October 14, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Is one, on the contrary, going to take up the heart-rending and marvelous wager of the absurd?

—Albert Camus (1913-1960)

Albert Camus presents this curious challenge in the “Absurd Freedom” section of The Myth of Sisyphus (1955). What interests me is the way he seems to be moving closer to the reader here, or maybe to himself, in contrast to the prosy, contradictory first half of the full proposition he offers (“Is one going to die, escape by the leap, rebuild a mansion of ideas and forms to one’s own scale?”). The key word for me is “heart-rending” (déchirant in French).

The word shows up again, a form of it, in The Plague (1948) in reference to “the long, heart-rendingly monotonous struggle put up by some obstinate people” during “the period when the plague was gathering all its forces to fling them at the town and lay it waste.” The setting is Oran, Algeria, on the Mediterranean coast, where restrictions had been put in place preventing anyone from leaving.

A Spirit of Lawlessness

Reading The Plague in the wild and whirling weeks before the election isn’t the same experience it would have been back in March. Then the references to “a spirit of lawlessness,” with “fighting at the gates” wouldn’t have had the same impact. If I’d read the book in the spring, before the number of American deaths passed 200,000, I wouldn’t have been marking passages noting how as the death toll rose to five hundred a week “an element of abstraction, of a divorce from reality, entered into such calamities.” For the central figure in the narrative, Doctor Rieux, who sees death on a daily basis in Oran, one “grows out of pity when it’s useless”; the “feeling that his heart had slowly closed in on itself” is “his only solace for the almost unendurable burden of his days.” He wants to think that evils like the plague help men “to rise above themselves.” That’s a wager you can make, assuming that some form of empathy or urgency is being communicated by the powers that be. Otherwise “when you see the misery it brings, you’d need to be a madman, or a coward, or stone blind, to give in tamely to the plague.”

The last time I wrote about Camus was in January 2017, a week before the Inauguration (“As D-Day Looms: Einstein, Kafka and Camus Sail to Sea In a Beautiful Pea-Green Boat”). I was doing my best to be upbeat, bringing in Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” one of the happiest poems ever written. But I couldn’t ignore the other Lear, Shakespeare’s mad king, who brings the world down on his head because he only hears what he wants to hear no matter how evil the source and when he hears something he doesn’t want to hear, even when it’s spoken by an angel, he banishes the angel, opens the door of his kingdom to evil, and is lost.  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra has found a way to make live music happen — on the grounds of Princeton’s Moven Museum and Garden. For the second time this fall, a small ensemble from the Symphony presented a concert from the porch of the Moven pool house, with an audience spaced out in 50 or so “pods” on the lawn as part of a “Chamber Music in the Garden” series. 

Despite a definite chill in the air last Thursday afternoon (and its effect on the wind instruments), the five principal wind players of Princeton Symphony were clearly delighted to be back in the performing arena — their first live performance in six months. As flutist Yevgeny Faniuk, oboist Lillian Copeland, clarinetist Pascal Archer, bassoonist Charlie Bailey and hornist Jonathan Clark played the hour-long program, Princeton Symphony made concertgoers comfortable on the grass with offers of blankets and plenty of room to see the concert.

Chamber ensembles of strings or brass bring together instruments with similar sound palettes, but a quintet of winds offers a wide variety of orchestral colors and ranges. Jacques Ibert, composing in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, wrote a number of short works for theatrical productions which often used for wind quintets because of space limitations. In 1930, Ibert pulled together three of these incidental pieces to create Trois pièces brèves, a concert triptych for wind quintet. The musicians of Princeton Symphony presented these three pieces as crisp music to match the fall air, with a uniformly chipper sound and clean melodies passed among the instruments. The five players demonstrated rhythmic precision, but that did not stop them from also exhibiting their own individual joie de vivre at being back on a concert stage.   more

“THEATRE AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT”: In partnership with the New Jersey Historical Commission, New Jersey Theatre Alliance presented “Women in New Jersey Theatre: Theatre and Civic Engagement.” Among the panelists were McCarter Theatre’s Artistic Engagement Manager Paula T. Alekson (left) and Passage Theatre’s Artistic Director C. Ryanne Domingues. (Paula T. Alekson photo by Matt Pilsner; C. Ryanne Domingues photo by Claire Edmonds)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In partnership with the New Jersey Historical Commission, New Jersey Theatre Alliance presented Women in New Jersey Theatre: Theatre and Civic Engagement on October 8. Among the panelists were Dr. Paula T. Alekson, McCarter Theatre’s artistic engagement manager, and C. Ryanne Domingues, Passage Theatre’s artistic director.

The panel also featured Dr. Jessica Brater, assistant professor of theater and dance at Montclair State University; and Amanda Espinoza, education and community engagement manager of Two River Theater Company in Red Bank. The Alliance’s deputy director, Erica Nagel, moderated the online discussion.

“Community engagement is happening every time an audience member connects with a theater,” Brater asserts, when asked by Nagel to define “community engagement” and  “civic engagement” as the terms pertain to theater. “It can also happen when a theater partners with a community organization.”

“Civic engagement happens when a performance intersects with our role as citizens,” Brater continues, adding, “civic engagement asks artists, who are creating the performance, to move a step beyond community engagement, to a connection that prompts all involved to consider their role as citizens — and perhaps even to take civic action.” more

VIRTUAL VIRTUOSITY: Cellist Pablo Ferrandez performs as part of an October 18 Zoom concert by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.

Cellist Pablo Ferrández returns virtually to Princeton on the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO)’s online concert broadcast Sunday, October 18 at 4 p.m.

Ferrandez is a soloist in Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. Also on the program are Carlos Simon’s An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, an arrangement of his eighth string quartet for string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai. Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts. more

A NEW HOST: Gaten Matarazzo of “Stranger Things” fame is the host of ‘80s Online Trivia Night at the State Theatre New Jersey on October 14. (Photo by Catie Lafoon)

State Theatre New Jersey has announced actor Gaten Matarazzo — from the Netflix hit series, Stranger Things — as the host of ‘80s Online Trivia Night on Wednesday, October 14 at 7 p.m. Proceeds raised support State Theatre’s Community Engagement programs.

Known for his portrayal of Dustin on Stranger Things, Matarazzo began his career on Broadway starring in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and later landing a role as Gavroche in Les Misérables. He’s been recognized by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top 30 stars under the age of 30.   more

“IN CONVERSATION”: Arts Council of Princeton executive director and ceramic artist Adam Welch will discuss his work with bricks, and “how their making is a reflection on labor and art,” with Timothy M. Andrews on Tuesday, October 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) executive director and nationally acclaimed ceramic artist Adam Welch will be In Conversation with Timothy M. Andrews, art collector and supporter of the Arts Council’s Artist-in-Residence program on Tuesday, October 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This curated series of discussions is designed to celebrate and connect those who make art and those who love art. Breaking down the barriers between artist and art-appreciator, In Conversation delves into inspiration, studio practice, and artistic aspirations. Free registration is available on artscouncilofprinceton.org. more

Master Potter Caryn Newman is moving her Annual Holiday Sale of new handmade ceramics outdoors this year. Her pottery will be displayed outside of her Ewing studio at 7 Willowood Drive on Saturday and Sunday, October 17 and 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment. “I have made good use of the quarantine with production of many new works in stoneware and porcelain,” said Newman. Safety precautions will be observed and visitors are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. For more information, visit willowoodpottery.com, email caryn@willowoodpottery.com, or call (609) 203-7141. 

Paint with your pod at Color Me Mine on Saturday, October 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the courtyard at the Princeton Shopping Center. Choose a Halloween-themed (or other) piece, and paint outdoors under the covered walkway. $5 studio fees all day when painting a fall/Halloween item. Kids in costume get free studio fees. To ensure social distancing, reservations are required at princeton.colormemine.com.

CUSTOM DESIGN: “Period Architecture considers the character of a region to unite architectural traditions of the past with contemporary lifestyle and technology. Our clients are looking for timeless design, and our designs transcend period styles and trends.” The architects at Period Architecture, 53 Church Road in Malvern, Pa., are proud of the variety and high quality of their work, including such projects as the state-of-the-art residential interiors and exteriors shown here.

By Jean Stratton

Designs that stand the test of time…

Custom quality designs dedicated to providing style with a statement…

Designs that are unique and yet appropriate to the surrounding  landscape…

This is the hallmark of Period Architecture.

Opened in 2010 in Malvern, Pa., by co-founder and President Joseph Mackin Jr. and co-founder and Vice President Jeffrey Dolan, the firm is known for its ability to work in a number of different styles and periods of architecture. It can create designs rooted in time-honored traditions that will accommodate 21st-century lifestyles.

“Our goal is to remain an advocate for enduring architectural design and create beautifully livable spaces for our clients,” explains Jessica Fogle, associate principal and marketing director. “Working with the existing landscape allows a new home to look and feel as if it has always been there. In homes with unique features, finding cohesion with the surroundings is imperative to ensuring a timeless design.” more

GOING PRO: Jose Morales goes in for a layup against Columbia on March 6 in his senior season for the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Point guard Morales, a former Hun School standout who scored 261 points in his career with Princeton, is heading to play in the Spanish pro league for Agrupacion Deportiva (AD) Cantbasket 04 in Santander, Cantabria. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jose Morales won’t be needing more leg room on his flight to Spain this month.

Few fellow passengers would guess that the 5’9, 170-pound Princeton University graduate is heading there to start his professional basketball career, but he is following his heart.

“That’s one thing I’ve wanted to do basically my whole life,” said Morales, a former Hun School standout who scored 261 points in his career with the Princeton men’s hoops program.

“You grow up and everybody has a dream, everybody has certain jobs they want. For me, it was always being a pro basketball player. So to finally be able to do that was super exciting.”

Last month, Morales signed a deal with Agrupacion Deportiva (AD) Cantbasket 04. The team plays out of Santander, Cantabria, in Spain. They play in the Liga Espanola de Baloncesto Aficionado (EBA), which is scheduled to begin in October and runs through May.  more

COMEBACK KIDS: Princeton High quarterback Jaxon Petrone (No. 8) relays the play in the huddle last Saturday as PHS hosted Bishop Eustace. The Tigers rallied from a 10-0 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a dramatic 18-17 win in overtime, snapping a 12-game losing streak. PHS, now 1-1, plays at Pitman on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After playing for the Princeton High football program as a freshman in 2017, Richie Valme took a two-year hiatus from the sport.

Coming into this fall, Valme decide it was time to get back on the gridiron. “I came back because I wanted to help us win,” said Valme.

Last Saturday, running back/linebacker Valme did just that, playing a key role as PHS rallied from a 10-0 fourth quarter deficit against visiting Bishop Eustace to pull out a dramatic 18-17 win in overtime, snapping a 12-game losing streak. Valme rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries, including a 43-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter and a three-yard run for the game-winning two-point conversion in OT as the Tigers improved to 1-1.

Although PHS had absorbed a 42-6 loss to Robbinsville in the season opener on October 2, Valme and his teammates were confident they could get on the winning track.

“We know that we are getting better,” said Valme. “We know that the Friday game was not going to determine the game today.”

Even though Tigers trailed 10-0 with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, they were not fazed.

“We remembered that we did so much hard work so we are not going to give up now,” said Valme.

Valme got things going for PHS, breaking loose for a dazzling 43-yard TD run, zig-zagging through and past the Bishop Eustace defense as PHS narrowed the gap to 10-7 with 8:17 left in regulation. more

SIX SHOOTER: Princeton High field hockey player Olivia Weir, right, heads upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, junior star forward Weir tallied six goals to help PHS defeat Robbinsville 7-1. The Tigers, who improved to 3-0 with the win, play at Hopewell Valley on October 15 before hosting Allentown on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Olivia Weir sharpened her field hockey skills by competing against boys in her native South Africa.

“I started playing when I was 10 in South Africa and I moved here two and half years ago,” said Weir, a junior forward on the Princeton High field hockey team.

“In South Africa, boys can play which is really different. The game is a little bit slower here because in South Africa we play on astroturf, so that is definitely a change.”

Last Thursday, Weir came out at full speed against Robbinsville, tallying six goals to help PHS post a 7-1 win over the Ravens and improve to 3-0.

In reflecting on her outburst, Weir credited her teammates with setting her up.

“We are doing an amazing job finding each other in the circle,” said Weir, reflecting on her outburst which PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes is a single-game school record.

“We just know where everyone is. I was just in the right spot.”

Even Weir was taken aback by the fact that she might have achieved a school record. more

BELLWETHER: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Jared Bell leaps to make a stop against Steinert last Wednesday. Senior star Bell made three saves in the contest to help PHS defeat the Spartans 3-0. The Tigers, who dropped to 2-1 with a 3-2 loss to Robbinsville last Saturday, play at Notre Dame on October 14 and at Hopewell Valley on October 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jared Bell found himself under fire as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team hosted Steinert last Wednesday.

The PHS senior goalie held the fort as the Spartans generated a number of scoring opportunities and had the Tiger defense on its heels for much of the first half.

But utilizing the bonds he has developed with his defense, Bell helped PHS thwart Steinert and kept the Spartans scoreless as the Tigers clung to a 1-0 lead at halftime on a goal by senior star Nick Petruso.

“We really managed to pull through with communication,” said Bell.

“Almost every kid on our defense I think of as a leader. They are always talking, they are setting a good example.”

In the second half, PHS played some very good soccer, tacking on goals by Richard Wegmann and Andrew DeLuca in pulling away to a 3-0 triumph even as it lost Petruso to a leg injury just after halftime.

“After Nick went out, then we really know we had to step up and that mentality really set in,” said Bell, who ended up with three saves in the victory.

As a battle-tested senior, Bell has stepped up to make his voice heard on the field.

“From my sophomore year to now, I have definitely developed as a communicator on this team,” said Bell, who posted 12 shutouts in 2019 during his junior campaign. more

HEADY PLAY: Hun School girls’ soccer player Chloe Hill heads the ball in a game last season. Senior defender Hill is helping to spearhead the Hun back line this fall. The Raiders, 0-2, are next in action when they host Pennington on October 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Hun School girls’ soccer team has a 2020 schedule that is limited to five games due to COVID-19 concerns, Jenn Barrett is seeing plenty of intensity from her players.

“The girls like to have the goal and they like to have something to work towards; we are definitely practicing as though we have a full season,” said Hun head coach Barrett, who guided the Raiders to a 4-11 record last fall in her debut season at the helm of the program.

“We really have the mindset that our goal is to achieve competitive greatness. We are trying to shift the culture to almost look forward to the really hard games because that is what is going to make you better. True athletes want to play the best teams.”

Hun boasts some good athletes at forward in junior Olivia D’Aulerio and sophomore Oluwatooni Olaleye.

“We are really young this year, we have a lot of good, young talent which is amazing,” said Barrett, whose team fell 6-1 to Princeton Day School last Saturday to move to 0-2 and is next in action when it hosts Pennington on October 24. more

IMPOSING HIS WILL: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Will Sedgley controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior defender/midfielder Sedgley tallied a goal to help PDS defeat Hun School 2-1 in overtime. The Panthers, now 1-2-1, are slated to host Pennington on October 17 and then play at Moorestown Friends on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Will Sedgley skinned both of his knees but that didn’t stop him from stepping up as the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team hosted the Hun School last Friday.

With the local rivals knotted in a scoreless tie in the second half, Sedgley battled to tally the first goal of the contest, blasting a shot off of Hun goalie Alex Donahue and then slotting the rebound into the back of the net with 19:43 remaining in regulation.

“My goal came from pressing the guy who had the ball; I had the run to the line and I tried to pull it back but no one was there,” said Sedgley.

“I was a little upset about that, I used it to drive me on. I should have scored on the first shot but I got the rebound. It was the first goal for me in a while. I have to score more. I was playing center back in the first half. I wanted to get more attacking so I moved to the midfield.”

The game went into overtime as Hun got a goal by Hector Suriel with 2:05 remaining in the half to force the extra session. PDS, though, pulled out the win as senior defender Aidan McChesney scored on a header with 3:55 left in the first overtime to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory.

Heading into overtime, Sedgley and his teammates were determined to come through. more

October 7, 2020

Visitors near Princeton University’s Nassau Hall enjoyed the crisp weather on Sunday as well as the vibrant colors of the changing leaves.(Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

For the first time in seven months, except for orientation sessions, Community Park, Johnson Park, Littlebrook, and Riverside elementary schools opened their doors to welcome back students, who have been working remotely since the pandemic shutdown on March 13.

About 200 special needs students, along with Cohort A students in pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade attended the four district elementary schools on Monday, October 5 and Tuesday October 6, and Princeton Public Schools (PPS) students in Cohort B will return to the elementary schools for classes on Thursday and Friday.  Wednesdays are all-remote learning and cleaning day at the elementary schools.

“The kids were ecstatic, happy to see their friends,” said Interim Superintendent Barry Galasso on Monday. “It was a fantastic first day. We were able to observe our protocols today, and faculty and principals did a great job.”

He continued, “For pre-K it was the first time they’d been to the school, and for the first day of kindergarten, it’s a life experience that we all have, one that the kids won’t forget. We had our entire administrative team working, with multiple administrators at each school, and it was a very smooth process. I am proud of our teachers, our principals, and all of our staff.” more

By Anne Leivn

The appointment of Christopher Morgan as new chief of the Princeton Police Department was approved by Princeton Council at its September 30 meeting. Morgan has been captain of the department since 2019. He replaces longtime Chief Nick Sutter, who retired October 1.

Former Lieutenant Jon Bucchere was named as the new captain. Matthew Solova was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, James Martinez from corporal to sergeant, Christopher Craven from patrolman to sergeant, Craig Humble from patrolman to corporal, and Luis Navas from detective to corporal.

Morgan spoke to Council about his vision for the department, the development of which he credited to Sutter. “This philosophy and approach to policing in Princeton will remain the same as we advance into a new era,” he said. “But as we look forward, there are several areas we must address.”

Most imperative is filling supervisory positions made vacant by recent and impending retirements. “We want to start the recruiting process,” Morgan said.

Officers have received body-worn cameras, he reported. In the next few months, the department will receive implicit bias training and will reach out to community partners for input. Morgan also provided details on additional initiatives. “The police department is very healthy,” he said. “We want to be the best we can be and serve the community in the most positive and effective way we can.”

Morgan graduated in 1998 from the Trenton Police Academy. He is a graduate of the College of New Jersey and has a master’s degree from Seton Hall University. He also attended the Federal Bureau of Investigations Law Enforcement Development Seminar, and is a graduate of Session 239 of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was acting chief of the former Princeton Township Police Department before the consolidation of the former Borough and Township. more

By Donald Gilpin

With COVID transmission rates rising in New Jersey and case numbers spiking in various spots in the state and throughout the country, the Princeton Health Department is offering advice on the importance of mitigation measures and contact tracing.

The Health Department reported on Monday, October 5, that there had been six new cases of COVID-19 in Princeton in the previous seven days, eight cases in the previous 14 days, and no increase from last week’s totals. Grosser noted, however, that two or three additional cases that have not been confirmed are pending and will likely show up in the October 7 report. Monday’s report noted six active positive cases in Princeton and 200 cases recovered with isolation completed.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) reported on Tuesday, October 6, that the COVID transmission rate had risen to 1.27, significantly above the benchmark of 1 that indicates the virus is spreading.

“The way we are seeing COVID affect our daily lives continues to evolve,” said Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams in an October 6 email, “but the one constant is our ability to mitigate the transmission of the disease. We have had success through diligently adhering to COVID mitigation measures that continue to be our best defense.” more

CAPTURING A SHOT: “Picture of His Life,” a documentary about photographer Amost Nachoum’s efforts to swim underwater with a polar bear, is among the highlights of this year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

By Anne Levin

The Princeton Public Library’s 2020 Princeton Environmental Film Festival (PEFF), set for this month, was a done deal when the pandemic forced the library to close its doors last March. By the time summer arrived, it was clear that a week of live screenings and discussions was not going to happen.

Now in its 14th year, the annual, free festival is a much-anticipated event. Instead of scrapping the series exploring urgent environmental issues, the library has transitioned to digital. The festival opens Monday, October 12 and continues through Sunday, October 18. Some 20 films, with presentations by some of the filmmakers, make up the virtual roster.

“We had pretty much finalized the whole event when the library closed in March,” said librarian Susan Conlon, who is head of youth services and plans the festival with library staffer Kim Dorman. “Everything was viewed, considered, and selected. We had made arrangements for filmmakers to come. So we had to put the brakes on. But we actually have gotten to show two of the films before now, and in the meantime picked up a couple of others. So here we are with 20 films.”

Going virtual means films are available on demand. “People can gather with friends and family and watch what they want, when they want, and that’s a kind of nice element,” said Conlon. “It’s a little bit of a different experience. And it’s all free.” more

By Anne Levin

Robert and Henry Landau, third generation of the family-owned Landau woolens store at 102 Nassau Street, have announced their retirement after decades in the family-owned business. The store, currently open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, is holding a retirement sale.

“We are now senior citizens,” said Robert Landau, 74, speaking by phone from his home in Baltimore. “Hopefully, the business will continue under new ownership or in conjunction with us. It will be a little different, but not so incompatible.”

Landau’s brother Henry is 70, and store manager Lynn Lahey Robillard, who has worked at the store since 1970, is in her mid-sixties. “Most of our employees are in our age group,” said Robert Landau. “We’ve been thinking about this for a while. All of us, simultaneously, have back issues. It used to be fun to be there, but now it has gotten difficult. That’s one part of it.”

COVID-19 is another significant factor. Current conditions have made it difficult for the store to continue its unique business model, which relies more on in-person shopping than online.

Suppliers to the store are experiencing significant delays. “The supply chain is screwed up because of the pandemic,” said Landau. “If you would tell me that, by February 1, we’d have a vaccine, then maybe we would stay. But the way it is now, you can’t order anything because you don’t know when you’ll get it, and you don’t know if you’ll have customers.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Paul Krugman and Eduardo Porter, colleagues at The New York Times where Krugman is a columnist and Porter is an economics reporter, put their heads together virtually  on October 4 to speculate on the future of America and its economy in an online event sponsored by the Paul Robeson House of Princeton.

Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Princeton University professor emeritus, and currently professor at City University of New York, has recently in his Times columns been making the case for Vice President Joe Biden’s economic proposals, “Bidenomics.”  Krugman said that he was “relatively hopeful about serious movement to combat inequality, if democracy survives the next month” and Biden wins the election.    

“The Biden health care plan is a pretty big deal, even though it’s not single payer,” he said. “If you’re a Bernie Sanders person and it’s single payer or bust, then you’re going to be very disappointed, but if you actually look at how much it would expand the number of people receiving subsidies and how much it would cut the amount of out-of-pocket payments, it’s a big deal. Fifteen to 20 million more people will be getting health insurance — not quite universal coverage, but a long way towards it.” more

By Anne Levin

A special meeting of Princeton Council Saturday, October 3, focused on the Franklin Avenue affordable housing site, drew more than 80 participants. The virtual gathering included a number of local design professionals with ideas on how the site might be built.

One of the signature developments of Princeton’s current round of affordable housing obligations, the site includes the former parking lot for what used to be Princeton Hospital, as well as two areas that represent Princeton’s first affordable developments dating from the late 1930s. The location borders the Witherspoon-Jackson and Harris Road neighborhoods, and is located close to the exact physical center of the municipality.

The forum was held to give Council and the town’s planning director a chance to hear ideas from architects and designers as well as members of the community, many of whom are associated with the organization Princeton Future. A few days before the forum, a petition signed by more than 120 residents of the streets surrounding the site was circulated, expressing opposition to the town’s proposal to build 160 units mixing affordable and market-rate housing instead of just 80 units of affordable housing.

“We thoroughly support building 80 units of court-ordered affordable housing on Franklin Avenue, and we look forward to welcoming new neighbors,” the petition reads. “However, we believe the town’s proposal to build a further 80 units for more affluent renters who have other options is not in the best interests of our neighborhood.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

I am as American as April in Arizona.

—Vladimir Nabokov, from a 1967 interview

After citing “the flora, the fauna, the air of the Western states” as his “links to Asiatic and Arctic Russia,” the author of Lolita speaks of the “warm, light-hearted pride” he feels whenever he shows his USA passport at European frontiers.

Nabokov’s “light-hearted pride” likely dates back to his first encounter with U.S. customs in 1940 after arriving on the last boat out of Nazi-occupied France with his wife and 4-year-old son. When a customs official inspecting the luggage noticed a pair of boxing gloves (boxing lessons being one of Nabokov’s income sources when he was living in Paris), he and another official “pulled on the gloves and began playfully sparring.” In Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, Brian Boyd writes that, “as Nabokov retold the story decades later, still enchanted by America’s easygoing, good-natured atmosphere, he repeated with delight: ‘Where would that happen? Where would that happen?’”

And where would playful, good-natured customs encounters happen in today’s America? Given the one-two punch of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death and the Covid superspreader White House event celebrating the rush to confirm her replacement, plus the careening mix of playoff baseball in plague time and the presidential debate from hell, it’s no wonder Nabokov has joined Kafka on my bedside table.

Laughter in the Dark

It’s thanks to researching RBG’S back story that I’m writing about a “man in love with the sound of words” as Justice Ginsburg (Cornell ‘54) put it after naming Nabokov among her most influential professors. Another student in Nabokov’s Masterpieces of European Fiction course, Alfred Appel Jr., was sitting behind the Nabokovs at an Ithaca, N.Y., movie theater the night the author of Laughter in the Dark lived memorably up to the title of his 1932 novel. The film was Beat the Devil (1953), a write-it-as-you-go-along jeu d’esprit concoted by Truman Capote and John Huston. In his eye/ear-witness account (TLS October 7, 1977), Appel, the eventual editor of The Annotated Lolita (McGraw Hill 1970; Vintage 1991), remembers Nabokov’s prolonged bouts of “loud laughter” becoming so “conspicuous” that his wife Véra had to nudge him, “Volodya!” Soon it became difficult to distinguish those laughing at the film from those laughing at Nabokov’s laughter, which reached its spectacular apogee after a non sequitur delivered by Peter Lorre, with “his famous nasal whine.” As Appel describes it, Nabokov “exploded — that is the only verb — with laughter. It seemed to lift him from his seat.”  more

By Nancy Plum

For the fall portion of its 2020-2021 season, Princeton Symphony Orchestra has designed a hybrid concert schedule of virtual and live performances. The first live concert, featuring a small ensemble of brass players, took place the last week of September at Princeton’s Morven Museum and Garden. 

PSO presented its opening virtual performance this past Sunday at the ensemble’s usual concert time of 4 p.m., but instead of listening raptly in Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium, this event’s “concertgoers” were at home gathered around desktop computers, laptops, iPads and iPhones in the Symphony’s first presentation of a “Virtual Concerts: Your Orchestra, Your Home” series. Princeton Symphony Orchestra Music Director Rossen Milanov has programmed three virtual concerts for October and November, mixing classical standards with works by contemporary composers.  

Sunday afternoon’s concert, featuring 11 string players led by Milanov, was recorded earlier this fall at Morven Museum, with instrumentalists well-spaced out in a wood-paneled room which Milanov called a “perfect” venue for these difficult performing times. Following introductory remarks by Milanov and Princeton Symphony Executive Director Marc Uys, the broadcast began with George Walker’s Lyric for Strings

American composer George Walker was a pioneer of African American musical performance in this country. The first African American graduate of the Curtis Institute, doctoral recipient from Eastman School of Music, and Pulitzer Prize winner for music, among other accolades, Walker composed a repertory of more than 90 works for orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus. He composed the one-movement Lyric for Strings at age 24, before he had achieved a number of these “firsts,” and this work has endured well over the decades. more