Greenwich Gossip

Friday, March 28, 2008

Announcing AutoBlogger!!

Thanks to Julie at Virtual Voyage we have a whole host of handy new tools to help us in our daily blogwork. Your scribe has shamelessly cut and pasted her text, but was unable to capture the full-color version found at her blog. Click on the link below to learn more:

Blogging of the Future....?

"THANKS TO amazing advances in technology, AUTOBLOGGER.con are pleased to announce a totally FREE automated service for every harassed blogger! Forget about finding time for all those minor inconveniences like work or walking the dog!! No more 'bloggers block' when writing posts!!

Try our FULLY-FEATURED AUTOBLOG programme for a free five-second download and you will be sensationally impressed!!! Or immediately UPGRADE to SUPERBLOGGER DELUXE for a mere 500$ (or 99 quid this side of the pond off the back of a lorry.) (Strongly recommended).

UNBELIEVABLE features of SUPERBLOGGER DELUXE include:-AUTO-POST Offers a massive selection of computer generated posts.We currently have three extremely popular choices available.

Select one of the following -
OTHER - (Please specify at length.)

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None of the Above.


Using advanced computerized technology, access our massive online journal database, and we will automatically synthesize MEMOIR posts for you. These can build into an amazing speculative lifehistory of totally unbelievable posts!Ranging from "I ate my goldfish on Everest" to "I was buried alive under a ton of treacle pudding" we can generate indefinite pre-arranged top quality auto-memoir posts for YOUR blog without any effort at all!!! Just leave the blogging to us, and be amazed at the results!!!

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And for those very rare occasions,

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bye, Bye, Michele

Recently the board of directors of the Whitby School terminated the contract of headmistress Michele Monson, which still had four years left to run. No reason given.

But then again, in your scribe's humble opinion, none needed. While your scribe has never met Michele, he can attest from first-hand experience that she is a very unpleasant person. Some years ago, soon after his local history of the Town was published, he made the rounds of the local schools. Mike Batcheller at Greenwich High School loved it, and immediately ordered 40 copies from the publisher. Every elementary school, every middle school, and virtually all the private schools decided it was a "must-have". Your scribe was always happy to inscribe them personally: "For the students of Cos Cob School, with best wishes, etc." What fun!

Until, of course, he came to Whitby School. As always, your scribe started at the top, since many heads of school followed the lead of Patsy Howard at Greenwich Academy and requested a copy for their office. "Is Ms. Monson in?" he enquired of her secretary. "Doctor Monson is on the telephone," she replied. Oops. It appeared we had a pedant on our hands.

The minutes passed. A half-hour passed. Close to an hour had passed when a burly man came up to your scribe and invited him to leave. Doctor Monson was not available, and would not be available at any time in the future. The burly man walked your scribe to his car and watched him drive off.

As he headed down Lake Avenue towards the center of Town, your scribe focused on the beauty of the autumn trees, and by the time he got home had almost forgotten that the unspeakable (and unspeakable-to) Ms. Monson existed. Almost.

But not quite. An hour or so later, his doorbell rang, and there stood two of Greenwich's finest in full uniform. They had a succinct message for him: Doctor Monson had filed a complaint that he had been trespassing at Whitby School, and he was never to show his face there again. Message delivered, the cops got into their cruiser and drove off into the sunset.

Well, dear reader, at this point your scribe was obviously not very likely to forget dear old Michele's existence. Rudeness was one thing; police action was quite another. Clearly the woman had some major issues and was in dire need of therapy. If she didn't get professional help soon, she would probably self-destruct, reasoned your scribe; and with that he consigned her to stewing in the juices of her own bad karma.

Well, obviously she never got the help she so desperately needed. After throwing her weight around and terrorizing the faculty, over 100 of whom left during her seven-year tenure, not to mention spending thousands of Whitby's dollars on frivolities like $500 hair jobs at Warren-Tricomi and $2,400 worth of baubles at Tiffany's, she has finally been shown the door just as unceremoniously as her burly minion showed it to your scribe. Who says that karma doesn't work? Not your faithful reporter, for sure.

Moreover, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut has now opened an investigation into her free-wheeling use of school monies since June 2006, involving 14 transactions totalling more than $15,000. While the Whitby board claims this played no role in their decision to fire her, it certainly doesn't help matters from her perspective. Once karma gets up on its hind legs and starts moving, it's pretty much unstoppable.

Perhaps Michele should have taken a few minutes to read Whitby's mission statement: "Our approach to education is based on wisdom, respect and spirit: a deep, abiding respect for each individual...." Well, it would appear to your scribe that despite her vaunted doctorate, Michele can act like a pretty dumb bunny at times; nor does the widespread faculty unrest and low morale speak very well for her deep and abiding respect for individuals; on the other hand, one has to give her credit for lots of spirit in her creative uses of Whitby credit cards. It will be interesting to see what AG Richard Blumenthal's probe comes up with over the course of the next couple of months.

And so, gentle reader, let us be glad that karma obtains, as always, and that the nasties get what's coming to them sooner if not later. Congratulations to the Whitby board of directors for making it sooner in Michele's case, and not four years later. Buy out her contract and say good riddance - that's the kind of direct action we need to see more of in this town.

(Now if only the Board of Education could learn a lesson or two from the Whitby board....)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

...your scribe is pleased to present these pictures of life in our fair Town. Enjoy!

Here we have the ever-popular Texas boot, immobilizing a local scofflaw who had run up some $310 in unpaid parking tickets. Oh, and add $75 for the boot.

If you click on the above picture, you will be able to get the wide-screen view and read the hand-written love note from the Department of Parking Services: "CASH ONLY!"

And here we have the Avenue at mid-morning on a snowy day. Notice that the snowplows seem to have overlooked the main street in Town. Schools were closed and residents were told to stay home because of the weather conditions. Your scribe, of course, took that as an invitation to get in the car and go out to see what was to be seen. No parking problem on Greenwich Avenue, obviously!

Finally, here is the extraordinarily talented James Kennerley showing some of the choir girls the different sounds the organs of Christ Church can make when properly coaxed. He gave them a ten-minute soup-to-nuts Cook's tour, and they were utterly riveted - whether by his skill, the organ music, or his boyish charm is a matter for conjecture. Perhaps all three?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Christ's Church Comes to Christ Church

Friday evening saw another in the fabulous Christ Church organ recital series. Saw, thanks to the modern technology that projected the action at the console onto a wide screen set up on the chancel steps, and of course heard, thanks to the artistry of Andrew Sheranian, organist and choirmaster at Christ’s Church in Rye.

As Andrew was quick to remind us, Christ’s Church is the grandparent church of Christ Church in Greenwich, back when our Town was largely in the hands of the Congregationalists. At the petition of a few local residents, the Horseneck Chapel was built in 1749, and the mission was serviced (as it were) by the Anglican minister of St. John’s Church in Stamford (itself originally a mission of Christ’s Church, Rye), who would ride over to attend to the spiritual needs of Greenwich residents after tending to those of his own flock. History does not record whether or not he was given a beach card in recognition of his ministrations on behalf of the Town.

The program opened with the spritely 9/8 Prelude and Fugue in C Major by Bach. An ascending C Major scale announces a deceptively simple opening to what quickly devolves into a rather complicated piece, as this theme interweaves with a sinuous counter-subject and the counterpoint of a descending subject played by the pedals. The fugue, which, as Andrew pointed out in his opening remarks, has an unusually short theme, continues the driving rhythm of the prelude. It then builds to a majestic close as the pedals finally enter, playing the subject at half-time (that’s half-speed to you football fans), and then holding on a sonorous pedal point until the climactic series of chords that take us into hitherto-uncharted tonalities before bringing us back safe and sound to the tonic (that’s the home key, for you gin drinkers).

Andrew played the piece pretty much as Bach himself would have done, setting his registration and then playing it straight through from beginning to end. The exception to this came at the end of the fugue, where Bach put in rests between the blocks of chords so that he (or more likely, an assistant) could tug out additional stops. In Bach’s day, one had to have well-developed upper body strength to haul out registration stops on tracker-action organs (everything connected by levers and sliders of wood), as opposed to today’s electro-pneumatic action, when a flick of your little finger will activate the 32-foot bombarde.

In a first, Andrew combined vocal and organ joint participation. Treble Sean Fallon of Rye sang alternate verses of the Magnificat (in Latin, of course), while Andrew played the others in Samuel Scheidt’s version on the Ninth Tone. This "tennis match", to borrow Andrew's term, was in fact the way the Magnificat used to be performed in the liturgy of the pre-Reformation church; the reformers did away with it because of their empasis on text - and what good is a performance in which you get to hear only half the text, they reasoned. Sean’s clear voice reminded us that even though the organ is the “king of instruments”, human vocal cords still produce the loveliest music in God’s creation.

The organ-voice interaction continued as Andrew got us all to stand and sing three German chorales, each followed by an embellished chorale prelude. Two were by Bach, "Schmuecke dich" and "Von Gott will ich nicht lassen," flanking a Romantic Brahms treatment of "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen" - one of his last works, and published only after his death.

The finale was Josef Rheinberger’s Organ Sonata XII in D-Flat Major, which, as Andrew reminded us, is one of the lushest of all the key signatures. Born in Liechtenstein in 1839, Rheinberger began his musical career as organist at the parish church in Vaduz at the age of seven. He died at the close of the Victorian age in 1901, and his music pretty much died with him. Andrew happens to be a fan of Rheinberger’s music, and his goal in presenting this piece was to gain more adherents to his cause.

The sonata opens with a sonorous "Phastasie", full of the "Sturm und Drang" of the Romantic movement in organ literature. The "Pastorale" offered a quieter, more meditative section, followed by the final “Introduction and Fugue”. Loud and boisterous, this section concludes with a reprise of the “Phantasie”, bringing the work to a cyclical close in typical Rheinberger fashion.

Your scribe must confess he was a bit disappointed with the Rheinberger sonata, which he had never heard in performance before (kudos to Andrew for that). The themes seemed unmemorable, unlike those in, say, the 8th Sonata, with its towering Introduction and Passacaglia. Many notes were played, with great technical artistry, but they left your scribe by and large unmoved. If Rheinberger’s reputation rested solely on this piece, it is possible he would be totally unremembered today.

Your scribe wishes he could wax more poetic about the Rheinberger work. And if he had a quibble with Andrew’s performance, it would be that the registration was somewhat unimaginative, consisting of a few alternating general piston combinations of sounds. “Been there, heard that” was your scribe’s reaction, as the same registrations recurred over and over. To be fair, Andrew probably had limited time to practice at Christ Church and explore all the gorgeous tonalities the organ has to offer, and of course we are all totally spoiled by the awesome artistry of James Kennerley, who seems to know intimately each and every stop of the organ and how to combine them in ways never before heard in Greenwich. If Andrew had spent as much time at the console here as James has, he undoubtedly would have varied the registration more; but of course he hasn’t, and so it is probably unfair to expect him to have done other than he did.

Let there be no doubt, nonetheless, that Andrew is a first-class musician who treated us to a first-class performance. His innovative introduction of audience participation was a welcome step forward in the series to date, and of course the presentation of the Scheidt Magnificat in conjunction with Sean Fallon was brilliant. Each time your scribe attends one of these Friday evening recitals, he comes away informed and enriched by the experience. Andrew Sheranian’s memorable performance was no exception to this pattern, and your scribe is glad and grateful that the grandparent church in our neighboring town lent us their talented organist to come to Greenwich last night.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

770 vs. 1

In what is no doubt a legal first, 770 citizens are suing the Town of Greenwich for its mismanagement and misallocation of costs in the North Mianus sewer boondoggle. This project, which the Town awarded to an incompetent low bidder who then essentially walked off the job, was later given to another contractor at a much higher price. Some of the work was reportedly less than optimal, leading to more headaches and expenses for the harrassed homeowners. And then, to add insult to injury, the Town has allegedly tried to make them bear more than their fair share of the already-inflated costs.

Thanks to the indefatigable Sam Romeo, erstwhile RTM member and candidate for First Selectman, the neighborhood is up in arms. The lawsuit was served on the Town yesterday, and is being filed in Stamford Superior Court this morning. Undoubtedly the Town will lose, since its incompetence in managing the project and controlling costs has been front-page fodder for years; but equally undoubtedly, the Town will fight the lawsuit tooth and nail, throwing enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars down the drain with its customary bullheadedness. There seems to be a maxim in the Town's Law Department: "Rule #1: The Town of Greenwich can do no wrong. Rule #2: If in doubt, see Rule #1."

Now most municipalities would stop and think for a moment at a lawsuit of this magnitude. Is it possible that "mistakes were made"? Could there have been an error in the allocation of costs? Might the homeowners actually have a valid point? A wiser Town than ours would consider arranging some kind of out-of-court settlement to avoid humongous legal bills.

But this is Greenwich, dear reader, where the Law Department has been overrunning its budget for many years, hiring expensive outside counsel and steadfastly refusing to negotiate or consider offers in settlement. The result, in addition to the huge costs, has been adverse court and jury rulings that have far exceeded the original settlement offers.

Does this make sense to you, dear reader? It certainly doesn't to your scribe. But that's the way we do business here in Greenwich, and he doesn't expect to see it change anytime soon.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Same Old, Same Mold

The boondoggle that ate Greenwich, laughingly known as the Hamilton Avenue "building" project, is reaching new heights - or is it depths? - of depravity. The latest news is that the modular buildings are infested with mold. Since mold was one of the purported reasons (accounts of its factuality differ) for closing and renovating the old building, it is ironic but totally in keeping with the project's horrendous karma that mold is once again driving the students from their classrooms.

So far none of the local media have mentioned - if they even know - that these modular units were originally intended to be leased by the Town. But the Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom (yes, folks, the same board that brought you the Larry Leverett follies and the Betty Sternberg non-stop train wreck), persuaded the Town Fathers to buy the suckers instead. So now we're stuck with millions of dollars' worth of useless mold-infested junk. Just to get rid of them will cost us all hundreds of thousands more.

In any other community, heads would have rolled long before now. In Greenwich, of course, the taxpayers are the ones being rolled.

The unspeakable Betty Sternberg has given the Ham Ave students a week off while she and her lapdog Board of Ed try to do damage control. What does this mean for the working parents of the Ham Ave community, dear reader? Disruption, unexpected day care costs, and the knowledge that unlike all the other kids in Town, theirs will not be allowed to take the Connecticut Mastery tests this week. As always, it seems, the victims will be paying the price for Betty and the Board's sheer and utter incompetence.

There is little doubt around Town that the Ham Ave "building" project is the most notorious disaster in our community's history. Inept planning, lack of oversight, huge overruns in costs and enormous delays - it's a blueprint of how to do everything wrong. But Betty and the Board of Ed roll on as before, oblivious and clueless about every aspect of running a school system.

Greenwich used to have one of the best school systems in the state, if not the country. It wasn't broke, so the Board of Ed decided to fix it. They hired Leverett, and then Sternberg, to oversee the wholesale multilation of a once-fine program with their ignorance and incompetence. And, of course, they will want us, the taxpayers, to come up with the money to pay for their blunders, even as they continue to ask for more money to add more positions to an already top-heavy bureaucratic empire.

Is it time for a taxpayer revolt? Should we sack all the feckless administrators and give their salaries to the teachers instead? Well, why not? The teachers are the ones who get the job done, while the administrators sit around all day throwing roadblocks in their way and digging ever-deeper financial holes for the Town. Who needs them?

Small wonder that a group of Ham Ave parents and students were picketing the Board of Ed building this morning. The general message was shame on Betty and shame on the Board of Ed. In your scribe's opinion, that about sums it up.