“Behind the Curtain at BOLLI,” by Jack Curley

January 10th, 2022

In the early spring of 2020, Kamala Harris endorsed Joe Biden for president, a nine-year old tech company named “ZOOM” struggled to gain a foothold in the world of video-conferencing, and a new BOLLI semester was about to get underway at 60 Turner Street. By mid-March, word spread of a newly-discovered variant of the Corona virus that had made the jump from animals to humans and our everyday world turned upside down.

In a March 12 message to members, BOLLI Executive Director Avi Bernstein announced that, due to the spread of the virus, programming would be suspended to allow time for development of a platform with which to support remote learning. The project would be undertaken by staff, with help from a group of members with the requisite talent and knowledge to assist. Remarkably, the new system was up and running in just two weeks, classes resumed, and “BOLLI OnLine” was born. Today, Senior Associate Director, Megan Curtis, says that if anyone had asked her pre-Covid for an estimate of the time it would take to convert to a virtual platform, she would have said “at least two years.”

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“Travels with Charlie”- A Profile of BOLLI’s Charlie Raskin, by Na’ama Ansell

December 18th, 2021

Otis Elevator Company

“I was born in the back of my family’s candy store, located next to the Otis Elevator Company in Yonkers, New York”, Charlie Raskin told me when we recently sat down for a conversation. No doubt an unusual place to be born, but for Charlie a uniquely warm and comfortable one since his family was quite well-known by their neighbors. He recalls that at the end of each day, “People coming down the elevator would stop by the store to chat with us before heading for home.” Is it any wonder that with these beginnings Charlie, a member of the BOLLI board of advisors, became the super-friendly, enthusiastic person whom we know?

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Culture Notes: A Virtual Visit to Wellesley College’s Davis Art Museum, by Ellen Moskowitz 

November 11th, 2021

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College is truly a gem of the western suburbs. Although the Museum is currently closed to the public (as is the entire Wellesley College campus) you can explore its collection online. Fifteen different special exhibits are also available online, including: Feminism and Its Afterlives and Wilfredo Lam in Marseille: Art in ExileSubscribing to the Davis Museum newsletter is the best way to find out what’s going on both now and when the Davis again opens to the public.

Hope to see you there!

Hector, Andromache, and Their Son, Astyanax, by Wifredo Lam


Blue and Green Lines with
, by Georgia O’Keefe                                                                       

“Billy’s Best: Billy Flesch’s Suggestions for Stay-at-Home Reading and Viewing” (from the Banner Archives – April, 2020)

October 17th, 2021
The Banner asked BOLLI favorite Billy Flesch to provide its readers with recommendations for easy-to-access books, television shows, and movies to read or view while at home. Here’s his response. (Billy’s comments are in Italics.)

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“Welcome, New Members!”

September 13th, 2021

This semester, we are pleased to add 48 new members to the BOLLI community!

Yvonne Baehr-Robertson, Boston MA
John Barlow, Wellesley Hills MA
Sally Benbasset, Cambridge MA
Steve Black, Belmont MA
Steve Bloom, Sharon MA
Irwin Buchwald, Concord MA
Linda Buchwald, Concord MA
Tack Chace, Weston MA
Linda Chafets, West Newton MA
David Cherson, Belmont MA
Phil Cohen, Wayland MA

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Editor’s Note: “Thanks, Phil!”

September 9th, 2021

Phil Radoff has been at the center of Banner doings since the spring of 2010. During his more than eleven years on the Banner team he has served as staff writer, co-editor, managing co-editor, and managing editor. What you won’t see on the masthead listings are mention of his unofficial roles as Banner grammarian and proofreader extraordinaire. Banner writers, both past and present, can attest to his uncanny ability to spot misspellings, dangling modifiers, and missing serial commas. Alas, we announce with regret that Phil is stepping down as an official member of the Banner team. Phil’s committee work may be complete, but as foreshadowed by the use of the word “official” in the previous sentence, while no longer a team member he will make occasional appearances as author and grammarian. Staff and readers will thus continue to benefit from his many talents.


“Storm King Art Center,” by Jack Curley

September 1st, 2021

Let’s be honest, museum visits aren’t quite what they used to be. Covid has of late made art museums and other cultural destinations too much of an adventure. Masking and distancing, combined with an overall sense of uneasiness, can make it difficult to fully appreciate the wonders of a favorite work of art. Our group of four practiced museumgoers decided that this summer called for a different approach, but where to turn? The solution to our culture quest awaited us an hour north of Manhattan, at Storm King Art Center. Why Storm King? Because what better time than now to visit a museum without walls?

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“China in the 21st Century: Problems and Prospects,” by Mark Seliber

August 22nd, 2021

Many BOLLI study groups and lecture series cover timely subjects, but the material Scott McKnight and one hundred plus participants discussed on five recent Wednesday mornings concerning China’s role in the world felt like it had been ripped from a daily news feed.

Scott, who recently earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, is a post-doctoral fellow at the University’s Munk School of Global Affairs. He was a very enthusiastic and informative instructor, sharing his knowledge and insights on this massive and mysterious country. Sessions were interspersed with polls to learn more about the participants (for example, who has travelled to China or who would like to) and quizzes that guided our thinking about many important issues.

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“The Berkshires: A Great Region to Visit,” by John Rudy

August 14th, 2021

The Berkshires is a beautiful region of Western Massachusetts that Judy Mir and I recently visited. The area offers a variety of attractions: museums, entertainment venues, historic sites, and picturesque mountains including Mount Greylock, the highest summit in Massachusetts. The Berkshires borders the states of New York and Vermont and includes the towns of Great Barrington, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, Adams, and Pittsfield.

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Sam Ansell

August 8th, 2021

It is with great sadness that we inform readers that Banner team member and cartoonist,* Sam Ansell, has passed away at the age of 99. In addition to his cartooning skills, Sam was a writer, businessman, ad copywriter, traveler, mountain climber, joke-maker, singer of off-key songs, and so much more. Our deepest condolences to Sam’s wife, Na’ama, and to his many relatives and friends. To view his obituary, click here.

He will be missed.

*Click here to view a sampling of Sam’s Banner cartoons.

“A Visit to the ‘Rose’,” by Phil Radoff

July 19th, 2021

It isn’t as easy to visit Brandeis’s Rose Art Museum as it used to be. As of this writing, the Rose, like many other venues, requires advance, timed, on-line reservations, spaced at hour intervals. Once you sign up you can expect to receive a health questionnaire, and if you check the box signifying that you have a Brandeis account, you may find that your reservation request has been rejected because Brandeis has no record of your Covid-19 test. But persistence will out, and you will very likely be welcomed into the museum. You’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

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