Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nine Virtuosi and a Glass Harmonica on Crowell Concert Series (Feb. 1)

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge discusses the New England premiere of the concert "Music at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello" with Wesleyan Professor of Music Neely Bruce in this entry from the Center for the Arts blog.
Wesleyan Professor of Music Neely Bruce played in an extraordinary concert in the summer of 2011 at the Caramoor International Festival—it brought to the stage the Baroque instruments that would have been played in the mansion at Monticello (harpsichord, Baroque cello and violin) and the fife, fiddle and banjo that would have been played in the slaves' quarters.  It was an astonishing program, curated by Paul Woodiel, a three time winner of the New England Fiddle Contest and a former private lessons teacher at Wesleyan (and great colleague of ours).

Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton. Image by Bill Steber Photography.
On Friday night, Music at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello comes to Wesleyan! Neely Bruce will give a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm and walk the audience through the program (which includes works by Corelli, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart; martial music from Camp Dupont; and traditional songs and tunes including “Barbara Allen” and “The Gal I Left Behind Me”). There’s a fantastic moment after intermission where two groups will play the same tune, Haydn’s “The White Cockade": one group will play it on harpsichord, Baroque cello and violin; the other on the fife, fiddle and banjo. The concert brings a number of virtuosi to the Crowell Concert Hall stage in addition to Mr. Bruce and Mr. Woodiel, among them: Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton (Neely tells me that 24 year-old Blind Boy doesn’t believe music exists after 1941, the year Jelly Roll Morton died!); Mazz Swift, a very cool violin/vox/freestyle composition artist who is also an accomplished singer and Julliard-trained violinist who has performed with the likes of Kanye West and Jay-Z; and Jennifer Hope Wills, who for nearly four years won audiences’ hearts as Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

Nieves, Even Start, Youngs honored at Middlesex United Way Annual Meeting

Joan Youngs receives the Community Leadership Award.

Wilfredo Nieves, of Middletown, was honored with Middlesex United Way’s highest and most prestigious volunteer honor, the Community Service Award, Jan. 29 at the organization’s annual meeting at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. The award recognizes an individual for his length and continuity of volunteer service to Middlesex United Way.

Review of A Conversation About Education in America

A panel of speakers more heavy on hip hop artists rather than academics or experts discussed the American education system last Saturday at an event organized by Wesleyan stuent Evan Okun. Titled “Exclusion and It's Consequences," it was intended to “host brilliant thinkers who are not granted 'legitimacy' within the field of academia.” The panel featured Hip Hop artists M-1 and, core members of the highly acclaimed rap collective Dead Prez, Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Daniel Long, Wesleyan student Chantaneice Kitt (Class of 2013), and Umi, a Wesleyan graduate also associated with Dead Prez's rap collective.

While it struck me as somewhat ironic that a conversation about inequality in the educational system was held at an elite, private institute of higher learning, I still found much of the discussion profound and inspiring. To me, and this is only my opinion, it seemed to fall short, however, of injecting much energy into the crowd of about 200 people that came to listen. The audience was subdued and clapped politely at the end, with a minor showing of enthusiasm, but not much sense of any take away action, at least that I could discern. It can be assumed that there was a much greater showing of spirit at the concert scheduled for later that night, which I didn't attend. The concert was covered in the Wesleying blog (click here) with much back and forth commenting about the irony that I also sensed as well as other sarcastic dueling.

Another attendee at the panel had a different perspective. On what felt to me like a lack of enthusiasm, she thought that the silence was a sign more of rapt attention than of disinterest. The fact that the audience was quiet and that very few people left before the end, which ran late, was a real sign of their respect and engagement, she thought.

While I enjoyed listening to the panelists' stories, experiences, and ideas, I didn't hear anything unfamiliar or atypical. Disillusionment and disenfranchisement seem to be the rule rather than the exception, something everyone can relate to, so I didn't feel in any way jarred or outraged as perhaps the title of the panel might suggest I should. But maybe that is the point. But again in discussing my reaction with another attendee, we had some disagreement as she noted that “taking Columbus Day off the calendar and not teaching European colonization as praiseworthy in schools is revolutionary.” The thing is, I barely even registered that this was discussed at all, it was only touched on indirectly in a passing comment and was not presented in any focused way.

The panel began by way of a music video of a song about school by Dead Prez and the first question asked was about how funding was obtained to record that song. M-1 answered by saying “your energy is your funding. Your energy, your time, your creativity, and your resourcefulness are the funding. Hip hop music was in a different place at that time, relegated to an underground status.”

Each of the panelists then spent a few moments explaining their background and reasons for being present. Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Daniel Long spoke about the school-to-prison pipeline and how the education system gives a false appearance of diversity and meritocracy when those don't really exist.

Umi, a Wesleyan graduate, talked about growing up in Tuskegee Alabama and about only knowing what he did not want out of life, as opposed to knowing what he did want. He spoke of his years at Wesleyan as a time of escape that allowed him to immerse himself in new experiences and meet different kinds of people. spoke about how he dropped out of high school and was proud of having done so at the time, because he thought of it as resisting the bullshit* he felt he was being fed by the educational system. (I considered changing this word to 'nonsense' but for the sake of journalistic integrity I decided to use the terminology as stated, so as not to change the tone.) He explained that he felt a lot of rage and frustration as a teenager and that if he put any value on a high school diploma then he felt he would be allowing the system to break him down, and he would be legitimizing the system he felt was a bullshit system. Whether he was describing a case of regular old youthful indignation, or a heartfelt reaction to actual systematic injustices, I couldn't really tell without knowing more particular details, though I suspect it's probably a combination of both. But upon entry into the world of adulthood, he says, he realized that schools don't have a monopoly on bullshit, it's everywhere. He thought he was rebelling against indoctrination but he got caught up in the same trap elsewhere. “It's what we think we know that keeps us ignorant,” he concluded.
Chantaneice Kitt, a current Wesleyan student from Harlem, spoke about her experiences in the New York City school system and having gone from an extremely progressive elementary school to being placed in a less than stellar junior high school. In attempts to transfer to a better school, she struggled through much bureaucracy and was faced with administrative incompetence, and ultimately was unable to avoid attending the poorly rated school. Still, she made her way to an exclusive preparatory high school in CT and then to Wesleyan.

M-1 looked at school like a movie, something to get through or watch passively, rather than something to achieve. He spoke of becoming increasingly disinterested in sports and academics, though at the time he didn't think about why. When he got to Florida A&M University, by what he called a fluke, and began actuarial studies he felt that the educational system was trying to make people into drones. He gave an example of a the business school requiring everyone to wear suits and ties every Wednesday. He began to reject the educational system and cited influences whose work he began studying in his quest to self educate: George Jackson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Chuck D, KRS-One, Eldridge Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez.

When asked by the moderator what changes they would propose to revolutionize education, responded first saying he'd have to overthrow that question because we have to ask “What is a revolution? What is a system of education? When you put education into a system, it's already dead.” He spoke of being influenced by Bruce Lee's ideas opposing a one-size-fits-all education. “Our perspective filters the reality. To revolutionize the educational system, it is about educating ourselves, and more about letting go of our notions than about picking up more. There is no absolute, and we need to let go of our preconceptions about what education is.”

M-1 said we're in “a revolutionary upheaval right now. Revolution has been disarmed by being made to seem ordinary.”

Wesleyan Professor Daniel Long spoke about an experimental school program in Tucson Arizona that was very successful and tailored to the student community's needs, but was also seen as a threat to the status quo and because of this it was eventually made illegal. The architects of the program were fired and sued to the point of financial ruin. “How do we educate ourselves without expunging the roots of who we are, in other words, outclassing ourselves?” he asked.

Kitt said that popular models of education get most of the available funding. She cited Geoffrey Canada's model [Harlem Children's Zone] as one that has been successful in working within the existing system. Kitt said Canada's model is the same as the Black Panther model but without the political element. Taking away the political message and challenge, she explained, has allowed the educational aspect to flourish.

“Who defines power? What power do you have?” asked… “Academia is a part of the real world because it shapes your psychology. If you believe power exists 'over there', you're helpless, you're hopeless. If you change your perspective and definition of power, you're inspired. ... Where is the class on integrity? Where is the class on discipline, creativity? It's not all about terms and definitions.”

There was some discussion about expansion of credentials, wherein a job that now requires a college degree might have only required a high school diploma in the past. In this sense, it was hypothesized, schools exist to maintain privilege for the already elite. But recognizing our own power is so important to achieving our highest potential and uniting individuality with community, according to Umi. We should see opportunities instead of obstacles, he said. We have to embrace our fears and step outside of our comfort zone. Go beyond the campus, take advantage of what the City of Middletown has to offer, not just in terms of restaurants or activities, but in terms of meeting a wide range of people.

Ultimately, though, we're all responsible for our own choices, successes and failures. Obviously there's room for improvement in education, but there are also many elements that work well. Finding the right balance between complacency and outrage, that is the hard part.

Beekeeping For Beginners At Russell Library Next Week

From Russell Library:

Wednesday, February 6
7:00 pm
Hubbard Room

If you want to learn about an exciting and interesting hobby with delicious results and are thinking about starting a bee hive or are just curious about what's involved with keeping bees, this introductory lecture on beekeeping is for you.

Beekeeper Adam Fuller will discuss bee behavior and biology, bee hive management, and essential equipment for the backyard beekeeper. He is owner of A & Z Apiaries in Hampton, CT and a beekeeper with more than 30 years of experience.

This lecture is free and open to the public, but we do ask that you call to reserve a seat: (860) 347-2520.

In case of inclement weather, the program will be held on Wednesday, February 13 at 7pm.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sonya Suydam Gill art exhibit at Middlesex Community College

Artist Sonya Suydam Gill's art show entitled 'Color' is on display at the Pegasus Gallery at Middlesex Community College from January 28th to March 22nd.

"I love color. It's mostly landscapes and there are some mixed media pieces as well." Sonya is from Chester, CT.

Around the Garden

A call-in radio program recently introduced me to the expression “dirt road sport,"  a southern locution meaning a youngish man trying ostentatiously to rise beyond his station.

I had thought till then that one of the more unusual meanings of “sport” was the botanical one, in which an individual plant spontaneously produces a variant bud as a result of mutation.

For some reason, conifers are notable for doing this, and often result in brand-new cultivars being brought into the nursery trade. One of the more common ones is the Dwarf Alberta spruce – regular readers may recall that TreeFanatic is not fond of this ill-named mutant.

Still, the way that the plant was developed is pretty wonderful – sports (sometimes called “witches’ brooms”) are removed from the parent White spruce, and propagated via infinitesimally small tissue slices cultivated in a growing medium.

This kind of propagation is virtually cloning, since all the offspring will have the same DNA as each other.  Theoretically, all of the plants derived from one sport will be identical to one another, but not to the original plant, because of the mutation.

Solid Green Abutilon
Variegated Leaf Abutilon
Entire collections of conifers that resulted from sports may be found on the UConn campus and at the New York Botanical Garden: wonderful little White pine smurfs disport themselves amidst their weeping, leaning and contorted cousins. 

Sometimes sports take the direction of leaf variegation, and the resulting plants bear leaves with white or yellow speckles, blotches or stripes.

While many of these variegated plants are strikingly beautiful, some in the marketplace look decidedly unwell, since yellow spots or speckles are often signs of disease or insect attack.

A Reverting Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Another problem with plants bred from sports is that they will sometimes revert to the original plant’s appearance.  The tree shown at right is in front of a fast-food restaurant on Rte 3, just over the line in Cromwell – a high-traffic area that isn’t ideal for a show-stopper like this one!

 Nursery plants are a huge business, as gardening and landscaping become more and more trendy; new and different plants carry a premium. But much of the adventure may be gone from scouting for sports; veteran plant hunters talk about locating tall trees with sports fifty or sixty feet above ground.  Those not crazy enough to climb that high came up with a different approach: shoot out the sport!

Perhaps there is another meaning to “dirt road sport” that the language mavens haven’t twigged to so far.

Opinion: Consolidate Command Of Fire Districts

The Eye welcomes signed opinion pieces. The letter below was written by Dan Penney
To the editor:
Recently, Mayor Drew and the Board of Education ( BOE) have developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which commits the city legal department to provide legal counsel for the BOE. Such a consolidation of duplicative city services represents significant cost savings that will not only assure that much needed funding can be best dedicated to our teachers and education but also helps taxpayers during these most difficult fiscal times. The Mayor and BOE continue to aggressively pursue other such opportunities. Such esprit de corps is unprecedented and certainly demonstrates what positive outcomes can be achieved when these relationships exist.

Along these lines,similar opportunities exist for the South Fire District (SFD) Board of Fire Commissioners who are presently discussing the vacant position of SFD Fire Chief.

A conservative estimate of annual taxpayer burden for this position is some $175,000 when one considers the annual salary, fringe benefits, dedicated vehicle, travel, private office space and other associated expenses being overseen by the SFD Board of Fire Commissioners to maintain this duplicative management position.

It's time for the SFD Board of Fire Commissioners to work with the city to develop a MOU that would have these services provided by city. Certainly both the city and SFD taxpayers could realize significant tax relief. Additionally, with such a unified command structure these critical emergency response services would be enhanced, in the best interest of public safety.

Dan Penney

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Join the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut on Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm for an afternoon of personal research time at Godfrey Memorial Library, 134 Newfield Street, Middletown.

This informal session is free and open to anyone researching Jewish ancestors.  Board members will be available to answer questions and suggest resources.

For additional information, please visit

If 'Segue' is Pronounced 'Segway,' Why Isn't 'Agway' Spelt 'Ague'? Popcorn by The Colonel #28

David Keochkerian lReflection.
Did Dr. Seuss take acid?

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Social Sculpture" On View in Zilkha Gallery (through March 3)

"70 x 7 The Meal," act L, City of London, Lucy + Jorge Orta, 2006-2050
Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge reflects on the exhibition FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA, on view in the Main Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Sunday, March 3, 2013, in this entry from the Center for the Arts blog.

It’s the start of the spring semester here at Wesleyan University, and our student gallery monitors are preparing to welcome a new exhibition into the Zilkha Gallery: FOOD-WATER-LIFE---LUCY+JORGE ORTA. I was introduced to the French artist couple by Ginger Duggan and Judy Hoos Fox, independent curators who have brought two exhibitions to Zilkha Gallery in the past two years:  Connectivity Lost in September 2010 and Passing Time* in January 2012. The Ortas, whose studio is in Paris, contributed 70 x 7 The Meal to Connectivity Lost, a set of plates that were a part of their public art piece that they have mounted in cities around the world whereby thousands of people share a meal together on a set of limited edition plates, forging a powerful encounter of people from all walks of life.

Ginger and Judy shared with us that although the Ortas have exhibited all over the world, and in group shows in the U.S., they had never had a solo show in this country.  Wesleyan partnered with the Tufts University Art Gallery who organized the exhibition, and we have our opening on Tuesday, January 29 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

I’m excited to have this stunning exhibition in our gallery for many reasons, first because the issues their works illuminate are those that many in our community are discussing:  biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change, and exchange among peoples.  The exhibition also intersects with this year’s Feet to the Fire theme, Earth and Justice for All, with many courses in Wesleyan’s College of the Environment exploring environmental justice issues.

But most importantly, it’s been a long time since we’ve had large-scale sculptural elements in the gallery.  The minute I saw their work I could see it beautifully sited in Zilkha:  the height of the gallery frames the strikingly colorful parachute installations; the segment on food is situated in front of the gallery’s windows and is in dialogue with the trees and grass of our courtyard; the film of the Ortas' public art work in Antarctica is set against the raw majesty of the floor to ceiling limestone of the Main Gallery’s back wall.

And the full-scale canoe that is docked in the center of Zilkha has a sister canoe that the Ortas have installed at the Shanghai Biennale, where it is a fully-working water purification system. The Museum of Contemporary Art is pumping in water from the Huang Pu River, up 20 meters into the museum’s third floor.  It is purified in a bamboo “factory” and then clean drinking water is available for the visitors to taste, enjoy and take away in a specially designed OrtaWater bottle.  I’m sorry that our budget didn’t allow us to do the same with water from the Connecticut River!

Following the opening on Tuesday, the exhibition will be on view, alongside Janne Höltermann’s Remodeling Zilkha installation in the North Gallery, through Sunday, March 3.

*Many of you may not know that Wesleyan’s exhibition, Passing Time, left Middletown last March and traveled to Indiana’s DePauw University, then to the Salina Art Center in Kansas.  While we will be celebrating the opening of the Orta exhibition on Tuesday, Passing Time will open at the Bakalar Gallery at Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art and Design!  If you missed it at Wesleyan, you can see it in Boston through Sunday, March 3.

DeLauro In Middletown On Thursday To Discuss SAFER Streets Act, Gun Violence Prevention

From a press release.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents our city in the U.S. House of Representatives, will hold a press conference Thursday, January 31 at 11 am to discuss her SAFER Streets Act and the need for stronger laws to prevent future gun violence.

Joe Bango, the Connecticut small business owner who proposed the legislation to DeLauro, will be present to hand over his AR-15 to the State Police.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Impressions: Taino and Krust

Taino Smokehouse opened recently on South Main Street, and I'd driven by the sign dozens of times thinking that a tobacco warehouse mart had opened up there. I was searching online for information about the new Krust Pizza restaurant that I'd spotted on Main Street, when I stumbled on a local food blog called Foodasaurus that had a review of Krust and one about Taino Smokehouse too. That is how I discovered Taino Smokehouse is a restaurant serving smoked meats and barbeque, and not a cigarette discount store. I immediately ordered takeout, selecting a wide range of menu items for me and my spouse to try out.

When I went to pick up the food, I told the server how, since the restaurant can't really be seen from the street at all, just the sign can, I'd been surprised to learn this was a restaurant and not a tobacco outlet and she said, “Everybody says that. But we have word of mouth.” Well, you do have word of mouth, (and word of blogs), but you also have a sign, and while I'm no marketing expert, I have deduced that the sign was placed there to inform the public about your establishment. But based on my experience and your admission, it falls short. Three little letters added onto the sign might be just the thing to attract more diners. (Hint: B-B-Q). End of that lecture, and back to the food.

While my husband thought the pulled pork was delicious, and Foodasaurus wrote that “Taino is among the best BBQ in CT”, I liked it but I wasn't as completely thrilled. To be fair, this isn't my favorite type of food and no matter how great a piece of meat is, I'm never going to be one to rave about it. Here are my impressions for whatever they're worth, and don't just listen to me – check them out on Yelp where they have many lengthy reviews of high praise.

I thought that the pork was moist and sweet. My brisket had a really nice “crust” that tasted like it had been made pastrami-style with coriander seeds, but the meat was on the dry, chewy side. The sauce that came with it was deliciously tangy but there was barely any of it. The cole slaw was fresh but too wet for my taste and nothing special. The corn bread muffins had a delicious taste but were crisply burnt around the edges and pretty dry. I still ate them both, so that is a testament to the great taste. The collard greens were cooked very well and with quite a bit of meat fat, which was tasty, but not so healthy, which is usually my goal when eating greens. The macaroni and cheese was delicious in a way that was reminiscent of childhood more than of high quality cheese, because it tasted like a jar of Cheez Whiz mixed in with cooked elbow noodles. It was creamy and salty in a kind of good way, but two small bites were enough for me. My husband had no problem with eating the rest of it. The noodles were cooked really well and weren't mushy. Overall, Taino Smokehouse is definitely worth trying out. I've since heard they have very good burgers there too, so I'll be back to check that out. They have about eight or so tables inside so you can dine in with wait service. It's right next to Ace Hardware.

As for Krust, our conclusion was that we'd go back to have a drink at the bar and that might lead to pizza eating, but we'd continue to prefer Mondo or even Jerry's or Illiano's for our strong pizza-as-comfort-food cravings. Krust had only been open for a few days when we visited, so may have been ironing out the kinks. We'll try the pizza again, it's not that it wasn't tasty. It was just very thick and bready, surprisingly so for wood fired oven pizza. The toppings were delicious but scarce. The tomato sauce was great but I couldn't get a mouthful of it. There just wasn't enough, probably the balance that keeps the crust from getting soggy is a very tricky thing. We had a mushroom pizza, and the mushrooms were intensely earthy and delicious, and even permeated the whole pizza, but even so there could have been more. A couple of the slices had one mushroom, a couple had two, and a few had none at all. Krust is not just a pizza restaurant, it's also a bourbon bar. Another area where I'm not the best person to give a full review. I didn't partake of any alcohol there, but my husband had the New Orleans classic Sazerac and said it was excellent and just as good as the ones he's had in it's city of origin. Hence our plan to visit the bar again in the future.

A few other new restaurants have opened in Middletown relatively recently, none of which I have tried yet. Any Eye readers out there who want to take a shot at writing a review, we'd be happy to post your critiques and musings. The places I'm thinking of are Stella D'Oro Italian restaurant in Metro Square, Michael's Deli on Broad Street, and Michael's Restaurant on Main Street. Or tell us about any meal you've had around town.

From 1868: Snow and a Fenian Ball

The following is an extract from an article published about 145 years ago today, it appeared in the Hartford Daily Courant on January 29th, 1868.

Perhaps as an indication of the importance of Middletown in those days, the article was simply entitled, "New England News", and included sections on Middletown, New Haven County (where Edward Nettleton slided downhill into a loaded ox sled), Middlesex County, Fairfield County, Litchfield County, New London County (where a large number of New Londoners take the steamer for California February 1st, to try and improve their fortunes), Windham County (they had a large Fenian mass meeting), Maine (earthquake in Andover), New Hampshire, Massachusetts (where "An Irish woman who stole a cod-fish from a grocery in East Arbington, returned it during the night, hanging it on the store door with a note stating that her heart was 'proke,' and she 'couldn't kape the fish.'"), and Rhode Island (where "a union of all the circles of the Fenian Brotherhood of Providence has been effected.").

"You Have Foiled My Plans for the Last Time, Flash Gordon! Prepare to Meet Fiery Death!" Popcorn by The Colonel #27

Epigraph: "Mt. Everest has never been climbed by a person wearing a wig or a toupee." --Sir Harry O. Triggerman 

(Forward this important fact at once to everyone you know. Ed broke the chain and his toupee fell into a crevasse with his head still in it, connected by his neck to the rest of his body! Karen kept the chain going and her wig stayed lustrous for years with only minimal maintenance.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Video: Protecting the 2nd Amendment

Kurt Knapp and Tom Sebold talk about why the 2nd Amendment is important.

I made this video not to debate or challenge their views, but to show how they feel about some of the laws being proposed to ban assault weapons.

I know there are strong views on this subject.  The first video I made was, sort of, middle of the road. You can watch it here. This second video is focus on the gun owners defense of the 2nd Amendment.  I would like to make it clear that gun owners aren't afraid that politicians are trying to ban all guns but, as Kurt will explain in the video, incrementalism may damage the 2nd Amendment over the long term.  Something, by its very nature, it difficult for us to imagine and see today.

If you have an issue or concern, and you would like to speak out about it via video, feel free to contact me at

Friday, January 25, 2013

Vinal Tech Receives State Funding For Handicapped Accessibility

State Representatives Joseph Serra and Matthew Lesser joined Senators Dante Bartolomeo and Paul Doyle in praising the state funding presented to Vinal Technical High School in Middletown during the Bond Commission meeting today. All four Democrats represent our city in the State Capitol.

The Buttonwood Tree Hosts Hartt School Alums, New Jersey's Jeremiah Birnbaum and Ben Rabb This Weekend

This weekend TBT will host musicians from around the tri-state area including West Hartford native, Ben Rabb and several guest musicians who will join Jeremiah Birnbaum on Saturday night. Tonight's full band will keep our toes tapping. Student suggested donation only $7. Light refreshments are available as always.

Showcasing music from their debut record “Best Friends”, this is a great opportunity to see Ladyhips in an acoustic, scaled back vibe at this intimate venue.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Middlesex County Youth to Experience Homelessness for a Night

Young people from Middlesex County are going to brave January’s cold and sleep outdoors Saturday, Jan. 26, as part of a program to educate people about the existence and conditions of homelessness in the community.

The fourth annual Homelessness Awareness Discussion and Sleep-Out will kick off in two locations at 6:45 p.m. at South Congregational Church on Main Street in Middletown and at 6 p.m. the St. Joseph’s Church in Chester. The event is sponsored by 10 faith-based organizations in collaboration with the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (MCCHH), which is implementing a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in the county. 

The teens will hear first-hand about the ordeal of homelessness from several people who are currently or formerly homeless and be able to ask questions. A simple soup and bread dinner will be served. 

Two Major Zoning Code Changes To Be Heard February 13

The Planning and Zoning Commission scheduled public hearings for two separate applications to introduce potentially controversial changes to the zoning code text. The public hearings are scheduled for the P&Z meeting on February 13th at 7PM.

One would open to intensive commercial development all land around Wesleyan, land on the eastern portion of Washington Street, and land in the South Cove area of the river. This application comes from a developer, Bob Landino, who wants to put a national chain restaurant with a drive thru window within the residential neighborhood adjacent to Wesleyan.

The other would prevent most properties immediately adjacent to Wesleyan from being used for anything except residential in the future. It would also impact land immediately adjacent to Middlesex Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital. This application comes from Ed McKeon, a resident who is opposed to the high intensity commercial development of the historic urban residential area between Wesleyan and Main Street.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Around the Garden

Although the coldest part of winter is just arriving, we have passed the period with the lowest availability – and angle – of natural light. For your indoor garden, better days are coming!

House plants typically take a beating in the winter: low light, too much heat and dry air, too much standing water on their roots – almost a guarantee that something nasty will happen.

I was reminded of this when I found fluffy white clumps on a cute little striped aloe. It looked like a cottony scale, so my first thought was to spray with insecticidal soap and put it out in my very chilly sun room, where the insect would be at a disadvantage, but the plant would live. My second thought was, how dumb can one person be? That’s where my orchids and lemon trees winter – they really don’t need a dose of scale. So the aloe ended up in the compost bin.

Monday, January 21, 2013

ARTFARM's Shakespeare Acting Laboratory starts February 12

Middletown-based theater company ARTFARM is offering an eight week Shakespeare Acting Laboratory with Artistic Director and co-founder Marcella Trowbridge starting February 12. The Laboratory, intended for adult performers 18 and over, will be an intensive exploration of Shakespeare from the actors’ point of view.
The course will meet Tuesday evenings, 7 – 9 pm, from February 12 through April 2, culminating in a “Shakespeare Share” on April 2.

Youth Gamelan at Wesleyan starts Jan 26

The Spring 2013 session of the Youth Gamelan at Wesleyan University begins Saturday, January 26. The gamelan is an orchestra of metal gongs and xylophones from Indonesia, and Wesleyan has a fine set of these beautiful instruments.

The Youth Gamelan is open to all children ages 7 and up, with no prior music experience necessary. Rehearsals are held on Saturday mornings from 10-11am in the World Music Hall, Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University, located on Wyllys Avenue (off of High Street). Parents are welcome to stay and watch rehearsals. We will conclude the session with a performance on Thursday, May 9 at 7pm, together with Wesleyan student ensembles. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Eclectic Ethno-Country Virtuosity!

Adam & Noah Band, Jan. 17, The Buttonwood Tree

From the opening peal of the fiddle the wheeze and cry of accordion and violin had us moving to the exuberant Zydeco groove. When they slowed the tempo we could have been in central Europe. There was foot stompin' country and sweet Irish complete with tremolo mandolin and a (mostly underutilized) red haired lass at the mike. Red shoes too I see. Young and fresh but as talented as pros, at one point they called themselves a rock band. Well, rock they did . . . with just the right amount of swing.

From 1963: Police Arrest Man, Woman on Morals Charge

The following is an extract from an article published 50 years ago today, in the Hartford Courant on January 20th, 1963.
Lascivious carriage was defined as "conduct which is wanton, lewd or lustful and tending to produce voluptuous emotions." It was no longer defined as a criminal offense following major changes to the penal code under Governor Dempsey in 1971.

Police early Saturday arrested Boyd Reynolds, 32, and Edna Fone, 32, both of 41 S. Main St., on a charge of lascivious carriage, with the woman also being accused of breach of peace.

Policeman Samuel Ruffino and Edward Krol, Policewoman Marie Higgins and Det. Carl Zywocienski made the arrests.

From 1913: School For Girls Makes Good Report

The following is an extract from an article published 100 years ago today, appearing in the Hartford Courant on January 20th, 1913.

The "Connecticut Industrial School for Girls" opened in 1870 and was transferred to the state in 1921. It became the "Long Lane School" in 1943 merged with the "School for Boys" in 1972, and was shut down in 2003. The state sold the 152 acres property to Wesleyan for $15M.

Aims of institution are made plain
The directors of the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls have issued their biennial report in printed form, and it covers thoroughly the work of the school, which is located at Middletown, for the two years ended September 30, 1912. The proper subjects of the school are not merely paupers, according to a statement printed in the report, neither are they orphans, nor confirmed thieves nor prostitutes, nor other criminals, but include the stubborn and unruly, who refuse to obey those who have proper charge of them; truants, vagrants and beggars; those found in circumstances of manifest danger of falling into habits of vice and immorality, and those who have committed any offense punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, other than imprisonment for life.

"Dear Abby: How Can I Tell My Girlfriend She's Imaginary? Signed, Sensitive" Popcorn by The Colonel #26

Epigraph: "No wonder Wikipedia has surpassed the Encyclopedia Brittanica in reliability! The Internet is like monkeys and typewriters: when you type all that can be typed, the truth -- even more certainly than the pony in the optimist's manure pile -- must be in there somewhere." --Sir Harry O. Triggerman

1/     Other names for the pound sign are hash mark, trepan (in brain surgery), and octothorpe. There are more. Source: the Internet.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Big East Athletic Conference Commissioner At Chamber Breakfast

Modified from a Middlesex Chamber of Commerce release.

Chandler Howard, Chairman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, announced that Michael Aresco, Middletown native, will serve as Guest Speaker at the Chamber’s January Member Breakfast Meeting to be held on Monday, January 28, 2013.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Middletown Signage and tunnel facelift

Just before the end of the year Middletown had a bunch of new signs pop up.  Three 'welcome' signs and many parking directory signs around the downtown area.

 They appeared just before Midnight on Main and were most likely very helpful for finding parking for someone not familiar with Middletown.


  Also I noticed the construction of the new entrance on the tunnel to the river side.  It appears to be expanded (the entrance).  It looks like they are keeping with the same design but just bigger.  

This tunnel leads to the riverside north side gazebo that is typically occupied by ... not sure how to put it.. 'riff raff'.  Nonetheless this is the walking gateway to the riverside.  Hopefully we can create a better entrance.  The previous was always having to be painted because of graffiti, sometimes littered with small liquor bottles, and smelt of urine.

I know the public restrooms are closed on the riverside property.  Most likely because of undesirable activity.  But what results is urination in this tunnel.

This situation has to be addressed if progress is going to be made for our riverfront facelift.

Better lighting and a camera system would help.

MSAPC Funding Available (1/30 Deadline)

A funding opportunity from the department is provided through the Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council (MSAPC), co-chaired by Justin Carbonella of Middletown Youth Services Bureau and Felecia Goodwine-Vaughters of Rushford Center.  The MSAPC is releasing its mini-grants for 2013. The grants, which offer a max funding level of $1,000, may be used to support any substance prevention or youth development programing in the community. A priority will be given to applications that specifically address issues of prescription drug and heroin use, as both will be priorities for the council this upcoming year. All successful grantees will be required to have a representative join the council which meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 3pm at the Middletown Youth Services Bureau. All members of the community are welcomed to join, regardless of planned grant submission.

Information and a downloadable application can be found on the Youth Service Bureau’s website at or by calling MSAPC co-chair Justin Carbonella at the Middletown Youth Services Bureau at 860-854-6030. The deadline for the very streamlined grant is Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by 12:00pm and only electronic copies of applications will be accepted. 

"Heart of Middletown" Composer Dave Downs

The Eye received a press release in early December (as did other news outlets), publicizing a "Songs for Sandy" contest.

The contest will be run by a new organization, the Connecticut Highly Unsuccessful Songwriters Association (CHUSA), headquartered in Middletown. In the contest, original songs that in some way relate to Hurricane Sandy will be selected by a panel of "un-noteworthy non-experts", and compiled on a CD.

We were intrigued, and to learn more about CHUSA, we emailed its founder, Dave Downs, to ask a few questions.

Here (unedited) is what we got back, Eye questions are in bold.

Officer William Maio Graduates from State Police K-9 Academy

From the Middletown Police
Officer William Maio and his K-9 Judge completed a rigorous sixteen week training course with the Connecticut State Police K-9 Training Academy. Officer Maio was one of sixteen officers from around the state who successfully completed the training and graduated today.

Officer Maio has been with the Middletown Police Department for over seven years and was most recently assigned to the department’s Street Crime Unit. Officer Maio and his K-9 Judge will now be assigned to day shift in the Patrol Division.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Buttonwood Hosts 4 Concerts in 3 Days This Weekend

The Buttonwood Tree covers the spectrum of musical genres this weekend by bringing in music ranging from Americana to Jazz, Bluegrass to Blues. They'll host four musical groups including a matinee on Saturday with smooth jazz. Two bands are returning, two are playing their debut at TBT, three are from Connecticut, one is from upstate NY on tour, headed to Vermont.

Answering a request for concerts before dark, the Larry Gareau group plays Saturday at 2 pm. Tonight's group covers a whole host of genres itself. The Andrew and Noah Band were chosen from among hundreds performing at NERFA, (North East Regional Folk Alliance), to come to The Buttonwood Tree. The only night they could afford to do at TBT is this Thursday. So step out of the box to hear some music that will cause you to think and move your feet at the same time. Or at least it will cause you to sway, its that sweet. They bring 7 passionate, young musicians who will move you in some way, no doubt.

Reservations may be made online at

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lacrosse Registration Next Wednesday

Middletown Youth Lacrosse registration is scheduled for Wednesday, January 23rd from 6:00pm-8:00pm at Spencer Elementary School, Westfield Street.

Coaches and board members will be on site to help register and answer any questions.

“Middletown Youth Lacrosse is in its second year. This is the first year we’re offering girls lacrosse teams; we are very excited about expanding our league to include girls’ teams as well as additional boys teams,” said Heather Iaderosa, President of Middletown Youth Lacrosse.

Invitation To Sports Hall Of Fame Induction Dinner

Submitted by Thomas J. Serra President, Middletown Sports Hall of Fame

This letter is an invitation to the citizens of Middletown and contingent communities to attend a very exciting evening of recognition. On Thursday, January 31, 2013, the Twentieth Annual Middletown Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will be held at Crowne Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, 100 Berlin Road, (Route#372) in Cromwell, at 7:00 P.M. The evening will begin at 5:30 P.M. with a Cocktail hour. In the event of inclement weather, please call the Crowne Plaza Hotel at (860-635-2000), listen to Radio station WMRD in Middletown (1150 AM), or log onto our website and click on “Current Information”, or tune into Hartford’s WTIC Fox CT TV Channel 6.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Dweezil's Ripped My Flesh." Popcorn by The Colonel #25

Epigraph: "The path up and the path down are one and the same." --Herakleitos

What's that mean? Be nice to the people you meet on your way up, because they're the same ones you'll meet on your way down? Who knew the dark one was so show biz?

Philosophy: Single malt helps.

Busy Night for EDC

The city council's Economic Development Committee dealt with a large agenda at its monthly meeting Monday night.  Some of the highlights:

Director of Planning Bill Warner said that preparations were being made to demolish the vacant house at 30 Portland Street, which the city acquired through foreclosure.  He said "a lot of people say it's going to collapse".  That prompted member Tom Serra to say that the city is liable in case the building does collapse.  "This should be an emergency situation," he said.  Councilman Joe Bibisi noted the roof had partially fallen in and he was concerned about any heavy rain.  "We own it, and it could all fall on Portland Street."

Chairman Gerald Daley said the building department, fire marshal or other authority should officially determine the building's safety.  Bibisi noted that the building was boarded up for security.  There was some question as to which city department would pay for the demolition.  The committee unanimously approved a resolution to make the demolition a priority.  Warner later said he would request a $30,000 appropriation so work could begin.

Jeff Pugliese of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce appeared before the committee to request funds for two jobs program.  The Worker Preparation Program provides job seekers help such as resume consulting, mock interviews, help with dressing professionally, and networking through chamber contacts and functions.  The committee unanimously approved $7500 for the program, as it had last year.

Pugliese also asked for $30,000 to support the chamber's "Youth @ Work" program.  The program, primarily funded by Workforce Alliance, placed 37 Middletown teens in jobs last summer.  Last year the city originally provided $20,000 for the program. It then provided an additional $7000 to match the $27,000 in private funds the chamber was able to raise.  Pugliese said that "city support definitely sparks private donations."  He said that the chamber hopes to raise even more in private donations this year.  The committee unanimously approved a resolution to recommend that the Mayor propose the funding in his budget.

As previously requested, Warner provided the committee with a report detailing the history of the "South Cove"section of the riverfront.  The land will become available for development after the decommissioning of the current sewage treatment plant there.  Warner said there has been great interest in future of the land.  Bibisi suggested that members visit the Norwich Harbor area, a similar area which has been developed with a miles-long walkway.

Connecticut Underwriters, which rents space from the city at the Wadsworth Mansion, has a new lease.   Any rental leases for the Long Hill Estate property must be approved by the Common Council.  The committee unanimously voted to recommend the council approve the new lease.  Said Daley "You couldn't ask for a better tenant."

P&Z Commission Fails To Elect Regional Council Rep

The Planning and Zoning Commission could not agree at its last meeting on a candidate to serve as Middletown's representative on the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments. Two candidates were nominated, Molly Salafia (R) and Michael Johnson (D), the votes were strictly along party lines. Each party suggested that the other candidate serve as the alternate, the Republicans additionally expressed concern about Johnson's attendance record.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New, Exciting Teen Repertory Experience

This season adventurous, committed teenagers can experience cutting-edge theater in a challenging, new way.  The winter/spring Teen Repertory Company will be not be approaching theater in the same old way.  Students in grades 9-12 will have the unique opportunity to expand not only their acting skills, but their directing, designing and producing skills as well.  


Anything Goes Open Mic Monday @ The Buttonwood Tree
Every Monday
7:30pm sign-up, 8:00 the show starts!

The World’s a stage … the mic is OPEN! This Open Mic is for YOU – the budding artist. Showcase your talents, nurture them with this supportive group. Recite a poem, sing a song, dance, read some spoken word, the microphone is yours for the asking. Community spirit prevails.
We have congas and a piano or BYO instrument. Ends around 9:30 – 10pm.

605 Main Street | Middletown, CT | (860) 347-4957

In Atlantic Monthly: "Violence and Mental Illness in Middletown, Connecticut"

Lindsay Abrams, who graduated from Wesleyan last year, writes in The Atlantic Monthly about the impact that the murders of Jessica Short in 1989 and Johanna Justin-Jinich in 2009 had on our city.

She extensively discusses the efforts of Paul Gionfriddo to improve mental health care at all levels, and uses the Farm Hill Elementary School "Scream Room" investigation to highlight inadequacies in that care.