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“MUTTS” Creator Patrick McDonnell’s Collaboration with the Dalai Lama — and Other Pet Projects

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Patrick McDonnell is a versatile author and illustrator with varied projects to his credit. He draws the comic strip MUTTS — which appears daily in newspapers worldwide — and he has created or co-created children’s books, a retrospective of cartoonist George Herriman, and a MUTTS-themed New Jersey license plate. His collaborators include Eckhart Tolle and Jane Goodall.

McDonnell’s work has been adapted for stage shows and animation. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the PETA Humanitarian Award, the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year, and several Harvey Awards for Best Comic Strip.

A longtime advocate for animals and the environment, McDonnell is a board member of the Fund For Animals, the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and the D&R Greenway Land Trust. He resides in Princeton with his wife (and business manager) Karen O’Connell, along with their rescue dog and formerly feral cat.

McDonnell’s upcoming book, Heart to Heart, is scheduled for publication in January 2023. Created in collaboration with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the book discusses the environment, animals, and compassion. Of Heart to Heart, the Dalai Lama says, “It is my hope that this book will open the eyes, minds, and hearts of all people.“ more

Artistic Director Michelle Djokic Brings Musicians Together in Historic Settings

By Lori Goldstein

Exactly who are the Concordia Chamber Players? If you scan the past seasons on the Concordia website, you’ll find an ever-changing roster of world-class musicians. The one constant is Michelle Djokic, the founder, artistic director, and cellist always-in-residence for the past 25 years.

“I almost feel like I’m a puppeteer, manipulating things from up above but also one of the puppets down below,” says Djokic. “I see the whole experience as so many different elements involved: it’s not just simply the music, not just the composers.” And not just all the musicians whom she invites to share in the retreat-like environment of New Hope, Pennsylvania.

How the burgeoning cultural mecca came to be the Concordia Chamber Players’ home is a story that stretches back to Djokic’s childhood. In the 1960s, when her family was living in Trenton, her father would take her to visit New Hope. As they passed by the studio of esteemed woodworker George Nakashima, Djokic’s father would say, “This is really important work.” He recognized the significance of the artist long before people knew who Nakashima was. “Then we’d look at all the artists’ work in town,” says Djokic. “I always had a sense that there was something uniquely special, a safe harbor for artists in that region.”

When Djokic’s parents moved to New Hope 30 years ago, she befriended members of the community. During a lunch with her friends, she expressed a desire to bring her colleagues from New York to New Hope to make chamber music. She knew her musician friends would enjoy a respite from the city, and it would be a gift to the New Hope community to hear their music. “It’s as close to playing in Europe as I could find in this country,” she says. more

Ambassador Adela Raz, left, attends unveiling ceremony for gift to the U.N. from the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at U.N. Headquarters on June 28, 2021 in New York City. (Shutterstock.com)

Under the leadership of Adela Raz, Princeton’s Afghanistan Policy Lab aims to restore educational opportunities to girls, and to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in her nation

By Ilene Dube

When students in the U.S. missed up to two years of schooling during the height of the pandemic, experts weighed in on the harm done to the nation’s youth. And yet when the Taliban first took control of Afghanistan (1996-2001), girls were banned from going to school altogether, missing out on five years of their education. Sadly, since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, girls in Afghanistan are once again barred from the classroom.

Adela (pronounced Ahd-ullah) Raz was 10 years old when the Taliban came to Kabul in 1996 and shut down the schools. An ardent student, she had just completed a skeleton drawing for biology class — a project she proudly absorbed herself in for days — and would have to hide it away in a closet.

Despite the five-year gap, Raz was lucky, she says, to live in an educated community. Her parents knew education was essential — her father, who had completed his higher education in Japan, worked at Kabul University and as a civil servant in the ministries of economics, culture, planning, and international relations. “He said education is the wealth that no one can steal from you,” she recounts.

When it became apparent that the schools would not reopen, teachers turned their homes into classrooms. It was through such homeschooling that Raz would learn to speak fluent English. Soon her mother opened a school, teaching sewing, and Raz, not yet 16, began teaching first graders reading, writing, and basic math.

Through hard work and drive, Raz grew up to become the first female deputy spokesperson and director of communications for President Hamid Karzai in 2013. From there she became the deputy foreign minister and, in 2018, the first female permanent representative and ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Nations (U.N.). more

Join author Clifford Zink on Saturday, October 8 at 10 a.m. for a walking tour outside Princeton University’s storied and majestic eating clubs. Learn about the architecture, origins, and development of the 16 Classical and Gothic-style clubhouses, which date from 1895 to 1928. There will be an opportunity to visit inside one of the eating clubs; masks will be required during this portion of the tour. Copies of Zink’s 2017 book, The Princeton Eating Clubs, will be available for sale at a discounted price at the tour.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

Her love of beauty and order is everywhere visible in what she planted for our delight.” The words honoring landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959) are engraved on a bench adjacent to the Princeton University chapel.

Reviewing the 2009 edition of Beatrix Farrand: Garden Artist, Landscape Architect (The Monacelli Press $60), The New York Times Sunday Book Review alerted “English majors” to the fact that the book “does double duty as a companion” to the novels of Farrand’s aunt Edith Wharton, whose friend Henry James knew young Beatrix as “Trix.” An updated edition of Judith B. Tankard’s monograph has been released on the occasion of Farrand’s 150th birthday.

Early Farrand

Farrand was still Beatrix Jones when she sent a letter to the editor of the September 6, 1893 issue of Garden and Forest, observing how “the White Pine makes an excellent background for the Red Oak (Q. rubra), which in spring emphasizes the gray tree bearing its ‘candles,’ as the country children call the new white growth, while in the autumn the Pine retires to its place as foil for the Oak, which is first gorgeous in red and fades into brown as it prepares for winter.” Also mentioned, the “Hemlock and White Ash” are “striking together in spring or fall, and at the turn of the leaf the Scarlet Maple seems ablaze near a group of the White and Black Spruces.” Beatrix ends the paragraph with a flourish that must have impressed Aunt Edith and Mr. James: “the stately Yellow and Paper Birches are noticed in damp places, and the Pitch Pine, clinging like a limpet to an impossibly steep rock, looks like a tree on a Japanese fan.”

At 21, “Trix” clearly not only showed signs of her aunt’s literary abilities, she had the eye of a painter, and would one day envision the owner of a garden as “the leader of an orchestra” who must know “which instruments to encourage and which to restrain.” With the last analogy in mind, you could compare the Princeton campus to a symphony created and conducted by Farrand during her years (1912-1943) as the University’s landscape architect.

Her melodious handiwork included the graduate college, McCosh and Blair walks, Holder courtyard, and Prospect Gardens. An architectural tour of the campus conducted in Princeton University and Neighboring Institutions (The Campus Guide $12.55) finds the rules Farrand established for Princeton’s landscape design “as defining an element of the Princeton style as Collegiate Gothic.” Even after her relationship with the University ended, “succeeding landscape architects and gardeners followed the design and planting principles she laid down.” more

Standing on the plot of land once owned by Joseph Bonaparte — former King of Naples and Spain and brother of Napoleon – garden steward Lara Periard shares her enthusiasm for developing the Point Breeze Historic Garden.

“This project is unique for several reasons,” Periard says. “Unlike a standard vegetable garden or farm, its purpose is to represent the history of the land, as well as to grow food for donation to the community. We are growing historic crops, primarily what would’ve been grown by Bonaparte’s gardener at the time.” more

On Friday, October 21 at 8 p.m., Hopewell Theater presents Somebody’s Daughter, a one-woman show based on Zara Phillip’s book of the same title. The performance features live music accompaniment by folk-rock legend Richard Thompson. 

The play tells the story of Zara Phillips, adopted as a baby in the 1960s, becoming a backing vocalist to well-known bands in the 1980s, and getting sober at 22. The play is performed with no-holds-barred honesty about having an unconventional upbringing, adoption, life on the road with musical artists, and learning to navigate her own experience as a mother and sober woman.  more

Join The Watershed Institute for the 47th Annual Watershed FEST on October 1 at 6:30 p.m. FEST is the largest fundraising event of the year and supports The Watershed Institute’s mission of keeping water clean, safe, and healthy. Last year’s FEST was an evening to remember,  and the organization is hoping to beat last year’s amount of $140,000 raised. All funds support The Watershed Institute’s conservation, advocacy, education, and scientific research efforts.  more

Open to the Stuart School community and the public, Toddler Time at Stuart (ToTS) is a free program that will have newborns and toddlers smiling and clamoring for more. 

Your tots will enjoy a 45-minute session centered around different themes depending on the month. So, invite your friends, neighbors, family, and anyone else who may have a newborn or toddler in need of a little interactive fun! more

Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) presents its annual Oktoberfest fundraiser on October 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. The event will be held at Mountain Lakes House, 57 Mountain Avenue in Princeton, rain or shine. Attendance is $50 per person and tickets can be bought online here: https://bit.ly/3BzXD03.

The 2022 Oktoberfest promises to be better than ever. Enjoy local craft beer, hard cider, Jammin’ Crepes sweet and savory crepes, and live music. The covered terrace of Mountain Lakes House will be available for socializing outdoors. more

Did you know that Happy Day Farms in Manalapan is one of the top-tier corn mazes in all the United States? Located at 106 Iron Ore Road, Happy Day Farms has been recognized for numerous past designs including Rutgers University’s 250th Anniversary, four New Jersey celebrities, superheroes, New Jersey athletes, and more. Last year’s Super Mario theme was a big attraction for kids and young families. This year’s corn maze theme is “10 Years of Happiness” to honor the farm’s 10th anniversary.  more

On Saturday, September 24, join Monmouth Museum staff and New Jersey DEP’s lead environmental educator, Marc Rogoff, on a fossil frolic through Big Brook, one of the premier late Cretaceous fossil localities in the eastern United States. The Cretaceous period was a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and New Jersey was submerged beneath a shallow inland sea. more

On Sunday, September 11 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., join Morven Museum for a special event entitled, “9/11 Day of Remembrance: The History of the American Flag.” This only in-person patriotic presentation is a way to honor and pay tribute to those who lost their lives on this date 21 years ago. Admission is free and all are welcome. more

Sharim v’Sharot is actively looking for singers to join Mercer County’s premier Jewish choir. Auditions are being held now through the end of September for the 2022-23 concert season. To schedule an audition, email sharimvsharot@gmail.com. All auditions and rehearsals take place in Mercer County. Those with an instrumental talent are also welcome to audition. The choir is led by conductor Dr. Elayne Robinson Grossman. Performers should prepare two songs for their audition to be sung without accompaniment.  more

The annual Hightstown Harvest Festival returns on October 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hightstown Memorial Park, North Main Street in downtown Hightstown. 

Free to attend, the festival features food trucks, live music, autumn attractions, and more. Held rain or shine, this is the festival’s 17th celebration. The business district will also be decorated to fit the fall season and to encourage visitors to shop local and support small businesses. Crafters, great food, and children’s rides will make this a fun event for the whole family!

Learn the basics of self-defense in this multi-session, in-person, activity-based program presented by Penn Medicine Princeton Health and held at the Community Wellness Center at the Hamilton Area YMCA. For $40 person, women will be led through RAD Women, a nationally certified defense course that includes safety drills, muscle memory work, physical defense techniques, and sensory awareness techniques. This course is open to all, regardless of age or physical fitness levels. Dress in sneakers and comfortable clothing.  more

When the temperature begins to drop in New Jersey after a long, hot summer, some people might think to reach for a glass of hard cider. What they may not know is that Burnt Mills Cider Company is serving up some of the best cider around and they are also proudly based in Bedminster. more

Astrid Bayiha in “Angela Davis une histoire des Etats-Unis.” (Photo by Jeremie Levy). 

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the 11th edition of Seuls en Scène French Theater Festival, which will take place September 9 to 23 at venues across the University’s campus. Most performances will be in French, and several will include English subtitles. All are free and open to the public.  more

The Hun School of Princeton welcomes Sean Costello to the position of co-director of athletics following the retirement of Bill Quirk. Costello will collaborate with Tracey Arndt in leading the Athletic Program for Middle and Upper School students and will coach girls’ varsity basketball. Costello previously served as associate director of athletics at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and as a general manager of Maplezone Sports Institute in Aston, Pa.  more