance" as emcee/Announcer, then asked if I would send her the text of my announcements at the start of the concert. It hadn't occurred to me that others would find this of interest, but for those who couldn't attend today, and pending the availability of the concert CD, here is what I said:

Announcements – Rhine Journey

Welcome! If this is your first concert, prepare to be dazzled by our wonderful orchestra and our incredible soloist, Davin Shin. Regular listeners know I’m not exaggerating. Welcome to our guests from Orchard Cove.

My name is Harry Williams. I am a member of the Symphony Board and like so many, I am a volunteer. The Brockton Symphony has no paid administrative staff – we depend on the Board, orchestra members, and volunteers from the greater Brockton community to enable us to keep putting on our concerts. Your generosity is not diverted into administrative costs, your donations support concerts, community outreach and scholarships.

In that spirit we invite you to help in several ways. Consider purchasing Season Tickets – on sale in the lobby during intermission. This year's subscription price is lower than ever! You will get a credit on today's ticket towards the subscription -- Adult subscription are $80, Seniors and students $65, and of course, children under 12 are free. They give admission to 5 concerts

You can be like our principle sponsor, Harbor One Bank, and advertise in our program book. You can join our dedicated volunteers. Most important is what you are doing today - attending our concert. No audience – no Symphony! The donations jar in the lobby is for the Brockton Public Schools Music Scholarship Fund to fund music lessons for elementary & middle school students.

Today’s concert is dedicated to two cherished friends of the Symphony, each of whom gave generously of their love and energy to the Brockton Symphony Orchestra: Carol Elledge and Bill Northrup. Maestro Orent will share memories of each during the concert.

Be sure to sign up for our electronic newsletter, the Fanfare, in the lobby, and save the date for our Holiday Pops concert on December 7th.

Please turn off your cell phones.

After the concert join us in the Dining Hall for refreshments and to meet members of the orchestra, Maestro Orent, and our Classical Staff volunteers.

Concertmistress Irina Fainkichen will tune the orchestra, then you can join me in welcoming Maestro James M. Orent.

Friday, October 31, 2014

I will enjoy being "Master" of this "Ceremony" - Brockton Symphony

When James M. Orent says of Bruch’s Symphony No. 3 in E Major, “It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been involved with music my entire lifetime,” you get a sense of how wonderful will be this Sunday's concert. This begins my seventh season as Announcer/Master of Ceremonies ("Voice of the Symphony") and also my tenth year of writing, narrating and producing radio commercials for the magnificent Brockton Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to the Enterprise of Brockton for publishing this interview. Note: The two images below are from the Brockton Symphony's web site and were not included in the article.

Brockton Symphony Orchestra to open 67th season Sunday

By Nicole Fleming
The Enterprise
Posted Oct. 31, 2014 @ 2:34 am
Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 2:41 AM

BROCKTON – The Brockton Symphony Orchestra will begin its 67th season Sunday with a performance at Oliver Ames High School in Easton. The show, which will follow the season’s theme of “The Voyage Home,” will start at 3 p.m. and include music from Germany, Scandinavia and the British Isles. The concert starts at 3 p.m.

Called “Rhine Journey,” the show is the first of the season’s five concerts and will showcase four works: “Oberon Overture” by Carl Maria von Weber, “Kol Nedrei” by Max Bruch, “Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major” by Joseph Haydn, and after an intermission, “Symphony No. 3 in E Major’” by Max Bruch. The evening will also feature cellist David Shin, a Yale University student and 2012 Feinberg Competition finalist.

James M. Orent, the Brockton Symphony’s music director, will be the conductor for the first concert. Orent also works as a conductor and violinist for the Boston Pops and has a parallel career in aviation. In addition to well-known pieces from the orchestral repertoire, the Brockton Symphony is able to showcase lesser-known pieces that equally deserve attention but have fallen off the classical music radar, Orent says. In this vein, he is especially excited for the Sunday’s final work, Bruch’s “Symphony No. 3 in E Major.”

Orent only knows of the hidden gem because he was poring over catalogues for works that would fit with the concert’s “Rhine Journey” theme. He described the symphony as “magical,” and was taken by the piece’s second movement. “It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been involved with music my entire lifetime,” says Orent.
He polled his colleagues at the Brockton Symphony and the Boston Pops. Not one of them knew the piece.

But there’s really no rhyme or reason for why fantastic works aren’t played anymore, Orent says. “Things move in cycles in symphonies, just like everything else.” The 66-year-old Brockton symphony features local professional musicians who perform several shows each year, usually at local schools. The symphony’s second performance will be a “Holiday Pops” concert Dec. 7 at West Middle School in Brockton.

Tickets for the Nov. 2 concert are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. Because ticket sales cover only 20 percent of the concert expenses, donations are also welcome.
To purchase tickets or make a tax-deductible donation, please visit:

Brockton Symphony Orchestra schedule
Nov. 2: “Rhine Journey”
Dec. 7: “Holiday Pops!”
Jan. 25, 2015: “Chamber Music Concert”
March 1, 2015: Viva “Scandinavia!”
May 3, 2015: “Rule Britannia”
All shows start at 3 p.m.

Author kicks me in the stomach - and I love it!

A Stolen Season (Alex McKnight, #7)A Stolen Season by Steve Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading this I wrote in my Journal, "“I last cried reading a novel, when people (to me they become people – not just characters) get hurt or die in a well-written, moving story.” I was too stunned to cry for A Stolen Season - I doubled over. Author Steve Hamilton kicked me in the stomach so hard that when I was reading the following entry in the series (Misery Bay) I was sure the tragedy had been haunting McKnight for at least two earlier books, not just through this one. As always, I felt like some addict, craving my next fix (the next book in the series) as soon as I finished this one.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friends of Oxford Library Turkey Buffet: Good Cause/Great Food

Oxford Library Turkey Buffet at Publick House November 3rd.
Oxford, Massachusetts – October 17, 2014 – The Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library invite you to join them for an All-You-Can-Eat Traditional Turkey Buffet at the Historic Publick House Restaurant in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, on Monday, November 3, 2014. There are two seatings for this delectable event, at 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm.
The Publick House, at 277 Main Street, Sturbridge, Massachusetts features historic ambience, traditional New England-style dining and true Yankee hospitality. Whether you are a library lover, a book lover, a food lover, or any combination of the three, you will be delighted with your turkey dinner. This is an event past attendees look forward to.
Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available for purchase at the Oxford Free Public Library, 339 Main Street, Oxford, Massachusetts, 01540. The Library is open Monday 9:30-5:00, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9:30-8:00, Friday 9:30-5:00 and Saturday 9:30-4:00.
Adult tickets are $13.00. Tickets for children ages 4-13 are $5.00. Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library.
The Oxford Free Public Library is a member of the C/W MARS network and is open to all residents of Massachusetts. The Friends of the Library are volunteers who support the Library with fundraising and promotional activities. Hours and library news can be found at
Harry R. Williams III
15 Daniel Drive
North Oxford, MA 01537
(508) 208-0539


Friday, October 10, 2014

Authors' homes are not as treasured as Graceland.

With all due respect to Elvis fans, I am saddened to learn in the Boston Globe article below that writer's homes are not so treasured. Broker Jane Darrach, trying to sell J. D. Salinger's home, said “I don’t see [literary fame] carrying it over... writers’ admirers aren’t generally 'as demented' as fans obsessed with pop stars."

A famous writer slept here, but do house buyers care?
By Beth Teitell | GLOBE STAFF OCTOBER 10, 2014

The broker selling T.S. Eliot’s house in Gloucester — yes, that T.S. Eliot — was almost ready to fold up her “open house” sign when Ed Hanson, a retired artist, ambled into the grand foyer. “I was going to go to the beach,” Hanson said — it was a hot Sunday in September — “but it’s crazy crowded. So I came here.”

caption: Some potential buyers who visited this 15-room house in Gloucester where a young T.S. Eliot spent his summers were unimpressed by its literary connection.

The broker selling T.S. Eliot’s house in Gloucester — yes, that T.S. Eliot — was almost ready to fold up her “open house” sign when Ed Hanson, a retired artist, ambled into the grand foyer. “I was going to go to the beach,” Hanson said — it was a hot Sunday in September — “but it’s crazy crowded. So I came here.”

Hanson cheerfully admitted he had no plans to acquire the $1.349 million, 15-room Dutch Colonial where Eliot summered as a boy, but he took a tour anyway, and hoped the prestige would rub off. “Maybe I’ll pretend I’m T.S. Eliot,” he said, striking a writerly pose.

With all its famous-writers-house museums New England makes for a great literary tourism vacation. But right now, the homes of three beloved literary figures are listed not in travel guides, but rather in the realtor’s bible, MLS.

caption: Author Judy Blume’s Martha’s Vineyard home has been on the market for nearly two years.

Along with Eliot’s home — whose owner just accepted an offer — the house J.D. Salinger escaped to from Manhattan, on a bucolic, unpaved road in Cornish, N.H., is on the market for $679,000. On Martha’s Vineyard, part of Judy Blume’s two-parcel waterfront estate — asking price $4.75 million — just went under agreement.

The confluence of literature and listings raises a question: What does a literary reputation do for the value of a house?

Not much, according to local brokers. Although news that Salinger’s house is for sale has gone global, the listing broker, Jane Darrach, said that the words written by an unknown wordsmith trump best-seller status: “Location, location, location.”

caption: Second-floor bathroom at T.S. Eliot's childhood home.

Indeed, Blume’s house has been on the market for nearly two years. In Provincetown, Norman Mailer’s waterfront home just sold this past July, for $3.1 million; it lingered for a year after an initial sale fell through. Art Buchwald’s 4,200-square foot place in Martha’s Vineyard spent nearly three years on the market before it sold in January 2013, for $1.395 million.

“I don’t see [literary fame] carrying it over unless you get someone who is an incredible nut,” Darrach said, noting that writers’ admirers aren’t generally “as demented” as fans obsessed with pop stars.

[Inset box] ‘I wasn’t aware how big he was. But I realized I better start brushing up.’ Dana Hawkes, who has owned the T.S. Eliot house since 1998

And yet . . . if the seller is willing to name drop (not all are, the broker selling John Updike’s Beverly Farms house, following his death, in 2009, had to sign a confidentiality agreement), brokers say it can’t hurt.

caption: A childhood photo of T.S. Eliot.

At the Eliot open house in late September, on the dining room table, the poet and playwright’s bio was displayed next to the information sheet about the water and sewer systems.

“Here he is as a young boy,” the listing broker, Gretchen Parker, said to a prospective buyer, pointing to a photograph in a book that had been left open to just the right page.

Some prospective buyers at the open house didn’t care who had slept there. “Didn’t he die about 50 years ago?” one shopper said dismissively (yes). But for others, the literary connection is a lure.

Caption: The former home of J.D. Salinger in Cornish, N.H.

Some prospective buyers at the open house didn’t care who had slept there. “Didn’t he die about 50 years ago?” one shopper said dismissively (yes). But for others, the literary connection is a lure.

Michael Litel, of Boston, said he readied for his visit by listening to his wife read Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (“In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo”) and parts of “The Waste Land” (“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”).

“The idea that [Eliot] lived in this house is exciting,” Litel said.

Caption: J.D. Salinger.

Many people feel that way but the question is, why? Because they hope it will rub off on them, said Brock Clarke, the author of “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.”

“They have this notion that this is where genius happens, and if they sit in that room maybe they’ll write ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ ”—one of Blume’s most famous books—“or ‘The Waste Land.’ These rooms become magic, but they buy the house and they sit in the room and find themselves not any less dull than they were.”

But locally, those who’ve bought houses with a famous connection say it was a bonus, not the driving force.

Dana Hawkes, the owner of Eliot’s house since 1998, is an accidental docent.

About a month after she and her late husband moved in, the T.S. Eliot Society called asking if members could gather there during a Gloucester meeting. “About 100 people arrived,” Hawkes said. “They came from Europe and Japan, and they all had books of poetry with them.”

At that point, Hawkes, an animation art consultant with Bonhams, a British auction house, wasn’t very familiar with Eliot’s work. “I wasn’t aware how big he was,” she said. “But I realized I better start brushing up.’’

When Joan Littlefield and her late husband bought Salinger’s cottage, in 1983, she hadn’t yet read “The Catcher in the Rye,” the book that brought him the fame he was trying to escape.

After moving in, Littlefield stayed up all night reading it, and quickly came to feel protective of Salinger, who had moved to a house a very short stroll away after he and his wife second wife, Claire, divorced, in 1967.

Littlefield, it should be noted, lived the dream of every person who thinks it would be cool to live in an author’s house: in a crawl space, she found some of Salinger’s papers — some homeopathic recipes and an account book.

Meanwhile, Darrach, the broker, said that while buyers might be excited by the literary connection, sellers are looking to recoup an investment.

“We’ve had several people to see the house and wonder if the owner might sell it [for below asking] so they can turn it into a Salinger retreat or a museum,” she said.

Writer’s house or not, she said, “I’m not in the business of fairy tales.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fiction with a believable - and bleeding - hero!

Blood is the Sky (Alex McKnight, #5)Blood is the Sky by Steve Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another gripping adventure. Another chance for series hero Alex McKnight to test the limits of human recuperation and recovery.
This is a hero who suffers without the assurance of survival. He tells you how badly he is hurt, but never says "It's not supposed to be this way."
Bill Belichick says "It is what it is." Alex McKnight says "Pain is not as important as justice." Justice for him is not revenge but rather setting things right when possible, especially when it comes to his friends.
We should all have a friend like Alex McKnight! Thank you Steve Hamilton for sharing him with us.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oxford Public Library Fall Book Sale - Please print and Post!

Below is a press release I sent out to local media for the Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library Book Sale.
Some of the same information is on the poster.
As an experiment I tried to upload it as a PDF file to Blogger, but only image files work.
I am putting it here for easy retrieval by supportive librarians, merchants - anyone with a printer and a place to post bulletins - in the hope you will print and post them. Please help us get the word out, and help us help the library. Thank you!
Oxford Library Book Sale starts October 16th.
Oxford, Massachusetts – September 17, 2014 – The Friends of the Oxford Free Public Library are preparing a Fall Book Sale that will be a book lover’s delight.
Thousands of hard and softcover books in all genres, for all age groups, will be on sale Thursday, October 16th from 12 noon to 7 p.m.; Friday, October 17th from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (extended hours over previous sales); and Saturday, October 18th from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Large Print books, CD’s, DVD’s, audio tapes and VHS tapes will also be available.
The Friends request NO DEALERS PLEASE!!
You can support the Friends and the Library with your donations of CLEAN, gently read books and media. Donations will be accepted until October 13, and can be left downstairs during current library hours.
The Oxford Free Public Library, at 339 Main Street in Oxford Center, is a member of the C/W MARS network and is open to all residents of Massachusetts. The Friends of the Library are volunteers who support the Library with fundraising and promotional activities. Hours and library news can be found at

Harry R. Williams III
15 Daniel Drive
North Oxford, MA 01537
(508) 208-0539


Monday, September 29, 2014

Compelling, addictive mystery and suspense.

This reminds me of the 1960s when I gobbled up James Bond books as quickly as I could get my hands on them.

Ice Run (Alex McKnight, #6)Ice Run by Steve Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Weird, strange, bizarre - not just the precipitating event but the extended families of bad guys and the history that resonates into the present. Arrayed against this is our flawed hero, Alex McKnight, with his character and courage, and his few friends, solid but merely human. Keeping up with them is exhausting but rewarding - rewarding as always.

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A Wizard's Secrets - densely packed with concepts.

Secret Formulas of the Wizard of AdsSecret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

H. R. Williams reviews a book by R. H. Williams - no relative as far as I know. I stumbled across this fascinating book at the Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library in Dudley, Massachusetts. I was Library Director there 25 years ago when it was in a much smaller building. The cover art and graphics caught my eye and a quick scan of a few pages enticed me to bring it home. I returned it to the library today after getting my own copy so I can read it at my leisure. It is one of those books that is easy to read, with a captivating style, yet so densely packed with concepts that I prefer to take it in small doses to be savored and (hopefully) remembered. Here is a wonderful quote from page 44, Chapter 18, Living with Tarzan in the Jungle, "Though our 100 million sensory receptors enable us to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the real world, our 10,000 billion brain synapses allow us to relate new data to stored memories and ideas - to experience things that never happened... We are much better equipped for experiences that are contained fully in the mind. We have lived with Tarzan in the jungle, journeyed beneath the sea with Captain Nemo, been stranded on an island with Robinson Crusoe, and sailed with a peg-legged man named Ahab as he pursued a great white whale."

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Stephen King, tormented souls, "real people" in our everyday world

Mr. MercedesMr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I gave Stephen King's latest five stars. In Goodreads that means "It was amazing." That is not literally true, because there is nothing amazing about Stephen King producing a five-star book. I had to give it more than four stars because "I really liked it" does not begin to describe the pleasure I found in this novel. King does a wonderful job enabling us to suspend our disbelief in stories that involve the paranormal or supernatural, but when he shines his flashlight into the dark corners of tormented souls, down-to-earth "real people" in our everyday world, his magic is even stronger. I rooted for the flawed hero and the innocents he struggled to protect. I woke up, the morning after finishing the book (today, actually) with the villain's name floating in the forefront of my mind. I marveled at an ending that was truly satisfying without feeling the least bit contrived. I also found one of the bleakest bunch of sentences ever, when he described on page 323 the ruminations of the mass murderer contemplating his next atrocity: "Off you go, killers and killed alike, off you go into the universal null set that surrounds one lonely blue planet and all its mindlessly bustling denizens. Every religion lies. Every moral precept is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That's all history is, after all: scar tissue."
Wow! If that doesn't scare (or scar) you away from it, I highly recommend this novel.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

I enthusiastically recommend Steve Chandler and his works

Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and ChaosTime Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos by Steve Chandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steve Chandler is one of my favorite "gurus." I listen to him when I'm walking and read him when I'm not. The only problem he gives me is that at the end of each book, as I think about what insights to quote, I feel compelled to tell you to "Just read the whole thing - it's all quotable!" He is wise, compassionate, and committed to empowering his reader. He is humble enough to embody his own advice on page 155: "A ruined life is full of funny stories. And if the warrior emerges from it, then all the stories of the past can now help other people in powerful ways." He embodies this by freely sharing, in all of his works, tales of drunken dissipation and ineffective wheel-spinning in his youth, with a focus on lessons learned. I'll share two more quotes. Page 40: “The biggest fallacy there is about making good use of one’s time is that you have to feel like doing something before you can do it. That you have to know how to motivate yourself prior to your action.” Later, on Page 198, he gives the alternative: " I need to stop all thinking about thinking. Stop trying to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. All this thinking is overrated as a motivational force. Doing, on the other hand, is underrated. Doing is the most underrated thing there ever was." Even if you have already got life figured out, you may find yourself forgetting and backsliding. Steve Chandler is one of our greatest "reminders." I enthusiastically recommend him and his works.

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Friday, September 12, 2014 - A product of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette - A product of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette

If this link is to the article about the Grace Flynn scholarship I will add more information about the Friends of the Library and the upcoming book sale.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Harry The Announcer

My first recording (as Harry The Announcer) with a professional producer. I joined Marty & Samantha of Marty's of Dudley in the WORC-FM studio in Worcester, Mass. I wrote & narrated years of weekly "Critic At Large" spots for WGFP-AM in Webster, Mass, producing them myself in WGFP's studio. My recent Brockton Symphony promotions have been produced on computer in my home studio. I am excited for this to be the first of many opportunities for paid professional voice work.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Once again I am a PAID radio announcer - Thanks, Marty!

Two years ago yesterday, this video was posted.

Yesterday I joined Marty and Samantha in the WORC-FM 98.9 studio in Worcester to record a Marty's of Dudley radio commercial. Marty intended to introduce me to Lance Ballance, Rick Brackett and Matt Ferguson, who might help me find work as a radio announcer.

Next thing you know, I was the ANNOUNCER in yesterday's ad. It will air Sept. 2 to announce Marty's fall specials. I left my (vocal work, not librarian) resume and a demo CD and hope this is the first of many opportunities.

I will post the audio here as soon as I can.

This was my first PAID (with hot dogs at Coney Island) radio work since my weekly "Critic At Large" spots on WGFP-AM 940 in the 1980s when I was paid actual money! Thanks, Marty!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"I am a US citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough?"

Today's Boston Globe article explains why I went to our local Post Office today to pick up a passport application.

How shocking that you could - today - be denied entrance to a federal building because your ID is a legitimate Massachusetts Driver's License.

More shocking yet - in 2016 you could be denied boarding on an airplane with that license.

Why? "Bruce Tarr, the state Senate minority leader...a Republican, said" of "The Democratic Patrick administration. 'The only thing you could speculate is that somehow compliance with REAL ID would thwart the administration’s attempt to give driver’s licenses to those who aren’t here legally.'"

Mass. IDs at odds with federal law
Federal agencies blocking entry, citing compliance
By Jessica Meyers | GLOBE STAFF | AUGUST 26, 2014

WASHINGTON — Susan Podziba couldn’t enter a federal building near Washington this month because her driver’s license revealed an unacceptable home state: Massachusetts.

Caption: Susan Podziba was unable to attend an important meeting in Washington this week because she wasn’t able to enter the building.

Bay State residents can no longer use their driver’s licenses to get inside some government agencies because the state is one of nine that have not signed on to a federal law called REAL ID. If nothing changes, they will even lose the ability to display their licenses to board a plane.

The REAL ID measure presses states to verify citizenship and update security standards when they issue licenses. Congress intended the act to prevent terrorists who arrive in the country illegally from boarding planes. But officials in Massachusetts and elsewhere have balked at a program they contend costs millions, raises privacy concerns, and infringes on states’ rights.

States face no direct penalty other than the frustration of their citizens.

Some restrictions — such as the one that kept Podziba, a public policy mediator from Brookline, out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — began in late July.

“It was bizarre, and then I really felt embarrassed,” Podziba said. “It was like wow, I am a US citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough?”

She ended up conducting the high-level meeting in a cafeteria outside the security gate.

Governor Deval Patrick’s office referred questions to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, an agency spokeswoman, said the state has applied for an extension to give it enough time to meet the law’s requirements.

“DHS is asking the states to do something radically different with their licensing systems,” she said. “We want to make sure we do it right and do it well.”

She did not elaborate on the delay.

Massachusetts, in order to comply with the law, must meet a list of benchmarks when issuing licenses that include checking a person’s legal status, retaining images, and establishing background checks for employees with access to sensitive information. The standards aim to prevent fraud and enhance safety.

Homeland Security, which delayed enforcement of the 2005 law for years, started a gradual implementation in April. The second phase began in July. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have received extensions, and 21 are considered compliant. Three additional states haven’t made the changes but offer a special license people can display.

That leaves residents from six states unable to enter restricted parts of federal buildings without another ID, such as a passport. They are: Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana.

Since the latest phase took effect July 21, it remains unclear how many people the change has affected or how many federal facilities are strictly enforcing it. The law varies in its effect; tourists may still go to Smithsonian museums without ID and defendants can attend court proceedings.

Caption: “It was like wow, I am a US citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough?” said Susan Podziba. As of late July, Massachusetts licenses do not comply with the REAL ID Act.

Sidebar quote: ‘It was like wow, I am a US citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough?’

Since the latest phase took effect July 21, it remains unclear how many people the change has affected or how many federal facilities are strictly enforcing it. The law varies in its effect; tourists may still go to Smithsonian museums without ID and defendants can attend court proceedings.

Unless the state participates in the law, Massachusetts residents without other identification will find themselves banned from White House tours next year and commercial airplanes as soon as 2016.

“It’s an entirely foreseeable result of Massachusetts’ failure to comply with a federal law,” said Bruce Tarr, the state Senate minority leader.

Tarr, a Republican, said he received “very little response” from the Democratic Patrick administration. “The only thing you could speculate is that somehow compliance with REAL ID would thwart the administration’s attempt to give driver’s licenses to those who aren’t here legally.”

The state’s Joint Committee on Transportation rejected a bill in June that would have granted driver’s licenses to undocumented residents. Patrick supports the issue on grounds that it increases the state’s ability to know the background of drivers, but opponents consider it a dangerous benefit for lawbreakers.

The 2005 federal law stems from recommendations by the 9/11 Commission. Several of the hijackers who commandeered planes in the attack used driver’s licenses to board.

Critics fault the federal government for creating a costly program that doesn’t achieve much.

“For any American citizen, they should find this whole program completely laughable and ridiculous,” Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said.

Even if it did make sense, he said, the state would need to spend millions on new technology and background checks for certain employees. The federal agency unveiled its enforcement plan in December, five years after the original deadline.

“The whole thing has been kind of a bit of a farce,” Dunlap said. “I don’t hold out an awful lot of confidence it will be implemented in a timely way and have any effect on border security or national security.”

Maine officials now advise residents to bring a passport when they visit federal buildings.

A NOAA spokesperson confirmed the agency couldn’t let Podziba into the building because Massachusetts does not comply with the law. Federal buildings affected, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Patent and Trademark Office, have some leeway in how they enforce standards.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the agency’s slow rollout allows the changes to occur in a “measured, fair, responsible, and achievable way.”

States must show progress or justify a delay to receive the latest extension.

Proponents warn that states failing to comply threaten the entire system.

Identity verification standards are “extremely common sense,” said Andrew Meehan, policy director of Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, a Washington-based nonprofit. “For states to not be doing them really puts residents [and] driver’s license and ID card holders at risk.”

Civil rights groups worry about the opposite: requirements that punish those without other identification, such as senior citizens or the poor.

“Not all of us have passports,” said Tanya Broder, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy organization based in Los Angeles.

Podziba, whose work has included a project on secure driver’s licenses, just wished someone had informed her about the issue.

“I support security, but Massachusetts, to me, is on top of public policy issues and requirements,” she said. “It should be cleared up.”

Jessica Meyers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jessicameyers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Physician, Musician, Hero: Dr. Mark Finklestein

When I saw this article in Friday's Boston Globe I immediately thought of the Brockton Symphony Orchestra's own Renaissance Man, Dr. Mark Finklestein.

Mark is an esteemed physician who somehow finds time to play several instruments in the "BrSO," serves on the Board of Directors, and writes the extensive Progam Notes that inform concertgoers of the personal stories and musical significance of the composers and pieces of music.

He is also a Grand Benefactor of the Orchestra, putting his money where his mouthpiece (or reed) is.

Greater Brockton is blessed to have Mark Finklestein, just as Greater Boston is blessed by the physician/musicians described in the article below.

The Boston Globe
Boston’s prominence in medicine, music isn’t an accident
Doctors of music
By Christoph Westphal | AUGUST 09, 2014

ANDRIS NELSONS, the young new conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, recently performed at the Tanglewood Gala Opening concerts. Listening to the exquisite performances, I was struck by the number of physicians and scientists in the audience. Music and medicine are twin passions, and I wondered: Do data exist that underscore a link between these seemingly disparate worlds? Why should the fields be closely linked? Might a connection explain Boston’s being a world-class city for both music and medicine?

It turns out that the BSO tracks specific data linking music and medicine. Roughly one-fifth of the audience for winter season BSO concerts consists of MDs or PhDs. Moreover, physicians and scientists are similarly overrepresented on the board of the orchestra. The current president of the BSO, Paul Buttenwieser, is a practicing psychiatrist and an excellent pianist.

Curiously, the converse is also true: Many more physicians have been trained musically than in the general population. According to the work of Harvard Medical School professor Alan Steere, over 70 percent of doctors have received musical training. Many physician musicians in Boston have found their home in the all-doctor Longwood Symphony Orchestra. This includes Harvard Professor Leonard Zon, the internationally recognized stem cell researcher and LSO’s principal trumpet player for 30 years. Other physicians, such as psychiatrist Richard Kogan, have found creative ways to blend their medical profession with their musical avocation. Kogan presents lectures on the mental illness of famous composers, and then performs their works.

Why are music and medicine so closely linked? Harvard Medical School professor Lisa Wong is president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. She has written the book “Scales to Scalpels,” in which she describes fascinating physician musicians such as Terry Buchmiller, a pediatric surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital.

Buchmiller majored in music and was concertmaster in college; she has subsequently served on occasion as concertmaster of the Longwood Symphony. Buchmiller compares musical and surgical training: “What makes you a great musician? You have to break things down, repeat them, practice them over and over . . . and then take a step back and put the emotional and mental pieces together to make it into a whole. It’s the same with being a great surgeon. There are many little pieces, many tiny skills that you knit together in ever-changing ways . . . Think about suturing. You’re tying the same tiny knot over and over, and every one has to be perfect because someone’s life is on the line. You’re saving a life one tiny knot at a time . . . that kind of repetition, experimentation, and exploration ingrained not only a skill, but a whole pattern of thought, a whole structure for approaching the world.”

Both music and medicine require dedication, discipline, and creativity. The author Malcolm Gladwell famously calculated that 10,000 hours of practice were required to become excellent as a musician. Similar dedication and discipline are certainly required to become an excellent physician. However, to become truly world class in the art of music, or the art of medicine, creativity is also imperative. Creative insights permit the best physicians to treat the most difficult diseases. Inspiration is similarly required of musicians to reveal the deep inner beauty of music.

Boston benefits from the close connection between music and medicine. It is not a coincidence that one of the world’s great medical schools, Harvard Medical School, and one of the world’s premier orchestras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, are both located in the same city. Our region attracts the very best musicians and physicians in the world. In fact, in many cases, there is significant overlap amongst these physicians and musicians. These two worlds enrich each other, and all of us.

Dr. Christoph Westphal is an amateur cellist and physician/scientist. He is a Boston-based biotech entrepreneur and serves on the boards of Harvard Medical School and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Educate Yourself through "Active Engagement!"

As I worked my way through college in the 1960s I pitied classmates whose parents paid for their "education" (they referred to the diploma as their "meal ticket") while they ignored every opportunity to interact with professors and expand their knowledge and understanding.

I long for a society that embodies the contention in the article below that "college contributes to the creation of reflective civic engagement, empathy, and healthy lifestyle choices." I look around at educated citizens unable to experience "empathy" as they walk past other humans with the blinders of hand-held devices isolating them. I attend Town Meetings where, rather than "reflective civic engagement," the few who attend indulge in name-calling and sloganeering.

That frustrating reality flies in the face of their optimistic "It is only through active engagement in democratic processes and public debate that we reach a true understanding of the social ills that plague our society and find solutions that can be politically institutionalized." Would that it were so.

For decades I have testified that public libraries (as the vehicle for SELF-education) are the other public institution with this lofty goal: "Education is the only way toward enlightened public debate, which remains our best hope for addressing the profound social ills that face our country."

Frank Zappa said, "Drop out of high school, go to the public library and educate yourself." Rather than dropping out, I recommend that in school, college, the workforce or the unemployment line, you take every opportunity to educate yourself through "active engagement" in this world that we share.

Telegram & Gazette
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
College is not just about jobs
By Hans G. Despain and Zachary Stein

What's college for anyway?

Students will be returning to campus in a few weeks and college towns will be bustling. The frenetic energy that marks the beginning of a new school year will mask the recent decline in college enrollments. Why are fewer young people choosing to go to college?

One reason for this is that all indications suggest that job prospects for the classes of 2015-8 will be weak. There are bright employment opportunities for nurses and physicians, post-secondary educators, and accountants and auditors. Likewise, engineer, economic, finance, management, and education majors should do fine in the next several years. Nevertheless, unemployment for those under 25 is nearly 14 percent, and 11 percent for those aged 20 to 24.

The biggest problems for future graduates are not business pessimism, an unwillingness to hire, or the recession levels of unemployment. The main problems are structural shifts in labor markets; there simply are not enough high-skilled, well-paying, college-degree jobs for the number of students graduating from college.

Forty-three percent of science majors graduating in years 2009-11 are employed in positions that do not require a college degree; most of these jobs pay less than $30,000 per year. Economists call this underemployment. For social science majors, 48 percent are underemployed. 52 percent of liberal arts majors and 50 percent of business majors are underemployed.

For decades it has been "normal" for 30 percent or more of college graduates to be underemployed. However, there was a time when the majority of these jobs (for example mechanics, electricians, dental hygienist, and other skilled trades) paid well and were career-oriented or "good" non-college jobs, filled by college graduates.

But things have changed, as demonstrated by a recent article in the Federal Reserve's "Current Issues in Economics and Finance."

In the 1990s, more than 40 percent of college graduates were underemployed. However, 50 percent of these underemployed recent-college-graduates had "good" non-college jobs, and only 16 percent were in low-paying non-career-oriented positions. Today, nearly 45 percent of college graduates are underemployed, with more than 20 percent of them in low-paying positions, and only a dismal 36 percent in "good" non-college jobs. Worse still nearly one out of five recent college graduates can only find part-time work.

These numbers are the result of structural labor market shifts that have nothing to do with curriculum or what individual professors or colleges are teaching. There are simply not enough good jobs, with or without a college degree. The arithmetic is simple: 23 percent of jobs pay above $50,000, while more than 30 percent of the American population graduates with a four-year college degree. 50 percent of jobs pay less $25,000 per year.

These dismal job prospects go a long way in explaining the recent decline in college enrollments. Compounding the problem is the trillion-dollar student loan industry. College is simply too expensive for individual households, often without any hope for a "good" job.

Many commentators conclude that these data suggest we need to decrease college enrollment. For example Ohio economist Richard Vedder and his colleagues conclude, "All of this calls into question the wisdom of 'college for all.'" Vedder continues, "the underemployed college graduate is an expensive luxury we can ill afford as a nation." The problem for Vedder is not merely underemployment, but "overinvestment" in higher education.

We draw nearly the opposite conclusion.

The very idea that one could "overinvest" in higher education shows a profound misunderstanding of what higher education is for. College is not, nor has it ever been, merely about getting a job.

Higher education in the United States has a heroic tradition of educating for social integration, civic engagement, and personal development. This tradition stretches from Thomas Jefferson through John Dewey to today, and values a well-educated enlightened citizenry, for its own sake, and for the health of our democracy — not merely for the functioning of our economy.

This is a tradition that we cannot afford to neglect. It is only through active engagement in democratic processes and public debate that we reach a true understanding of the social ills that plague our society and find solutions that can be politically institutionalized.

Psychologists have for years been insisting on the cognitive and emotional impacts of higher education, specifically how college contributes to the creation of reflective civic engagement, empathy, and healthy lifestyle choices.

These essential components of responsible citizenship are threatened by simplistic economic ideas about what higher education is for.

When the economy is underperforming, this leads to reactionary argumentation, like Vedder's: "due to the lack of jobs — not everyone deserves college education."

Universities and colleges, likewise, often mistakenly overemphasis the job training aspects of their mission at the expense of undermining the civic, cognitive, and socio-emotional responsibilities of higher education.

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama expressed a desire for providing a college education to everyone, so to achieve some level of economic success. This latter aim is clearly illusionary. The time has come to transcend the economic rhetoric about education and see education anew as a force for the health of our democracy and individual personal development.

We must move beyond the illusory calculations of the "return on investment" in a college degree driving the (unconscionably profitable and predatory) student loan industry. No other industrialized nation has burdened its young adults with such debt; they have instead invested in them and in the long-term future of their societies.

Education is the only way toward enlightened public debate, which remains our best hope for addressing the profound social ills that face our country: a lack of good jobs, household and business indebtedness to mega-sized corporate banks, trillion-dollar indebtedness of college graduates, and a far too cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington.

Hans G. Despain, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Economics at Nichols College, Dudley; Zachary Stein is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pequot Museum - YES! - You can keep the Casinos.

The only time Jody and I went to either casino was to spend an afternoon in what Muther describes as Foxwoods' "surprisingly thorough three-level off-site museum documenting the Pequot tribe from the 16th century to the present. The architecture of the museum is stunning and the dioramas, which are generally terrifying and creepy in other institutions, are realistic."

Earlier in the article he refers to "enticing electronic bleeting." The only time we actually entered any casino was in Atlantic City. We had to pass rooms full of slot machines to reach the theater for a WHEEL OF FORTUNE audition. Muther's "electronic bleeting" was anything but "enticing" to me - it attacked my ears and nervous system, making me want to run out of the place screaming, covering my ears. Yech!

"Yech!" is my reaction to just about everything else described in this article, other than the museum. We never went to the casino during our day at Foxwoods. It was home to museum, then home, satisfied.

Betting on a good time: Mohegan Sun vs. Foxwoods
By Christopher Muther | GLOBE STAFF | AUGUST 09, 2014

Mohegan Sun, left, and Foxwoods casino both have a lot to offer

UNCASVILLE — “What’s the matter, kid? Someone flush your goldfish down the toilet?” the woman seated next to me asked as I half-heartedly hit the “Repeat Bet” button on my slot machine at Mohegan Sun.

I was unaware that I looked like an Abilify advertisement until she pointed out my slumped shoulders. I explained that I couldn’t get tickets for that evening’s Justin Timberlake concert.

“You poor thing,” she said, giving me an eye roll. “I’m sure in some universe this is a problem, but not in mine. Get over yourself.”

She was right, as women who smoke menthols between sips of White Russians in casinos at 2 p.m. often are. I had a weekend to explore Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and there was plenty happening at both mega-casinos. I refused to cry a river over Justin.

I’ve been to Mohegan Sun plenty of times, but never stepped foot in Foxwoods, which is just 15 minutes away in Ledyard.

I’ll confess that I am partial to Mohegan Sun. For the past 10 years I’ve had incredibly memorable experiences there, such as the time Charo jumped me and tried to take my shirt off during her Christmas show. Her talon-like fingers furiously opened buttons over my objections as she sang “Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus?” True story. Feliz navidad!

My initial impression of Foxwoods: It looked like a mall built in the late 1980s that underwent multiple expansions. These new sections don’t aesthetically match. Some are beautiful, others a bit sad. It’s like a quilt stitched by a well-meaning but color-blind aunt. Also, the endless maze of corridors connecting all the casinos, entertainment venues, and restaurants are so unwieldy that I suspect even Google Maps would have a difficult time navigating it all.

For someone looking simply to gamble, Foxwoods is the winner. It has 340,000 feet of gaming space, Mohegan only 300,000. The effect of both casinos is the same: Alien spaces filled with busy patterned carpets, mesmerizing lights, and enticing electronic bleeting. Walking through both provided a fascinating look at human behavior. There were seniors sporting cotton candy-textured coiffures robotically playing slots. Nearby men in their 30s, who looked like they stepped off the set of “Entourage,” filled the gaming tables while young women tugged at their micro skirts while they stumbled through the halls late at night after one libation too many.

Both casinos sit like a pair of unlikely monoliths in the middle of the woods in the southeastern part of the state. Mohegan Sun is owned by the Mohegan tribe, Foxwoods by the Pequot tribe. Foxwoods is the largest casino in North America. Mohegan is its hip little brother. Both have restaurants, stores, arenas, pools, spas, and gyms. Tens of thousands of gamblers and party-lovers make the trek down here every weekend.

Another reason why I preferred Mohegan over Foxwoods is the lack of natural light. Foxwoods had more windows in the gaming areas. Let’s face it, no one is all that pretty after a nicotine and rum-scented day of gambling. We all look better in dim, ambient lighting.

Food selection at both casinos is made up of sit-down fine dining options, mid-price eateries, and quick bite options. Mohegan wins this round because it has the only Krispy Kreme doughnut shop left in New England.

Foxwoods has more gambling space.

My failure to get Timberlake tickets gave me unwelcome time to make these observations. I started my Connecticut casino weekend by dropping in on a Friday rooftop party at Mohegan. It’s more glamorous than it sounds. The roof deck was on a parking garage. The entertainment was a Rolling Stones cover band. The lead singer of the band looked like Mick Jagger from a distance (particularly when I squinted), and the bargain drinks put everyone in a good mood.

Downstairs, doo-wop stalwarts Little Anthony and the Imperials were playing in a lounge called the Wolf Den. Anthony still sounded good given that he’s been performing for more than 50 years. I started getting uncomfortably angry toward all the Timberlake fans filing into the casino, so I traveled to Foxwoods to see four of the Wayans Brothers perform stand-up in the posh Grand Theater. I was so tired trying to find my way out of Foxwoods afterward that I had to stop for gelato and directions.

Another of the advantages that Foxwoods has over Mohegan is a surprisingly thorough three-level off-site museum documenting the Pequot tribe from the 16th century to the present. The architecture of the museum is stunning and the dioramas, which are generally terrifying and creepy in other institutions, are realistic. Foxwoods also has hiking and running trails just outside the casino. It’s a nice change to see a casino encourage outdoor activity.

I spent my second day in Connecticut exploring the $225 million museum, and giving Foxwoods a second chance. Perhaps my initial reaction was too snippy. I roamed the gaming tables and the endless hallways. What I noticed was a good selection of stores plopped haphazardly throughout the complex, rather than logically organized. I stayed in the luxe Fox Tower at Foxwoods that night. The hotel was beautiful, but seemed disconnected from the rest of the complex.

The Casino of the Sky at the Mohegan Sun.

Back at Mohegan — yes, you can hop between casinos all day long — I saw Adam Lambert with Queen and found a friend at the craps table who walked away at the end of the night with $800. I think my winnings at the penny slots totaled negative $63.

But my purpose at casinos is not gambling, which is why I always examine the entire complex. I look at it as an anthropological experience, and the Petri dish of humanity is what draws me. I can’t think of other places where I’ve seen busloads of Chinese gamblers alongside hip clubbers, high rollers, fans of slightly washed-up 1970s pop acts, and those willing to spend big bucks to see comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld. I’m there to see all that, plus the Dalíesque shenanigans of Charo, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and, perhaps, next time, Justin Timberlake.

Christopher Muther can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dennis Lehane - an author whose life was changed by libraries!

I'm guessing that Diane Costagliola has already clipped this article from today's Boston Globe, but want to make sure she sees that this incredible writer is a proud (actually the pride is my own assumption) graduate of her new domain, Boston College High School. (Diane recently left the Thomas Crane Public Library, where she was a top-notch reference and all-around librarian to direct the library at BC High.) I'm sure all of my library friends will enjoy Lehane's saying "The nuns told my mother that I read well past my age level, which was the only nice thing they ever said about me. So my mom got me a library card, and it changed my life." I have heard him speak at fund-raisers for libraries, so I know his gratitude for libraries as life-changing is sincere, and he does something about it.

Dennis Lehane, novelist and screenwriter

By Amy Sutherland | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT | AUGUST 09, 2014

Dorchester-born Dennis Lehane may be soaking up the sun most the time now in Santa Monica, Calif., but he hasn’t left behind Boston’s bleaker corners as his soon-to-be-released book, “The Drop,” makes clear. In a reverse of the more typical order, the mystery sprang from the screenplay Lehane wrote for a movie, which stars James Gandolfini in his final screen role. Both projects will be released next month.

BOOKS: What are you reading now?

LEHANE: I’m reading nonfiction: “The Impossible Exile” by George Prochnik about the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, whose work was the inspiration for the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I’m just a huge fan of that movie.

BOOKS: Do you read books films are based on to extend the movie experience?

LEHANE: Yeah. I like to see the movie and then read the book because the book deepens the experience. Where as if you read the book first the movie always pales by comparison. I was a huge fan of Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.” When the movie came out I was like, “Really? This is what you’re excited about?’’

BOOKS: Are you reading any fiction?

LEHANE: Yes, “Fourth of July Creek” by Smith Henderson, which is set in 1980s Montana. It was published by Ecco, which is a safe bet. They published my favorite book of the past five years.

BOOKS: What was that?

LEHANE: “The Son” by Philipp Meyer, a big, rich book that takes on the big, rich themes of this country. It reminded me of early Cormac McCarthy. Clean, rich, muscular, the kind of writing I respond to the most. I only had 100 pages to go, and my dog Rosie ate my copy.

BOOKS: Has this dog eaten other books?

LEHANE: This is my second white English bulldog, and they both have been crazy and had incredible tastes in books. My previous one, Stella, ate Brad Watson’s “The Heaven of Mercury,” and the next day it got nominated for the National Book Award. She also ate a Toni Morrison book and an Edith Wharton book. Stella wouldn’t even look at a James Patterson.

BOOKS: When you went to Boston College High School did you read anything that had a big impact on you?

LEHANE: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Tom Perrotta and I talked about how every writer we respect names it as the book. It just casts a shadow over the 20th century.

BOOKS: Did growing up in Dorchester shape you as a reader in any way?

LEHANE: Yeah because no one did it. You’d get beat up pretty quick for it. I was in the midrange of popularity, but I took it down a notch by sitting in the back of the classroom and reading. The nuns told my mother that I read well past my age level, which was the only nice thing they ever said about me. So my mom got me a library card, and it changed my life.

BOOKS: Is there a book that really captures Boston?

LEHANE: I don’t think anyone’s written a comprehensive Boston book. Some do a great job of capturing a time period, such as J. Anthony Lukas’s “Common Ground” about the city’s school desegregation.

BOOKS: Given your Irish background have you read a lot of Irish writers?

LEHANE: It’s never been like I got to blow through all of James Joyce, though I did. The books that have spoken to me have been Irish-American, specifically William Kennedy’s books. Reading Kennedy was like going home. Once when I was in Albany, N.Y., I got lost, but from reading all his books I knew to look for the major streets, which is what I did.