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POP CULTURE WITH DENNIS GREENE: HARRY POTTER

                          J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter:                                Serious Literature or Adolescent “Slop”

By Dennis Greene

     “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at age fifty.”  –C. S. Lewis

Unless you have been living under a stone for the past twenty years, you have certainly heard of British author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Ms. Rowling has sold over 500 million copies of this seven-volume “young adult” series published from 1997 through 2007. The series has spawned ten extremely successful films and is frequently credited with encouraging the millennial generation to enjoy reading thick, complex books. This literary phenomenon has made the author a billionaire, and the Harry Potter franchise is now valued at over $25 billion dollars.

The Potter fan base is not limited to young adults. Millions of mature readers have come to know and love the Potter books by sharing them with their children or grandchildren. Others have sampled The Sorcerer’s Stone to see what the fuss was about and discovered, in one reviewer’s words, “the liveliest, funniest, scariest, and most moving children’s stories ever written. The praise from many well-respected reviewers has been effusive. A. N. Wilson in The (London) Times referred to Rowling’s narrative skills as Dickensian while Stephen King predicted that Harry Potter deserved his place on the shelf with Alice, Huck, Frodo and Dorothy. The Mail on Sunday rated The Philosopher’s Stone as “the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl,” and the Guardian called it “a richly textured novel given lift-off by an inventive wit.”

The skyrocketing commercial success of the Potter books, along with the literary awards and critical acclaim they have received, eventually attracted the attention of the elite literary establishment. Leading the attack on the popular books was Yale Professor and well-known ;iterary critic Harold Bloom. In a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Can 35 Million Book Buyers be Wrong?  Yes.” Professor Bloom observed that Rowling’s writing was “dreadful” and the book was “terrible” (note Professor Bloom’s magnificent use of richly descriptive adjectives) and then went on to disparage her readers.

“Why read it?” Bloom said.  ” Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do. At least her fans are momentarily emancipated from their screens and so may not forget wholly the sensation of turning the pages of a book, any book. And yet, I feel discontent with the Harry Potter mania, and I hope my discontent is not merely a highbrow snobbery or nostalgia for a more literate fantasy to beguile (shall we say) intelligent children of all ages.”

 The disparaging comments of this prominent critic, cloaked in the prestige of both Yale University and the Wall Street Journal, was an unwarranted attack on a young novelist whose first published work had achieved startling commercial success. In Rowling’s wizarding world, Professor Bloom would be easily recognized for what he is—a highbrow snob and a bully. If Professor Bloom were rewriting his article today, it would have to be titled “Can 500 Million Buyers Be Wrong? Maybe not.” I have no idea if it was a conscious decision, but in a later Harry Potter book, Ms. Rowling introduces Professor Slughorn, a mercurial, pompous, social-climbing Hogwart’s teacher who hosts dinner parties for “pureblood” students from famous wizarding families while excluding Hermione, the smartest student at Hogwart’s, because she is a “mudblood.” Professor Slughorn might easily have been patterned after a certain Yale literary critic.

Once Professor Bloom opened the floodgates, the deluge from other critics began. One of the first to pile on was Dame A.S. Byatt, an English author with an honorary title and an aristocratic aura, who opined that the Potter books were “written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, reality TV, and celebrity gossip.” Another British newspaper critic predicted that “in years to come, people will make a link between our plump, comfortable, infantilizing society and the popularity of Potter.” Other more measured critics did fairly identify a number of flaws in the Potter books, including tired writing, overuse of clichés, and being too complex for children and young adults to sort out. I don’t know exactly where Harry Potter should rate on the spectrum of young adult books of “literary merit,” but I believe it would be much closer to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Grahame’s Wind in the Willows than to Twilight or The Hunger Games.

 After 20 years, the commercial success of the Potter series has assured Rowling and Harry Potter an honored place in popular culture. Whether the Harry Potter books are to stand as one of the great classics of English literature or are ultimately judged to be unremarkable adolescent “slop” as Professor Bloom contends, only time will tell.

I enjoyed spending time in Ms. Rowling’s imaginary wizarding world and coming to know all her unique and definitively drawn characters. But what made these books special tp me was Ms. Rowling’s extraordinary ability to make me care about each character and emotionally participate in their interactions. The seven-year transformation of each of these characters about whom I cared deeply was a poignant coming of age story. Ms. Rowling really “gets” the adolescent experience and makes the reader see it. I still have an emotional reaction when I think of Dobby’s death or Dolorous Umbridge’s tyranny. Along the way there are also trolls to kill, mysteries to solve, backstories to discover, unspeakable evil to oppose, and a series of wonderful friendships to admire. In addition, the books incorporate many of the traditional elements of classical English literature.

The most comprehensive discourse on the literary merits of the Potter books is John Granger’s Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. He describes the way the author meticulously planned and structured the entire narrative before completing the first book. Ms. Rowling was familiar with many of the fundamental patterns of great English literary tradition and seamlessly wove them into her tale. Among the patterns evident in the narrative are:

The traditional Hero’s Journey.

  1. The patterns of Literary Alchemy, a tradition dating back to the middle ages and evident in works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jonson, Blake, and Joyce. The mythical philosopher’s stone, which is the title of the first Potter book published in England, was the key to medieval alchemy.
  2. Well devised narrative misdirection drives the reader to keep active and on edge through the 4100+ page journey and allows numerous plot twists and surprises.
  3. All the trappings of the English schoolboy novel as established by Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays published in 1857.
  4. Incorporation of numerous postmodern issues and concerns, including class prejudice, slavery, friendship, race, xenophobia, intermarriage, loyalty, family, bureaucratic ineptitude, credibility of the press, gender, individual transformation, tyranny, and, of course, love and death.

If you are a sophisticated reader who enjoys exploring the text to discover literary antecedents and subtext, as some scholars do with Tolkien’s works, there is much in Rowling’s Harry Potter books to examine.      

 There are many adult readers who haven’t read a Harry Potter book, either because they instinctively dismiss books designated “young adult” or because Professor Bloom and his ilk have driven them away. William Safire, in a New York Times article, argued that “children’s books like Harry Potter are responsible for the infantilization of adult culture,” and Ruth Graham in Slate argued that “adults should be embarrassed to read literature aimed at teenagers.” Faced with such highbrow snobbery, some potential readers may give in to the shaming. But those who do succumb will be doomed to reading only books like Portrait of a Lady, Anna Karenina, and “The Sun Also Rises” and existing in a continual state of depression. Instead, I suggest you look to the wisdom of C. S. Lewis who observed that “on becoming a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

If you are willing to risk being thought childish by literary highbrows, try reading Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.  You may enjoy it and discover for yourself the literary merit encased in Ms. Rowling’s magnum opus.    

“BOLLI Matters” pop culture writer Dennis Greene.

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

BOLLI AFTER DARK: Affirmations for Lin-Manuel Miranda

Donna offers something different this month –to which we can all, unfortunately, relate all too well!

AFFIRMATIONS FOR LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

by Donna Johns

My current theater crush, Lin-Manuel Miranda, wrote a book of affirmations called G’Morning, G’Night. These were based on his twice daily tweets. I decided to have some fun with his work by writing my versions of his tweets, adding a dose of reality.

G’Morning darlings!

The wind blows cold today

So grab your hat and mittens, then

Go outside and PLAY.

 

G’Morning Lin!

It’s so cold my nose started to run and I didn’t have a tissue so I had to use my mitten and now it’s gross and tossed in dirty laundry so I have one cold hand for the next dog walk. Oh, and the dogs love this weather and stop every three steps to sniff the frozen plants and my toes are going numb waiting for them to produce something so I don’t need to mop the floor again. Does this constitute PLAY?

Perhaps PLAY was hauling all my accumulated trash bags down to the dumpster and how the heck does one person accumulate this much trash in two days although one bag contains most of the icky rotten stuff I found in the back of the refrigerator so that’s my bad. I should stop buying the healthy food. I never have to throw out English muffins, cake, cookies or candy. Just brussel sprouts. And kale.

The Weight Watcher lady told me to take a brisk walk every day so I decided to walk to the convenience store to buy milk and I stuck my one mitten-less hand in my pocket and I remembered to bring tissues and I walked as briskly as my bionic knees would allow.

I met a cheerful man with no hat or mittens driving an ancient Lincoln town car, and his co-pilot was a handsome grey pit bull who appeared friendly, but I’ve read those stories in the Enquirer so I merely waved and did not approach.  Milk procured, I discovered that the wind was blowing against me so the tissues were used up, and, yep, I had to use my one good mitten.

Still, Lin, I will call that excursion PLAY because there is no way I’m venturing out of the house again.

 

G’Night darlings!

How lucky are you?

A fireplace, a blanket,

Fluffy socks. Dream warm.

 

G’Night, Lin!

I don’t have a fireplace and the wind is whistling through my un-weatherproofed windows so I turned on the electric heater which looks like a fireplace but the dogs discovered a heat source and laid down in front of it so now they’re toasty and I’m freezing.

I grabbed a blanket but it smelled funky and I’m not sure whether the dogs did something or I spilled milk on it or whatever so I put it in the washer with my dirty mittens and I’m too lazy to go upstairs to look for another blanket so I guess I’ll just be chilly. My socks are not fluffy and they’re upstairs too so I think I’ll pass on that.

I will try to dream warm (whatever that means) and I can’t wait to see tomorrow’s affirmation.

“BOLLI After Dark” 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.

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

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER CAST HIT!

ANOTHER CAST HIT!

          CAST Takes a Well-Deserved Bow for “More Carrying On”        by our own local playwright and director

The last thing I expected, when coming to BOLLI in the spring of 2015 after 40 years of teaching drama,  was that I would end up  doing more drama–this time, with a group of BOLLI players.  And yet, CAST (Creativity in  Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) has been, for me, the most satisfying drama experience of all! And why?

Because these players engage in this activity for the pure and simple joy of the experience.   Unlike adolescents, these actors (most of whom took up this interest after arriving at BOLLI) are willing to go “all out” in their playing, without worrying about looking “silly” on stage.   As a result, they are constantly experimenting, exercising their creativity–and as a result, not only do they end up looking terrific on stage, but they have enormous fun in the process as well.  And, as we have all seen over the past nearly four years, this group’s work (and play) just gets better with every performance.

This year’s production of More Carrying On  took the BOLLI audience on a return visit to Carey Village, the upscale senior living facility located on the campus of Carey College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where these scenes all take place.

All seven members of this years CAST cast (Sandy Clifford, Donna Johns, Eileen Mitchell, Becki Norman, Mark Seliber, Rachel Seliber, and Bette Winer) played multiple roles in this production, all of which they took on with aplomb, creating distinctly individual characters.

On this year’s visit to Carey Village, we met a new resident (Becki Norman) who is thrilled with her freezer and the Village’s bulletin boards; an avid hostess (Elaine Mitchell) bemoaning the failure of her latest event; a father (Mark Seliber) and daughter (Sandy Clifford) share very different feelings about the new piece of “art” he has just hung on his wall; a pair of retired Princeton political science professors (Bette Winer and Mark Seliber) who have become obsessed with creating truly unique culinary creations;  friends (Rachel Seliber and Eileen Mitchell) engaged in their human version of “bird watching;” and, finally, the Village’s own “crazy plant lady” (Donna Johns) talking to her plants.

Thanks to Photo Group members Dennis Greene and Sandy Miller-Jacobs for taking these great shots!   (Let your cursor hover over each image for details.)

In case you missed these CAST productions and would like to read the pieces, both sets of Carey Village scenes have been compiled in a single volume and are now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Kindle Version
Paperback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living proof that our continued learning and activity at BOLLI can lead us to all sorts of new and exciting ventures!

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

 

Known, in some circles, as Wurster the Wily Word Woman…

REMEMBER YOUR LOCAL BLOGGER…

Just a reminder to ask you to keep responding to the items you read here on BOLLI Matters.   It means a great deal to our bloggers to know that you are reading, but several have indicated that they wish they’d hear more from you in terms of what you’d like to seem them provide.  Want more book, tv, and movie recommendations?  More dessert recipes?  What sort of tech issues do you want to know about?  Are there features you’d like to see us add?

Your participation is deeply appreciated by all of us–so, as they so aptly say, “keep those cards and letters coming!”

DECEMBER’S CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: PEAR CREAM TART

PEAR (OR PEACH) CREAM TART

from John Rudy

This recipe (with slight modifications) is from page 188 of the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts, a marvelous book with easy-to-understand instructions and wonderful pictures.  This recipe is for a 10” pie pan.  For a 12” pan, increase everything by 50%.  I feel that the crust is a bit thick, so that can be decreased some, which, of course, makes room for more of the filling.  The 10” pie serves 8.   It is really easy–and fast–to make.

1 tsp                      Cinnamon

½ cup plus 3 Tbs   Sugar

1 cup                     Whipping or Heavy Cream

2 large                   Egg yolks

1¼  cups              All purpose Flour (not sifted)

¼ tsp                     Salt

¾ stick                  Butter (softened)

2  29oz cans      Sliced pears (or peaches).  It really needs a can plus about 2-3 more halves. With peaches, I use 2½ of the small cans.

10” pie pan

Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

  1. In medium bowl, with fork, mix the flour, salt, 3 Tbs sugar and then cut in the butter (I use two knives) until it resembles course crumbs.
  2. Optionally spray the pan with some Pam
  3. By hand, press the flour mixture into the glass pie plate, on the bottom and up the sides.  Bring it to at least ¼” of the top as the pie will get that high.  Take care that the bottom of the sides is not too thick as you won’t have enough flour mixture for the bottom of the pan.
  4. Mix the cinnamon and ½ cup of the sugar (not the last 3 Tbs)
  5. Separately, beat the cream with the egg yolks
  6. If you have pear halves take the drained AND DRIED slices and cover the bottom of the pan.  Sometimes the slices have to be cut to fit properly.  Do it in concentric circles.  Evenly cover them with the cinnamon-sugar combination.  If it is not even, a portion of the sugar will glaze but the rest will need more time!  With sliced peaches it will take two circles.  NOTE: Don’t fill in all the spaces with fruit or the custard will not all fit in.
  7. Bake for 7+ minutes (it might take a few minutes more) until the cinnamon-sugar mixture is caramelized.
  8. Pour the cream mixture over the pears and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or mostly so).  A 9” pan takes about 22 mins; a 10” pan about 27 mins.  NOTE: do not overcook
  9. Cool the tart over a wire rack ~2 hours and then refrigerate if not using immediately.  Don’t cover with wrap until it is totally cooled (another 2 hours).
“BOLLI Matters” feature writer John Rudy

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.)

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Our Writers Guild

The prompt–in 50 words or less, share a Thanksgiving thought.  As always, our thoughts tend to cover quite a range…

Why I Don’t Cook Thanksgiving Dinner Anymore

by Donna Johns

Family was coming in three hours.

Turkey was going in to roast.

Oven door fell off.

Duct tape didn’t work.

Gave thanks for Ken’s Steak House

And prime rib for Thanksgiving.

 IN THE SOUP

by Betsey Ansin

Several friends know to save the turkey carcasses for me.  Bedded atop marrow bones, stock, veggies, and herbs to suit any culture, a soup is born.  Thanksgiving is frozen in time.  And, like memories, can be recalled as needed.

Turkey carcass proud
The family feast simmers
If a cook stirs.

from Marjorie Roemer

This mandated time of giving thanks.  Massachusetts vying with Virginia for its origin.  Presidents changing the date, claiming each for a different cause.  Still, it’s turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie that linger in the mind, the bounty of this American feast.  It’s families and plenty, having enough and sharing it.

ON THANKSGIVING

Two-Part Haiku by Dennis Greene

The walk to football,

With my neighbors and my friends,

Felt warm…I belonged.

 

I hope that our young

Can experience that warmth

On this Thanksgiving.

from Steve Goldfinger

In a memoir, Teddy White describes his older brother, a recent immigrant, at a school play reenacting Thanksgiving. Dressed as an Indian, the brother is handed food. His hilarious response: “Vos is dos traif?”

I wonder if recent immigrants like White’s brother are “traif” to some in America today.

Every Year,  They Make Me More Nervous

Thanksgiving Haiku by Sue Wurster

Hmm…this Thanksgiving

The wild turkeys in my yard

Are toting pitchforks…

THANKSGIVING MIRACLE

by Lydia Bogar

Bride’s First Thanksgiving

Her turkey roasts as snow falls–

The power stays on!

and from Larry Schwirian

I’m thankful to live in a country that is still perceived by many to be a beacon of hope in a state that values truth, justice, and the rule of law–and in a community that embraces racial, social, and religious diversity.

 

 

 

 

AUGUST CHEF’S CORNER: THE FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS

THE FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS

from John Rudy

Bacon Pancakes!

Chocolate (dark chocolate, of course!!), as many of you know, is one of the four basic food groups, along with pizza, bacon, and beer.  Some have argued that lobster belongs on this list.  I disagree.  What makes the lobster so good is the large amount of butter.  I could be talked into adding maple syrup.

Here is a recipe for lobster tails covered in bacon and dipped in maple syrup (You could alternatively use scallops which are less expensive.) . http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com/recipe/bacon-wrapped-maine-lobster-bites/

My daughter went to a wedding some years ago where there was a tray of chocolate-covered bacon on every table.  She brought a piece back for me.  There are LOTS of on-line recipes, here is one:  http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-covered-bacon

Papa Ginos has the all-meat combo pizza (the best in my carnivore opinion), and the best part is the bacon.

Here is a recipe for bacon filled pancakes. http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2013/05/bacon-pancakes.html

Can you buy bacon beer?  Of course you can! http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/bacon-smoked-red-ale-recipe-kit.html The ad says, This smoked red ale is a bold taste sensation that will drive you hog wild.”

And for those who insist, here is bacon flavored coffee.   http://www.bocajava.com/fresh-roasted-gourmet-coffee/flavor-roast-coffee/maple-bacon-morning-coffee/5370#.  It even got a review of 4.3 of 5

As Julia would say – Bon Appetit!

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

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.)

AUGUST SENIOR MOMENT WITH BARRY (AND LIZ) DAVID: COLOR BLINDNESS

COLOR BLINDNESS

by Barry David with an assist from Liz

My 7-year-old granddaughter Lakshmi and I went miniature golfing. Kids love that, especially when they beat Papa; albeit their scoring needs attention.  This outing was so successful that I promised to take her to the golf driving range some day and give her a lesson in “hitting them far.”

Kids don’t forget promises.

So, a few days later, we took my clubs (I don’t play golf, I play “at” golf!) and her older sister’s clubs to the range.

We unloaded our clubs and picked out a couple of spots with open mats.  She was very interested in this new experience and asked me many questions.  Among them, “Who comes here to hit golf balls?”  I explained that people come to practice their swings.  A few minutes later, she came over to tell me she saw Tiger Woods a few positions down and “he really hits them far.”  I responded that “I’m not sure he practices here, but let’s go see.”

We saw some people driving golf balls very well.  All genders, races, colors, sizes, shapes; couldn’t tell their religions.  It was simply a Norman Rockwell American scene.

She took me over to see Tiger, who she was watching, a good golfer swinging away; however,  he was not a black golfer.

Turns out this was the first white Tiger Woods I’ve ever seen.

I merely said, ”Great swing, but I don’t think that’s Tiger.”  We continued the lesson I was giving her.  She does very well at sports and enjoyed our day, especially since we stopped for ice cream after.

I got to thinking that night about the song from South Pacific that goes “you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…” She was into golf,  a good golfer’s swing, not color.

I wonder if there is hope that she and her generation will change the dynamic and, as they grow up, open our hearts and minds to create a world that is color blind and fully inclusive.

That would be a hole-in-one!

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THE MICRO-STORM

THE MICRO-STORM

by Dennis Greene

Safe inside our well-constructed home sand surrounded by an amazing network of electronic communication systems, we generally feel protected from those forces of nature that threatened and terrified our forbears.  Even when we hear about earthquakes, cyclones, or tidal waves somewhere else, and we feel some level of concern and sympathy, we don’t feel the gut-wrenching fear of those who came before us and knew nature better than we do.  But every once in a while, Mother Nature gives us a little nudge to remind us that she is watching us and can, with a gesture, wipe out our secure little nests at any time.

About six weeks ago, I got such a nudge.  After leaving BOLLI at noon, I rushed to the golf course to get in a quick nine.  The weather was sunny and warm, but there was a chance of some thunderstorm activity in late afternoon.  I spent a pleasant two hours strolling the fairways at Nehoiden and then headed home for a nap.  By 4:30, I was fast asleep next to an open window, oblivious to the world. I had given no thought to the approach of a violent “micro storm.”

At 5:15, I was startled into consciousness by a soaking wall of water driven through my window by violent wind.  I was in bed, facing the window, and as my eyes popped open, I heard an explosion and saw a bright flash of white light surrounded by a red penumbra. It looked like a bomb exploding right outside my window, and there was no interval between the boom and the flash.

The house shook, but since I saw no other damage, and our lights remained on, I rolled over to the dry side of the bed and tried to continue my nap.  It didn’t last long. Eileen yelled from downstairs that we had no internet or television service, all our phones were dead, and a message on her cell phone indicated that some isolated areas were experiencing severe micro-storms. I guess we were one of those isolated areas.

Hours later, I learned from a message on my cell phone that the “outage” in our neighborhood lasted for forty minutes, but service had been restored.  Many hours after that, at 3:15 a.m., I reached Comcast to let them know that the outage continued at my house. They confirmed that our house had no service and offered to send a technician, but since they had numerous other calls, the earliest available service would be no sooner than Thursday afternoon. For the next two days, our household was barely functional.  I couldn’t use the internet or read emails, and I missed the Celtics playoff game. On Thursday evening, after a very responsive young technician worked at our house for almost two hours, we learned from him that our modem, three tv control boxes, and all our telephones had been rendered inoperable.  When he returned on Friday morning to replace the modem and control boxes, we discovered that our new 55” smart TV and our Apple Airport router had also been fried. The next day, we began the daunting task of replacing the five telephones, beginning the warrantee process with Costco for our TV, and trying to reconnect all our devices and printers to our home network. The disruption seemed interminable, but after four frustrating weeks we were finally reconnected and back to normal.  But we are now much more aware of how subject we are to nature’s whims.

This is a warning to all of you to retain some of that primeval fear you were born with and to respect Mother Nature. She has her eyes on each of us and can hurl devastation upon you before you can blink.

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’s been writing blog articles for BOLLI Matters in quite a variety of genres:  science fiction, movie and video picks, creative nonfiction, and memoir.  And now, he’s even taken on the weather!