Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Dr. Levy has been a guest blogger for our blogs for over two years. Our museum is one of the meeting places for the Popular Astronomy Club, and we include space toys and telescopes among our collection. Dr. Levy has discovered more comets than anyone alive; he is also a Shakespeare scholar and noted author.
Skyward for December 2020
David H. Levy
The night of December 17, 1965 changed my life. That was the night I began a search for comets that this goes on to this day. It represents the second most important decision I have ever made, to begin a visual search for comets and exploding stars that are called novae. The first most important decision, of course, was to marry Wendee. Both decisions made my life what it is today.
Usually in Montreal, November, December, and April are the cloudiest months. Therefore I wasn’t counting on a clear sky that evening. After a Friday evening dinner with my family, I walked over to my friend Tom Meyer’s home and we visited for a while. Afterwards, around 11 pm. I took Clipper, our little beagle, for a walk towards the summit of the hill on which we lived.
It was during this little stroll with Clipper that things began to change. Towards the west there appeared to be some lightening of cloud cover, and soon after, clearing. Within about 15 minutes large swaths of sky were showing some stars. I couldn’t believe it. I turned toward home, and for a few seconds Clipper and I enjoyed a tug-of-war until he gave up and walked back home with me. Just before midnight on the 17th, I began my first comet hunting and I scanned the sky between Pollux and Castor, in the constellation of Gemini. The clouds returned after that.
As the famous ABC news reporter Jules Bergman said on the launch of Telstar, the world’s first active telecommunications satellite in 1962, “And it all began today.” For me, it surely did. In December 2020, fifty-five years will have passed, and I still am searching almost every clear night. There are 22 comets roaming about the solar system with the Levy name on them, plus one named Jarnac. Jarnac Observatory is the name of our observing site here in Vail, Arizona and is named in turn after my grandfather’s cottage, Jarnac, near Ripon, Quebec. An object was found and automatically reported by Tom Glinos, who once had an automated telescope here. Because he incorrectly identified the object as an asteroid, when it turned out that it sported a tail and was reclassified as a comet, it was named, following the rules, for the observatory, not for the discoverer. Thus, my total is now 23 comets. If my grandfather knew that his beloved cottage (and later observatory) now had a comet with its name on it, he would be dancing all over heaven. It is a happy story that still goes on today.
"I have owned and used Pegasus, an 8-inch diameter Cave reflector, for
more than half a century. In this picture, camper Andy Bauman and I
are pointing Pegasus to project the Sun, at the Adirondack Science
Camp, in 1966.I used this telescope on my first night of comet hunting
in 1965. Photograph by Joe Howard."
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Greetings from a cold, blustery November Day. Had I not so many friends and family members this month, it would be my favorite time of year. I love the cool crisp winds of autumn, Halloween, the promise of Christmas. Too much sadness has eroded some of that love and anticipation. With the rest of the world, I live day to day and pray for our peace and safety.
The silver lining is we work, and we work on the museum. We made a lot of progress last week, moving for the third and last time 3000+ law books and literature books. With the help of our friends Jeff, Ron, and Daniel, and my husband Dino, we got it done. Next, I’ll start organizing our doll book and doll-history related library in alphabetical order. Even our law books have doll connections; many deal with criminal and contract cases involving dolls, toys, and stuffed animals. Many of our books are over 100 years old; the law library was a gift to me from our former chief judge. I used them in the courthouse library for many years before that; my PostIt notes and bits of paper are still in many of them.
Next, I would like to work on vignettes in our small cases, one focusing on Polly Mann and her dolls, another a doll house setting for American girls. I also want to do a large doll house setting for my antiques, in honor of The Dolls’ Christmas.
Hopefully, we will open near Valentine’s Day, so I plan a display of Kewpies and vintage Valentine’s, dedicated to my friend and noted author, the late Mary Hillier.
This museum is very eclectic, and pushes the definition of what dolls are, and what they mean to us. Our themes are both serious and playful. We represent prehistory, with museum replicas of Neanderthal personal goddess figures and totems, Venus of Willendorf figures, Ushabti, ancient Greek, Celtic, Pre-Columbian, Roman figures and other museum replicas. These ancient figures were the favorites of Sigmund Freud, who amassed a large collection.
We have over 65 doll houses and numerous shadow boxes, from all scales, including play scale Barbie homes.
Our toy collection includes action figures, folk toys, computer games, board games, cars, robots, mechanical toys, tin toys, Pez, Fisher Price and many more, all fund and colorful. We also feature the paper airplane and paper model collection of Dr. Roald Tweet.
Also at this time, I am finishing the second proofs for my latest book, Thinking outside the Doll House, a Memoir. Look for it soon, probably early 2121,
I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving from us at American
Sunday, November 8, 2020
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
This past week, as I puttered through setting up my new nonprofit museum, and corrected a set of proofs for one of my books, I learned that my mentor, friend, teacher, former boss, colleague, Dr. Roald Tweet, had died suddenly.
Once again, death has touched me, the 6th devastating death in two and one half years. I’ve joked gallows style that the Angel of Death walks with me, even to Dr. Tweet. We laughed, but this was too close. The bottom dropped out of my world.
I met Dr. Tweet as an English major at the small college where he chaired the English Dept. and taught. I worked in the department, and studied there. I drank coffee before class with Dr. Tweet, often his wife, Margaret, and other members of the faculty and student body. That began in 1979. Off and on, I’ve been drinking coffee with him and Margaret for 41 years, barring the times I was away in graduate school.
We kept in touch, and he often brought souvenirs, usually a doll for the future museum, from his many travels. When I taught, he came to my class and taught my students about folk toys, and how writing could be fun. When we did Moby Dick, he not only reviewed notes with me, he borrowed a real harpoon, and brought it to my class, hefting its considerable weight as he strode down the hall of my college.
Dr. Tweet always supported me in my writing, writing references, reading manuscripts, getting me little jobs to write poetry, encouraging me to enter poetry contests, defending me against office politics. He helped me when I looked for jobs, and I was honored to be on the radio show about writing he and Senator Don Wooten hosted, “Scribbled.” Other times, my students and I were invited to read on other radio programs he hosted. Sometimes, Dr. Tweet would ask me to fill in for him and give a lecture when he had a conflict. In school, and while I taught at my alma mater, I published a couple of small articles, and was the recipient of the coveted Tweet Awards, small figurines Dr. Tweet carved, one a rooster, another a duck.
He was a man of many talents, whittling and carving just two. He gave me a necklace called “Gifts bearing Greeks!” and hand carved earrings. One Christmas, I got a tiny unicorn rocking horse he had carved; he knew I loved unicorns. He whittled an arm for one of my antique dolls that had lost hers. When I was still a student, we went on department lunches, field trips, flew kites on the lawn, and attended hog roasts for special occasions with others from the Humanities Departments. Sometimes, we met in his Victorian home, full of handicrafts and antiques. I made doll clothes and dolls for his youngest daughter, and spent many happy hours there and at occasions we attended like the Henry Farnam dinner.
I have enough memories to fill a book. He was even my late Uncle George’s professor. In recent years, I got up early to get to Hardees by 7 am to meet him and Margaret for coffee. We talked about books and writing; sometimes I wrote reviews for him to use on the air. He was helping me to find an agent, and he contributed ideas and research to my current book, and to other writing projects. He brought me poetry magazines to keep my current on what was in.
His sense of humor was legendary. He once attended our 12th Night Medieval Banquet dressed as a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. He made a sign to hang over my desk in the English Department that read “Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth, if it’s OK with the rest of you guys!” Once, in American Renaissance, he handed me a false final exam, then after I started writing, he came up and asked if I wanted the “real test.” I earned 99/100 on that exam; the only comment read, “99, because nobody’s perfect!” On the last day of that class he brought in a box of Whitman’s Sampler candy to class, with green Easter grass glued to the top for, The Leaves of Grass.
We also had a good time one summer at Disney World, when we ran into Dr. Tweet and his family. What were the chances!?!
Besides all these things, Dr. Tweet and Margaret where there
for my wedding, and for the funerals of my mother, father, aunt, and
uncle. While I was in
We spent several Christmas Days with him and his family, at dinners they hosted at their church.
Around ten days ago, I talked to him for the last time. He was upbeat, cracking jokes, and encouraging. He sounded good, and we were trying to figure out if Hardees would have dine in seating soon, or where else to go for coffee. Covid 19 curtailed our fun, but we kept in touch, and we checked on each other.
The Epigraph from Whitman is from one of his favorite
poems. Because of him, I loved
Whitman. As luck would have it, my late
cousin, a poet and literature professor in
For his many talents, Dr. Tweet became a celebrity. He has been remembered in many types of media this week, by many people. Many claim to have known him well, but it’s funny, in 41 years that I knew him, he never mentioned most of them to me. All I know is that I couldn’t be what I am today without him, and we had coffee together for over 40 years.