Legendary: Doc Watson

My favorite bluegrass musician is Arthel “Doc” Watson. Bluegrass is a form of American roots music that emerged from and was inspired by the music of Appalachia. Its true roots come from the traditional and folk music of the Scottish, Irish, and English. Doc Watson was born and lived his life in the northwestern region of North Carolina that is considered one of the richest areas of folk song in the United States. He was the sixth of nine children, and he lost his vision before his first birthday.  Watson always credited his father for instilling in him the belief that being blind did not mean helpless. It was this confidence that helped him throughout his life to pursue his dreams and stand up to the hardships of life.

Dan Miller, the editor and publisher of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, wrote that Doc Watson has “the deepest, most enduring, and most profound influence on the way the acoustic flat top guitar is played as a lead instrument in folk, old-time, and bluegrass music.” As a child, Doc said he always heard his mother and father singing. His earliest musical influences were his family, neighbors, and the local church. At age six, he was given a harmonica and immediately took to it. At age eleven, he was given his first string instrument, a banjo. He began playing professionally in 1953 with the Williams Band. In the 1960s, with the rise of the folk scene, he started to get more notice, especially after 1964 when he partnered with his son, Merle. Doc and Merle performed live, traveled the road, and made records together until Merle’s untimely death at 36 from a tractor accident. Heartbroken over the loss, Doc planned to give up playing but a dream in which Merle spoke to him convinced Doc to continue to play.

Doc Watson received his first Grammy in 1973 and went on to win six more. He was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. In 2004, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

What I know is that Doc’s music always gets my toe tapping and my spirit singing. His music is powerful and authentic. To listen to classic Doc Watson, check out The Best of Doc Watson or The Essential Doc Watson. Both are fine collections that give a solid introduction to Watson’s talent and scope. These are superb starting points for any new fan as well as a great way for seasoned Watson fans to hear their favorites. OWL also owns the more recently released Legacy, a combination of audio biography and discography. In it, Doc shares his thoughts and stories on life interspersed with song.

You can also hear the talents of Doc’s picking on Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, Live Duet Recordings 1963- 1980 Off the Record Volume 2. Bill Monroe is considered the father of bluegrass. Even non-Bluegrass fans may know his most famous song, Blue Moon of Kentucky. The duo team up for an exemplary live bluegrass collection that is sure to get your feet moving.

But don’t stop there! To get your toes really tapping, check out OWL’s wonderful bluegrass music collection. A few of my favorites include:

Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys: Live Recordings 1956- 1969 Off the Record, Volume 1. This collection of live recordings is the companion to the one mentioned above featuring Doc Watson. It includes terrific live performances, jam sessions, and festival workshops with the Bluegrass Boys.

The Essential Flatt & Scruggs: This CD collection is the best introduction to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Flatt and Scruggs burst out from Bill Monroe’s legendary Blue Grass Boys to found their own partnership. The liner notes state that “Lester’s solid Tennessee pickin’ and vocalizing and Earl’s dazzling, east-Appalachian three-finger banjo style brought the sound of bluegrass to new heights”.

Earl Scruggs and Friends brings popular artists like Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, and more on stage playing with the legendary Scruggs for unforgettable sessions.

The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers: With Ralph on banjo and Carter on guitar, the Stanley Brothers were another duo that burst forth from Bill Monroe’s world. They developed their own unique style and this collection features some of their best, all recorded at Columbia Studios between 1949 and 1952.

Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys: Man of Constant Sorrow. Another giant of bluegrass is Ralph Stanley. David Royko of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Ralph Stanley is “perhaps the most genuine manifestation of traditional Appalachian mountain music of any kind” and that the collection of songs on the Man of Constant Sorrow “represent Ralph, the Clinch Mountain Boys, and bluegrass music at their very best.”

Alison Krauss and Union Station are probably one of the most famous bluegrass bands of recent times as their popularity has transcended the traditional bluegrass audience. Krauss’ voice is hypnotic. She will transport you. My favorite is the aptly titled New Favorite that was released in 2001.

Dolly Parton: The Grass is Blue. Country music is a close cousin to bluegrass. Some of Parton’s music falls more on the country side, but this particular CD is a firm nod by Dolly to her bluegrass roots. I’ve always been a fan of her unique and beautiful voice and it shines on this LP.

Rhonda Vincent and The Rage: Ragin’ Live. This live CD gives listeners a front-row seat for Rhonda Vincent, the recipient of five consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

… and the list can go on and on. All of the musicians noted above have many other CDs available from OWL’s collection and through our shared network. In addition, there are so many more incredible bluegrass stars- from back in time to present day- and I encourage you to add a little toe-tapping to your next musical journey!

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library.

The Garner Files

I’ve admired James Garner’s work for many years but after reading his autobiography, The Garner Files, my admiration of and respect for him have grown tremendously. He is truly a “good man”: a man of integrity, values, loyalty, and talent.

As Garner describes in his autobiography, he and his fans are lucky that a woman pulled out of a parking space just as he spontaneously decided to drive into his future agent’s lot. If she hadn’t, then he wouldn’t have stopped, and he might never have become an actor. Imagine how much less the world would be without James Garner’s talent!

Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma during the Depression, James Garner had a difficult childhood – more because of an abusive stepmother who beat Jim and his two other brothers regularly and savagely than due to poverty. Garner saw combat action with the Army’s 24th Infantry Division during the Korean War and his stories from this time are both harrowing and humorous. He credits the military with helping him find purpose in life and it was there that he earned his G.E.D.  After the war, Jim returned to his rambling ways, moving from one job to the next and not finding anything of particular interest. He stumbled into acting and only became serious about it when he married his soul mate, Lois, and he’s been married to her for 56 years.

The Garner Files is an outstanding book that is filled with insight, humor, and wisdom. I read the book and then liked it so much that I listened to the audio book. Michael Kramer does an outstanding job narrating the audio version – he completely understands the tone and nuances of Garner’s writing and speech. The book shines in both formats. It illuminates a difficult life but one in which James Garner took chances, embraced life, cherished his family and friends, studied his craft, and stood his ground to fight for values, and, happily, won along the way. From comments like, “I’m not a fan of me” in response to why he doesn’t watch himself on the screen, to his landmark lawsuit against Warner Brothers that paved the way to breaking the contract system for actors, The Garner Files will keep you turning the page and listening to the discs. On both the big screen and the little screen, I remain a faithful fan of James Garner.

Be sure to check out The Garner Files either in print or audio, and then watch Garner in action in these DVDs available at OWL:

The Rockford Files. The two roles most closely identified with James Garner are Bret Maverick and James Rockford. I absolutely love The Rockford Files. Critics and fans agree that the series never “jumped the shark” meaning every episode is true to the characters and superb in its writing and craftsmanship. Rockford breaks the traditional mold of TV detectives, and I would venture to say TV characters, period. I can’t think of another popular series where the star lives in a trailer and is still viewed as intelligent, resourceful, and masculine. James Rockford isn’t a sell-out. For fans, Garner’s autobiography talks a great deal about both the Maverick and Rockford series.

The Great Escape (1963), based on the book by Paul Brickhill, tells the true story of the men imprisoned in the Nazi maximum-security Stalag Luft North in 1943. Designed to hold the top escape-artist aviators captured during the war, it tells the story of their plan for another great escape. The motorcycle scenes with Steve McQueen remain a highlight for all who watch although this is one of the few parts of the film that did not happen in real life.   In The Garner Files, James Garner gives us a glimpse into the making of the film, the actors involved, and the reactions (all good) from those who survived Stalag Luft North.

The Thrill of It All (1963) and Move Over, Darling (1963) are the two films that Garner did with co-star Doris Day. They have a natural connection on the screen and their enduring affection shines through in each scene. In The Thrill of It All, homemaker Doris Day suddenly finds herself a celebrity who out-earns (by far) her doctor-husband when she is reluctantly selected to be the Happy Soap spokeswoman.  It’s full of my kind of humor. In one scene, the son answers the phone and responds to the caller by shaking his head rather than verbalizing an answer. In another, James Garner drives the family convertible into a swimming pool that unbeknownst to him was installed by Happy Soap only hours before.  In Move Over Darling, a film that was originally to star Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe before Monroe’s untimely death, Garner has his wife declared legally dead after she was lost at sea and presumed dead after a plane crash. Of course, on the day that he marries another woman, Doris finally returns to civilization. The premise is a tragic one but in the capable hands of Garner and Day, you’ll be laughing all the way to their new wedding day.

Grand Prix (1966). This landmark racing film follows Formula 1 drivers during a run for the championship at the Monaco Grand Prix. Director John Frankenheimer’s meticulous attention to detail and historical accuracy make this a film for the ages. Racing has gotten much safer today, but safety standards were minimal through the 1960s. You’ll see the running starts, stunning high-speed footage, the race suits that hardly protect against fire, and the horrendous crashes. The work captures the intoxicating energy of racing and was originally filmed in Cinerama, a cinematography system that used 70mm film and three projectors in the theater to create a wrap-around effect for visuals and sound. The movie was shot across the 1966 Grand Prix season at various tracks on the circuit. The Garner Files includes a section that covers this film and Jim Garner’s long amateur career in auto racing as driver and owner that included the Baja 500 and Le Mans.

I have to agree with Jim that Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) is one of the funniest western spoofs ever made. From the first scene to the last, you’ll be laughing out loud at every turn. Garner stars as a self-assured rambling cowboy on his way to finding gold in Australia who strolls into town and becomes the local sheriff. He soon arrests one of the local hoodlums only to discover that they ran out of money before the jail was finished. It’s a fun and happy film.

Murphy’s Romance (1988) stars James Garner as a widowed druggist in a small town who befriends and falls in love with a recently divorced woman, played by Sally Fields, who moves into town to start again. It’s a sweet and charming romance that moves gently and tugs deeply at your heart.

Barbarians at the Gate (2001). In this HBO original comedy, James Garner plays the CEO of RJR Nabisco who tries, and fails, to sell a smokeless cigarette to the public. He then decides that he has had enough with the stockholders and plans to buy out the company. Before he succeeds, he finds himself in a battle with the “takeover king” Henry Kravis, played by Jonathan Pryce. As reviewer Tom Keogh wrote, “The ensuing battle is both bitterly funny and full of acid-tinged insights into the ’80s greed that changed corporate America forever.”

Space Cowboys (2001). A Russian satellite with nuclear weapons aboard malfunctions and is in danger of hitting the Earth.The only people who know how to repair the outdated technology are, of course, long-retired guys. Space Cowboys merges science fiction and laughs, and Clint Eastwood and his stellar cast of teammates that includes James Garner, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones. It is an equally heart-warming and heroic film.

~ Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director at the Oliver Wolcott Library

Open Wheel Racing

Spring means the beginning of the amateur auto racing season. My husband Harry races in open wheel/open cockpit Formula Vee in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). I am his crew chief. For us, the season starts around Memorial Day Weekend and ends by early October, and this May will mark our fourth year of racing. In the Northeast, Formula Vee is one of the more robust classes where a typical race weekend may see us competing against up to 25 cars in our class. Last year, Harry won the North Atlantic Road Racing Championship!

I still remember his face the first time he won a podium position, which is a finish in the top three. It was at the historic Watkins Glen, and I didn’t want to tell him until I was sure. We use radios to communicate with each other during the race. I act as his spotter telling him only pertinent information such as if a car has spun, how much time he is losing to or gaining on another driver, lap times, and number of laps left. This is the most fun for me and the most challenging of my crew chief duties. In addition to spotting, I also help prepare the car before and after the race, keep track of his times, manage car issues, and establish our goals for each track including learning the track configuration and analyzing the competition. The crew chief is also responsible for taking photographs, setting up the in-car video gear, and helping the driver get ready for the race and safely locked into his race car. As James Garner said when talking about making the film Grand Prix, “You don’t so much sit in a Formula One car as wear it.” That’s just as true with Formula Vee. It’s a tight fit!

Many who are unfamiliar with the sport seem to think that because they can drive a car, they could drive a race circuit and race. That’s like saying that because you can take your temperature, you are a surgeon. Sports car racing is nothing like driving a car whether on an oval track or a complex road course.

Every race circuit is unique with its own configuration and local conditions. The driver needs to learn the proper driving line for each track as well as the passing zones and the flagging safety stations. The nuances of elevation change and turn geometry greatly affect the handling of the car. The combination of physical and intellectual demand is what makes racing so exciting.

Most SCCA races are about 20 minutes, and an average race weekend includes one qualifying session, a qualifying race, and two races. Once the race starts, driver and crew chief are only focused on “the now”. There is no past or future, only the present moment. Nothing can match the exhilaration that you experience at the start of a race or the energy that surrounds the race track. I think some of the best sports car racing can be found on SCCA race weekends. The racing is hard, wheel to wheel, and devoid of advertising and hype. It’s pure racing by dedicated drivers supported by crew chiefs and friends whose only rewards are the victory or a good finish and a race well run.

We’ve raced at Lime Rock Park, Watkins Glen, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, New Jersey Motorsports Park, and Pocono Raceway.  There is so much more I could write about our race experiences. It’s a wonderful sport and I’m thrilled to be Harry’s Crew Chief, and proud of how much he’s grown as a driver. Through the Sports Car Club of America, we’ve met many wonderful people and look forward to the start of the new season.

For race fans, OWL has a number of books and DVD films that I highly recommend:

Film:

Grand Prix (1966): The film follows Formula 1 drivers during a run for the championship. Director John Frankenheimer was meticulous in his attention to detail and historical accuracy. Racing has gotten much safer these days but in 1966, safety standards were minimal. You’ll see the running starts, the race suits that hardly protect against fire, and the horrendous crashes. The work captures the intoxicating energy of racing. The filming was done through the Grand Prix season at various tracks on the circuit at the time. The film starts James Garner and Eva Saint Marie.

Le Mans (1971): Considered to be the most historically realistic presentation of the Le Mans race (the 24-hour endurance race in France), you should watch this film for the racing and not for its plot. As a race car driver himself, McQueen understood intimately the psychological focus and intensity of the driver. The racing and the driver’s perspective of racing are extraordinary and the film gives you an incredible sense of what it is like both inside and outside the cockpit. The film stars Steve McQueen and was directed by Lee Katzin.

Senna (2011): This documentary profiles the life of Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna who many consider to be the most skilled driver in motor sports history. It follows his journey from a 13-year old go-kart racer to three-time Formula One champion, and his untimely death at age 34 at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Senna’s charisma, honesty, and genuine concern for others shine through against a backdrop of corporate deals and political manipulation.

Books:

Real Racers: Formula 1 in the 1950s and 1960s: A Driver’s Perspective by Stuart Codling is a photographic journey through the golden age of Formula One racing. Formula One legends Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, and others provide commentary throughout the book about what it’s like to prepare for the weekend, practice, qualify, and race.

Motor Racing: the Golden Age by John Tennant provides incredible images from 1900 to 1970. This is a true visual delight bringing together all the elements of open-wheel racing including drivers, crews, tracks, cars, and spectators.

Blood and Smoke: a True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and the Birth of the Indy 500 by Charles Leerhsen takes the reader to the inaugural Indy 500 race in 1911 where personalities, publicity, and timekeeping equipment failures created mystery and mayhem.

~ Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library and the crew chief for her husband’s Number 8 Formula Vee, the 2011 North American Road Racing Championship winner.

Knitting

I have a passion for knitting. I get great satisfaction in creating something from nothing.  With a pair of needles and a piece of yarn, suddenly a beautiful piece is created!

I learned to knit thanks to the generous and wonderful hands and mind of Katie Aziz (along with additional assistance from her sister). She showed me the basic stitches and helped me learn to fix my mistakes. She helped me to decode the sometimes complex directions, and best of all, she shared in my delight as I finished my first projects. Thank you, Katie!

Knitting has so many great benefits. In addition to creating beautiful and functional pieces of artistry, it easily travels anywhere. I knit in the passenger seat when we are driving and knit at the homes of relatives when we have a family gathering. Many knitting projects don’t require you to be fully focused, so if you select one such project, then it is easy to knit away while still actively and attentively participating in any conversations. Sometimes people don’t get it, though, so you have to figure that out in advance!

Knitting relaxes you. Knitting has played a key role in helping me to dispel anxiety. Pick up those needles and start to work, and suddenly, you’ve distracted your brain and feel the relaxation take over and the worries fly away. I’ve read in several books that doctors recommend knitting to patients who have anxiety issues because of its power to heal and transform.

In addition to the yarn and needles, there are a few handy items that I recommend for the avid knitter. The first and most important is a yarn winder. It was quite a surprise when I learned that some yarn requires the knitter to wind it! When you buy yarn, it either comes in balls or skeins. Balls are ready to go and nothing more is required. But, skeins require the knitter, or in my case the knitter plus husband, to wind the skein into a knittable ball. My husband thoughtfully researched the various yarn winders and found an excellent one. Then, he sweetly assists each time I need one of the skeins wound into a ball. Thank you, Knitter’s Assistant!

Another helpful tool is a sewing machine. I love making purses! When you knit a purse, you need to sew in a liner otherwise all of your precious items will fall through the holes in the knitting.

A few other helpful items are a needle case, a knitting bag, and a scratch pad. If you get hooked on knitting, you’ll find the need to add a number of needles to your collection. The needle case keeps them all in one handy place and ensures that you don’t get poked by an errant one. The knitting bag keeps your current projects in one convenient place and makes it easy to travel with your project. Since I never want to be without a new project ready to go as soon as I am done with the current one, I also keep a box with for my yarn and project directions. Finally, a scratch note book is an easy way to keep track of where you are in a pattern. There are advanced knitters out there that can look at their work and understand exactly what row number they are on and which stitch pattern is in use, but I don’t (yet) have that skill.

I am so thankful to have knitting in my life and look forward to picking up my needles to work on one of my projects every day. The best part is realizing the endless possibilities of knitting and how much more there is to learn!

 

If you a knitter or are considering getting started in knitting, OWL has a number of books for inspiration, direction, and project ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:

Learn to Knit by Penny Hill is the finest beginning knitter book I have found. Although other books may claim they are beginner’s guides, this book truly meets the criteria. The instructions and pictures clearly explain the techniques involved and the steps needed to accomplish them. The projects are fun and a great way to begin your knitting way of life.

Knitted Toys: 25 Fresh and Fabulous Designs by Zoe Mellor and Knitted Toys: 21 Easy-to-Knit Patterns for Irresistible Soft Toys by Fiona McTague are two excellent books about knitted toys. Wouldn’t it be nice to have created a child’s special friend? Each book defines the necessary skill level and instructions necessary to execute the project.

The Prayer Shawl Companion by Janet Bristow and Victoria Cole-Galo is an outstanding knitting book.  They see knitting as a spiritual experience and one that is a blessed expression of love. The designs are exquisite and range from beginner to advanced knitter. Each design includes information about the designer and their inspiration for the color choices and pattern.

Men in Knits by Tara Jo Manning focuses on sweaters that would appeal to men and boys. This is a unique book because many knitting books are geared almost exclusively towards projects that would appeal to only women.

Knitting socks requires the skill of using circular needles; something that I have not yet learned. For those of you with the gift, I recommend two books that will delight you with the possibilities. The editors at Vogue Knitting once again live up to their reputation with Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Sock Book. This is a stylish book that provides history, technique and design about the knitted sock. Another is the recently published, Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders edited by Judith Durant. As implied in the title, these are quick projects that require only one skein.

Luxe Knits: the Accessories by Laura Zukaite is primarily for advanced knitters but even if that is not your skill level, take this book home anyway! This book illuminates the amazing range of possibilities in the art of knitting. It’s not just about sweaters! It is couture knitting. The designs are magnificent and infinitely hip.

Exquisite Little Knits: Knitting with Luxurious Specialty Yarns by Iris Schreier and Laurie K. Kimmelstiel introduces the new knitter to the wide range of yarn options now available. Projects are arranged based on the type of yarn including cashmere, silk, suede, and sequins. Knitters of all levels will find fun and satisfying projects here.

My latest project that is still in progress

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library.

Downeast Maine

Otter Cliff Gull

With its rugged rocky coast, crashing waves, and soaring sea gulls, there is no place my husband and I enjoy more than the rocky coast of the Great State of Maine. We have many beautiful memories of Downeast Maine from recent journeys as well as from our past time of living near the coast.

Recently, we stole away to Maine for a few days and enjoyed an absolutely delightful vacation. One of the highlights was watching the sun rise over the North Atlantic at Acadia National Park. Visiting during the off season means that many restaurants are not open (including all three of our favorite lobster pounds!) but the advantage is that there are no crowds. With the park essentially to ourselves, we enjoyed brilliant blue skies and heavy surf from a far-offshore storm. Thunder Hole, which is usually overrun with tourists, was in all of its glory. The waves crashed and burst into the air in a spectacular show of force and sound. Thunder Hole is a great spot for everyone because the park has installed stairs and a railing allowing safe access for the more timid. For the more adventurous, there are innumerable locales along the park loop road to stop, journey out onto the rocks, and find your own little spot to meditate on the wonders of nature, watch the sea birds, and become mesmerized by the ocean waves.

Many years ago, my husband Harry and I lived in Maine for a year while he was part of a team researching pitch pine and jack pine trees on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. While we all have a tendency to want to climb new trails or see new vistas, because of Harry’s research we became intimately acquainted with Cadillac Mountain by climbing the same trail over and over again to gain access to his research site. We saw Cadillac during its glory days of perfect blue skies and gentle winds and its darker side of swarming, voracious black flies and scorching heat. Although the trees are ancient on top of Cadillac Mountain, the harsh conditions keep them stunted so that there is no cover of shade to be had under them, and across much of the mountain there are large expanses of exposed granite bedrock. Acadia is truly a magical place and I encourage everyone to visit.

But if you can’t find your way up to Mount Desert Island, there are many delightful natural areas and coastal towns in Maine, along with some spectacular spots inland, and the following books will help you decide where to travel to find adventure, solace, and a taste of Maine:

Always a great starting point, Fodor’s Maine Coast with Acadia National Park provides the solid base we’ve all come to expect from Fodor about places to stay, where to eat, and what to explore.

The Insiders’ Guide: Maine Coast  also provides an overview of restaurants and accommodations but adds an interesting historical overview of regions and many towns. It also has an excellent section on sight-seeing for lighthouses.

Moon Handbooks’ Acadia National Park and Acadia: the Complete Guide by James Kaiser are both absolutely superb travel guides for any Acadia National Park visit. With handy maps, numerous photographs, and tips for travel, both books take you one step beyond the usual where to stay and what to eat.

Acadia: the Soul of a National Park by Steve Perrin is a hefty, exhaustive, and intimate look at Acadia divided by the seasons. As Perrin writes, “My plan was to hike one of Acadia’s trails each week, and tell about it, not simply as a route from here to there, but as a chapter of my lived experience. Acadia National Park is alive, after all, and its trails lead in and around vital parts and organs. I wanted to explore a few of those parts chosen at random, opening my life to their life, sharing what happens”.

Islands Down East: A Vistor’s Guide by Charlotte Fardelmann takes you on a tour of the islands from Casco Bay to the Cranberry Islands, and you’ll find all of the major islands covered in this charming book. Each entry includes a map, general information, and a brief history of the island.

 Deep in the Maine woods, you’ll find another spectacular adventure waiting: Baxter State Park. Harry and I have had the pleasure of visiting Baxter State Park on several occasions, and each time we stand in awe at the majestic beauty of Maine’s highest peak, Katahdin. In Katahdin: An Historic Journey, author John Neff relates the legends, explorations, and preservation of this wonderful mountain.

Any trip to the Maine backcountry should include a reading of The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau. This classic gem will take you along Thoreau’s excursions in the watersheds of the Kennebec, the Penobscot, and the St. John Rivers. The book relates three trips taken by Thoreau to Maine: the first at age 29 in 1846, the second in 1853 at the age of 36, and the final trip in 1857 at the age of 40. It wasn’t as easy to get around Maine 150 years ago, and so each story begins by relating his need to travel by rail, steamboat, and then coach before hiring a guide to set off on his adventure. Today’s explorers can find all of the guides that they need in the stacks at OWL!

The Story of Mount Desert Island by Samuel Eliot Morison is a short little book on the history of the island that was published in 1960. A devoted, life-long summer resident, Morison was a distinguished seaman and naval historian. The book is a tribute to his favorite place … and one that will become yours if you dare to sample the island’s dramatic landscape and wonderful villages.

Before you leave Maine, be sure to stop by the beautiful coastal city of Portland. It will charm you with its history and entice you with its growing artistic presence and ocean views. To learn more about historic Portland, you will find Portland edited by Martin Dibner to be a wonderful guide with ample photographs that focuses on the historic buildings to be found in this wonderful city.

Explore!

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director at the Oliver Wolcott Library and believes that “a little further” is a great mantra for the intrepid tourist.

Apple Pie

Autumn means changing leaves and apple pie. Yes, my favorite dessert is the simple yet amazingly good apple pie, in all of its fresh and crusty and aromatic goodness. When fall arrives, we begin planning road trips to our favorite orchards and bake shops to pick up apple cider, apple cider doughnuts, apple pie, and more apples to bring home to make our own delicious treats. Is it hard to guess that I love apples?

As fall progresses and winter begins, it is a great time to start up our ovens and get baking. My grandmother was a baker. She always had a pie in the oven and cookies on the table, even though she was as thin as a rail! I loved her apple pie and her cake-like molasses cookies. Whenever she would visit, I always hoped to see that big mound of molasses cookies coming through the front door on a plate. Delight!

 

She was also a genuine Yankee and a woman who lived through the Great Depression, and as a result, she never wasted anything… and I mean anything, so sometimes we would find that we were being served one of her “mystery pies”. She would bring it to the table while telling us that since she had a couple pears, an apple, and a handful of cherries left in the refrigerator, she decided to made up a pie for us. And let me tell you, they were always good!

Baking brings back memories for all of us. It warms the hearth and our hearts. There is a magic to baking, and a satisfaction of seeing your delicious delight emerging from the oven and quickly disappearing from the serving plate. Embrace autumn, and let’s get baking!

 

The Perfect Pie by Susan G. Purdy provides more than 125 all-time favorite pie and tart recipes. Whether it’s the humble apple pie or a raspberry yogurt tart, Purdy has you covered. I’m already dreaming about the Tart Lemon Tart and the Mocha Crème Pie.

Purdy continues to entice with From Basic Apple to Four and Twenty Blackbirds It’s As Easy As Pie, an earlier book, that contains additional tips, pie recipes, and any recipe that uses a pie crust like quiches, timbales, and pot pies.

 

Sweet Gratitude by Judith Sutton provides recipes and tips for using baking as a way to give thanks to family and friends. Head to the kitchen instead of the mall next time you need to give a gift. Bring a plate of Chocolate Express Sandwich Cookies, Little Lemon Loaves, or Amazing Toffee Thins the next time you need to say “thank you”.

Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine will always bring you success. They are “America’s Test Kitchen”, and every recipe is tested repeatedly to develop the exact formula for the best outcome. Like all of their books, each recipe includes a lengthy discussion that explains what they tried and why they selected the prescribed approach. The photographs of the Corn and Apricot Muffins with Orange Essence, Banana Bread, and the Ricotta Calzones with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe are making me hungry right now!

The New Baking Book by Better Homes and Gardens is another trusted favorite. I know I always turn to my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook at home whenever I need to make a pie or quick bread. The spiral binder makes the cookbook especially useful in the kitchen. In this edition, they note the nutritional information per serving for each recipe and highlight ones that are low-fat and/or easy. They also have a section about baking with kids.

The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet is a sophisticated guide for the advanced baker. If baking is your passion, then you’ve met your match! Each recipe includes tips from the experts, what you can do prepare “ahead”, and how to store your finished delight. You’ll find classics like pumpkin pie mixed in with new ideas like Peach-Gingerbread Dumplings or Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies.

The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion by The King Arthur’s Flour Company won’t disappoint. I admit I have a bias because my grandmother always used King Arthur’s Flour and so do I. Can anyone resist the White Knight coming to our rescue in the kitchen? If you follow these recipes, you won’t need to be rescued and the Knight will be stopping over for a treat! I can almost smell the Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread and the Easy Cinnamon Bread baking in the oven now.

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library and loves anything with apples.

Bogey

His face is unforgettable and distinctive just like his films, and unlike many actors of his day, his birth name is the same as his stage name. Humphrey Bogart was born on Christmas Day in 1899 and died at the young age of 57 in January of 1957, but his extraordinary film career (he appeared in more than 75 films) and his iconic presence live on.

He had two siblings, and was the son of a surgeon (his father) and an artistic director and militant suffragette (his mother) whose busy professional lives left little time for their children and even less time for affection. Bogart is reported as saying that a kiss from one of his parents was a major event in his family. He enjoyed a wealthy upbringing living in an upscale apartment in the fashionable Upper West Side of New York City as well as at a fifty-five-acre cottage in upstate New York.  

It was his time in the Navy that cemented his love for the sea and where he developed his independence and maturity. He is reported to have been a model Navy man, and that it was after his time in the service that he fully developed his disdain for what he called his family’s “values” of snobbery and pretension. He began acting in plays throughout the 1920s and began acting in film in the 1930s. While he enjoyed success playing a gangster in early films like the Petrified Forest (1936) and Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), his breakthrough as a leading man came with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon (both in 1941).

 

He married Lauren Bacall in May of 1945. It was his fourth marriage, although it would be the first one that was happy and wherein he had children. They met on the set of To Have and To Have Not. Their real attraction to each other is clear on the screen and that makes this film particularly enjoyable for any Bogart or Bacall fan. Bacall warmly relates her love affair with Bogart, and says that there would never be a man who could match him for her, in her excellent autobiography entitled Lauren Bacall By Myself. To read more about Bacall, read my blog from September 9, 2010 of the title To Have and To Have Not: https://owlibrary.wordpress.com/2010/09/page/4/

The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American Cinema. Enjoy the cinematic genius of Humphrey Bogart by checking out some of my favorite Bogey films in the OWL collection:

 

The Maltese Falcon (1941) helped establish Bogart as a leading man. An adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon contains much of the exact dialogue from the novel and stars Bogart as Detective Sam Spade trying to survive double-crosses to discover the murderer of his detective partner and the mystery of a jewel-encrusted falcon.

Casablanca (1942) cemented Bogart’s leading man status. Set during WWII, Bogart plays a man torn between love and virtue as he must choose to help the woman he loves and her Czech Resistance-leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca.

To Have and To Have Not (1944) is the first Bogart and Bacall film. Set in 1940 inVichy France on the island of Martinique, Bogart plays a sea captain uninterested in getting involved but ultimately finding himself helping the French Resistance and developing a romance with Slim, an American wanderer who has also found herself on the island.

The Big Sleep (1946) continues the on-screen magic of Bogart and Bacall in an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel. In this film noir, Bogart plays the Detective Philip Marlowe hired by a wealthy general who wants to resolve the gambling debts of his daughters.

Dark Passage (1947) stars Bogart and Bacall in another excellent film noir. Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a prison escapee framed for murder who emerges from plastic surgery with a new face.

Key Largo(1948) is the last work to pair Bogart and Bacall. In this film noir, Bogart plays an ex-GI who finds himself trapped, along with the hotel owner and his daughter, played by Bacall, when mobsters stay at the hotel in Key West during a hurricane.

Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) is an adaptation of B. Traven’s novel that stays very true to the book and stars Bogart as one of three Americans in 1920s Mexico who join together to prospect for gold. Walter Huston’s Howard is an unforgettable character.

In a Lonely Place (1950) is another terrific film noir that you are unlikely to forget. Bogart plays a disgruntled yet successful writer who finds himself accused of murder.

The African Queen (1951) is the only film for which Bogart won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In this adaptation of C.S. Forester’s novel set in German East Africa, Bogart plays a Canadian boat captain who helps save the life of a British Methodist Missionary, played by Katharine Hepburn, when war breaks out between Britain and Germany in 1914.

 

The Caine Mutiny (1954) finds Bogart playing Lt. Commander Queeg, the skipper of the minesweeper Caine, who, when involuntarily relieved of his command during a violent typhoon, brings his officers up on charges of conspiracy in the Caine Mutiny. Bogart was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, and in my opinion, should have won it. Extraordinary acting in an extraordinary film.

Sabrina (1954) pairs Bogart with another film favorite of mine, Audrey Hepburn in a romantic comedy. Bogart plays Linus, an older workaholic brother whose crush on Sabrina, played by Hepburn, has been overlooked by her for all these years because she’s focused on the younger playboy brother played by William Holden.

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library who just loves true love as that between Bogart and Bacall.

Mr. and Mrs. Hart

 

From 1979 to 1984, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Jennifer Hart on Hart to Hart, a light-hearted mystery show. Hart to Hart remains one of my all-time favorite TV programs. It was refreshing to see a married couple on TV that adored each other, remained committed and loyal to their vows, and generally appeared to have a fun time together.  I read an interview recently with Robert Wagner where he noted that both he and Stefanie Powers wanted the Hart to Hart script to be devoid of any adulterous affairs. Mr. and Mrs. Hart loved each other: pure and simple. Add a little murder mystery involving close friend, associate, or perfect stranger, and for me, with apologies to the victim, it’s fun for the whole family!

 

The series was written by Sidney Sheldon but the concept was based on The Thin Man, a story written by another favorite author of mine, Dashiell Hammett (See my blog of May 2008 ). Most of Hammett’s novels are much darker and deeper; for a famous example, recall the Maltese Falcon with its much more intense and sinister tone – and a story that was made into the famous film starring Humphrey Bogart. In contrast, The Thin Man is, like Hart to Hart, about a fun, whimsical, and wealthy couple who stumble upon murders and have a lighthearted time solving them along the way. Myrna Loy and William Powell played the wonderful Nick and Nora Charles in the film adaptation of The Thin Man, which resulted in four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. They continued their couple’s role in additional Thin Man sequels including After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), and Song of the Thin Man (1947). Although as with most sequels, they don’t live up to the perfection of the first, but for Thin Man fans, they are still all very enjoyable and recommended!

Recently, both Wagner and Powers published independent autobiographies that played with their famous role in the title. Wagner’s Pieces of My Heart is an absorbing page-turner which reminds you of his outstanding, and varied, television and film career, as well as taking you on the journey of his life and loves. And yes, Wagner covers in full detail the tragic, heart-wrenching loss of Natalie Wood. His enduring love for her beats through the page and may make you teary, like it did me. One from the Hart by Stefanie Powers is a wonderful and fast autobiographical read. With tenderness and insight, you’ll learn of Stefanie’s struggles and triumphs, particularly the significant and continued impact of her nine-year relationship with actor William Holden, and their legacy of animal welfare in East Africa. Both are great reads that I highly recommend.

 

For a Hart to Hart treat, check out one of their special “movie” episodes that played in the 1990s. In Hart to Hart Returns, the first of these specials, Jonathan and Jennifer, aided of course by their loyal friend Max and their dog Freeway, find themselves caught up in a murder mystery involving corrupt government contractors that threaten their home and their lives.

In Home Is Where the Heart Is, the Harts return to the town where Jennifer first got her start as a journalist to attend the funeral of her mentor. Upon their arrival, they find much more than a stroll through memory lane and unravel a plot that has been threatening the livelihood of the town for many years.

Enjoy!

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library.

Reading Aloud

“Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way”.    ~Orville Prescot

Becoming a Nation of Readers: the Report of the Commission on Reading notes that reading aloud promotes independent reading. They report, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Reading is the most important skill for success in life and school. It is also of vital importance to a functioning democracy, and for life-long learning and enjoyment.

Many parents and caregivers mistakenly believe that reading aloud should end once a child reads independently. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Studies, like the Commission’s report,  have shown that reading to your child dramatically increases their vocabulary and their own reading skills, because young children can comprehend many more words than they can read, especially for beginning readers.

By reading to your child, you can help counter the often overwhelming noise of the culture and help them to develop keen listening skills and catalyze a lifelong love affair with the book.

Reading aloud is a wonderful way to share time with your kids and family. It creates and cements close bonds and helps us to relate to each other. The summer is a perfect time to begin or continue a tradition of reading aloud.

Don’t be intimidated about reading aloud but here are a few tips:

1). Don’t read too fast. This is a common mistake. Take it slow… and take it even slower when you get to a suspenseful moment in the book!

2). Change your voice or tone as you read different characters or situations.

3). It’s okay if your child colors, draws, or even bounces a ball while you read. They are listening!

4). The more you read aloud, the better you will get.

5). Establish a regular time for reading aloud. Even if you can squeeze in 15 minutes each morning, that works!

If you want to read more tips, check out The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This is a classic that guides you through the process with expert advice and tips.

Here are some of my favorite classic read-aloud picks, with teasers from their opening pages:

A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond (J BON). “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station. The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was coming home from school for the holidays…”

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald (J MAC). “I expect I might as well begin by telling you all about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle so that whenever I mention her name, which I do very often in this book, you will not interrupt and ask, ‘Who is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? What does she look like?…’ Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives here in our town. She is very small and has a hump on her back. When children ask her about the hump, she says, ‘Oh, that’s a big hump of magic. Sometimes it turns me into a witch; other times into a dwarf or a fairy, and on special occasions it makes me a queen.’”

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary (J CLE). “Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn. Neither did his mother and father, who both looked hot and tired. They had come from Ohio and for five days had driven across plains and deserts and over mountains to the old hotel in the California foothills twenty-five miles from Highway 40…”

Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard Atwater (J ATW). “It was late afternoon in September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work. He was carrying his buckets, his ladders, and his boards so that he had rather a hard time moving along.”

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (J TRA). “If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and the he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: ‘First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you’re there. Good-morning.’ And sure enough, if you follow his directions exactly, you will be there- right in the middle of Cherry-Tree Lane…”

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (J GRA). “The mole had been working very hard all morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in teh air above and in the earth below him…”

The Cricket in Time’s Square, by George Selden (J SEL). “A mouse was looking at Mario. The mouse’s name was Tucker, and he was sitting in the opening of an abandoned drain pipe in the subway station at Times Square. The drain pipe was his home…”

Little House on the Praire, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (J WIL). “A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty in the clearing among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again. They were going to the Indian Country. Pa said there were too many people in the Big Woods now…”

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (J LIN). “On the outskirts of a tiny town was a neglected garden. In the garden stood an old house, and in that house lived Pippi Longstocking. She was nine years old, and she lived there all alone. She had no mother or father, which was actually quite nice, because it meant that no one could tell her that she had to go to bed just when she was having the most fun…”

The Story of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting (J LOF). “Once upon a time, many years ago- when our grandfathers were little children- there was a doctor; his name was Dolittle- John Dolittle, M.D. ‘M.D’ means that he was a proper doctor and knew a whole lot. He lives in a little town called, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. All the folks, young and old, knew him well by sight…”

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie White is the Library Director at OWL.

Check Mate

 

My father taught me how to play chess when I was seven years old.  He had a beautiful heavy wooden chess board and I loved taking the magical pieces out of their velvet-covered black box. In the beginning, I know he let me win to give me some success and enjoyment; but I also know that later on, I did start to win by my own skill.

Chess is a game of strategy and analytical thinking. One must think always ahead in order to be successful. It also involves and is founded on a number of mathematical concepts. I believe, as do many others, that it has a powerful influence on the development of reasoning and critical thinking skills. As David Shenk observes in his book, The Immortal Game: a History of Chess, the evidence of the far-reaching power of chess is evident in the ardency of, “the determination of its orthodox enemies to stamp it out- as long ago as a ruling in 655 by Caliph Ali Ben Abu-Talib (the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law), and as recently as decrees by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1981, the Taliban in 1996, and the Iraqi clergy in post-Saddam Iraq”.

According to the United States Chess Federation, the game originated in India around 600 A.D., then called Chataruna, and made its way to Europe by 1000 A.D.  By 1500, chess underwent a transformation into the form we are all familiar with including the shift to making the Queen, who had previously been the weakest piece, the most powerful piece on the board … something I find quite fascinating from a socio-political standpoint! The bishop also developed into the long-range piece that we all play today.

Benjamin Franklin also praised chess for its social and political benefits. Chess remained a popular interest in the United States for many years but surged with interest in the early 1970s due to the success of American chess prodigy, and currently the only American World Chess Champion, Bobby Fischer.

I hope chess sees a resurgence of interest. I find it to be a wonderful and fascinating game. If you are already a chess player or interested in getting started, check out the chess resources here at OWL:

The newly published biography, Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady, examines the complexity of Bobby Fischer from his humble beginnings to his superstardom. Believed to be the most famous person in the world at one point, he then vanished at the height of his fame refusing million-dollar endorsements but the unusual nature of his life and decisions don’t stop there. This is a fascinating, fast-paced read!

The U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess compiled by the U.S. Chess Federation will answer any rule question you have on chess and get you started playing if you are new to the game.

In The Kings of New York, author Michael Weinreb follows for one  year America’s top high school chess team from the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. From the geniuses to the oddballs, Weinreb follows the team from practices to tournaments uncovering the personalities that make up the team and the history of chess along the way.

As I mentioned earlier, The Immortal Game: a History of Chess by David Shenk looks at the history of chess and examines, “how 32 carved pieces on a board illuminated our understanding of war, art, science and the human brain”.

Harold Schonberg in his classic Grandmasters of Chess looks at the men who altered the game in significant ways. Schonberg says that what makes a good chess player are “vast memory, imagination, intuition, technique, a healthy body, relative youth, a high degree of visual imagery, and the unyielding determination to win…”

And who can resist chess as a theme for fictional writing? Not two of my favorite fictional detectives, Columbo and Nero Wolfe!

In the second season of Columbo, Laurence Harvey plays a chess player who murders his opponent in order to keep his chess title in The Most Dangerous Match. As always, Columbo delivers with a riveting mystery that hooks you in immediately and keeps you there with each “Uh, one more thing”.

Rex Stout, my favorite author, uses chess as a backdrop to his superbly written and page-turning mystery Gambit, starring private detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Originally published in 1962, Wolfe takes on a case to clear a man accused of poisoning the top chess player during a multiple-board chess match.  The title refers to a strategy in chess, called a gambit, wherein a minor piece, or pieces, usually a pawn, is offered in exchange for a favorable position. It’s a wonderful book!

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library and someone who enjoys the quiet intellectual challenge of a good board game.