FINDING “HIDDEN GEMS” OFF-SITE: A Unique New BOLLI Course

FINDING “HIDDEN GEMS” OFF-SITE

By Elaine Dohan and Class Participants

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“Hidden Gems” participants at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Andover Academy.  (From left:  Anne Walker, Fran Goldberg, Diane Winkelman, Hannah Delfiner, Sandy Traiger, Elaine Dohan, Lenore Goldstein, Tamara Chernow, Joyce Plotkin, Helen Kadish, Patsy Benincasa.)

Years ago, Tamara Chernow, Eileen Mitchell, and I planned and organized docent-led tours of many different museums located in the area.  Lunch was always included, and sometimes buses were provided as well.  These outings were very popular for social as well as educational reasons.  It was a huge job, and I guess you could say we “wore out.”  Eventually, though, it seemed to be something worth bringing back to life.  The result?  Hidden Gems, the very first “off site” BOLLI course designed to tap into the rich cultural community we enjoy here in the Boston area.

This term, participants in our five-week Hidden Gems course traveled to museums with excellent docents who expanded upon the readings that the group read preceding their visits.  But the first meeting of the course took place at 60 Turner Street when Nancy Alimansky provided our introductory lecture.  She really set the stage for the course, offering us tips on how to “access” pieces of art.  She focused on aspects of contemporary and modern art, providing slides and referring to the greatest of these artists.  She even referred to the wonderful photographs hanging in the Blue Room, executed by our own artists and available to us all the time.  Nancy clearly knows and loves her subject, making her the perfect example of what makes a good teacher.

After that wonderful opening session, we embarked on our visits to the Addison Gallery at Andover Academy, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Davis Museum on the Wellesley College campus, and Brandeis’ own Rose Gallery.   Lenore Goldstein, Anne Walker, Joyce Plotkin, and Diane Winkelman have provided some details about each of our visits to these gems.

AT THE ADDISON GALLERY OF AMERICAN ART

By Lenore Goldstein

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The Addison Gallery of American art was created by alumnus Thomas Cochran “to enrich permanently the lives of the students of Phillips Academy.”  The Gallery is a teaching resource as well as an art center for the students and faculty of the Academy, for other students, teachers and scholars and for the general public. Its collection of more than 17000 objects of American art dating from the 18th century to the present is one of the most comprehensive in the world.

Our BOLLI class visited two exhibits—“Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams” and  “Eye on the Collection:  Fall, 2016.”  We were led by a terrific docent who gave us insight into many of the pieces in the museum’s collection.  But it is the Manzanar exhibit that stays with me.

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Manzanar was one of the War Relocation Centers during World War II.  The purpose of Adams’s photographs was to provide propaganda showing that the Japanese (who, for the most part, were American citizens) suffered a great injustice but created a vital community within the Relocation Center in the desert.  Most of his photographs were of happy, productive families engaging in happy, productive activities.  That upset me.  I understood Adams’ motive, but I couldn’t put behind me that the Japanese were prisoners who had been kicked out of their homes, lost their jobs, their possessions, their lives.  And of course I thought of the Holocaust.

This museum has so much to offer.   Opening this week is an exhibit called “The Deception of Perception.”  It focuses on distortion and ambiguity in photography.   This “Hidden Gem” is well worth a trip to Andover.

THE FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM

By Anne Walker;  photos by Hannah Delfiner

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Who knew?  Wonders abound in the Metrowest, and I barely knew it!  For instance, Brockton has one of the very few museums devoted entirely to “work of the hand.”

Fuller Craft Museum was an eye- opening experience.  From the ultra-edgy “Steam Punk” installations to an appealing gift shop, it is a marvelous surprise.  Gorgeous, satiny finishes on contemporary furniture, sensuous wood-grained bowls and platters, books recycled into expertly detailed hand-cut constructions were a source of unexpected delight as well.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Fuller Craft museum is that it is sited on a beautiful lake with walking trails and an outdoor collection of sculptures which we must see in the spring!

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THE DAVIS MUSEUM AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE

by Joyce Plotkin with gallery photos byHannah Delfiner

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Our trip to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College was timed beautifully – just after a three-year transformation of the galleries was completed – which enabled the Museum to double the number of art works on display.  The Davis, opened in 1993, was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and features art objects from antiquity to the modern day.

We started in the basement of the museum and first saw an exhibit titled Partners in Design:  Alfred Barr and Philip Johnson.  Barr, who taught the first undergraduate art course in modern art at Wellesley College, and Johnson, Museum of Modern Art’s first curator of architecture, together were responsible for bringing modernism to North America in the form of the German Bauhaus movement which concentrated on stripping down objects to their simplest form (with no ornamentation) and focused on rational and functional design.  The exhibit contains furniture from both Barr’s and Johnson’s apartments including a cantilevered chair that, when viewed at a particular angle, looks like it is floating on air.

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Also on display were examples of kitchen and household objects stemming from the movement that was active in the 1920’s and early 30’s but was ultimately shut down by the Communists.  It was interesting to me to see this phase of Philip Johnson’s work, as my husband and I recently saw, in Madrid, the Gate of Europe towers –the first inclined skyscrapers in the world – designed by Johnson and another colleague and completed in 1996. It was described by our tour guide as a building that typified the architecture of the future.

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Our second stop was the top floor of the museum which hosted the most recent works of art in a beautifully re-decorated, very inviting, high-ceilinged gallery with natural light pouring in from the skylights above.  As we entered the gallery, we were met by a terrific Alexander Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling and wandered through the fifth floor gallery observing a pairing of great paintings by Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner, interesting representative works by female artists Grandma Moses, Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson, a boldly colored Andy Warhol sculpture of Brillo and Campbell soup boxes as well as wonderful offerings by Picasso, de Kooning, and many others.  Personally, what delighted me beyond the wonderful art was the fact that the Museum featured the works of numerous women.  I hope the museum continues and expands the trend of acquiring and displaying works of art by women.

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Since we did not have time to see the whole museum during our class time, my husband and I went back to the Davis two days after this visit to see all of the exhibits.  We were delighted with the European and American exhibits and definitely recommend the Davis as an interesting destination for other BOLLI members.

 

THE HIDDEN GEM IN OUR OWN BACK YARD:  

THE ROSE GALLERY

by Diane Winkelman

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BOLLI’s new “Hidden Gems” class ended with the jewel in our own back yard.  We were treated to a curator/docent led tour of the exhibits currently on view at the Rose.   Learning about contemporary art with a curator who had recently come from the Museum of Modern Art in New York was extraordinary.   Our initial view of the museum was of David Reed’s painting – from afar and then close up. The experiences were dramatically different. We learned about his use of paint to create large dramatic canvases that had never been seen all together in one room until this show at the Rose.

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Each gallery had a show by a different artist.   Sarah Sze’s: Timekeeper combined sculpture, installation art, and painting to produce a visually fascinating statement about time and perception.

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Timekeeper

Do go and explore the rest. If you get fatigued in museums, don’t  forget to rest in Mark Dion’s room installation ” The Undisciplined Collector” … a permanent room installation that might make you feel right at home.

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The Undisciplined Collector

 

Thank you, Elaine, for a wonderful experience!

Diane Winkelman, Tamara Chernow, Anne Walker, Joyce Plotkin, Elaine Dohan, Helen Kadish, Hannah Delfiner, Sandy Traiger, Fran Goldberg, Lenore Goldstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BOLLI Journal’s First Annual Literary and Artistic “Salon”

KICKING OFF THE 2018 BOLLI JOURNAL

by Maxine Weintraub, Editor 

The BOLLI Journal committee hosted its first lunchtime program on Monday. November 14th—a literary and artistic “salon” in the spirit of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  We drank alcohol-free bubbly and indulged in cheese and crackers, brownies and grapes as we explored the creative process and its place in the BOLLI Program.  Steve Goldfinger’s poetry (below left), Barbara Jordan’s photos and paintings (middle with Marjorie Roemer), and Jane Kay’s (right with Margie Arons-Barron) tale of a lovingly remembered childhood icon, a blue glass slipper, delighted the audience.  Listening to each of these creative BOLLI members answer questions from Marjorie Roemer, Sue Wurster, and Margie Arons-Barron brought into focus the way in which BOLLI members change and grow as they explore and develop new talents within the BOLLI environment.

Thanks to all who came and participated.  We look forward to many more such programs and invite all of our BOLLI members to become involved with the next Journal issue.  Please submit your poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photos, and art to the Journal – submissions open from now until June of 2017.  In the spirit of sharing, we include the brownie recipe–not from the Toklas’ cookbook and with no hidden ingredients.  In fact, the recipe includes no leavening agents at all!

For specifics on the submissions process, please click here for the BOLLI Journal flyer.

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MAXINE’S (Not Alice’s) BROWNIE RECIPE

Grease and flour a 9 x 12” pan                                                                     preheat oven to 350                                                                                                        in saucepan, melt two sticks of butter and one 4 oz package                            unsweetened chocolate                                                                             remove from heat                                                                                                         beat in two cups of sugar and one teaspoon vanilla                               beat in four eggs                                                                                                             mix in one cup of all-purpose flour                                                                       fold in one package semi-sweet chocolate bits                                           pour into prepared pan                                                                                            bake until done (about 25 minutes, depending upon your oven)     cool on rack and try not to eat them all at one sitting.

Possible variations on this recipe are endless.  Any kind of chocolate chips will do.  Try adding a fruit cup mix at holiday time.  Nuts. Almond flavoring.

Maxine Weintraub reading
BOLLI Journal Editor, Maxine Weintraub

Maxine Weintraub, who heads the 2018 BOLLI Journal committee as editor, is no stranger to arts and letters magazines.  She is a regular contributor to The Goose River Anthology and has produced two volumes of her short stories.

 

NOVEMBER’S BOOK NOOK: Short Takes

Every now and then,  Abby opts for a “sextet of shorts” instead of her more in-depth “trios” of reviews.  Here is her first eclectic batch.

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK

Ben Fountain

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A brilliant novel about war that takes place far from the field of battle at the annual Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day football game, the culmination of a “victory tour” for a squad of young grunts whose heroic actions in Iraq have made them a marketable commodity to drum up support for the war.  Hilariously skewers the culture of instant celebrity, politics, patriotism and power, and poignantly conveys the senselessness of sending young men to war. Five stars.  (Ang Lee’s movie version arrives in theaters this week.)

THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS

Claire Messud

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Nora Eldridge is angry.  How angry?  “You don’t want to know,” she tells us in the opening line of this searing psychological study.  Four years ago, she was finally shedding the Nora who was “the good friend, good daughter, good teacher, doormat….Miss Nobody Nothing…” to become more fully alive,  the artist and special person she always knew herself to be.  She was brought to this euphoric but precarious state by falling in love with (pushing her way into? getting ensnared by?) a family: a glamorous, recognized artist, her professor husband, and their beautiful eight-year-old son.   Could it possibly end well?  A novel that grabs you and won’t let go.

 

THE LAST REPORT ON THE MIRACLES AT LITTLE NO HORSE

Louise Erdrich

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In 1912, Agnes DeWitt adopts the cassock and persona of a Catholic priest who drowns en route to his missionary post in remote North Dakota. For almost a century, Agnes binds her breasts and, as Father Damien, lives a “sincere lie,” ministering to the Ojibwe people she comes to see as her own.  This novel, written in 2001, is the sixth in the series that began with Love Medicine in 1984 and features many of the same members of the Ojibwe clans in the earlier books as well as Louise Erdrich’s elegant, lyrical prose and mix of realism, fable, and humor. The devotion and passion (both earthly and spiritual) of Agnes/Damien hold it all together, despite some sluggish patches in the Ojibwe stories, and make this an emotionally affecting novel.

ONCE UPON A RIVER

Bonnie Jo Campbell

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After she is raped by her uncle and her father is killed, teen-aged Margo Crane takes to the (fictional) Stark River in rural Michigan to look for the mother who abandoned her several years earlier and to find out how to live.  Margo is a crack shot,  knows every bend in the river,  lives off the land and is sometimes treated well and sometimes badly by the men she meets.  Beautifully written, especially if you enjoy description of the natural world and wilderness survival tales, which I don’t.  I was more interested in Margo than in how to skin a muskrat, but I was interested enough in Margo to enjoy this book more than I expected to.

OPEN CITY

Teju Cole

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This critically acclaimed debut novel has no plot to propel it forward, just the ruminations of the solitary and possibly unreliable narrator – a young Nigerian-born psychiatrist – on identity, art, literature, music, death and more as he wanders the streets of Manhattan and has occasional interactions with friends and strangers, most of them immigrants like himself.  Beautiful prose, with crystalline descriptions of the city and crisp sketches of people.  Surprisingly compelling.

THE RADETZKY MARCH

Joseph Roth

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Written in 1932 by Joseph Roth, the under-appreciated Austrian-Jewish writer who died young of alcoholism in Paris a few years later, The Radetzky March depicts the waning of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the years before World War I.  It begins in 1859, at the Battle of Solferino, when a peasant-born lieutenant saves the life of the young Kaiser, Franz Joseph I, and is rewarded with elevation to the nobility.  The novel follows successive generations of the now-aristocratic von Trotta family into the bureaucracy and the military and into eventual disillusionment that parallels the collapse of the Empire.  Roth’s prose evokes a lost world on every page, not as nostalgic reverie but with a portrayal of the deadly effects of the monarchy on its subjects of all classes and with vivid, detailed descriptions of everything from the landscape to village life to an old man’s cuffs.  Brilliant.

 

ABBY P
BOOK NOOK Feature Writer Abby Pinard

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

MEET MEMBER MARILYN BROOKS: MYSTERY MAVEN

At BOLLI, we seem to have a host of members who enjoy good mysteries. So, when I discovered that Marilyn Brooks writes a blog in which she reviews mysteries old and new, I went right for it–and it is, of course, terrific…as is Marilyn herself!

MEET MEMBER MARILYN BROOKS

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I’ve always been a reader, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course) and going on to Cherry Ames and Sue Barton.  The last two are nurses, but there were always mysteries in the novels.  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!

I don’t collect in that I don’t buy first editions or valuable books, but I do have a couple of hundred mysteries in my house.  Since I started writing my blog more than six years ago, publishers have even been sending me books to review, so I’ve been gratefully adding those to my bookshelves.

My husband Bob and I, both originally from Brooklyn, have been living in Needham for forty-six years.  We have two grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren.  I was the academic administrator for the Latin American and Latino Program at Brandeis for seventeen years, retiring in 2010.

Our older son Rich, who owns a web site design and social media company in Portland, Maine, kept saying I should start a blog because I read non-stop.  I countered by saying that I could not imagine why anyone would care what I thought.  He countered by saying that I knew more about mysteries than anyone he knew.  Eventually, he convinced me, and I reluctantly started blogging.  Turns out I love doing it.

I should add that, after a couple of years of blogging, my husband suggested contacting the author of each book I covered, letting him/her know about the review.  I started doing that, and I’ve been amazed by the positive responses I’ve had from authors, ranging from first-time writers to those who’ve been writing for decades.  Some have even linked to my blog from their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.  Those letters, plus the excitement of getting new books from various publishers, add to the pleasure I get from writing a weekly blog.

I joined BOLLI in 2010, shortly after I retired from Brandeis.  Since then, I’ve taken two courses each semester and have also taken several winter/summer seminars–they’ve all been stimulating and enjoyable; I’ve learned so much on so many topics.  The SGLs have been uniformly excellent, and I’m always impressed by the knowledge that my classmates have on a wide variety of subjects.

My blog, published every Saturday, is www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

NOVEMBER’S SENIOR MOMENT: A New Role Model for Aging

A NEW ROLE MODEL FOR AGING—THIS TIME FROM CHINA

by Eleanor Jaffe

A new role model for aging has emerged from China.  Known as China’s “hottest grandpa,” Deshun Wang still works as an actor, artist, disc jockey, and designer.  Last year, at the age of 79, he added “model” to his resume when, for the first time, he strode down a fashion runway, shirtless.  As one reporter put it, “His physique caused a national sensation.”

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Deshun’s approach to life defies Chinese norms for growing old.  Although many Chinese exercise early in the day, he reports that his exercise time is from to 3 to 6 pm and that he swims about one-half mile per day.  “Morning,” he says, “is my learning time. I read books and news.”

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In a society where the legal retirement age for women is 50 or 55 and 60 is the retirement age for most men, Deshun Wang defies all stereotypes for aging in China, present and past.

Early in the 1980’s (not so very long ago),  I traveled to China with my husband on a trip sponsored by the National Education Association.   I vividly recall one of our stops at a worker’s home.  Men and women, all of whom worked in nearby factories, lived in the large complex made of four-story apartment buildings that we visited that day.  Once retired, these workers remained with their extended families, taking care of their grandchildren.  We met one such family.  Four generations lived in a single small apartment—an elderly grandmother, her son, his retired wife, their grown son and daughter-in-law, and the younger couple’s small child all shared the space.

It is the grandmother who remains most vivid in my memory.  She was a tiny, frail, aged woman, and she sat perched on a high stool.  She had been born and raised before the communist Revolution, during the time when young girls still had their feet bound.  Those bindings grew more restrictive and painful as girls grew from latency to young adulthood when they would be married.  Bound feet were considered beautiful, an asset in the marriage market.  This old woman (who was in her 70s or 80s, whose son was about 55), wore no shoes, and her feet did not resemble any human feet that I had ever seen:  they were tiny, but the toes turned way under the arch reaching toward her heels. They were extraordinarily deformed, like claws or talons which seemed to be growing into the fleshy part of her heels.  Her feet could not possibly have supported her.  I doubt that she could walk at all.  Yet, this old woman represented, for probably hundreds of years prior to the Revolution, the image of what women should be like. An age-old model for aging.

I look forward to the day when China celebrates a new female role model:  energetic, striding forward toward the future, regarded as just capable as men, perhaps even a government leader.  Until that time, though, Deshun Wang is providing a new model, literally, for successful aging at least for men.

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Deshun Wang, print fashion model

He has some words of advice about aging that, for me, transcend our cultural differences:

“One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, do you dare try something you’ve never done before?  It’s about your state of mind.  It’s not about age.  Nature determines age, but you determine your state of mind….People can change their lives as many times as they wish.”

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Thank you, Deshun.

To access The New York Times article, click here.

 

A “SWEEPING” MEMOIR by Margie Arons-Barron

A member of Marjorie Roemer’s current Memoir Writing course, Margie Arons-Barron recently shared this gem.  The group’s task was to write about a saying (or sayings) that was (or were) common in our families or communities.  Margie’s charmed all of us–and will do the same for you!

BURIED WITH HER BISSELL

By Margie Arons-Barron

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Great-aunt Rose was a bookkeeper at Flah’s Department Store in Syracuse, NY and a spinster.  I understood neither term. What I did know was that she had a pinched face and lived by the credo that “you clean up as you go along.”  I learned that that meant you didn’t wait for people to finish their meals in a leisurely way.  If their forks paused mid-air for conversation, she swooped in, scooped up their plates, and removed them to the kitchen.

Her sister, my nana, apparently inherited the Klein girls’ clean gene.  Nana had a big nose, ample bosom, and ear lobes like a cocker spaniel’s. She smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, especially when talking on the phone. When the call ended, she’d put out her smoke, dump the ashes, and wash the ash tray.  As soon as visiting friends started to leave, she’d appear with her Bissell carpet sweeper, methodically removing every piece of lint from the grey/green broadloom. She asked to be buried with the Bissell.

Nana taught me the rudiments of cooking, but it was really cook, clean, cook, clean. Wash and dry measuring cups halfway through the recipe. Wipe counter immediately when flour spilled. “Clean up as you go along,” she’d repeat.  “It will be so much easier.”  Her compulsion came from the shame she’d experienced long ago.  After a party she and Grandpa had given, they went to bed without cleaning up. Grandpa took sick during the night. When the doctor arrived at the house, he saw ashtrays overflowing, pots and pans in the sink, gold-edged dinner plates covered with congealed gravy, and high-ball glasses with Scotch diluted by melted ice cubes. Nana never got over the mortification.

Though doctors no longer make house calls, the obsession survives with me.  I still wash, dry, and put away the measuring spoons before the pan is in the oven. No matter how late guests depart, when I go to bed, the crystal is hand-washed and replaced in the cabinet. The serving pieces are dried and put away, the dishwasher is loaded and running. The table cloth and napkins are in the washing machine. It, too, is running. It’s a wonder I still entertain.

I’m not as bad as my Aunt Ethel. Once, when Uncle Mitch awoke at three a.m., she made his bed.  Grumbling, he took a pillow and went to sleep in the bathtub.

My husband grew up in a household where a trip to the refrigerator was an archeological dig. Chaos was called creativity. He has yet to learn that his cereal bowl gets dried and put away, not left to drain; that the knife from his banana will clean more easily if it doesn’t sit on the counter all day; that overnight soaking of casseroles is just an excuse for leaving the scrubbing to someone else.  He’d like to cook more, but he needs more clean-up practice to make that work.

“Clean up as you go along” is why I take care of the finances, not putting off paying bills on a monthly or even weekly schedule. It’s why my kids learned they could outwait me when it came to straightening their room, making their beds, or putting dirty jeans in the washer.

A clinician might accuse me of being anal. I say it’s efficiency and high executive skills.  Besides, it’s easier to clean up as you go along.

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Margie Arons-Barron

After a long and successful career as an editorial and political news director, Margie shifted her focus to writing memoir and even fiction when arriving at BOLLI this past year. In addition to Marjorie’s memoir course, she has taken Betsy Campbell’s fiction writing courses and has been an active member of the BOLLI Writers Guild.  She is now a member of 2018 BOLLI Journal staff as well.  She still keeps her hand in politics and issues of the day on her blog which you can reach by clicking here.

 

 

LEAVE IT TO LYDIA: Escaping Our Electronics

ESCAPING OUR ELECTRONICS

MEANING OF LIFE
Hmm…somebody needs a BOLLI Moment…

“Escaping our electronics” is a secondary benefit of the whole BOLLI experience.   In our BOLLI courses, we  seem to be reviving the art of conversation among many of us who became dependent on electronic devices during our career.  How wonderful that we discuss such an amazing variety of issues–global, political, emotional, and personal.   From my standpoint as a relative BOLLI newcomer,  I believe that we are actually raising the art of conversation to a higher level!

My first BOLLI class was The New Yorker Non-Fiction seminar in which a dynamic group discussed issues ranging from (of course) the election to medical ethics.  I found the first couple of classes to be a little intimidating, as I hadn’t participated in such a group for a long time.   But I loved the chosen readings and eventually spoke up–and I found that my voice was heard.  It didn’t matter where I had gone to college or even what my career had been.   I also felt quickly embraced by the BOLLI community and began to get to know some of my classmates.

Classmate Diane Winkleman, for example,  retired last December and wanted to try BOLLI as soon as she saw the ad in the paper.  “I was very excited to find a place that offers so much potential for interesting discussions, people, and new experiences.”  She especially likes the lunch time series and the variety in the classes. Recently,  she’s joined the CAST special interest group and is re-energizing her acting skills.

Suzanne Art’s Three Giants of the Northern Renaissance, an art history course, was Sue Wurster’s first BOLLI class in the Spring of 2015.  At the same time, she dived into 20th Century Women Poets, a five-week science fiction course, and even a five-week course in fiction writing.  “I really want to be a writer when I grow up,”  she says.  “I’ve been writing my whole life–but I had never actually finished anything.  So this was a big step for me.”   As for fellow BOLLI students, she says:  “These are some awesomely smart characters!”

Longtime  member Sandy Harris Traiger, a Brandeis alum, feels that BOLLI has changed her perspective on the world and nurtured her acceptance of different opinions and attitudes. She has been part of BOLLI since 2004 when she took a class taught by Sophie Freud about violence in World War II through literature.  Sandy’s husband joined the following year and, during one class, was reunited with some old friends from elementary school.  Sandy joined the International Friends group and enjoyed getting to know students from the Heller School.   She is very glad that the lunch programs have expanded to include such a diverse collection of timely speakers and issues, “I’m still here and still loving it.”

My first year at BOLLI has been fabulous! I have taken short stories classes, a fascinating literature course with Sophie Freud about adult daughters and their aging mothers, and an exciting memoir writing course with Marjorie Roemer.  I especially appreciated Sophie’s insightful analytical approach to literature as well as Marjorie’s writing.

BOLLI has given me the chance to turn off my devices and let me discover and hear my own voice.

BOLLI Matters Copy Editor and Writer, Lydia Bogar
BOLLI Matters writer Lydia Bogar

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: Searching is Not for the Faint of Heart

This month’s tech offering is all about the art of searching the internet–which is not really as daunting as it may seem.  

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Let’s start by getting a bit of terminology out of the way.

web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for retrieving, presenting and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web.  The most common are Chrome and Internet Explorer though there have been many issues with Explorer so Microsoft is switching to Edge.  But Edge is not ready for prime time.  I suggest you all use Chrome though Safari and Firefox are good alternatives.  Chrome has about half the market.

web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the Web, returning pages that meet specified criteria Google is the clear winner here.  Bing and Ask are becoming intrusive and sometimes you’ll find them taking over (the subject of a much longer discussion.

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There is a lot of data out there to search.  The following snippet is old and is probably off by a factor of 10.  BUT  ….   Luckily Google runs “web Crawlers” at night to make it easier to find data amongst all this.

search question 1

It is expected that by the end of the year there will be a zettabyte of bytes moved every year.   That is a million times bigger than a Petabyte.  Most if not all of you use Google but it turns out that you can use it better.  There are books and articles with hundreds of examples of things that you can do; I’m just going to mention a few.

  • Put your most important search term first
  • “George washington” (caps don’t matter) is NOT the same as George Washington.  Putting quotation marks around the words indicates that you want to find the two words together in the page.
  • Take advantage of exclusion. “George Washington” –bridge will exclude all references that include the word bridge
  • Google makes a lot of smart guesses. Delta 1431 will get you the status of the flight.  02420 will get you the zipcode and bring up a map of Lexington.  781 will bring up the area code.  You can even put in Fedex or UPS numbers.  Put in Red Sox and you will get the information on the current game including a link for box scores, etc.
  • When you return a search, the words Search Tool is near the top. Click on that and you will see the words “any time” with a downward arrow.  Click on the arrow and you’ll see that you can restrict the time range for the search.  This is very important as it removes a lot of obsolete information.
  • For those with a mathematical bent, you can set up a Boolean Search, viz: snowmobile and (snowblower or Green Bay). But you don’t need the “and”
  • The asterisk is a wild card. The search for three * mice will allow any middle word
  • Define happy goes out to the dictionary for the word happy.  (I used that a lot when I was reading The Iliad.)
  • You can do math or currency conversion . You can even say 176 in roman numerals, and it returns the right answer.  1 a.u./c returns 8.31675359 min, with “a.u.” meaning “astronomical units” and c is the speed of light.
  • If you type in a location, you can get directions, a map, and  markings for traffic problems. You can even ask for a walking or bicycle route rather than a car route.
  • You can ask questions: double quarter pounder with cheese has * calories

search 2

This is just scratching the surface.  We could have a 1-2 hour talk on the subject!

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on searching or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER’S BOOK NOOK: Three Books about WWII

This month, our Book Nook feature writer Abby Pinard provides three selections focusing on World War II.

HHhH

Laurent Binet, 2013

(translated from the French by Sam Taylor)

HHhH

Himmlers Hirn heist Heydrich. Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.

Reinhard Heydrich — the butcher of Prague, the blond beast, the man with the iron heart – was one of the cruelest and most feared of the high-ranking Nazis. Chief of security and an architect of the final solution, he was named Reichprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, the Czech states annexed by Germany, and was charged with crushing Czech resistance and all vestiges of Czech culture, “Germanizing” the desirable population and eliminating the undesirables. On May 27, 1942, as he was being driven to work in Prague in an open black (or possibly dark green) Mercedes convertible, he was the subject of an assassination attempt by Jan Kubiš, a Czech, and Jozef Gabčik, a Slovak, who had been trained for their mission in London and parachuted into Czechoslovakia several months earlier. “Operation Anthropoid” didn’t go off exactly as planned but the reprisals were as brutal as might have been expected. (Note: “Anthropoid,” a British-French-Czech film based on these events but unrelated to this novel was released recently to mostly positive reviews.)

The narrator of  HHhH, who may be the author, has spent years studying Operation Anthropoid – it would be fair to say he is obsessed with it – and in telling the story presents a parallel narrative about his struggles with how to tell the story. While the digressions might be expected to be distracting, the opposite is true. The narrator’s “eureka” moments when he unearths a key book, his decisions on what to include and exclude, his commentary on other novels based on historical fact, his musings on what drives people to extraordinary acts of cruelty and heroism serve to bring us closer to the story. And when it counts most, as the Mercedes approaches the bend in Holešovice Street where the assassins are waiting, he lets the story take over and propel us forward as if we don’t know what will happen.

At the end of the book, our narrator tells us that Kubiš and Gabčik are today viewed as heroes, celebrated in their homeland. But he describes himself as worn out by his “muddled efforts” to pay tribute to the many people who helped the assassins at great risk and great cost and who remain largely unknown.

…I tremble with guilt at the thought of all those hundreds, those thousands, whom I have allowed to die anonymously. But I want to believe that people exist even if we don’t speak of them. 

Laurent Binet has spoken of them and has written a novel that is both suspenseful and profound. Highly recommended.


Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932

Francine Prose, 2014

Chameleon Club

In Francine Prose’s popular book about reading and writing, Reading Like a Writer, she advocates “close reading.” Only by slowing down and carefully reading every word can we understand what is said and what is not said – the nuances of meaning that the writer has worked so hard to put into every word and into the spaces between the words. That’s good advice when reading any serious writer and of course when reading Prose. (Is there a writer with a better name?)

Even as Lou’s downward slide was gathering momentum, she prided herself on maintaining certain standards and not losing touch, as many of her neighbors were, with basic human decency and compassion. She was slow to come on board with the measures against the Jews, however much she personally disliked them. She knew that harsh tactics were sometimes required. She’d waited on line at the Palais Berlitz to see an informative exhibition entitled “The Jew and France,” where a display confirmed what she’d long suspected: behind every scandal lurked a Jew. Still, she didn’t enjoy seeing children herded through the streets at gunpoint. Once she was almost hurt by some idiot cops hurling crockery down from an apartment at a terrified Jewish family being loaded into a van.

“Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932” is the title of the emblematic photograph that launches Gabor Tsenyi’s career. It is a picture of two women, a cross-dressing athlete named Lou Villars, who will become France’s first female race car driver and then an infamous Nazi collaborator, and Arlette, her lover, who will leave Lou for a powerful cop/gangster. This assured, atmospheric novel covers a lot of ground – love and betrayal, good and evil, war and its aftermath, the mutability of truth – and ultimately packs a powerful punch. It opens in 1928 and tracks the transformation of Lou Villars from unhappy child to disappointed lover to monster, a life based on a real woman named Violette Morris. It is to Prose’s credit that we sympathize with Lou even as she betrays the country she professes to love. Other characters are also inspired by real-life figures, including the Hungarian photographer Brassai and there’s a dissolute American writer who resembles Henry Miller.

Prose makes the Chameleon Club the locus of the decadence and desperate good times of Paris in the jazz age and she circles back to it through occupation and war. The story is told and retold in alternating chapters by different narrators through excerpts from a biography of Lou Villars, letters, journals and a memoir, each presumed to be self-serving and unreliable. Taken together they paint a picture that captures the conflicted loyalties of a giddy and terrible time, a picture that surely contains the truth but in whose version? History is as changeable as gender roles at the Chameleon Club and this captivating novel is stunning in its contemplation of its meaning.


Love & Treasure

Ayelet Waldman, 2014

Waldman

This is a solid effort by Ayelet Waldman. She has chosen a subject — unearthing the stories of those lost in the Holocaust — that has too often been taken up by mediocre (or worse) writers and riddled with melodrama and cliché. Waldman does better. She centers the novel on the historical “Hungarian Gold Train,” crammed with millions of dollars worth of gold, jewels, furs, and household goods that have been “collected” from the Jews of Hungary. When the train, on its way to Germany in 1945, is intercepted by the victorious Allies near Salzburg, Austria, a promise is made to return the goods to their rightful owners or heirs but the impracticality of the task, not to mention that the brass have quarters to furnish, doom that intention and most of the items simply disappear in the fog of post-war Europe.

The novel’s primary protagonists are Jack Wiseman, who as a young American soldier was put in charge of the contents of the train, and his granddaughter Natalie, who he asks just before his death to find the rightful owner of a pendant he himself impulsively pilfered. The story is told in three parts: Jack’s stewardship of the confiscated goods in 1945; Natalie’s present-day search in Europe and Israel for an heir of the pendant’s owner; and an entertaining narration by a Viennese psychoanalyst of his treatment of a headstrong young Jewish woman in 1913.

Waldman covers a lot of ground and the plot threads are not all equally well executed. In particular, two love stories are clichéd and unconvincing and the grandfather/granddaughter relationship is toothache-inducing. But she eschews the simplistic good/evil paradigm so common in fiction about the Holocaust and takes a more realistic view of a complex moral universe. Bottom line: This is well-written, absorbing historical fiction marred only slightly by a bit of sentimentality.

ABBY P
BOOK NOOK Feature Writer Abby Pinard

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

 

 

 

Comments are most welcome–just jot your thoughts in the box below!

LEAVE IT TO LYDIA: On the Lighter Side

Season Shifting
Season Shifting

There seems to be an unusual amount of tension in the air.  The weather is changing, and the oil man is visiting for the first time as the seasons shift.  But we can all take heart as we have a host of important, semi-important, and just plain strange things we can look forward to in the coming weeks.  Here are just a few highlights–

Monday October 24th is United Nations Day. Regardless of religion, race, nationality, or political identification, we can all share the hope that refugees/immigrants and stateless people are being fed and have clean water.  Everyone.  Everywhere.

As of Friday October 28th, we will no longer be able to use cash on the Massachusetts Turnpike (the road that our parents finished paying for in 1959).   At midnight, construction crews will begin the 24/7 demolition of the toll booths and their plaza areas, including the underground tunnels used by Turnpike employees.  The work is “expected” to be completed within 30 days.  Yes, that’s right—just in time for Thanksgiving weekend.  Imagine Sturbridge (and the “expected” demolition of its 14 toll booths, seven in each direction) on Wednesday evening, November 23rd.

Perhaps this venture was scheduled for the 28th of October because it is also National Chocolate Day.  There is some kind of nexus there, but unless Hershey bars are free that day, I can’t find it.

chocolate

October 31st  is Halloween, unless your town has moved it to another night in order to supposedly ease  the headaches associated with the sugar high that parents and teachers end up having to cope with on the day after.   And if you are concerned about your own treats, I suggest storing them in an opaque broccoli bag in the freezer.  The grandkids will never find them there.

I dare not delve too deeply into the month of November because the Red Sox aren’t in the World Series, and if there is snow on the ground … well, it might just get ugly.

Speaking of ugly, the Commonwealth, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen the weekend of November 4th through the 6th to close (that’s completely close, as in nada, bupkis) Route 128, the road we love to hate.  And because that is not enough of a sucker punch, we also turn our clocks back on Saturday night November 5th.  November 6th  might be a good time to read every page of the Sunday New York Times because the world—without Route 128 and time having backtracked–will be very different   It could also be a good time to binge watch I Love Lucy episodes–after all, the time to laugh over the cartoons and comedians who have profited from this election cycle will be coming to a close.

And, of course, it could well be time to change the batteries in those smoke detectors and CO alarms.  Which will prepare us for Tuesday November 8th, Election Day.

After a collective deep breath, we will then move to honoring the bravery and sacrifices of our military on Friday November 11th, Veterans Day.   Let’s keep our current soldiers and their families in our prayers that day.

Saturday, November 12th might just be a perfect time to head to the library and stock up on some good books, gas up the car or pick up the phone to order our favorite pies on National Pizza Day.

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 6.55.31 PM

And did I mention that it may well be time to change the batteries in the smoke detectors and CO alarms?  (Worked for the State Fire Marshal for 12 years…but I need to be reminded too!)

Lydia Bogar
Lydia Bogar

 

Leave it to Lydia to provide us with entertaining, uplifting items!

 

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