Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Recovering from an unintentional "Upgrade"

How many people did Microsoft inconvenience (or worse) before changing their message?
Last week, after months of getting a little flag next to the icon that appeared on my taskbar last summer,"Get Windows 10" started popping up in the middle of my screen, already open, when I logged on.
The options on the two buttons were "Upgrade now" and "Upgrade later." After x-ing out the little "Upgrade" flag for all those months, I thought/hoped "If I click 'Upgrade
Later' maybe they'll leave me alone." So I clicked it - and the download started, tying up my laptop for hours.
Worst of all, when I finally was operating in Windows 10 my ACT! program, that I have used for years for scheduling and contact management, didn't work.
A couple of days later they changed the options on the pop-up to "Upgrade now" and "Start download, upgrade later" as on the image above. That certainly is more helpful, and would have prevented me from clicking on EITHER. I didn't click to download, I did so to get them to leave me alone.
Well, I finally found out how to revert to Windows 7 (you have 30 days to do it after you "upgrade") and now I can again use ACT and enjoy my familiar "desktop."

A Concert to make an emcee smile!

I will really enjoy being the "Master of" this "Ceremony!" This year's Holiday Pops returns to Brockton High School and promises to be spectacular and fun. Hope to see you there this Sunday! Publicity like this is a great assist in filling the auditorium at Brockton High School. Thank you!
The Enterprise

90 children to perform during Brockton Symphony Orchestra's holiday concert

By Maria Papadopoulos
The Enterprise Posted Dec. 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm Updated at 7:05 PM

BROCKTON – The voices of 90 Brockton children will sing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer during the Brockton Symphony Orchestra’s annual Holiday Pops Concert on Sunday.
The Angelo Elementary School Chorus, under the direction of Susan Moscardelli-Zauner, will perform the classic holiday song during the 3 p.m. concert in the auditorium of Brockton High School, 470 Forest Ave.
“They are very excited. They’ve never done this before,” said Moscardelli-Zauner, who teaches music at the Angelo School. “They’re fifth graders. They’re only 10 years old. I told them this will be a lifelong memory for them.”
The annual concert draws hundreds of people each year. Last year’s concert saw about 600 attendees, said Emilian Badea, who will conduct the holiday concert.
Four musicians from Brockton High – playing the violin, flute, and cello – will join the 40-plus member orchestra, he said.
“It’s a good chance to promote youngsters and give them the experience to sit in a symphony setting,” Badea said.
The program will feature holiday music and classical selections played by the orchestra, including “Festive Sounds of Hanukah” by Bill Holcombe, “Radetzky March” by Johann Strauss Sr. and Leroy Anderson’s “Sandpaper Ballet.”
“It’s a nice selection,” Badea said. “It includes a lot of variety, especially music that other orchestras do not really perform.”
Margaret Lias, mezzo-soprano, will perform. The Angelo School Chorus will also perform “Here in My House.”
The audience will be invited to sing along to “A Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson, organizers said.
Badea said local residents should take advantage of having a symphony Brockton.
“You have a symphony orchestra in your city. You don’t have to travel to Boston or other cities. It’s a good time,” he said.
Parents can bring their children aged 18 and younger to the concert for free.
“We are looking to spread the goodness of music and goodness of people through our music,” Badea said.
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students and free for people 18 and younger.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.brocktonsymphony.org, by calling 508-588-3841 or at the door.
Reach Maria Papadopoulos at mpapa@enterprisenews.com or follow on Twitter @MariaP_ENT.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Shame on The Boston Globe for "Hiding" Book Reviews

Here is most of the front page of the Sunday Arts "Holiday Arts Preview" section of today's Boston Globe.

In case it's hard to make out the headings under the six circles at the bottom, they are: Theater; Dance; Pop; Television; Classical; Movies.

I applaud highlighting their coverage of Classical Music, of course, but am so disappointed at the continuing diminishment of their coverage of BOOKS!

It's bad enough that it is down to 3 pages in the back of the section, but to not even list books as one of the categories on the "front cover" is pathetic. If memory serves, this is a newspaper that used to feature an entire BOOK SECTION! How sad...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wonderful music for all

Here is my 60 second radio spot promoting Brockton Symphony's Holiday Pops concert. "Announcing" is among this post's tags because I continue to serve as Master of Ceremonies and "Voice of the Symphony." Here is the text of the spot:
The Brockton Symphony returns to Brockton High School when Maestro Emilian Badea presents Holiday Pops on Sunday, December 13th at 3:00 PM. The program adds joyous music from around the world to familiar favorites: Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” “Christmas Festival,” and “Sandpaper Ballet;” Irving Berlin’s “A Symphonic Portrait,” and Sousa’s “Jingle Bells Forever.” The Angelo Elementary School Chorus sings “Here in My House” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Mezzo Soprano Margaret Lias sings Bizet’s “Agnus Dei.” There are too many selections to name them all. Adult tickets are Twenty five dollars, seniors and students twenty, 18 and under free. Order at Brockton Symphony dot org, or call the Symphony at 508-588-3841. That’s 3:00 PM, Sunday, December 13th at Brockton High. The Brockton Symphony Orchestra – A Greater Brockton Treasure! Sponsored by Harbor One Bank.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Two Thinkers promote Constitution-based thinking and politics

Ameritopia: The Unmaking of AmericaAmeritopia: The Unmaking of America by Mark R. Levin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio version, replaying a number of sections because there is so much information to digest. My liberal arts education at Manhattan College exposed me to more of these thinkers than many contemporaries. I have the impression that the younger generations' educations have omitted this type of learning. In the last century Ayn Rand seemed to burst on the scene with what many perceived as a radical new philosophy focused on "the individual versus 'society.'" Mark Levin gives sufficient quotes to demonstrate that these ideas were powerfully articulated by Locke and Montesquieu, who were frequently quoted by the founding fathers as they crafted our Constitution. Before that, he gives many more quotes from Plato, More, Hobbes, and Marx and shows how their "bend-the-individual-for-the-collective's-benefit" (my words, not Levin's) Utopian blueprints have supplanted the worldly-wise and human-centric philosophy of the founders, who would scarcely recognize America. A week after finishing it, I read an article in Hillsdale College's "Imprimis," written by Arkansas Senator (and Iraq & Afghanistan Veteran) Tom Cotton, "Foreign Policy and the Constitution." His contrast of the founders' conception of how America's foreign relations would be conducted to recent practices by our "leaders" moved me to share both his message and Levin's.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Harry is "The Voice of Caffeine!"

I'm a "published" Audiobook Producer and Narrator! While this was being prepared for retail I have been working on two more nonfiction works. Thank you ACX for enabling narrators and authors or "Rights Holders" to connect and collaborate. A special thanks to Caterina Christakos for selecting me as her narrator for Caffeine!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Brockton Symphony Celebrates America - Prepare to be thrilled!

Here's my ad to promote the Brockton Symphony Orchestra's return from its 3-year (musical) voyage. It will be our first concert at the Buckley Performing Arts Center. Prepare to be thrilled! I've been invited to serve as Master of Ceremonies and "The Voice of the Symphony" for another season.

Here's the text of the ad: The Brockton Symphony Orchestra will kick off its 68th Season by “Celebrating America” on Sunday, October 18th at 3 PM at the Buckley Performing Arts Center, From the lyricism of “Jubilee” in Chadwick’s Symphonic Sketches and Anderson’s “First Day of Spring” to the passion of Herbert’s Cello Concerto, featuring principal cellist Kevin Crudder; from the dramatic sweep of Dvorak’s American Suite and the proud patriotism of Sousa’s El Capitan March, to the thrills of West Side Story, this concert will rouse your spirits. Adult tickets are Twenty dollars, seniors and students with ID, fifteen, 18 and under free. Order at Brockton Symphony dot org, or call the Symphony at 508-588-3841. That’s 3 PM on October 18th at the Buckley Performing Arts Center, on the Brockton campus of Massasoit Community College. The Brockton Symphony – A Greater Brockton Treasure – Sponsored by Harbor One Bank.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Caffeine: a book I am eminently qualified to narrate!

Here's my note to the author, sent with the audition below:
Hello Caterina. Here is my audition for Caffeine, which holds a special interest for me.
It is the only psychoactive drug I have used in 30 years, and is the one I started at the youngest age – about 14.
It is also considered potentially harmful for audiobook narrators, since its diuretic effect reduces needed moisture in the vocal cords and increases distracting mouth noises such as “clicks.”
I hope you will be interested in discussing the possibility that I can be “the voice of Caffeine!” (Pun intended.) Thank you for reading this and considering me.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Nonfiction Audiobook Narration Audition: Kill Diet!

I submitted this audition to Scott Hogan, author of KILL DIET Part 1: How to Eat More, Lose Fat, Save Time, and Enjoy Your Food (KILL DIET Series) via Amazon's ACX.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Trustees, Volunteers deserve honor & gratitude, not grief!

This makes me sad in so many ways. I'm not an attorney like Councilor Sullivan, but as Library Director in Brockton, and four other Massachusetts municipalities, I was an employee. I worked for the city or town every day. That seems nearly opposite a per diem "contractor" such as an attorney.
More disappointing is to treat in such a manner someone who has given to the City of Brockton in myriad ways for all his life.
Most puzzling is to treat someone this way when you have three Library Trustee vacancies to fill. Will other potential appointees to this UNPAID position decide it's not worth the grief and pain? A library needs public-spirited Trustees to work with the Library Administration.
What do you think, Anne Beauregard? (Anne, a member of the Brockton Library Foundation, is UNPAID manager of the library Gift Shop.)

The Enterprise
Brockton council questions library nominee's work for city
Attorney Larry Siskind, Mayor Bill Carpenter's choice for the volunteer post, was appointed as outside council for grievance hearings briefly last year before he resigned, citing a conflict with one of his son's legal clients. He said he objects to being “belittled” in public when it isn't warranted.

Picture credit: Marc Vasconcellos/The Enterprise
Picture caption: Brockton attorney Larry Siskind, the former president of the Brockton Historical Society, is shown in 2009 when Rocky Marciano was postumously awarded the Historic Citizen Award.

By Michele Morgan Bolton
The Enterprise
Posted Aug. 20, 2015 at 6:01 PM
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Enterprise Staff Writer

BROCKTON – The City Council has held up the appointment of Larry Siskind to the Brockton Public Library’s Board of Trustees, questioning work he performed for the city earlier this year as an outside counsel for grievance hearings.
Siskind, a 50-year labor law attorney, is Mayor Bill Carpenter’s choice for the post.
Several City Councilors, acting as the Finance Committee on Monday, said they want to know how many hours Siskind worked, on which cases, and for how much money before they will vote on his appointment.
At-Large Councilor Robert Sullivan raised questions as soon as Siskind said he would be honored to serve.
“You were deemed outside counsel,” Sullivan stated. “I want to see employment dates.”
Siskind said his tenure was brief because he soon learned his son was representing a client with a claim against Brockton.
He and his son Neal are partners in Siskind & Siskind, a personal injury firm on Belmont Street.
“I had to resign, which was the right thing, and the honorable thing to do,” he said.
Known for philanthropy and voluntarism, Siskind is a founder of the Brockton Boys & Girls Club, was a 10-year president of the Brockton Historical Society, and a board member of HarborOne Bank.
“I have never had any of my work, either private or for the City of Brockton, challenged like this,” he said.
Siskind told The Enterprise that he submitted one $3,500 bill to the city on May 6 for 20 hours of work.
“And I discounted that bill, because those weren’t the only hours I worked,” he said.
Siskind charged Brockton $175 an hour for services he said are usually billed at between $300 and $350 hourly.
“Everything I have ever done has been for the good of the city,” Siskind said. “I expect to be treated fairly and reasonable and not be belittled in public when it’s not warranted.”
Ward 6 City Councilor Michelle DuBois recommended a favorable vote at Monday’s City Council meeting after the “thorough accounting.”
On Thursday, Sullivan said his questions were “appropriate, well-founded and on-point.”
“He was a paid employee of the City of Brockton – a public employee, not a private employee,” he said.
Carpenter said Siskind is an “institution” and the council should be thankful for his willingness to serve, rather than challenging him.
There are currently three openings on the library board.
Reach Michele Morgan Bolton at mbolton@enterprisenews.com.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Public Libraries: More stress than safety in this workplace.

Every few years "scholars" release a survey ranking on-the-job stress for different professions, often claiming that working in a library is blissfully stress-free. Public Library workers, especially in the US, groan at this misrepresentation. Here's just one reason why.

WCVB5 ABC Boston's News Leader

Man accused of stashing gun on shelf at public library: Worcester man faces gun charges after incident.
Published 3:02 PM EDT Aug 14, 2015

Photo credit: Wikicommons

WORCESTER, Mass. — A Worcester man faces gun charges after police say he stashed a handgun inside a public library on Friday.

An off-duty Boston police officer said he followed a man into the Worcester Public Library about 11:15 a.m. after seeing a handgun in his waistband.

The officer contacted Worcester police.

When police officers located the man inside the library, he was sitting at a computer without the gun.

Officers reviewed library surveillance footage and saw the man, later identified as Luis Bermudez, 24, putting the gun on a shelf in one of the library aisles.

Bermudez, who does not have a license to carry a handgun, was arrested. Bermudez was charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a firearm/ammunition without an FID card.

The gun was recovered by officers.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stephen King at the top of his form!

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2)Finders Keepers by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review is probably superfluous – I assume this will be widely reviewed (or at least rated.) However, I want to share my opinion that this is Stephen King at the top of his form – if you prefer his character-oriented, not-so-supernatural writing. Like any great master, he makes the work seem effortless. Getting swept along by his seemingly simple prose feels similarly effortless to this reader. I don’t turn the pages to see what will happen next to his characters because they are glamorous; I do so because they have become real to me. Among the special gifts in this one are some musings, seamlessly worked into the story, about the phenomenon of being so immersed in fiction that its world can seem more “real” than that of the reader. I enjoyed this thoroughly at multiple levels. Thank you, Stephen King!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Satisfying novel I expected to dislike!

Eye for an EyeEye for an Eye by Erika Holzer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About half way through her Kindle book, Ayn Rand, My Fiction-Writing Teacher: A Novelist's Mentor-Protégé Relationship with the Author of Atlas Shrugged, I stopped to read Holzer’s novel, to see if she knew what she was talking about. I placed an interlibrary loan request, prepared to dislike her writing.
It arrived with wonderful blurbs from awesome authors: Nelson DeMille and Dorothy Uhnak on the front cover, Ed McBain and Sandra Scoppetone on the back. Inside were more from Dorothy Salisbury-Davis, Barbara D’Amato, Warren Murphy (one of my favorites), Thomas Chastain, Donald Hamilton and others, including major newspapers. Her portrait, inside the back cover, made me think, “She looks like someone who idolizes Ayn Rand – no happy idiot here, but one who is uncompromising in her views and values.”
I was not prepared for the experience of reading Eye for an Eye and enjoying it so much. It kept me turning pages, rooting for heroes and heroines, hoping that justice would be meted out to evildoers. It also kept me guessing. Wait, that’s not exactly it. It surprised me with unexpected plot and character twists that made sense once revealed, and never felt contrived. This was a very satisfying novel. Bravo, Erika Holzer!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Same Recording with smaller image

I believe I previously posted this, but with a larger image. I'm checking the option for a smaller one. Meanwhile, I'm quite pleased with the quality of this recording.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Temporary Library with Fantastic Views

I just posted the following note on Facebook, with a link to the article quoted below.

Moving, sometimes storing, collections; off-site (that is, off the temp site) programs; using network resources to serve your patrons - This article really takes me back! Congratulations to Jessi Renfroe Finnie (aka Jessi L. Finnie, at least in the Globe) and the Staff and Trustees in Scituate. Applause for the townspeople who agreed that spending on updated and expanded libraries is exactly how tax dollars should be spent. Your friend, Harry The (Retired) Librarian.

The Boston Globe | South
Scituate Library in temporary quarters during rebuilding project

By Johanna Seltz | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT | JUNE 17, 2015

The Scituate Town Library reopened last week in temporary quarters at the town-owned Scituate Harbor Community Building overlooking the water at 44 Jericho Road. The library was closed for 10 days while it moved. It is scheduled to move back to its old location – but into an expanded and renovated facility – in the fall of 2016. The new space will be about 33,000 square feet, an increase of about 7,000 square feet, according to library Director Jessi L. Finnie. The temporary space is smaller than the old library – about two-thirds of the collection went into storage in the Town Hall basement – but has “fantastic” views, Finnie said. She said that the newest and most used library materials are available, and that residents can order from the other 31 facilities in the regional Old Colony Library Network. The town also is leasing space at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to make more room for library programs. Scituate voted in 2013 to spend $12 million to expand and renovate the library on Branch Street, which was built in 1978. The town received a $5 million state grant for the project.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Procrastination is death, sedentariness is death, homeostasis is death

Action!: Nothing Happens Until Something MovesAction!: Nothing Happens Until Something Moves by Robert Ringer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed Robert Ringer since shortly after his first book, Winning Through Intimidation, was published in 1973. I regretted his decision to change the title to To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?: That is the Question. I only recently read that he revised and updated it before changing the title. That attenuates my disappointment a bit. This more recent work has a lot to offer. Rather than summarize, I will share a few quotes that I found (literally) noteworthy.
p. 158. "DON’T TRY TO CHANGE PEOPLE. Feeling compelled to change others is the height of arrogance. At least one of the reasons why there is so much hate and war in the world is that so many people feel morally obliged to remake people in their own image. Even if such a lofty objective were moral (which it isn’t), it would be impossible, which is why force is always used in the pursuit of such an objective. This ugly reality has been a fact of life since the beginning of recorded history, and, if anything, is worse today than ever before… people rarely change their basic personalities or moral structures… In those rare instances where significant change does occur, it almost always comes from personal revelation rather than through the efforts of someone else."
p. 244. "…there are few obstacles in life that can prevent you from transforming your dreams into reality through the genius, magic, and power of action… You don’t succeed by focusing on your handicaps; you succeed by focusing on your strengths. Concentrate on the abundance in your life rather than the problems, and take action to exploit that abundance. Discover your best assets, nurture them, and use them as they were meant to be used."
p. 261. "Theory is good for the intellect, but action is good for the soul. It’s also good for your mental health, your physical health, and your pocketbook."
p. 262. “Procrastination is death, sedentariness is death, homeostasis is death… Action is life – and life is meant to be lived.”

Wow! I’m especially delighted with this last as I have been re-listening to George J. Kappas on the newer online streaming (as opposed to the old audiotape) version of The Mental Bank Seminar, where he describes homeostasis as the most powerful force in human behavior, the one we must overcome if we wish to change and improve our lives. Thank you guys!

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Voice Artist ahead of his time: RIP Phil Austin

Phil Austin (Nick Danger) of the Firesign Theater has left the land of the living. I am sad to realize what a vacuum it leaves in my world, while thrilled and grateful to be among the millions who found his humor to be more important than you might reasonably expect.
Firesign albums were not just audio humor – they created an immersive aural environment that put you in the middle of the action. There were years when almost every sentence I uttered used their words.
How ironic that I posted on Facebook two weeks ago, at dinner after Rowan Weller’s recital, Jane Stephanie Lantz’s wish that I would quote anything by the Firesign Theater rather than “This is John Galt Speaking” from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Like yours truly hopes to do, he followed one successful career with another as a voice-over artist and audiobook narrator.

Caption: Phil Austin, center bottom, with Firesign Theater members, from left, Phil Proctor, David Ossman and Peter Bergman in an undated photo. Credit Firesign Theater

The New York Times
Phil Austin (a.k.a. Nick Danger) of Firesign Theater Dies at 74

He pronounced his name “Regnad Kcin,” because from behind his desk that’s how he read it, backward, through his glass office door. But listeners to Firesign Theater radio broadcasts and record albums knew him as Nick Danger, the loopy fictional detective who strode “out of the fog, into the smog,” focusing his third eye, hidden under his hat, on solving crime.

“Nick Danger has left the office,” the Firesign Theater website says in its tribute to Phil Austin, the comic who voiced that detective. Mr. Austin, who was a founding member of that cheeky underground group, died of an aneurysm on June 18 at his home on Fox Island, Wash., in Puget Sound. He was 74. His wife, Oona, said he had had cancer for months.

The Firesign Theater became famous in the late 1960s and early ’70s for albums of surrealistic satire, among them “How Can You Be Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All,” “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus” and “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.”

Mr. Austin was a writer, producer, guitarist and, in addition to Nick Danger, the voice of characters like Bebop Loco, a radio personality, on the album “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death,” and as a New Age nudist and documentarian narrator, on “Everything You Know Is Wrong.”

The Firesign Theater’s albums, collections of skits that college students could recite verbatim, were nominated for three Grammy Awards (although the group never won). “Don’t Crush That Dwarf” was enshrined in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2006.

Nick Danger, Mr. Austin’s most famous character, was initially based on Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled Sam Spade but later became more like Raymond Chandler’s contemplative detective Philip Marlowe — although with a flakiness all his own.

Caption: Mr. Austin as Nick Danger in 2000. Credit Firesign Theater

In one episode, thinking out loud about a nettlesome case, he says: “There was something fishy about the butler. I think he was a Pisces, probably working for scale. I felt a thin shiver run up my spine as I sat down on the cold marble floor.” (A “woh-oooh!” is heard.) “What was it about this place? The atmosphere was as phony as the Tudor balustrade that leered at me from the top of the staircase, and there she stood, radiant. All those curves showing through that flimsy burnoose.”

Philip Baine Austin was born on April 6, 1941, in Denver and raised in Fresno, Calif. His father, Donald, was a railroad worker and a jazz musician. His mother, the former Priscilla Baine, was a drama teacher.

Young Philip seemed destined for Firesign Theater. “He began broadcasting by reading the funnies over the air while still in elementary school and continued to create comedy and political satire on tape with high school friends,” David Ossman, another member of the group, said in an email.

Mr. Austin won a two-year fellowship to Bowdoin College in Maine, then attended the University of California, Los Angeles.

Joined by his future Firesign partner Phil Proctor, he performed with the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles. As literature and drama director at the radio station KPFK-FM, he met Mr. Ossman and Peter Bergman. Mr. Ossman was 30; the rest were still in their 20s.

In his email, Mr. Ossman quoted Mr. Austin as recalling how he got his start in show business: “I got a job in a radio station because I could always do that with my voice — could make you believe that I was committed to the words coming out of my mouth. I mistakenly believed, therefore, that I was an actor. I’m not. I’m a musician. Interesting that it was the sounds of the words that got to me most. The Firesign Theater was the vehicle that allowed me to make that discovery.”

The four first performed together in 1966 on Mr. Bergman’s show “Radio Free Oz,” which Mr. Austin produced. They recorded about 20 albums as the Firesign Theater.

The group played major venues nationwide, including Carnegie Hall, Town Hall and the Beacon Theater in New York, in the 1970s. Later, benefiting from a tide of ’60s revivalism, it staged a comeback. The last Firesign Theater album, “Bride of Firesign,” was released in 2001. The group’s final live show was in 2011. Mr. Bergman died in 2012.

In addition to his wife, the former Oona Elliott, Mr. Austin is survived by a sister, Cathy Andreasen.

Mr. Austin also wrote for and performed on the radio program “The Daily Feed,” provided voice-overs for commercials and published an audiobook, “Tales of the Old Detective and Other Big Fat Lies.”

“Phil Austin’s goal,” said Frederick C. Wiebel Jr., the author of “Backwards Into the Future,” a 2006 book about the group, “was to fool people into laughing by looking at themselves and their beliefs and shaking out the truth.”

Mr. Austin was once asked if he had any great wisdom to impart. He replied: “Wisdom is not my strong point. I have been known to have a couple of good ideas and get a couple of laughs here and there. I think that’s more than enough.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Helpful then, nearly forgotten now

How many would-be authors toil, or plan to, anticipating that "Once my nonfiction book is published, my name and my words will live forever!"
While perusing my Journals from 1981 I found a reference to Targets: How to set goals for yourself and reach them! by Leon Tec.
The hardcover (right) was published in 1980 by Harper & Row; a paperback by Signet (below) in 1982.
I just checked on Amazon and there was not one single customer review. There was a blurb in the listing that said, "Non-fiction - Self-help - Dr. Leon Tec, a psychiatrist, offers suggestions for using short-term goals that add up to a program moving you toward successful completion of complex tasks. Includes chapters entitled: Noticing the Elephant, Determining Targets, A New Look at Planning, How to Get Around to Doing Things You Don't Like, Handling Diversionary Targets, and more."
Tempus (and Gloria) Fugit!
Please do not read this as a discouragement to your writing ambitions - Write on! Write on with reasonable expectations, for the pure joy of sharing your insights and conclusions.

As a follow-up to this post I will add this quote that I found good enough to record in my Journal: page 185. “…the confusion that frequently surrounds the making of an important decision clears up considerably once you have a clear idea of what your objective is and how your options relate to that objective. You begin to think less in terms of what should I do, and more in terms of what needs to be done in order to achieve a certain set of objectives. You develop, in short, an approach to life that is more firmly rooted in the way things are, and not in the way you’d prefer them to be.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Columnist can’t imagine life without libraries

[Technology] "can’t replace the tactile engagement of wandering the stacks, pulling a book from the shelf, reading the dust jacket, flipping through its pages."

This short, uplifting column speaks for itself. Thank you Jeff Jacoby!

The Boston Globe: Opinion

Life without libraries would be unimaginably poorer

By Jeff Jacoby GLOBE COLUMNIST JUNE 17, 2015

[Caption] Argentina’s “Weapon of Mass Instruction” mobile library, which is shaped like a military tank, is one of many such improvisations in “Improbable Libraries.”

I WAS FOUR the first time I remember reading in a library. The book was “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman, and I’m not sure which I found more captivating — the adventure of the hatchling that sets off to find its mother, or my own adventure of picking out a book from what seemed an endless array of enticing titles.

I was hooked early, on books and libraries both. To this day I can visualize precisely the shelves in the fiction section of my school’s library, where I first discovered many of my favorite children’s novels: “The Twenty-One Balloons,” “Harriet the Spy,” “A Wrinkle in Time.”

But the small library in my Cleveland-area day school was merely a gateway drug to the local public library. I spent innumerable hours there as a boy, addicted as much to the serendipitous pleasures of searching for a good book as to the satisfying relish of losing myself in its pages once I found one. My parents, raising five kids on a meager income, had little money to spare for buying books. But my library card was free, and I made heavy use of it.

The University Heights Library was my home away from home. Nothing was off-limits to a curious reader. From the Edward Eager magic books that fascinated me when I was little to “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask,” which held a different fascination as I grew older, it was all available. All I had to do was choose.

I can’t imagine life without libraries. And by “libraries,” I mean actual books. I don’t mean bookless digital-content centers like San Antonio’s BiblioTech, an all-electronic reading venue that looks, as Time magazine wrote, “like an orange-hued Apple store,” outfitted with 500 e-readers, 48 computers, and 20 iPads and laptops. I would never discourage reading, but rows of iMacs do not a library make. The ability to browse goes to the essence of the library experience, along with the egalitarian access that puts books in plain sight of all comers.

Happily, that experience is alive and well. As British journalist Alex Johnson documents in a wonderful new volume, “Improbable Libraries,” even in our digital age readers yearn for printed books, and librarians go to amazing and creative lengths to supply them.

Johnson highlights libraries that have opened in airports, train stations, and hotels, the better to serve readers on the move in this hypermobile era. In Santiago, Chile, there are lending libraries in the subways: The Bibliometro system lends 440,000 books a year from 20 underground stations, and has become the largest public library in the country. A global tiny-library movement has blossomed in the form of honor-system book nooks on street corners, at bus stops, and even in front yards of private homes. In Great Britain, hundreds of iconic red telephone boxes, no longer needed, have been repurposed into mini-lending libraries.

Smartphones and tablets have grown ubiquitous, but reading on screens is not the same — and for many people, not nearly as satisfying — as reading in print. Clicking links on an electronic device is efficient, but it can’t replace the tactile engagement of wandering the stacks, pulling a book from the shelf, reading the dust jacket, flipping through its pages.

The hunger for books knows no boundary. In Laos, the Big Brother Mouse project uses elephants to carry books to remote villages for children to borrow and exchange. The Mongolian Children’s Mobile Library, using camels, does the same thing in the Gobi desert. So does Luis Soriano’s Biblioburro library in rural Colombia — with donkeys.

Life without books and libraries in which to discover them would be unimaginably poorer. “Improbable Libraries” makes that point beautifully. Then again, if you’re anything like me, you’ve known it since you were four.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Wrestler in the Pew

Yesterday Jody and I went to church in separate cars so I could stay and count the monies with Dan. He said, “Did you see the Big Tall Guy in church?” I said, “You mean the one who looked like a WWE wrestler?” Dan said, “He was!” I said, “I was going to ask him how many people tell him he looks like Damien Sandow.” Dan said, “That's him – he’s from a local family and always wanted to be an actor.” I replied, “He is!” I mean that with great respect for the physical abilities AND acting skill required for that dangerous and painful profession.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"The ambulance-chasing media."

"The ambulance-chasing media."
What an incredibly apt phrase!
I just had to share it.
I saw this in a post about the Zero Aggression Project (.org) An initiative of the Downsize DC Foundation.
They are a Libertarian organization that lobbies for the "Read the Bill Act" and other attempts to reign in the size and complexity of government.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Remember this scholarly author from when he was 10 years old

Last night Jody and I were at the wake for Esther Elliott, mother of Lois Bernier. (Both worked with me at the Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library in Dudley.)
We met - and immediately recognized, after 25 years - Catherine Kabala and husband Stanley. I remarked that Mrs. Kabala and "Jimmy" used to be among the most loyal patrons of Children's Librarian Norma Waterhouse.
The proud parents told us of his book, on the shelves of over 300 libraries. As Harry ROGER WILLIAMS III I remarked on my interest in church-state relations. James' book begins 103 years after Roger Williams' death, but his mission of promoting religious freedom continued.
A delightful sentence in his Introduction states, "This book will complicate such assumptions by exploring sixty years of contentious debate in American civic culture over the proper role of religion in public life." [He refers to the assumptions of those who claim the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be a Christian nation AND those who presume the First Amendment settled the issue.]
The book is dedicated to his parents, and he thanks the many research libraries that made the book possible. I'm sure he meant to also thank Norma Waterhouse, who helped generations of Dudley children develop a love for reading books that makes possible the ability to write them. That may be presumptuous of me but this is such a long post that only a few will probably read it... [The final sentence was intended mostly for readers on Facebook, where I am also posting this, particularly to make sure that Mrs. Waterhouse sees it.]

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Movie Critic Fails Movie Quiz!

I "never" take online quizzes, but after talking for decades about "addiction to self-help books" I couldn't resist Mark Joyner's "Life-Changing Movie IQ Test" at http://www.simpleology.com/blog/. It has 20 questions based on 22 "life changing movies."

I only got 8 correct, but here's the worst part: of those, 5 of my correct answers were for movies I haven't seen! Of the 22 movies, I've only seen 5, and I chose the wrong answers for 2 of those.

Of the 3 I got right, "The Dead Poet's Society" was critically acclaimed, "The Empire Strikes Back" was popular, and "Joe Versus The Volcano" was not much of either, although I enjoyed it and it does feature the most awesome moonrise I've ever seen.

None of this would be so embarrassing if I hadn't been a paid movie critic for years on WGFP-AM 940 in Webster, Massachusetts.

Here are the movies and my results (The last two were multiple choice options that were wrong answers to the questions.)

-------FILM-------------------------SEE IT?----------CORRECT ANSWER?

The Shawshank Redemption--------NO---------------------YES
Stand and Deliver---------------------NO---------------------YES
Jerry Mcguire-------------------------NO-----------------------YES
The Empire Strikes Back-------------YES-----------------------YES
12 o'clock High-------------------------NO-----------------------NO
Apollo 13--------------------------------NO-----------------------NO
It's a Wonderful Life---------------------NO-----------------------NO
Joe Vs. the Volcano----------------------YES-----------------------YES
Lawrence of Arabia----------------------NO-----------------------YES
Remember the Titans-------------------NO-----------------------YES
Any Given Sunday-----------------------NO-----------------------NO
Groundhog Day--------------------------NO-----------------------NO
Good Will Hunting-----------------------NO-----------------------NO
Dead Poet's Society----------------------YES-----------------------YES

12 Angry Men
Life is Beautiful

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brockton Symphony, "Rule Britannia."

I produced this promo last week for the Brockton Symphony's final orchestral concert of the 2014-15 season, "Rule Britannia." The concert wraps up an epic three-year Symphonic Voyage. You can see the musical "places" we visited at the BrSO web site, http://www.brocktonsymphony.org/.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Announcer is now a Performer!

On March 22nd I am a performer IN the show, not just the announcer or Master of Ceremonies for the show. Here's the text of the promo:

The Brockton Symphony Orchestra presents a Chamber Music Concert Sunday, March 22nd at 3 PM at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Say goodbye to winter with spicy tangos by local composer Erik Lindgren, “Blue Tango” and “The Syncopated Clock” by Leroy Anderson, and Lindgren’s Neo-“Baroque-A-Go-Go.” The young and young-at-heart will enjoy Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals,” with the chamber players, two pianists, Amy Korim and Carol Chaffee, and The Voice of the Symphony, Harry Willliams. [w/ reverb: Camille Saint-Saens was wracked with pains, when people addressed him as Saint-Sanes… he turned with metronome and fife to glorify other forms of life.] Tickets are Fifteen dollars. That’s 3 PM, Sunday, March 22nd at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 900 Main Street in Brockton. The Brockton Symphony – A Greater Brockton Treasure.

Friday, March 6, 2015

professional voice-over artist Harry Roger Williams III

It means a lot to me to see Bill Anderson refer to me as, "client and professional voice-over artist Harry Roger Williams III" on his Facebook page. I replied, "When I decided to evolve from "The Voice of the Brockton Symphony Orchestra​" and radio commercial narrator to Audiobook Narrator, I promised myself to only give voice to positive works that can actually improve lives. I could not think of a better book to begin with than The Anderson Method. Thanks to Bill Anderson for this opportunity to 'spread the word.'"

Click HERE to be taken to a page where you can hear my narration for free, and also get Bill's book - the one I used to shed 50 pounds after my heart attack - at a discount. If I could have gotten my HTML coding right, you could have done it by clicking on the image of Bill's post. I still have so much to learn about technology!

Monday, March 2, 2015

So much genius in our musical world!

I was so sorry that family commitments kept me from Erik Lindgren's Birthday Chamber-A-Go-Go concert last fall. His works will be featured in the Brockton Symphony Orchestra's chamber concert on March 22nd, when I will be narrating Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals with two pianos and BrSO chamber players.
One of my musical heroes, Van Dyke Parks, wrote, “Erik Lindgren scores consummate musicianship from the spatially abstract to a defining American vernacular. Erik Lindgren IS American music” - Van Dyke Parks

The Boston Globe | Music
Lindgren remains drawn toward eclectic musical mix

The composer, keyboardist, record collector, and archivist Erik Lindgren remembers two seminal musical epiphanies from his years as a student at Mount Hermon School (now Northfield Mount Hermon) in Western Mass. The first was the discovery of the music of Erik Satie, the early-20th-century French composer who, as Lindgren puts it, “destroyed functional tonality.” The other was his introduction to the quirky British pop group the Small Faces, a band that topped the charts in England (where they kept pace with the Beatles), but was virtually unknown in the States.

Those revelations set him on his path: a dual love of classical modernism and left-of-center pop and rock. When he assembled his first band, Moving Parts, in the late ’70s, he aspired to combine “the subtleties of Anton Webern with the pure rock and roll anarchy of the Stooges’ ‘L.A. Blues.’ ”

Lindgren, whose classical chamber music of the last 10 years will get a thorough airing in a 60th birthday concert at Tufts on Sept. 27, has had the kind of career that obliterates categories. Trained with a master’s degree in piano and composition (from the University of Iowa), he’s written classical chamber music, as well as “chamber rock” for the band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he was also one of the area’s most prodigious composers of commercial jingles. In addition, he runs his own recording studio, Sounds Interesting, at his home in Middleborough, and his own labels, including Arf! Arf!, best known for reissue compilations of ’60s psychedelic and garage rock as well as all manner of oddities and “outsider” music. (Arf! Arf!’s “The Barclay Story” includes titles like “Eastern PA ’60s Soul.”)

“I always say that I’m mining the bottom 5,000 instead of the top 40,” says Lindgren by phone in Allentown, Pa., where he’s attending a weeklong record festival that focuses strictly on 45s. Lindgren estimates his collection of psychedelic and garage-rock 45s numbers 10,000.

His taste for obscurities goes back to that Small Faces epiphany: “There’s this whole body of music that’s not popular but that’s equally if not more valid . . . music that the average American will never hear, yet is worth searching out.”

By the same token, Lindgren was taken with Satie because he cut against the grain of the dominant German tradition. “I remember my composition teacher at Tufts said, ‘Oh yes, Erik Satie, he’s a wonderful minor composer.’ And I never believed it. To me, he was major. He was up there with Beethoven.”

The new, two-disc kitchen-sink compilation “Yin Yang A-Go-Go: 360 Degrees of Organized Sound (1972-2005)” offers a portable Lindgren. It includes, among many other things, tracks from Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, which he founded with Roger Miller in 1980; the co-written Willie “Loco” Alexander single “In the Pink”; solo studio experiments under the moniker Space Negros; and a sampling of his “hit” jingles, from WBZ-TV’s “Newsline,” the Christmas Tree Shops, and Waltham Camera & Stereo.

Some pieces on “Yin Yang A-Go-Go” are of more historical interest than lasting musical appeal, such as the track from Moving Parts, the ’70s band that included Lindgren, guitarist Miller, and bassist Clint Conley. The latter two would eventually spin off to create Mission of Burma.

But throughout the two discs you can always sense Lindgren’s curiosity and daring. “Listen to the Angels Shoutin’ ” is from the 2005 Birdsongs album “Extreme Spirituals,” a collaboration with the gospel singer Oral Moses. The piece is like an African-American spiritual as set by a French modernist, Moses’s powerful, stentorian vocals backed by a haunting flute part, percussion, and synthesizer.

“Flyte” is an eight-minute tone poem chronicling a flight from Miami to Buenos Aires narrated by Captain Angela Masson, a top-ranked female jet pilot who has recorded under the name Tangela Tricoli. The alluring mix of melodies for flutes, bassoon, clarinet, and piano suggests anticipation, ascent, the return to earth — a rare, uncluttered emotional directness. (It’s on 2006’s “Classical A-Go-Go,” by Lindgren’s Frankenstein Consort.)

“All sounds are equal to him,” Conley says of Lindgren. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Stooges or Stockhausen.”

Saxophonist and flutist Ken Field, one of Lindgren’s longtime collaborators in Birdsongs of the Mesozoic (who play a Pipeline show at the Middle East on Oct. 4, and at Johnny D’s on Oct. 17), calls him “a great composer.” But, he adds, “If somebody only studies Bach, they might end up sounding a little like Bach. But when somebody has a really odd set of influences that are deeply embedded in the brain, they come up with an odd result.”

I mention to Lindgren a quote about Satie from biographer Rollo Myers in the liner notes to “Classical A-Go-Go”: “Some have called him the greatest musician of all time [while] his enemies . . . called him a buffoon. Happily, he was neither.”

Lindgren cackles with delight. “He’s just a guy who had a vision. We’re not talking Beethoven’s Ninth or Wagner’s operas. But in some ways, he was as radical as the Ramones.”


[Info on then-upcoming non-Lindgren concerts omitted by Harry]

Jon Garelick can be reached at jon.garelick4@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgarelick.

Inset Box Text:

Erik Lindgren 60th Birthday Chamber A-Go-Go Concert
Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University,
20 Talbot Ave., Medford 617-627-3679

Date of concert: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Ticket price: Free

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"One nation under gods"

For years I have promised myself to start a movement to add one letter, "s," to the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting "One nation under gods." The audacity of author Peter Manseau to use it for his book! Turns out at least 3 books use this title. Oh well...

Two hundred years ago Congress debated purchasing Thomas Jefferson's personal library, after Britain burned the original Library of Congress collection in 1814.

In spite of its reputation for liberty, Massachusetts was represented by Federalist Cyrus King, who "declared that the books would be better off burned than bought with public funds." Thankfully, nearby Vermont sent Representative James Fisk, who "reminded his fellow congressmen that King came from a state once known for hanging witches, and wondered pointedly whether that practice might also be reintroduced."

I love the conclusion near the end of the article below, "In matters of faith, Jefferson argued, 'uniformity of opinion' was neither desirable nor attainable, for 'difference of opinion is advantageous in religion.' In his day and ours, the tension between competing beliefs is not a problem to be solved, but an ongoing negotiation."

The Boston Globe | Ideas
How a Christian Congress embraced Jefferson’s ‘atheistical’ library:
Two centuries ago, a religiously uniform legislature planted the seed for a wide-ranging Library of Congress
By Peter Manseau | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT | JANUARY 30, 2015

AS THE 114TH CONGRESS convened for the first time earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a report noting that it was the most ethnically diverse in history: 17 percent of the House and Senate is now nonwhite. But another Pew report found that by a different metric, Congress is almost shockingly united. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are overwhelmingly Christian, with more than 90 percent of each belonging to a church.

Picture Caption: The Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson, shown at the Library of Congress.

In these rancorous days, it’s tempting to look for a glimmer of hope in the possibility that so many lawmakers might have at least one thing in common. Yet in their near uniformity of belief, members of Congress do not reflect the current composition of a nation in which one in five claim no religious affiliation. To be sure, there is great variety among those who call themselves Christians, but it is nonetheless worrisome to some that so many share the tenets of a single faith: a hint that the broader and more varied concerns of the American public are incompletely represented by our elected officials.

The Pew report on religion, however, came not only at the start of a new legislative session, but during a month that marks the 200th anniversary of the most colorful debate on the value of diverse religious opinions ever heard in the US Legislature—and the outcome of that debate should be reassuring to doubters. The occasion was a House vote on a bill allowing Congress to procure Thomas Jefferson’s library at Monticello as a replacement for the original collection destroyed when the British burned Washington in the waning days of the War of 1812.

This tense moment in 1815 is a reminder that, as a country, we have been far more spiritually diverse than we often recognize. It also sheds light on the ways the United States has been able to generate great and broad-based institutions even when those in charge are, on the face of it, more similar than the citizens they represent. Ultimately, what happened would establish our expansive modern Library of Congress—and offer an example worth remembering amid the apparent religious uniformity of our elected federal government today.

AT ITS FOUNDING, the Library of Congress was primarily a reference collection intended for the use of Congress itself. Proposing volumes for its shelves in an 1802 letter, President Jefferson included only titles related to “those branches of science which belong to the deliberations of the members as statesmen.” When the British General Robert Ross set fire to the White House, the Capitol, and other public buildings in August 1814, 3,000 such books went up in smoke.

Five years out of office and retired to Monticello, Jefferson heard of the library’s destruction and decided to act. “I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts,” he wrote in a letter submitted to members of Congress. Suspecting they would like to rebuild the collection but might find it difficult during wartime, he proposed the country buy his own carefully curated personal library as a replacement.

When Jefferson first offered to make his books available, the most vexing matter to some critics was the expense. At a price determined by a Georgetown bookseller of $23,950 for 6,487 books (in today’s dollars, an average price of more than $50 each), the library was no bargain. As the debate about the purchase dragged on for months in the press and through a vote in the Senate, however, this concern was eclipsed by another one: the supposedly “atheistical” character of the former president’s book collection.

Far from strictly atheist, Jefferson’s books included texts from a number of religious traditions. He owned a score of Bibles, a Koran, a history of “heathen gods,” and works by Deist philosophers—and that was precisely the problem. Such heterodox titles reflected his opinion that religion should be a personal affair, guided by curiosity and reason.

The vitriol Jefferson’s interests inspired, however, demonstrated how sensitive such a perspective has always been in the United States. In a nation often at odds over the question of how porous the wall of separation between church and state should be, the public dimension of private belief was and remains a reliable source of controversy. Though only dozens of the more than 6,000 books dealt with religion, they were seen as a window into a dangerously pluralistic worldview.

By the time the bill came up for a vote in the House on Jan. 26, 1815, Jefferson’s critics had stirred themselves to a witch hunt. The Federalist representative Cyrus King of Massachusetts argued that the character of the man who assembled the library, and the place where he had acquired much of it—France—was evidence enough that the collection contained “many books of irreligious and immoral tendency.” Attempting to prevent “a general dissemination of this infidel philosophy,” King declared that the books would be better off burned than bought with public funds.

Other members of Congress found this talk of book burning too much to take. Representative James Fisk of Vermont, a Democratic-Republican like Jefferson, reminded his fellow congressmen that King came from a state once known for hanging witches, and wondered pointedly whether that practice might also be reintroduced. Representative Robert Wright of Maryland accused King of wanting to start an Inquisition. To this charge, King replied that he had no such intention—at least not while his party was in the minority.

Even then, party politics ruled the day. With the Democratic-Republicans holding a majority in both houses, King’s Federalists saw the purchase of the library as an abuse of power directly enriching a political rival. As extreme as that position might seem from a distance of centuries, 47 percent of the House agreed with King. In the end, the bill passed, but barely.

President James Madison approved the act of Congress purchasing Jefferson’s library on Jan. 30, 1815, and word reached Monticello in early February. By May of that year, 10 wagons had hauled the books to the national capital, providing a model for the enormously wide-ranging collection the Library of Congress would become. True to Jefferson’s sense that “there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer,” it today represents a proudly diverse American heritage of knowledge, interest, and belief.

[If you click the link to the article, in title above, a picture is linked to photos of the Jefferson Collection in today's Library of Congress. Note added by Harry]

TWO HUNDRED YEARS on, the dispute over Jefferson’s library provides an unexpected view into the ways religion can transform even noncontroversial subjects into bitter culture wars. Today, we pay lip service to the idea that the personal beliefs of elected representatives should not matter. But the range of contentious contemporary issues informed by faith—from health care to terrorism, same-sex marriage to corporate personhood—suggests that religious diversity may have as many implications for the 114th Congress as it did for the 13th.

Yet the fact that the nearly all-encompassing Library of Congress has roots in a debate about “infidel philosophy” is not merely a reminder that politicized religious conflicts have been with us from the beginning. It also suggests that even elected bodies whose range of belief is narrower than the nation’s as a whole can give rise to institutions that support all of us.

Varied though they were, the religious perspectives found in Jefferson’s library barely scratched the surface of the beliefs at large in the young United States. Already, the country beyond the Capitol was home to many others: small Jewish communities growing in most cities, adherents of Islam and African religions practicing their faith in secret on slave plantations, Native American movements keeping traditional beliefs alive even as the dominant faith was forced upon them.

With no participation in the crafting of laws under which they lived, religious minorities exerted influence in ways difficult to measure except through the growing eclecticism of certain of our historical leaders. Had anyone prepared a report on the religious affiliations of politicians in 1815, the church-going owner of the library full of “infidel philosophy” would have been counted as a Christian himself. But Jefferson was a Christian shaped by the religious differences around him.

Many of today’s lawmakers likewise may be more spiritually diverse than any mere accounting can describe. Among the hundreds of members of Congress sworn into office with their hands on a Bible was a Buddhist—Georgia Representative Hank Johnson—who used the Christian text as a nod to tradition rather than a statement of belief. When the then-mayor of Newark (and now senator) Cory Booker announced his interest in seeking higher office in 2012, this Baptist from New Jersey did so beside a stack of books that would have been right at home at Monticello: a New Testament, a Hebrew Bible, a Koran, and a Bhagavad Gita. And in 2007, the first Muslim member of Congress, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, took his oath of office using Jefferson’s own copy of the “Alcoran of Mohammed,” part of that collection of books trucked from Charlottesville to Washington 192 years before.

Whether it takes the form of the few representatives who hold faiths outside Christianity or Christians with surprisingly broad perspectives, there is reason to believe that there is more variation in our religiously united Congress than there may seem. And, even with the shadow of spiritual strife so often visible in both our present and our past, if religious disagreement is the fate of the nation, that might not be a bad thing.

In matters of faith, Jefferson argued, “uniformity of opinion” was neither desirable nor attainable, for “difference of opinion is advantageous in religion.” In his day and ours, the tension between competing beliefs is not a problem to be solved, but an ongoing negotiation. One day, a greater variety of professed beliefs, among those representing a nation of all faiths and no faith, may more clearly show the advantages of such difference of opinion within government as well.

Peter Manseau is the author, most recently, of “One Nation Under Gods: A New American History.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

New radio promo for Brockton Symphony on SoundCloud

Here is the text of the promo:

The Brockton Symphony Orchestra’s Symphonic Voyage heads north for “Viva Scandinavia” on Sunday, March 1st at 3 PM at the West Middle School.

Maestro James M. Orent, the world class Brockton Symphony Orchestra and dancers from Matta Dance Academy take us to the Land of the Midnight Sun, with 7 composers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, including Grieg’s Peer Gynt, Sibelius’s Finlandia, Alfven’s Swedish Rhapsody and more!

Our Swedish-American concertmaster, Kristina Nilsson, solos on Svendsen’s Romance for violin and Jaernefeld’s Berceuse.

Adult tickets are Twenty dollars, seniors and students fifteen, children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult. Order at Brockton Symphony.org, or call the Symphony at 508-588-3841. That’s 3 PM, Sunday, March 1st at the West Middle School, 271 West Street in Brockton.

The Brockton Symphony – A Greater Brockton Treasure – Sponsored by Harbor One Bank.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Unabridged audio: The Anderson Method Forward

Here is the title page and Forward to The Anderson Method. I prepared it for Bill Anderson. After it was done we agreed that I would produce an abridged version for him to post on his web site. I will post that version later, but here is the first version. I used The Anderson to drop 50 pounds after my heart attack a couple of years ago, and endorse it highly.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sometimes we are far too eager to "believe!"

RevivalRevival by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this new novel by Stephen King. Like several others of his works, I would give this one 5 stars instead of 4, if his endings could be as good as his beginnings and middles. Let me hasten to add that I don’t know how that could be done – or I would do so myself! (And maybe Stephen King would read me!)

The "official goodreads blurb" calls it "A dark and electrifying novel." There's a pun in there, probably intended. You might even call the story of the ANTagonist (I don't think this is a spoiler) an "Electric Slide." (My pun is definitely intended.)

Early in the book I found myself thinking his PROtagonist might be the only cynic or skeptic in a world of willing believers-of-hype. I didn't know if that’s where the story was going, but I felt myself identifying with that attitude. Sometimes we are far too eager to "believe!" Thought-provoking issues of faith, fanaticism and addiction never detract from King's special talent for creating characters we care about, whether cursing them or rooting for them.

An extra dimension of enjoyment for me was his description of playing in a rock band in high school. He made me nostalgic for The Butlers, HuSH and Hard Core Willie. I remembered how wonderful it was to sing and play in those bands, and decided I want to play again, and regularly! I wonder if he really did that himself, way back in high school. I know he played later with the Rock Bottom Remainders, with my boyhood chum (and later famous writer) Dave Barry, but I don’t know if he played as a teen, or only wishes he had.

In spite of what I said about "endings," I'm really glad I read Revival.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Public Libraries and Literacy Volunteers: A perfect partnership

I was delighted to see the work of Mary Diggle and the Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts/Quincy recognized, and excited to see the Thomas Crane Public Library highlighted as partner and supporter of this priceless work, in today's Boston Globe article below.

As Library Director in urban libraries serving "Gateway Communities," with large numbers of immigrants, along with native-born non-readers, our usefulness to the communities was multiplied by hosting and promoting Literacy Volunteers. Public Libraries truly are the home of "The American Dream."

This was especially true at the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, MA, the Brockton Public Library, and as demonstrated in the article below, the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, where I finished my public library career.

The Boston Globe South

For some adults, Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts fills a void


QUINCY — For the first 50 years of his life, Paulo Ramos simply got by.

He relied on universal symbols, committed the visual makeup of certain essential words to memory, and copied by rote letters and numbers that friends assembled for him.

Caption: Paulo Ramos uses a mirror to watch his lips as he speaks at Quincy’s Thomas Crane Library.

But even as the Weymouth resident held down various jobs and eventually went on to run his own cleaning business, the extent of his literacy was being able to pen his own signature.

He had never read a book or newspaper, and had never sat down to write a friend or family member a letter or e-mail.

“When I started, I was nothing,” the 54-year-old Cape Verde native said of his first session with a literacy tutor in Quincy four years ago. “I [had] just learned to sign my name.”

You are probably reading this story without even thinking about it. You have no need to sound out the vowels and consonants, consult a dictionary, or puzzle over context.

Caption: Paulo Ramos uses a small device that sounds out words as he practices his English.

What you may not realize is that, reading these words — as simple as it may be for you — can be a confounding and incapacitating task for many adults in this country.

This is where the nonprofit Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts-Quincy fills a void; for more than a quarter century, the program based at Thomas Crane Public Library has enabled hundreds of locals like Ramos to acquire the reading and writing skills that many of us take for granted.

Part of a statewide network of more than a dozen such programs — including in Stoughton, Norwood, Framingham, Lowell, and Methuen — the nonprofit offers free, confidential, one-on-one tutoring to adults at or below a sixth-grade reading level. Individualized tutoring focuses on basic literacy or English as a Second Language. There can often be a waiting list, depending on the number of tutors available. The only requirements for prospective students are that they are over age 16, not enrolled in school, and have the ability to make a regular commitment of two hours a week.

Caption: Carol O’Neill and Caitlin Castello Greene of Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts-Quincy discuss teaching a student how to read.

The Quincy program was established 28 years ago, according to Mary Diggle, the program’s project manager, and assists between 70 and 100 students a year with reading and writing comprehension.

“It’s life-changing,” said Mary Kelly, a part-time reading teacher from Quincy who has worked with Ramos the past four years.

And not just for the student. “You get more than you give,” she said as she sat in a private reading room at the Crane library during a recent weekly session.

According to a recent study by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, more than 30 million, or 14 percent, of US adults cannot read, while 21 percent of US adults read at below a fifth-grade level.

This is due to a number of factors, explained Diggle. American-born students may have simply dropped out of primary or high school, lacked educational opportunities while growing up, or are afflicted with learning disabilities that were never identified or mitigated. Immigrant students, meanwhile, may have been denied access to school due to the atrocities of war or poverty, and, upon entering the United States, may have learned to adequately speak English, but not to write or read the language.

According to Diggle, 68 pairs of tutors and students from the Quincy area are working together; students are often age 50 or older and seek assistance due to work barriers, or simply because they crave the opportunity to read to their grandchildren.

Caption: Mary Diggle and Susan Mele discuss strategies for teaching literacy.

Tutors, meanwhile, are retired or practicing teachers like Kelly or people who simply say, “I love reading and can’t imagine not knowing how to,” Diggle explained.

Always in demand, their only qualifications, Diggle said, are a passion for reading, sensitivity, and an ability to work in diverse groups. They initially go through an orientation, as well as six three-hour training workshops focused on techniques, materials, and lesson planning. The next tutor orientation is scheduled to be held on Jan. 26, according to Diggle.

When Kelly and Ramos were paired up four years ago, they started with the basics: the ABCs.

During a recent weekday morning session, they worked on word drills, various iterations of letters, and full sentences on word cards. Clad in Boston College paraphernalia, Ramos used his finger to keep place and, when stuck, took off his glasses and lowered his face within inches of the pesky word.

“Look at that again,” Kelly prompted. “Pause, take a breath.”

“Startly . . . ” he attempted. “S . . . startle.”

Kelly nodded in approval.

“What does it mean to startle you?”

Ramos turned to his small hand-held electronic Franklin Speller machine, looked it up, and read the definition aloud: “A sudden shock of surprise or alarm.”

He continued with a series of random sentences.

“He was the proud owner of a Basset hound.”

“We will have clam chowder in a cup for dinner.”

“Do not slouch on the couch.”

Born to farm-working parents, Ramos recalled that he attended school occasionally — for a duration of two to three years, he estimated, but not every day, because work at home took precedence. He never learned to read or write in his native Portuguese, and, when he came to the United States, he learned to speak English phonetically and held down a series of low-wage jobs.

Finally, when a back injury put him out of work a few years ago, he decided to do something about his illiteracy.

“I thought, ‘I’d like to read, to see what’s going on, to use my mind,’ ” he said in a thick Portuguese accent.

He has proved to be a star pupil, developing a voraciousness for reading; he picks up anything, from discarded scraps of paper to health care brochures, to newspapers, and, more recently, young adult books, including a biography of Babe Ruth (he wrote a book report on that) and Kate DiCamillo’s novel “Because of Winn-Dixie.”

“He comes in with anything he finds lying around,” said Kelly. “He’s soaking up everything.”

“Every day I get better and better with my reading,” he said, affirming that, “if you want something, you work hard for it. Nobody can do it for you.”

Interested in sharing your love of reading and writing? The next tutor training orientation will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 26 in the Thomas Crane Public Library’s community room. Training will take place in the library’s community room from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 2 through March 2.

To download an application and find out more details, visit http://thomascranelibrary.org/read. Visit Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts at http://www.lvm.org.

Taryn Plumb can be reached at tarynplumb1@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Attempting to post Podcast

In an ideal world there would be a built in player just below this note, containing my 60 second commercial for the Brockton Symphony Orchestra's January 25th Chamber Music Concert.

Well, it turns out the world is more perfect than I'd realized. When I paste in the code to post the player on my blog, then use Blogger's "Preview" function, the player is not shown, so I thought it was not "there." I was blaming the problem on Podbean, who graciously give me a free web site for posting audio and then embedding it via the player. (Podbean is being a bit limited today, as I add this comment, by being very slow to buffer and play the actual music, but it's usually "instantaneous.") It turns out the limitation is that a "script" (not being a techie, I have to guess that's the right word) doesn't appear in Preview, but only when the post is Published. Thank you Blogger AND Podbean.