Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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‘Beautiful Ruins’ weaves complex threads of love


Rarely do I read a fiction book that feels like a true work of passion on the part of the author, but the best-seller “Beautiful Ruins“ (Harper, 2012) by Jess Walter is just such a work.

“Beautiful Ruins” is a crazy-quilt kind of novel – virtually every chapter skips to a different period in time and a different location with many new characters. Readers travel from Italy in the 1960s to Hollywood in the present, with multiple stops in between in Seattle and Sandpoint, Idaho.

At its heart, “Beautiful Ruins” is a love story. There is the “love at first sight” variety explored at the beginning of the book, when hero Pasquale Tursi first sees heroine Dee Moray: “Tursi watched the arrival of the woman as if in a dream. … She smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life.”

Other forms of love are shown, too, such as the love of Pasquale’s aunt for his mother, and Dee’s love for her challenging son, Pat. Other themes include the absurdity of the Hollywood obsession with youth and money and, my favorite, the role that casual encounters can play in making a profound difference in one’s life.

“Beautiful Ruins” is a complex novel that is difficult to summarize, and it would spoil many surprises for a reader to do so. But I can share that the book follows three major tracks: the story of Pasquale’s life and the relationship that develops between him and the beautiful young actress, Dee; the story of Claire, a plucky young film assistant who acts as the right-hand woman to Michael Deane, a first-class jerk of a Hollywood producer; and the story of Dee, who moves back to America to forge a normal life outside of movies. Suffice to say that the various threads are woven together and concluded happily by the end of the book.

Walter’s well-drawn characters amaze, surprise and generate loud laughs. Walter is a very good, versatile writer who throws in some lovely descriptions of the Italian countryside, some partial novels supposedly written by some of his characters and even some poetry. My favorite passages are his humorous sketches: “Upon meeting Michael for the first time, many people stare open-mouthed, unable to look away from his glistening, vaguely lifelike face. … Trying to picture what Michael Deane looked like as a young man in Italy fifty years ago based on his appearance now is like standing on Wall Street trying to understand the topography of Manhattan Island before the Dutch arrived.”

The only false note in the book involves the character of the evil Hollywood producer – a selfish, scheming, Machiavellian individual. I’ve already seen my share of greedy Hollywood producers, thank you very much, though I understand the need for at least one bad guy in the story. I expected that the Richard Burton cameo would be rather stereotypical as well, but it is quite charming and amusing and leads to a life-changing epiphany for Pasquale.

“Beautiful Ruins” is a most entertaining novel, and I believe the author when he claims that it took him 15 years to write. All types of book clubs should enjoy the story, particularly those that tackle engrossing fiction stories like “The Night Circus” (Random House, 2011) by Erin Morgenstern and “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” (Scholastic Press, 2007) by Brian Selznick.

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

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