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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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