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News

Los Altos Police nab alleged burglar, identity thief

Los Altos Police nab alleged burglar, identity thief

The Los Altos Police Department received a call from a local resident reporting a suspicious vehicle in the area of Lockhaven and Stonehaven drives in Los Altos at 9 a.m. Monday. The resident, who reported that his mail was possibly stolen, provided ...

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Schools

Former NFL player huddles with Blach students about life choices

Former NFL player huddles with Blach students about life choices


Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Former NFL tight end Eason Ramson visited with Blach Intermediate School students, Feb. 13 to share the perils of drug use. Now a motivational speaker, Ramson works with at-risk teens in San Francisco.

Although former ...

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Community

Chi Am Circle, Chef Chu's prove 'golden': Club sets fundraising goal of $200K for March fashion show

Chi Am Circle, Chef Chu's prove 'golden': Club sets fundraising goal of $200K for March fashion show


Courtesy of Bev Harada
Chi Am Circle members, from left, Gerrye Wong, Sylvia Eng, Pearl Lee and Muriel Kao flank Larry Chu Sr. at the Jan. 31 event honoring the club’s 50th and Chef Chu’s 45th anniversaries.

Chef Chu’s restaurant in Los Altos ho...

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Comment

Freedom's just another word: No Shoes, Please

It used to be that the word “freedom” held exclusively positive connotations for me, but now it’s really become a mixed bag. It all started in 2001 when President George W. Bush asked the question he felt was on the minds of most Americans regarding ...

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Special Sections

Filoli in bloom: Historic estate hosts  classes, events and tours

Filoli in bloom: Historic estate hosts classes, events and tours


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Scenes from Filoli: The historic estate in Woodside is a welcoming sanctuary for visitors. The grounds offer a rotating display of seasonal flowers, a tranquil reflecting pool and paths that wend through the 16-acre Engl...

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Business

Stock volatility still confusing

The market opened down more than 100 points Friday but by noon rose more than 130, the form of volatility that quickly draws investors’ attention. By week’s end, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial aver...

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Books

French novel

French novel "Hunting and Gathering" offers character-driven suspense


Anna Gavalda is a well-known author in her native France, where she has published six books, most of which have met with considerable praise and commercial success. Her fourth novel, “Hunting and Gathering” (Riverhead Books, 2007), is filled ...

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People

CHRIS A. KENISON

CHRIS A. KENISON

Feb 13, 1945-Feb 6, 2015

Resident of Los Altos

Chris was born in Georgia and moved to Oklahoma as a young child. He grew up there and moved to California in 1965. He developed a strong work ethic from his grandparents and parents. He attended the...

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Travel

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon public recreation space, above, features an elevated pedestrian bridge.

Seoul, South Korea, is a study in contrasts. Having grown quickly, the city is a mix of old and new.

Using...

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Stepping Out

'Park' in the hills

'Park' in the hills


courtesy of Foothill Music Theatre
Dot (Katie Nix) imagines her dream job as a follies dancer in the Foothill Music Theatre production of “Sunday in the Park with George.” The play runs through March 8.

Foothill Music Theatre’s production of “Su...

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Spiritual Life

Is your thought life sabotaging your spiritual journey?

My computer started having problems – there seemed to be some sort of malware running in the background. At first it was just annoying, then it began to slow down my computer, interfering with its basic operations. What is it doing? Why can...

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Magazine

Local events serve up family fun

Local events serve up family fun


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Pecos Bill: A Tall Tale” is slated to open March 20 in Mountain View.

For families seeking a break from the daily routine, events abound this month and next in Los Alto...

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‘The Boys in the Boat’ navigates historical, political waters


It’s a total mystery to me how an author can take a historical event, one where the outcome is already known, and yet chronicle that event in such a way that readers breathlessly follow every twist and turn toward the inevitable finish.

Such is the case with Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” (Viking Adult, 2013), his nonfiction account of how nine young men from the University of Washington’s rowing team competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and took home the gold medal, angering German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cronies in the process.

In the 1930s, competitive rowing was an immensely popular sport – on par with football today. Teams at prestigious colleges on the East Coast largely dominated the sport, and, as today, the major competition on the West Coast was between powerhouses UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.

While Brown details the rowing rivalries, he also documents the stories of many of the men – both rowers and coaches – who made the remarkable Olympic win possible.

There are so many heroes in “The Boys in the Boat” that it’s difficult to prioritize their importance. Brown begins with one of the young men, Joe Rantz, whom the author met in the early 2000s, when Rantz was dying, and interviewed extensively for the book.

One of the book’s strengths lies in Rantz’s recounting of the emotions evoked by the momentous victory. After the team’s underdog upset, for example, the other young men celebrated wildly all night in Berlin. Rantz, however, stayed in his bunk contemplating his experience: “He had known in that instant that there could be no hesitation, no shred of indecision. He had had no choice but to throw himself into each stroke as if he were throwing himself off of a cliff into a void, with unquestioned faith that the others would be there to save him. …Now he felt whole. He was ready to go home.”

Rantz’s life story unfolds in some detail, and it is heartbreaking. His family moved out of their house twice and refused to take young Joe with them, apparently because his stepmother thought the family couldn’t afford his care during the Depression. Consequently, Rantz, like several of his crewmates, grew up performing all sorts of hard, physical labor.

The men turned what could have broken their spirits – and their bones, for that matter – into an advantage during racing. They knew pain, an inevitable byproduct of the grueling sport of eight-oar crews. The physically rugged Washingtonians were simply in better shape than their competition.

Readers meet another remarkable man in “The Boys in the Boat” – George Pocock, a boat-builder from England who not only built all of the handmade cedar boats the team used in its races, but also dispensed invaluable advice to the crew and coach. Quotes of his philosophy on competitive rowing open each chapter.

In addition to the personal portraits, Brown provides fascinating context to the story through his descriptions of the political backdrop of 1930s Germany, including Hitler’s rise to power, his desire to use the Olympics as a showcase for the Third Reich and movie producer Leni Riefenstahl’s innovations in filming the competition for her 1938 movie “Olympia.”

Book clubs that enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (Random House, 2010) and devour other true-life tales of courage should sail through “The Boys in the Boat,” a fast, educational, well-written and absorbing read.

Leslie Ashmore is a Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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