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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

In honor of Memorial Day, 2017
In honor of all those who served our country, sacrificing their lives
In honor of all our veterans who have passed
We remember you.

I chose this photo because it juxtaposes respectful youth playing Taps and the old veteran
honoring those who served as he did in wars past and present and
in times of peace.  He remembers them.  He honors them.

On Memorial Day we honor and remember.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TAKE FREDRIK BACKMAN'S NOVEL, A MAN CALLED OVE, ALONG FOR THE RIDE

Traveling with a good book is akin to having another companion, and Fredrik Backman’s strong  novel, A Man Called Ove, is just the kind of traveling companion you look for.

While his story makes a wonderful companion, Ove, the 59 year old we meet as he vents at a salesman trying to explain to him what an iPad is, would not be the kind of man you’d normally seek as a travel partner.  He has no faith in technology and no respect for salesmen who try to explain it to him.  He’s a cranky guy, set in his ways, disliked and avoided by most, and thoroughly convinced that his way is the only way.

So what makes Ove interesting?  We all think we know someone quite like him: older, basically intransigent, intolerant of others, longing for the past, etc. etc.  I, of course, do not find a 59 year old to be “old,” but that’s another story.  Ove’s familiarity is part of his appeal because we nod our heads and smirk as the author sardonically portrays him.  He’s humorous because he is essentially humorless.  But the more we get to know Ove, the less we smirk at his bungling attempts, his unfailing but failing resistance to the growing interaction with his very persistent and very pregnant new neighbor, and his reliance on a very real guardian angel whose approval he seeks even as he deeply sighs at what she prompts him to do.  There are a lot of tears, often unexpected, that go along with our smirks at his quirky behavior. 

Why the tears, you may ask.  Behind every person’s current story is a back story.  It is important to know Ove’s, and as a reader, you might begin to hope for a long flight or a rainy day where you stay indoors.  You will want to read about a man called Ove to find out what makes him tick.

Backman’s writing is direct and deceptively simple.  A chapter entitled “A Man Called Ove Backs Up with a Trailer,” for instance, becomes an introduction to a host of characters, each nicknamed by Ove according to physical appearance. He practically becomes unhinged for his neighbor's breaking the (Ove’s) rules, for driving ineptitude, and for what he considers his basic lack of respect.  Of course, it’s also humorous as Ove tries to drive their car with all the modern bells and whistles, reacting peculiarly to backup warning sounds and other new-fangled unnecessaries in modern vehicles.

Backman makes sure that just as the reader begins to feel dead set against Ove, he releases a bit of information, injects some humor, and makes sure we want to see what happens next. He brings our rolling boil back down to a curious simmer.  

As we learn more about Ove, we begin to envision a very different man from the 59 year old we’ve just met.  It reminds us not to judge because we never really know how deep the roots are and where they are gnarled and twisted. 

A Man Called Ove examines some deeper questions as well.  What makes a person heroic?  What are worthwhile values by which one lives life?  What makes one truly happy?  Do we always know our true worth in the world?  Are we ever too old to stop growing?  Is happiness out there if we just look for it and reach out?

In many ways, these questions are answered, and as they are, along with the smiles at the humor, and the interesting encounters and revelations, the reader is moved to tears over and over again.  Those tears are not always from sadness.

It’s a complex book.  It’s an interesting book.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove is definitely a worthwhile travel companion.



Friday, May 19, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO

Wouldn't you love a home like this one in Lenox, MA?
This is The Mount.

It belonged to Edith Wharton, novelist and expert in home design,
whose book, The Decoration of Houses is still studied today.
The Mount is an incredibly wonderful and beautiful place to visit with expansive gardens,
ponds, and gorgeous views.

Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence.
She was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times.
Perhaps you've read The House of Mirth somewhere in your
American Literature studies.

Friday, May 12, 2017

FRIDAY'S FOTO-- BRAVE BAHAMIAN SEAGULLS

TOGETHER WE STAND
 I love taking photos of gulls, and these, and these three, facing a brisk wind in the Bahamas, were definitely stoic.
 

Friday, May 05, 2017

THE BEARS OF NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA

At the Visitor Center (located in the Convention Center),
you can pick up a map of the Bear Town Bears
A visitor barely arrives in New Bern, North Carolina before he is confronted by a bear.  Yes.  They’re all over the city.  But don’t be frightened. These bears are the works of artists welcoming you to Bear Town

Today there are several more than the 50 original bears created for New Bern’s 300th anniversary in 2010, and it’s a lot of fun to go hunting for bear and experiencing the clever renditions and the symbolic nature of many of these sculptures.  Make sure you pick up a Bear Town Bears map at the Visitor Center so you will get to know your way around as well as be introduced to the artists and the names of these wonderfully creative animals.

This bear, located in Bear Plaza, of course, is named the Bearer of Rights.  Notice he is wrapped in our flag and holds the scales of justice in one hand.  Look closely at the cloak over his left shoulder.  On it is written "Non establishment of religion, Right to bear [haha] arms, No quartering of troops, and No unreasonable search and seizure."  Each bear bears a message to the visitor, and it is nice to think about that.


























Wonder how the bear became New Bern’s symbol and displayed not only in the sculptures but also featured on the bear flags and in the bear gifts found all around town?  Here are the bare bear facts.


In 1710, Baron Christoph DeGraffenried, given a tract of land by the English, led a group of Swiss and Palantine German refugees living in England to this spot. He named his new settlement after Bern, the capital of Switzerland.  Hence, New Bern

Bern is an old German word meaning “bear.”  But are there bears in Bern, Switzerland?  The founders of that city were hunters, and they named it after the first animal they came upon while hunting—bear. The symbol as well as the name not only stuck but also sailed across the ocean with the colonists. Perhaps the European name gave them some hope for civilization in their new and very different world.


At any rate, the New Bern Bears are a vivid reminder that this town, the second oldest in North Carolina, is a living museum of American history.  Bear in mind that New Bern bares Colonial, Revolutionary, Civil War, and other pertinent histories to its visitors.  As you get to know the Bear Town Bears, you will see some of that history laid bare.

This noble creature is BEARON DE GRAFFENRIED,
adventurer and entrepreneur who 
founded the New Bern colonial
settlement in 1710. 

Here is a teaser with some of the other bears we met in New Bern.  To see them all, you will just have to pay a visit to this wonderful city.  It's a place to add to you "must visit" list.




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FRIDAY PHOTO

Fairfield Harbor. New Bern, North Carolina

Who will catch dinner first--the fly fisherman or the watchful alligator?

If I were still teaching, this photo would certainly open up a lot of possibilities in a creative writing class, wouldn't it?