ANOTHER SIG UPDATE: BOLLI PHOTOGRAPHY GROUP

On Friday, November 15th,  the BOLLI Photography Group had our final meeting of the term.  We viewed and discussed the photographs members had submitted for review on a large screen in the Green Room.   Some of the submissions were from our fall field trip to Mt. Auburn Cemetery led by Helen Abrams while others were of sporting events, autumn scenes, travel shots, and family events.

On December 13, the group went on another field trip, this time to the MFA where Joanne Fortunato says “we had the privilege of having Karen Haas, a curator at the museum who is responsible for researching and putting exhibits together.  She gave us a tour of the Howard Greenberg Collection of photography.  It was a wonderful exhibit, and Karen was fabulous!”

According to the museum’s website, the Howard Greenberg Collection of 447 photographs by 191 artists “includes iconic European masterpieces from the 1920s and 1930s as well as a wide range of socially conscious works—powerful visual testimonies of Depression-era America, politically engaged street photography, exceptional examples of wartime photojournalism, and poignant depictions of African American life from the 1930s through the Civil Rights movement. Integrating these photographs into the MFA’s collection allows the Museum to explore fresh narratives, bring new insights and perspectives to current issues, and celebrate photography as an art form as well as a social, cultural and political force.”

Organizers: Helen Abrams, Karen Haas, Joanne Fortunato and Jennifer Coplon.

The group’s meetings are a fun way for members to gather and demonstrate their skills as well as subjects they enjoy photographing.  And, of course, the field trips are always memorable!

The BPG is opened to all who enjoy photography.  Our next meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 17th, 12:30 – 2 pm in the Green Room.

 

A SENIOR MOMENT FROM DONNA: GIVE US A BREAK

GIVE US A BREAK

by Donna Johns

Stuck in the house waiting for a repair, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.  He was, as I expected, clear and to the point and very “lawyer-y.”  He kept flipping through that 400 page report to verify his answers.  And he looked a tiny bit annoyed. I’m sure he would have preferred to be fishing, or reading, or just about anything that did not involve being thanked for his service and attacked for his findings. They mercifully gave him (and me) a break after 90 minutes.

Returning to the television, the talking heads were analyzing his performance:

“He seems confused.”

“He keeps shuffling papers.”

“Is he ill?”

As I am wont to do when confronted with idiot talking heads, I began to yell at them. “Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he’s hard of hearing! He’s not sick. He’s just 75. Give him a break!” I watched the second morning session, paying closer attention to the man. Sure enough, when asked a question, Mueller tilted his head to hear better. He probably has one good ear and one that is trashed. We see it at BOLLI all the time.

Shuffling papers?  He was very precise when he found the relevant portions of his report.  He just took his sweet time finding them. At his age, many of us can’t find our keys, eyeglasses, or the shopping list we wrote last night. I thought it was admirable that he actually found anything in those two massive binders.

That got me thinking of all the criticisms we face as we age. Our children are chronic offenders but it comes from just about everyone. Rather than shrugging off our little idiosyncrasies, there is a tendency to try to fix us, as if we were broken.  Nope, not broken…just different. Raise your hand if any of these ring a bell.

  • “I got stuck behind a Q-Tip driving 20 miles per hour. Why are they still on the road?”  Answer: How much damage can I do going 20 miles per hour? Also…need groceries.  Also, what’s your hurry?
  • ” Can’t you hear me? Why don’t you pay attention?” Answer: You mumble. And frankly, if you can’t speak up, why do I have to pay             attention?
  • ”Why are you taking so long to (fill in the blank)?” Answer:  After a lifetime of hurrying, I’m enjoying a more leisurely pace. Also, how            important is (fill in the blank) anyway?

Aging is a daily challenge, and most of us do it with dignity. Perhaps the young-uns need to appreciate our uniqueness and quit diagnosing our “shortcomings.” Move on…nothing to fix here!

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

MEMOIR FROM DENNIS: TWO SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS

Two Special Friendships

 by Dennis Greene

My life is richer because of two women whose paths I was lucky enough to have crossed. They are both smart, strong and beautiful, and, like a lot of us, are currently dealing with the undeserved curveballs life throws our way.

Recently,  my friend Hunter lost the sight in one eye due to a sudden arterial occlusion or “eye stroke.”  She notified her legions of friends of the loss, informed us that the doctors said the damage was probably total and irreversible, and reminded us gamely that she still had one eye that was working fine.  Hunter is tough, well-grounded,  indominable.  Though we have never met and have only spoken on the phone once, I consider her one of my best friends.  I met Hunter through Judy.

Judy was my first girlfriend.  She was tall, pretty, smart, and a very nice person.  I met her in high school in 1960 when she was scooping ice cream at Gulf Hill Dairy.  We dated pretty regularly during my senior year,  but I am not sure how to characterize the relationship. At the time, I had nothing to compare it with, but it probably fell into the “semi-serious” category.  I do know that, when I went away to college, I expected to see her at Thanksgiving, but, shortly before the holiday, I received a “Dear John” letter.  Judy told me she had started dating Dave and we wouldn’t be seeing one another anymore.

Dave was one of the most popular guys in my class, one of the best all-around athletes in the school, my teammate on the basketball team, and a good guy. He was also tall, movie star handsome, and destined to become a Marine officer.  I was glad for Judy but a little sad for me. But, because of her, I had much more experience with the opposite sex than I had had a year earlier. And I was strangely proud to have received my first “Dear John” letter. It proved I was in the game.

Judy and Dave have been married more than half a century.

Twenty years later, my wife and I attended my 20th high school reunion.  As we stood in line to get our name tags, Judy and Dave walked in.  Eileen had heard me tell high school stories and was interested in meeting them.  As I made the introductions,  I realized, from Judy’s expression, that she had no idea who I was.  It was an awkward moment that Eileen seems to take some joy in mentioning, while noting that most women remember their prom dates.

Over the years following that reunion, I kept in touch with Dave and Judy, and when we discovered Facebook, Judy and I began playing Lexulous (a scrabble type game) on line.  At some point, she suggested that I might also like to play with her friend Hunter, a woman she had met through their mutual love of rescued Border collies. For a number of years, the three of us played lots of games.

Then, sadly, Dave began suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, and Judy stopped playing, devoting all of her time to caring for him.  She was a talented artist, but she gave up all her woodcarving and most of her photography activities. It made me think about how much caregivers have to forgo in order to care for a loved one. Such caregivers deserve much more appreciation than they often receive.

Hunter and I have continued to play online games for over eight years now.  According to the Lexulous site, we have played over 3,000 games. The site makes it easy for players to chat, and ,through that online interaction,  I have come to know quite a bit about Hunter.  She loves dogs and horses and always has several.  She has told me stories about her parents and her children, and she is outspoken about her political beliefs. In fact, she is outspoken and effusive about most everything.

Hunter was not as open and forthcoming at first, but, at some point, she expressed a very liberal opinion and mentioned that I probably would disagree with her.  As an educated, Jewish Democrat with atheist leanings, born in Newark, N. J.,  I wasn’t used to having anyone assume I was politically conservative. When I asked her why she thought I would disagree, she told me that she just assumed I was a conservative, religious Republican who belonged to a yacht club because I had been friends with Judy and Dave.  I told her she had me pegged wrong, and, since then, Hunter has been much more free-wheeling when it comes to expressing her opinions. Her recent Trump posts have been especially entertaining.  I never noted that these two friends were at such different ends of the political spectrum.

Hunter called me once for legal advice when a used truck she had purchased in Texas broke down about 150 miles from the dealer, but all of our other contact has been through Facebook. Recently, I told her that I had added her to my bucket list and planned to visit her in Florida. I am going to do that sometime soon.

When we look back on our lives, the things that shine are the friendships we have been lucky enough to share.  For me, Hunter and Judy are two that shine the brightest.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  He has engaged in memoir writing since joining BOLLI.

MEDICAL MOMENTS WITH STEVE: WHO KNOWS? TWO CANCERS

TWO CANCERS

by Steve Goldfinger

The patient had turned 50 and was in perfect health when she went for her first colonoscopy. There, at the very last segment of bowel to be examined, was a small cancer growing in the region of her appendix. Surgery to remove it was performed the next week. Seventeen months later, she was dead from metastases throughout her body.

At age 55, my father noted constipation. Within weeks, he was unable to have a bowel movement. As a physician who was well aware of his own body, he could recognize each wave of peristalsis curving in his abdomen and then stopping abruptly where his colon met his rectum. He told me these things the night he brought home the films from the barium enema he’d gone through that day. Without doubt, a cancer completely obstructed his bowel. The next day, he signed in to the local community hospital, spared the foreign intern by cavalierly writing his own history into the chart, and called upon his surgical buddy “Chippy” to do the operation. No need for a major medical center or a renowned surgeon to take care of things. And Chippy was pretty good at what he did.

My mother and I sat in the waiting room, she in her thoughts and I in mine.  A third year medical student having just completed a three month exposure to surgery, I expected the worst. When Chippy finally came in, I saw him smile. “No lymph nodes,” he exclaimed, “it all grew in.”  My father lived another 32 years with nary a bowel complaint.

“It all grew in.”

Just what signal from the interior of my father’s bowel had directed those cancer cells inward?  And with such force as to not allow any to escape in the other direction. Was it anything akin to the earth’s magnetic field that directs each salmon to its personal spawning rivulet? Impossible. Swallows travel 6,000 miles to return to Capistrano to resettle in their cliff nests each year. Instinct, memory, wind currents, and who knows what else. Nothing that seems to pertain to a cancer cell.

More likely, my father’s cancer cells didn’t all home inward. Perhaps some escaped from his colon but could not thrive in the outer world. Possibly, they found the soil of whatever tissue they reached inhospitable, not letting them set up shop and multiply. Or perhaps his cancer cells, unlike those of my patient,  were unable to secrete a fertilizing substance that would allow them to dig deep and flourish in foreign lands.

Questions begging for answers.

Who knows?

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

MEDICAL MOMENTS WITH STEVE: WHO KNOWS? NUX VOMICA

WHO KNOWS?  NUX VOMICA

by Steve Goldfinger

When we made early morning rounds on the open ward, moving from bedside to bedside, I listened carefully to the resident in charge as he tended to each woman. Whenever he learned that one was suffering from abdominal discomfort—be it heartburn, cramps, gas or constipation—he would always prescribe a dose of something called nux vomica. A strange name, I thought. But even stranger, it often seemed to work, as we would find out at our next visit.

A year later, it was I who was the resident overseeing rounds, trailed by two interns. And it was I who was routinely prescribing nux vomica for belly distress. After a week or so, one of my interns threw a question at me that I had never thought about. “What is nux vomica?” he asked. When I looked it up, I couldn’t believe the answer: strychnine!

Only now, in recalling my long-ago reaction of horror and embarrassment, have I done a bit more research on nux vomica. Yes, it is indeed derived from the highly poisonous seeds of strychnos nux-vomica, a medium-sized deciduous tree native to India. Strychnine poisoning is a ghastly way for a life to end. Within 20 minutes of swallowing it, a person develops intense muscle spasms that cause gruesome facial contortions. Soon, every muscle of the body is activated into stiffening contractions that progress to writhing convulsions. The backbone arches taut. High fever adds to the agony.  After two hours, mercifully, breathing ceases.

The lethality of strychnine has hardly gone unnoticed by writers, including Agatha Christie (employing it to murder characters in three of her mysteries), Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King, and Alexandre Dumas. Strychnine killed Norman Bates’ mother and her lover in Psycho. And in Cape Fear, it ended the life of Sam Bowden’s dog.

So what about the women with belly cramps we were treating with nux vomica? Well, we were using an exceedingly diluted preparation that had made its way into our hospital’s pharmacy back in the 1960s. I doubt that it is there today, but one can still obtain nux vomica online from a host of vendors—herbalists, homeopaths, naturalists, and the like. They promote it as a remedy for digestive disorders but also for ailments affecting the circulation, eyes, and lungs as well as migraine, erectile dysfunction, and menopausal distress. Of course, there is not a single scientific study showing that nux vomica does any of these things.

So, what about the women on that ward?  Maybe strychnine, in miniscule dosage, actually did suppress their intestinal spasms.  Maybe it blocked the specific nerve fibers carrying pain to their brains. Or maybe it was simply a placebo effect that brought them relief.

In the absence of studies, it’s easy to dismiss all the claims made for nux vomica. But, of course, for the very same reason, it’s a real question–who knows?

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

NOVEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: MY JUNK DRAWERS

MY JUNK DRAWERS

by Lydia Bogar

The junk drawer in my kitchen holds the tools that are not down cellar in my pink tool bag. Screwdrivers, both flat and Philips, a blue hammer, green florist tape, black electrical tape, twist ties, elastic bands. And then there are the Band-Aids, the razor blades, the box of matches from the Goat Island Grill in Georgetown SC, night light, broken night light, stapler, 3 boxes of staples, scissors, my Stanley tape measure and a carpenter’s pencil, a souvenir from my 2015 kitchen reno.

The junk drawer next to my bed holds pens and pencils, Sudoku puzzles, an extra pair of glasses, Chapstick, bookmarks, small pads of paper, more Band-Aids, Mass cards, hand cream, mechanical pencil refills, flashlight, 2015 Ellis Island Membership card, TV remote, Halls’ Lozenges, face cream, paperclips, and a miniature map of the Manhattan subway system.

What do these drawers have to say?  That I’m a little OCD and that there’s an obvious difference between the private drawer in my room and the larger, public drawer in my kitchen. Strange and personal, but under control.  After all, these contents are not on my bureau, kitchen counter, or the floor.

I think of my friend Theresa whose life resembles a junk drawer, one that she cannot unpack without professional support. So many trials.  So much self-destruction.  Not in the same ballpark as the items in my drawers that I call junk.

I have now consolidated the boxes of staples—some have been reunited with the staple gun while others have joined the stapler in my desk.  The loose razor blades are back in the box. The twist ties and broken night light have been tossed.  And the tape measure is back in the car, where I was compelled to purge the glove box and the console compartment.

I am thankful for my junk spaces–that I can unpack at will.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of Writers Guild, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

 

MEET OUR MEMBERS: “ACCIDENTAL” ARTIST BETTY BRUDNICK

“ACCIDENTAL” ARTIST BETTY BRUDNICK

By Betty  Brudnick and Sue Wurster

BOLLI member and fine artist Betty Brudnick

 

At BOLLI, our membership includes those from all proverbial walks of life, and yet, we all seem to be very much on the same path—the one leading to personal enrichment.  Betty Brudnick is no exception.  I asked Betty what brought her to BOLLI, and this is what she said.

“My husband Irv and I had been members at HILR (Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement), and at lunch one day, a friend said to us, ‘You know, there’s someone at Brandeis I think you two should meet.  His name is Bernie Reisman.  He is thinking of starting a similar program and would really benefit from any help you could give him.’  So, we met with Bernie, and it wasn’t long before BALI (Brandeis Adult Learning Institute as it was called then) was born.  With the help of other seekers, we built the foundation of BALI, reached out to other retired people, and attracted over 300 to our first informational meeting.  It was an exceedingly hot day, the air conditioning quit, and the power went out—and yet, our overflow audience stayed.  We began courses, twice a week, at the Gosman Athletic Facility taught by friends and other knowledgeable volunteers.  

Discovering that she is truly a BOLLI “original” was pretty exciting–particularly with our 20th anniversary approaching.  But what about your art work? I asked.

In addition to Betty’s career as a social worker, community activist, political junkie, and member of several boards, much of her time and energy has also revolved, of course, around being a wife, a mother, and a daughter to ailing parents.  Art had never really been part of the picture.

“Except for starting to study piano when I was 7 (which continued through my college years,” she says, “I would say that the left side of my brain was dominant.”  She goes on to add that, “My interest in the arts didn’t become apparent until middle age when an accident incapacitated me for several months.  At that point,  I began to examine my life.   And I had an epiphany.”

“I realized that I had spent my life focused on others’ needs, and now, it was time to focus on my own.”  She had always liked creating with her hands—knitting, doing macramé, weaving—but, other than doodling in her notebooks when bored at school, she had never considered drawing or painting.  So, she decided to see if she might have any artistic talent of that sort and enrolled in a drawing class at the MFA.  She loved it, and soon moved on to  a watercolor class, then art lessons in Gloucester, and, finally, working with a watercolor atelier at the Radcliffe Seminars.  “Those were such wonderful years,” she muses.  “Learning, painting, showing work with inspirational artists.”

While she did a good deal of watercolor painting over those years, she continued, of course, to focus on others.  After developing a job bank and doing other projects at the Council on Aging in Malden, Betty says she found herself wanting to explore other forms of creativity as well.

“It seems that nature hates a vacuum,” she indicates, “and so, while I was shopping at the farmers’ market in Sarasota, I stopped at a booth that had some interesting pieces of glass.”  Her conversation with the artist led to an invitation to try her hand at fusing glass herself, and “I found my new avocation.”  Her tutor was a young Greek minister who was also pursuing an advanced degree in theology which, she says, led to  “lots of interesting discussions  while I learned to cut, shape, and fuse glass.”  She soon discovered and joined the Southwest Florida Glass Alliance, a large community of ardent glass collectors in the area, and began to explore both the history of the glass art movement and its artists in this country.  “I was even invited to the homes of many collectors.  How could I resist?”  Ultimately, in addition to doing her own glass work, she began collecting pieces by Italian, Japanese, and American glass artists.

“As far as I know, there were no artists in my family,” Betty says.  “Architects and musicians, yes, but no painters.  My children’s talents lie in other directions—not visual art.  It’s too soon to tell, but one of my granddaughters is an art history major!”

Personally, I can add that, having taught two of those granddaughters, I know that one is a highly accomplished pianist herself.  So, clearly, the piano lessons Betty embarked on when she was 7 tapped into her artistic side–and remain firmly ensconced in the family gene pool.

Overall, Betty indicates, “It’s been rewarding to watch BOLLI’s growth to a year-round community.  Irv would have been so pleased.”  It’s been equally as rewarding to dive into painting and glass work, and she looks forward to whatever avocation comes next.

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

There’s nothing I like more than getting to know the people around me even better!  I hope you’ll leave a comment for Betty in the box below.  It means a lot to each of our profiled members to hear from others.   And I’d love to hear from you about you or other BOLLI members we can all get to know better.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BOLLI JOURNAL 2020: Now Accepting Submissions!

THE 2020 BOLLI JOURNAL IS NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS!

Yes, the next volume featuring the creative work of our BOLLI membership is underway, and we’re looking forward to seeing your work!

Submission Process

 BOLLI members may submit up to four pieces of writing and/or visual art/craft work (total) for consideration.  (Nor more than three per member will be published.) 

Writing: Any BOLLI member may submit original unpublished fiction, creative nonfiction (including memoir, topical essay, nature, travel, sports, food writing, etc.) poetry, or playwriting.  Please double space and number each page of your work, but do not write your name on your manuscript/s. Include a word count below the title of each piece being submitted.  (Items not to exceed 1000 words.)

Visual Art/Craft:  Any BOLLI member may submit original, unpublished high resolution photographs. High resolution images of original drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, woodworking, etc. may also be submitted.  Photos must not be compressed, sent in “original” or “actual size,” (at least 300 ppi or pixels per inch), and in the sRGB color space.

Sending Materials:  Work should be submitted via email although hard copy may be left with Lily Gardner for scanning and sending via email.  (No particular computer program is preferred for submission, but all photography should be sent in high resolution.)  Indicate “Journal Submission” in the subject line of your email.  Material should be provided as attachments. Send to the editor at: susanlwurster@gmail.com.

Your submission will be acknowledged within a week of its receipt. If you do not receive such acknowledgment, contact editor Sue Wurster at: susanlwurster@gmail.com

Editorial Review:  All material will be reviewed (as “blind” submissions on a “rolling” basis) by The Journal committee:  Managing/Production Editor Sue Wurster and Art Editor Joanne Fortunato; Helen Abrams, Margie Arons-Barron, Lydia Bogar, Betsy Campbell,  Miriam Goldman, Dennis Greene, Donna Johns, Marjorie Roemer, Caroline Schwirian, and Larry Schwirian,  Genre editors will review, make suggestions for improvement, and present items to the full committee for consideration.

The editor will respond to members with suggestions from the committee for improving submitted work.  While we will be reviewing work on a rolling basis, final decisions regarding items to be included in this volume will be made after the September 30 submission deadline when all items will be considered for the volume as a whole.

Deadline for Submission: SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THE PONY RIDE by Barry David

THE PONY RIDE

By Barry David

The ring was oval-shaped, and we stood about midway on one side watching the ponies.  It was a glorious fall day. We were in no rush.

My granddaughter held my hand.  She had not yet decided about having a ride; it’s scary to try something new.  So we waited as she carefully appraised each pony as it passed by with its mounted child.

There were brown ones and black ones, some with mixed colors, and others with patterns.

I wondered what she was thinking.   Was she intimidated by them, simply afraid, or was she considering what color pony she’d like to ride?  What goes through a four-year-old’s head?  Lots!

“Would you like a ride?” I asked her.

“Yes,” was her reply, and there was no question about it.

“But I don’t want to ride on a big pony.”

“Okay,” I assured her.

“But I don’t want a small pony.”

“Oh,” I mumbled.  Where was this outing going?

In silence, we watched a few more go by and then, she said, “Papa, I want to ride on a medium pony.”

“Okay!”

A medium pony.  Not too big or too small.  Moderation.  And, given the times we are in as a nation, not too far left or right.

The extremes we deal with each day can make most of us uncomfortable whether in a pony ring or in politics.  Whether we are four or eighty-four, white or black, male or female, conservative or progressive, we are all simply part of the human web that connects us.

When faced with complex choices, compromise most often points the way to a lasting solution.   Sounds pretty basic, and it is.  Not rocket science, if egos are parked at the door.

Too many of our leaders need to get off their donkeys or elephants and mount a ring full of medium ponies.  If they just go on pony ride, they will help us all get “there” faster and “fairer.”  If not, we need to send them home on their donkeys or elephants, never to return.  We can’t allow any leader’s ego and dated ideology to screw up what can be a good pony ride for America.

And, oh, yes!  The pony ride—on a medium, light brown and white pony—was a great success.

BOLLI “Matters” contributor Barry David

Barry says that he and his wife Liz began taking courses at BOLLI “almost from the beginning while winding down my career in the computer field as GM of ADP.  Love taking subjects that I’ve not had exposure to before.  Being snowbirds, we’re delighted that spring semester is build the five-week offerings.  BOLLI has been and remains an important part of our life.”

 

 

MEET OUR MEMBERS: Howard Barnstone, Woodworker Extraordinaire

HOWARD BARNSTONE

Woodworker Extraordinaire

At five years old, Howard Barnstone was given a toy lathe which he used to make turnings out of balsa wood.  After that, his toys of choice extended to Lincoln Logs, Lego, and “girds and panels” sets.  And so began his lifelong interest in woodworking.  In his high school wood shop course, he made a chess board out of oak and cherry squares and then moved on to creating wooden skateboards—totally ahead of his time.  At U. Mass. Amherst, he enrolled in a woodworking art course in order to finish the wooden clock he had been working on at the end of high school—even the gears were cut out of mahogany.

When he was about 27, Howard took an open night class in woodworking at Brookline High where he was making a cherry coffee table.  He was planning to finish it up during the last class, but he was invited to another event being held on the same evening.   “I was torn about which way to go,” he says.  “I finally decided to go to the event and leave early.  I figured, that way, I could also make the class.”  That ended up being a good decision.  At the event, he met Gayle Ehrlich, his wife (and fellow BOLLI member)—but was also able to finish his project.

Howard chose to follow a path in the business world but says that he can see a connection between business and furniture building and design.  “I used to put together merger and acquisition deals for a financial information company.  Building furniture is similar to complex business deals in that both involve many interlocking pieces that need to not only stand alone but also function within a complicated over-arching concept.”

All along the way, Howard managed to find time for open shop courses at the local high schools.  He built a variety of tables for his family in the process.   Now that his children are grown and he has retired from the business world, Howard says that he is pursuing woodworking and furniture building and design in an even more in-depth way.  “My goal is to refine my abilities and make great furniture for my own pleasure,” he says, “enjoying it for its craft and mastery.”

Howard says he mostly designs and builds tables and cabinets, particularly in the Shaker style which “I like for its clean lines, efficiencies, and practicality.”  He says he also admires the work of both Thomas Moser and Stickley.

Shaker night tables (in progress) and boot benchh

During the spring of 2017, Howard took the three-month full-time intensive furniture course at the North Bennett Street School which he enjoyed immensely.  “We completed two full projects—a Shaker night stand and a cupboard on a stand,” he says.  “We spent extensive time with both hand and machine tools.  We also focused on dove-tail, mortise and tenon, and other aspects of joinery as well as wood choice and properties.”  Since then, he has also completed Peter Thibeault’s course on The Fine Art of Furniture.

At this point, Howard is focused on the next steps in his journey with furniture.  “I look forward to better applying design concepts and principles,” he says, “learning about the evolution of historical furniture design and modern approaches to the manipulation of wood products to achieve certain furniture design aesthetics.”

In terms of future work, Howard says that “Like authors feel they have a certain number of books in them,  I have a certain number of furniture pieces in me–and it is up to me, like the author, to produce, them by putting in the hard work. Time will tell.”

Finally, Howard says that it doesn’t really matter what he is making as long as it is engaging him. “I think of myself as being the furniture version of a gentleman farmer.  I just get extreme joy from the process of working with wood.”

*

BOLLI Member and Furniture Artist Howard Barnstone

Howard says about his BOLLI experience, “I have been taking classes at BOLLI or the past four years and have enjoyed the quality of the teachers, courses, and the camaraderie  of learning together.”

 

 

Is there a BOLLI member you’d like to see profiled in BOLLI Matters? Contact Sue Wurster via email:  susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER CHEF’S CORNER: SWEDISH MEATBALL STROGANOFF

SWEDISH MEATBALL STROGANOFF

from John Rudy

I found this recipe in an old cooking magazine in the ‘70s.  I make plain meatballs (lean hamburger, some salt and one small finely-chopped onion).  I then broil the meatballs until they are medium rare; not more than about 6 minutes turning once.  I usually make them quite small, smaller than a golf ball, maybe 3/4ʺ.  The meatballs can be frozen to be used later.

The sauce recipe is sufficient for about 1½ pounds of meat.

By using lite cream cheese and sour cream, the calories are reduced and the taste seems to be the same.

Stroganoff Sauce

2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (10½ oz can)

1½ cup Milk

6 oz  Cream cheese (softened)  (I use the “lite”)

¼ cup   Catsup

¼ tsp  Garlic Powder

1 pt  Sour cream (I use the “lite”)

Mix together in large saucepan (except for the sour cream);  warm, but do not boil. Stir constantly.

Add the meatballs and cook until thawed (if previously frozen) or hot.

Stir in the sour cream.

Serve over noodles or with toothpicks as an appetizer. (If the latter, there will be too much sauce.)

BOLLI Matters “Chef’s Corner” feature writer John Rud

 

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

LINES FROM LYDIA: THE OFFICE FRIDGE

THE OFFICE FRIDGE

by Lydia Bogar

During my third year in the State Fire Marshal’s Office, we moved into a new, super-efficient LEED green building. The HVAC system required constant care by a team of facilities managers and Haz Mat techs who broke into a cold sweat anytime there was a drastic weather change.  If a July day reached over one hundred degrees, the pumps crashed. If there had been an ice storm, space heaters would be brought in for the corridors and the receptionist in the main lobby.  A $43 million building.

They couldn’t regulate the temperature, but they gave us a fabulous break room. There was shelving for paper and other supplies, a copier that could scan documents into a fax or over to your desktop, and a stainless steel, 26 cubic foot Whirlpool refrigerator with an ice making freezer on top.  It was a beautiful thing to behold—especially after twelve years of having my Charleston Chews kidnapped from an only semi-cold little box fridge.

During the summer, the freezer held popsicles and ice cream.

There were birthday cakes during every season.

There were also cartons of milk and cream for those who didn’t have the grit to drink their coffee black.

There was a package of coffee beans that Dave brought back from a trip to Jamaica.

There were tomatoes and wax beans from Jake’s garden. The tomatoes vanished quickly; not so much the beans.

We had a middle shelf for “community food” that anyone could eat, but never on a Monday. That’s where the leftovers lived from our Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras potluck lunch in 2012, the leftovers that weren’t finished until Thursday because most of us were Catholic.  We could all swear like sailors, but we observed Ash Wednesday because our grandmothers were watching us from heaven.

The containers on the lower shelf were labeled with names and an occasional Haz Mat sticker.  First responders have some funky ideas about food–high carb, high fat, and as much sodium as a diner on the on the Jersey Pike at midnight.  Cold pizza is better than hot pizza, and any sandwich is considered edible until it turns green.

The vegetable bins at the bottom usually held Halloween candy, until they were cleaned out around Memorial Day, usually by me.

This retired Girl Scout Cookie Mother had reached her ultimate calling:  Office Mom.

BOLLI feature writer and Writers Guild co-chair Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

CAST MEMBERS PARTICIPATE IN SPOLIN WORKSHOP

THE POWER OF PLAY

By Sue Wurster

Aretha Amelia Sills is a Los Angeles-based writer and teacher of both improvisational theater and creative writing.  She is the granddaughter of theatre academic, educator, and acting coach Viola Spolin who is considered an important innovator in 20th century American theatre for having created directorial techniques to help actors to be focused in the present moment and to find choices improvisationally, as if in real life.   Spolin’s collection of theatre games, in fact,  has long been considered the drama teacher’s “Bible.”

Aretha’s father, Paul Sills, carried on his mother’s work and was the creator and director of  Chicago’sThe Second City, the first professional improvisation company in the U.S., and, later, the acclaimed Story Theatre.  (The three generation are pictured below. )

Aretha studied theater games for many years with her father (and has conducted workshops for his Wisconsin Theater Game Center, Bard College, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Stockholm International School, Sarah Lawrence College, and Northwestern University. She has worked with Tony and Emmy Award winning actors and has trained faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and many other schools and institutions.  She is the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works and directs The Predicament Players. She created and directs an improvised show for Enrichment Works, a non-profit bringing theater that inspires learning into Los Angeles public schools.

Aretha also gives talks on how improvisational theater in the United States emerged out of Progressive-era social reforms in Chicago, particularly Neva Boyd’s Recreational Training School at Hull House.  In her essay “The Theory of Play,” Boyd wrote: “Social living cannot be maintained on the basis of destructive ideologies – domination, hate, prejudice, greed and dishonesty. A society cannot hold together without a good way of life for all… Virtues are dynamic products and cannot be taken over, fully developed, without being continuously developed.”

Neva Boyd

Games, as both women knew, help children learn language skills, socialization, cooperation, and even morality, because all must agree on the rules and abide by them for a game to be any fun. In addition, the act of playing changes the participant.  Boyd wrote: “Play involves social values, as does no other behavior. The spirit of play develops social adaptability, ethics, mental and emotional control, and imagination.” Spolin’s work with actors was deeply rooted in Boyd’s beliefs.

In October, Aretha conducted a weekend long workshop in Watertown, which BOLLI CAST members Richard Averbuch, Sandy Clifford, Becki Norman, and Sue Wurster attended.  All four were challenged and inspired by the work.

Richard, who has acted and improvised professionally himself, says that the experience served as a vivid reminder that there is wonderful possibility and vitality involved in the act of playing games – it helps us reconnect with the child inside.  “It’s also so encouraging to see that you can gather a group of (mostly) strangers, and, within no time, you can play and explore acting with them.  It jump-starts the process of getting to know someone.  We’re asked to trust that inspiration will come from our intuitive selves and by connecting with other actors, especially when engaged in movement.

Sandy says that she found the Spolin workshop “fabulous.”  Aretha created a safe and supportive space which allowed us to take risks and have fun “playing” childhood games like Red Light, Green Light and other old favorites.   They relaxed everyone and got us into that playful childlike space.  No right or wrong was established early on.  Focus was an important theme for me, really focusing on your partner or the task you were doing helped to keep a scene real.
Aretha also kept asking us to really see what we were doing and to keep heightening it.  That exercise was fascinating because, in the heightening, things often became transformed.  It was fascinating to see that happening with other people.  I would love to take another workshop with her, Sandy said.

 For Becki, taking part in the Spolin Workshop was a fun and enlightening experience.  As someone who had never participated in a workshop like this, at first, I was wondering what I was getting myself into.  But participating in CAST and Scene-iors at BOLLI gave me the confidence to take the next step.  What was surprising to me was how much I enjoyed it and how comfortable I was.  Improv is very different from straight acting. It is so spontaneous, while “straight acting” involves a different kind of preparation and a script. Both, however, need the players to get “out of the box” and temporarily be someone entirely different from themselves. That is not easy, but I did manage, and learn, to do it.  What was special, on a personal level, is how all 16 of us, most of whom did not know each other, became a community, and, by the time we left, we were friends.  The reliance and support for each other was wonderful.  Overall, it was a rewarding experience, one that will help me in future productions.  I know I have gained more respect for those who do improvisation!

And for Sue, the workshop was a chance to reconnect with play in an entirely different way.  “When he moved to New York City to found The New Actors Workshop with Mike Nichols, Paul and his wife enrolled their younger daughter Neva at the Calhoun School where I was the drama teacher.  That year, Paul gave me the incomparable gift of enrollment in his improvisation course, which I relished, particularly for what I took away to apply to my own teaching and directing.  Working with Aretha, so many years later, was a wonderful experience, an opportunity to see Paul’s older daughter in action, carrying on the family ‘business’ with such grace, generosity of spirit, and depth of understanding.  Her father and grandmother are surely looking down at her with enormous pride.”

It was a memorable workshop and a terrific way to spend a kong weekend!

BOLLI “Matters” editor. Sue Wurster

Theatre, drama, speech, debate and all things word-centered have led many to refer to Sue as “Wurster the Wily Word Woman.”

WRITERS GUILD WELCOMES HALLIE EPHRON TO BOLLI

INTERVIEW WITH HALLIE EPHRON

Writer Hallie Ephron

by Marilyn Brooks

 It’s hard to believe, but best-selling mystery author Hallie Ephron didn’t begin her writing career until she was 40.  That’s because she came from the well-known Ephron family–her parents were Hollywood screenwriters; her three sisters were published authors; and she was intimidated, a bit afraid of competing with them.  How lucky, then, for the many readers of her 11 mystery novels and 5 works of non-fiction that she decided that perhaps she could become a writer after all.

Hallie spoke on December 12th to the Writers’ Guild, a group of BOLLI members who are working in various genres, including romance novels, memoirs, and poetry.  She emphasized that it’s never too late to write, keeping in mind that writing and being published may be two different things. That should not stop anyone from writing, she stated, but noted that “my goal was always to be published when I started writing,” and she kept at it even after several years of rejections.

Because she started later in life, “I developed bad habits,” Hallie admitted.  “I needed a different skill set than I had had before.”  She had been a teacher and a technical writer, but since non-fiction is so different from fiction, she realized that she needed to develop expertise in plotting, characterization, and settings in order to tell compelling stories.

The beginning ideas of her novels often come from real events, but Hallie emphasizes that she doesn’t write true crime books.  The murder of a friend’s brother was the idea behind one of her novels, but “I don’t want to write true crime—it’s too awful.”

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know” is how Hallie described the many lessons she learned in creating her mysteries.  She emphasized three:  1) this career is not for the faint-of-heart; 2) novels have to have shape—a beginning, a middle, and an end; and 3) drama in the novel is driven by the character’s (protagonist’s) goal, and without a meaningful goal, there is no story.

The story, the plot, is obviously important but often overlooked is the protagonist’s goal, the why of his or her determination to solve the crime.  In writing books in which the leading character is not a detective, there needs to be a meaningful objective that explains why the protagonist gets involved.  Perhaps the leading character has just come upon the body of her brother and is suddenly accused of his murder; solving that crime is, for her, an understandable goal.

Hallie outlines each novel, but as its storyline progresses, she goes back and revises it, reflecting new ideas and changes from the original.  She “rewrites, rewrites, and rewrites” as well. Next, she gives it to friends to read, then to her agent, and then to her editor.  Each one makes changes to her work.  As noted earlier, “This is not a career for the faint-of-heart.”

She describes her technique as “underwriting” rather than “overwriting,” meaning that she has to go back to add to the story rather than removing any excess.  But “writing is so personal, there’s no one way to write a novel,” she stressed.  “Do what works for you.”

Her own goal in writing is that “I want to write something to astonish the readers but that will leave them wondering how they missed the clue” that led to the solution.  Mentioning the movie, The Sixth Sense, she said that the shocking ending of that film was a perfect example of that–a sort of why I didn’t I see that on the part of the filmgoer or the reader.

In talking about her latest mystery, Careful What You Wish For, Hallie took parts of her own life, e.g., an organized wife and a husband who cannot pass a flea market without stopping.  But, she pointed out, it’s a novel, fiction as opposed to fact.  It’s not Hallie in the book, nor is it her husband, but in the hands of such a gifted writer, fiction can be stranger and more interesting than fact.

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a mystery reader, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course).  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!  My blog, published every Saturday,  is located at www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

 

 

 

SIG UPDATE: FALL TERM, 2019

SIG UPDATE:  Fall Term, 2019

AGING WITH RESILIENCE & ENTHUSIASM (Group pictured above):  The Aging with Resilience and Enthusiasm SIG had interesting and supportive discussions this semester. Gratitude was our focus for our first fall meeting. Whether you are grateful for health, friends, family, or sunny days, being grateful provides a positive perspective on life. In November, we talked about relationships—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Discussion focused on ways to maintain long-time friendships with those who may live far away. We suggested maintaining friendships that are helpful and uplifting but ending those that drain you of your own energy and enthusiasm. December’s meeting provided a chance to examine the winter blues, especially since we met the day after two days of snow. Talk focused on ways to be alone but not lonely. The benefits of the computer enable us to talk and see others. People have been suggesting interesting books, TV shows, movies and Amazon/Netflix series that make us think and laugh. (Send your suggestions to me at sandymj@gmail.com) Our next meeting is Jan. 8th when we will be discussing remaining at home, right-sizing, or joining a senior housing facility.  (Sandy Miller-Jacobs)

THE BOLLI BOOK GROUP:  The BOLLI Book Group has recently read two acclaimed but very different best-selling novels that each feature the exhilaration, pain, and confusion of teen-age relationships: Normal People by the young Irish writer Sally Rooney, in which class differences and miscommunication discomfit the young couple; and Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, which upends our expectations and forces us to consider the meaning of reality in a fictional world.  (Abby Pinard)

CAST:  Throughout the fall, CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) focused on improvisational theatre.  This was an adventure in creativity, spontaneity, group solidarity—and play.  We’ve learned about acting by engaging in theatre games used to build teamwork and enhance sensory awareness as well as listening skills.  The exercises paved the way for developing characters, environments that constitute the setting of a scene, and narratives that drive fully improvised scenes.  It was a wonderful exploration of imagination and team building—fully entertaining!   (Richard Averbuch)

POETRY WRITING GROUP:  Since its founding in February, the Poetry Writing Group has continued to meet on a monthly basis.  We have about ten members who participate in presenting their own work and joining in the discussion of everyone’s contributions.  It’s all very loose and comfortable—we don’t write on themes, there’s no designated poetry expert, some bring new works while others bring older ones.  Personally, I’ve found this all very stimulating and have written more than I otherwise would have.  (Peter Schmidt)

WRITERS GUILD:  We continued to challenge ourselves with creative writing prompts, one of which was about having a superpower.  At that meeting, we got into a discussion about some of the problems that an aging Superman might have with his superpowers: maybe sneezing and accidentally blowing away half of Manhattan, for example.  That led to a session in which we collectively brainstormed other common problems with aging that would be magnified for a superhero.  We ended the semester with a guest speaker, writer Hallie Ephron, who engaged us and an audience of other interested  BOLLI members in a wonderful talk about the art, craft, and business of writing.  Watch the Bulletin for notices of upcoming meetings and the prompts we will tackle.  (Larry Schwirian)

 

 

 

 

FROM CHEF JOHN RUDY’S CORNER: GELATO

GELATO 

By John Rudy

In Sicily and Rome, you never see the words “ice cream.”  I don’t know why gelato has not totally caught on in the United States as most Americans who visit Italy fall in love with it.  We did an important study while on our trip to Sicily and Roma, and we rated the gelatos at about 8 difference places.  The best got a 9.5 on the “Mir Scale.”  The worst got a 7 (except for one at a hotel).

Good ice cream, as we all know, has a very high fat content.  The best ice cream is about 2:1 heavy cream to milk, plus egg yolks, and sugar, which is heated until the sugar dissolves.  It is then cooled and beaten (while kept cold) which introduces air (sometimes a lot) into the mix.

Gelato starts out with a similar custard base but has a higher proportion of whole milk and a lower proportion of both cream and eggs (or it may have no eggs at all).  Over-ripe fruit should be used for the best flavor.  The mixture is churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato denser and smoother than ice cream.  Vanilla gelato contains about 90 calories and 3 grams of fat, compared to the 125 calories and 7 grams of fat in the average vanilla ice cream.

Gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, so its texture stays silkier and softer; it remains dense, though, due to the lack of air.  Because it has a lower percentage of fat than ice cream, the main flavor ingredients really shine through.  PBS traveler Rick Steves says that gelato should not be stored for a long time–preferably, in fact, for only a day or two.  So eating a lot is emphasized!

Here is a recipe for chocolate gelato, my favorite.

2¼ cups whole milk

⅓ cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar, divided

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4  extra-large egg yolks

2 tbsp coffee flavor liqueur (recommended: Kahlua)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch kosher salt

8  chocolates, roughly chopped, optional but really good

  1. Heat the milk, cream, and ½ cup sugar in a 2-quart saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the milk starts to simmer.  Add the cocoa powder and chocolate; whisk until smooth.  Pour into a heat-proof measuring cup.
  2. Place the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and very thick. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  Pour the egg and chocolate mixture back into the 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  A candy thermometer will register about 180° F.  Don’t allow the mixture to boil!
  3. Pour the mixture through a sieve (to remove any inadvertent lumps) into a bowl and stir in the coffee liqueur, vanilla, and salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and chill completely.
  4. Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Don’t over-beat.  Stir in the roughly chopped chocolate, if using, and freeze in covered containers.  Allow the gelato to thaw slightly before serving so it is not hard.

And enjoy!

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

Tech guru, inveterate traveler, and home chef John says that  it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

MEMOIR: DEAR TOM

BOLLI Writers Guild Prompt for December 5th, 2019 – Write a eulogy for a close friend or family member

DEAR TOM

by Marty Kafka

12.5.2019

Dear Tom,

You were probably not expecting to hear from me so soon.

After all, we only recently became rather intimately acquainted, and yet, I feel you are a part of my family now. I have even wondered if it could be some of your brethren running around my neighborhood, acquainting themselves with my hilly backyard.

Perhaps I met you personally in the recent past, chasing you away with a broom when you and your unruly gaggle tried to peck at my pant leg. Imagine that, right outside my back door. What Chutzpah! If that was you, I apologize; although if I think about it seriously, it is a bit too late for my indulging in sincerity. If you happen to be listening in right now or even reading this memoir from your perch in Turkey Heaven, please don’t choke on the seeds and grass you are nibbling on.

Well Tom, I am not the first to have tasted the delectable legs and crispy wings you provide.  And oh, that white breast! You probably can’t appreciate that you are so very delicious. Add home-made stuffing, mashed yams, green beans, and gravy made from your own body’s fat and giblets.  You are a Thanksgiving party in my mouth.

I could embellish your species’ reputation by claiming that you are a self-sacrificing breed, but we would both know that is a bold-faced exaggeration, like the kind our President recites frequently. Nor could I claim that I sacrificed you painlessly using a knife, gun, or other instant-kill weapon. Tom, you were frozen long before we brought you home and Karen packed your hollowed inner cavity with her family recipe for stuffing. Karen and I, as well as Julie and Stetson, feasted heartily at your expense this Thanksgiving. Thanks.

Your brethren have a long history here in Massachusetts, and as far as my family goes, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say we have always been wild about turkeys. We’ve been celebrating your kin for several generations, especially in Novembers.

We celebrate you, Tom, for your generosity of spirit, poor flying skills, and relatively low IQ (even for a bird0. You are easy prey for us human predators. The qualities you embody are endearing to us.

So, Tom, until we meet again, Good Cluck to you and your family.

Best in Health,

Marty

BOLLI Member Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMOIR FROM DENNIS: MY FRIEND ELOISE

MY FRIEND ELOISE

by Dennis Greene

             Near the end of her life, Eloise Pina was recognized and celebrated by the City of New Bedford for her lifelong leadership and dedication to the community.  Huge portraits of New Bedford’s historic personages hang in the grand meeting room of the New Bedford Public Library, and Eloise’s likeness is among them, the only woman.  At her induction ceremony, Eloise said, “I don’t know all the answers, but when I was nine years old, I met Elizabeth Carter Brooks, and she said to me, I hope you grow up to serve God and the community.”  Eloise fulfilled her idol’s hopes and then some.  She was recognized nationally as a leader of numerous church and community organization as well as a loud voice for compassionate change. But I was only 13 when I first met her, and I just knew Eloise as my mother’s friend.  Soon, she also became my friend.

When we first met, Eloise was a practical nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital. She was the de facto supervisor of her department, but because she lacked the requisite credentials, she was not officially recognized or compensated for her role. To earn extra money for her family of six, she helped my mother with housework a few days a week. I remember her as always energetic and optimistic, with a bright smile and a big laugh.

My fondest memory of Eloise is in our garage, near my weight bench. I was a freshman in high school and still only 5’ tall and 100 pounds. I loved sports and was trying to get big enough to be a high school athlete, but I wasn’t growing and was discouraged.  Eloise sometimes did bench presses with me, and, sensing my concern, she assured me that I was perfectly normal and that it was her professional opinion as a nurse that I was about to grow. I trusted her and stopped worrying. Sure enough, I grew eight inches that year and was able to become a mediocre high school basketball player who earned a varsity letter, my proudest accomplishment.

Eloise didn’t work for my mother very long because Mom convinced her to take the courses she needed to get her nursing credentials. A year later, Eloise got her promotion, and we lost a housekeeper. But she remained our dear friend.

Over the years, I heard much more of her amazing story.  As a young child, she lost her three sisters in a house fire.  The only child to survive,  she was in and out of hospitals for almost three years.

Eloise’s eldest child had a different last name and might have been born out of wedlock.  I never asked the details, but Tony and Eloise raised her with the same love and care as their other kids, and Millie grew up to become a minister.  One of Eloise’s sons was a superstar, but the other was a problem.  When his crack addict girlfriend gave birth to Eloise’s granddaughter, she drove her old car up to Dorchester, forcibly took the baby back to New Bedford, and raised her.  I don’t know about the legalities, but I do know that it was hard to stand up to Eloise when she thought her path was righteous.

Eloise was a prolific letter writer who frequently expressed her strong and well-reasoned opinions as “Letters to the Editor” in the New Bedford Standard Times.  Through her letters, she became recognized as a familiar and powerful voice in her community.  She believed that one person could make a difference, but she also knew that leading groups of voices could make change even more possible. She spent much of her life inspiring, organizing, and leading such groups.

In the late 60’s, packs of young rioters from New Bedford’s smoldering black neighborhoods were vandalizing the city’s downtown area.  Eloise and her group of churchwomen stood  in front of their beloved Grace Church, defiantly refusing to let the rioters approach.  Grace Church survived the riots unharmed.  When I asked Eloise how she had been so successful when so many other similar groups had failed, she told me it was God’s will.  But, she added with a wry smile, she had known many of the rioters since they were little boys–and they knew she still spoke to their mothers.

Eloise was one of the most devout people I have ever known, and I loved her.  I believe she loved me back–and forgave me for being a pagan.

 

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since. 

 

 

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SOCIAL MEDIA MODERATORS

SOCIAL MEDIA MODERATORS:  NOT AN EASY JOB

by John Rudy

Ever since the last presidential election, there has been considerable discussion about what limits should be placed on content made available through Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms.   Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and others have been castigated for not doing enough to delete inappropriate content.  Of course, the word “inappropriate” is not viewed identically by everyone.  And, of course, there is the fact that we do take pride in our right of free speech.  The murders in New Zealand a few months ago added another dimension to this discussion as the government insisted that all video of the murders be instantly deleted.

What has not been discussed is the role that thousands of lowly paid employees perform in order to help these social media platforms to monitor or self regulate the nature of their content.   This article helps us to better understand what these social media moderators must do on a daily basis.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/25/18229714/cognizant-facebook-content-moderator-interviews-trauma-working-conditions-arizona

As everyone knows, it is very easy to post material to any of the social media sites. https://www.internetlivestats.com/twitter-statistics/ says that there are over 500 million Twitter posts per day.  https://blog.microfocus.com/how-much-data-is-created-on-the-internet-each-day/ says that “more than 4 million hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every day, with users watching as many as 5.97 billion hours of those videos on a daily basis.”  In addition, 67,305,600 Instagram posts are uploaded each day.  And over 2 billion people, monthly, become active Facebook users.

It is impossible, at this point, for social media moderators to view all of that material for “inappropriate” content.

Just thought you’d want to know as you think about how this might be constrained.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide John with questions,  comments, or suggestions for future tech items to cover. 

 

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? MEASLES

MEASLES

by Bobbe Vernon

Last week, my 22-month old great-grandson Carter erupted in an itchy rash, head to toe.  He was miserable!  And I immediately thought about measles.   He had had his first measles shot, but two are required, and he is not yet old enough for the second shot.  And how would such a young child contract the disease these days anyway?

Unfortunately, today, more American children are contracting mumps, measles, and rubella than they have for decades.  And one reason seems to be  the misguided, incorrect belief of some parents that vaccinations can cause autism.

This episode reminded me of my own experiences with measles. When I was in the seventh grade, my younger brother Stevie came down with measles.  I caught it from him, and so did our mother, even though she had had measles as a child.   And despite being sick, she got out of bed to scrub the entire bathroom before our beloved pediatrician Dr. Green made that house call.  Even he couldn’t understand how she could have contracted the disease after having had it as a child.

A year later, Stevie contracted measles again.   Dr. Green said he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen my brother’s first case with his own eyes.  At the time, I was in the eighth grade, and, as a serious student, I did not want to be quarantined with my brother.  So that I wouldn’t miss school, I stayed at my Aunt Clara’s house while Stevie was ill, but Dr. Green warned, in no uncertain terms, that, if I felt that I was getting sick, I was to go straight home instead of to my aunt’s house after school.  Yup, that happened!  Mommy, Stevie,  and I were the only people he had ever heard of who had measles more than once.   I still feel guilty that his son Dicky, who sat next to me in school, caught the measles from me…

At any rate, it turned out that my great grandson Carter did not have the measles after all, and he is back at his Montessori school, where he probably contracted his itchy virus in the first place.  We can now stop worrying that baby Tucker, who is one month old, will catch the measles from his big brother!

BOLLI Member (and long-time Scene-iors player) Bobbe Vernon

“18 months after my husband passed away, I heard about BOLLI and decided to try something new .  That was in 2008, and I have been taking classes and enjoying new friends at BOLLI ever since. In the past, I have been a dressmaker, a math teacher, and, since 1976, I have been with Mary Kay Cosmetics (driving my Mary Kay pink Buick!), still not ready to stop making people feel great about themselves.”

 

A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)