In Tune With June! Lovin’ the Library

Boy, we are so-o lucky to be living in Bayonne! The reasons are too numerous to mention. I’m going to remind you about only one, the Bayonne Public Library. The building itself is beautiful – and it’s getting more so every day. The whole library has been refurbished and redecorated. When you enter, you’ll see that the main lobby floors have been replaced with pink and blue tiles. Even the restrooms have been renovated. Technological improvements include upgraded computers. Upstairs, the hallways are covered with eye-filling murals. It’s worth going up to the gallery just to see them. The library maintains a high level of activities. There are good movies, a reading club, story hours and art exhibits. Something exciting seems to be always happening – even a “healthy bones” exercise class.

Each month on Saturday afternoons, there are concerts, always entertaining. Last month the Smith Street Society Jazz Band appeared. The four accomplished musicians played traditional Dixieland tunes. Their performance was peppy and great fun. The band encouraged the audience to participate: clap, sing, call out requests (which Smith Street graciously played). One of its members is a longtime friend of mine from Hackensack (we checked her passport to allow her to enter Bayonne). Barbara Dreiwitz is a petite gal and it’s a wonder that she can get so much music out of her large tuba.

The next concert on Feb. 25 is the Richard Reiter Swing Band. And then, folks, be sure to put April 22 on your calendar. That is when the Bayonne Senior Orchestra will perform – its third appearance at the library. Hope to see you – if not before – then!

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He does it all! I’m referring to Steve Martin. Admittedly, the actor was never a favorite of mine. I didn’t buy into his “wild and crazy guy” character, his doofus-for-hire persona did not appeal to me. That’s why I was surprised to read his 2001 novella and then, recently, to see its movie adaptation, “Shopgirl.” The film is a delicate, deceptively simple one, a romantic story that spins perfect romance out of loneliness.

Currently, Steve Martin is at the top of his game. He was honored with the 2005 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The televised ceremony took place at the Kennedy Center in Washington and it was hilarious. I rarely laugh out loud watching television, but that program made it difficult for me to stop laughing.

After mastering the world of stand-up comedy and acting, Martin has written and produced “Shopgirl.” His insight into women is convincing and compassionate. Actress Claire Danes is perfect in the title role. Her performance is flawless. The story is a character study of a young woman set in modern Los Angeles. Steve Martin plays Ray, an older, rich man, a bit of a cad who has a fear of intimacy. He convinces us that the much older Ray isn’t simply a well-dressed lech. The film has a voice-over narration provided in soothing tones by Martin – as Ray.

For a light film, the themes in “Shopgirl” are strong: passions, commitment, loneliness. Still, in many ways, much of the movie made me feel as if I were watching a fairy tale. I found the seriocomic confection that is “Shopgirl” charming and endearing.

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Is it stretching credibility to the outer limits to think of a woman in the White House? Evidently ABC television doesn’t think so. It has a new series starring Geena Davis as the first woman president, Mackenzie Allen. The show taps into the same appetite that made “The West Wing” successful. It explores a government we wish we had. Davis gives her “Commander in Chief” character a poise and focus that are never less than presidential.

The series examines not only the shock of a first woman president, but the issues she faces. She not only takes charge of a nation, but has the care of her own household. Her family – her husband and her three children – has had to move into the White House. The kids are thrust into the limelight, besieged by the press, lonesome and struggling with their changed status. First gentleman is Mackenzie Allen’s thorniest family problem. When has any male president had to worry about his children on a daily basis? Probably never.

“Commander in Chief” is a feminist touch on “The West Wing” and like “The West Wing” it has a romantic version of government. This series is well written and I’m hoping that future episodes will be as good as the ones I’ve watched. Perhaps it will prompt some young viewers to study government and foreign affairs. They might even look at a map. Heavens!

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When I was a child growing up in Brooklyn, my wise parents made sure to take my brother and me to the American Museum of Natural History at least twice a year. I would feel so-o small looking up at the huge dinosaurs. Of course, I equally enjoyed a visit to the DinerSaurus Café since food has always been a great plus to me on any outing (and I haven’t changed!).

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational and cultural institutions. Recently, it was packed with school children and many families pushing babies in strollers. I learned in “Zagat’s U.S. Family Travel Guide” the museum is rated as number one in New York City, a well-deserved rating. The 45 permanent exhibition halls have something for everyone.

Currently, there’s a fascinating new exhibition titled “Voices From South of the Clouds.” It is an exhibition of over 30 enthralling color photographs of life in China’s Yunnan Province. On view through March 12, 2006, it transports visitors to Yunnan’s villages to view rich cultures and religions of the villagers – the joy, hardship and rhythm of their daily lives.

For the Yunnan project, the Eastman Kodak Co. donated point-and-shoot cameras – a model that sells for $7 in China – to the villagers. Villagers were taught how to use them and then to provide background info on the pictures they snapped. The results are stunning scenes layered with meaning.

The museum offers so-o much: mammals in their natural habitat, butterflies, Indians, ocean life, space shows, an Imax theater, birds of the world, the hall of gems – whew – and more! Oh, yes! Since this is the season of gift giving, this is also the place where you can find an unusual gift for that difficult relative or friend. There are eight museum shops with merchandise from around the world.

June Sturz can be reached at


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