September 17th, 2018

storyteller doll

Stories and Lectures

I still haven’t had time to catch up, because I’ve been busy doing things. Here’s what the past several days have looked like.

Storytelling, Part 1: The Grapevine Wednesday night was the season opener for The Grapevine, a very good storytelling series at Busboys and Poets in Takoma. I can’t quite whine about it being in darkest Maryland because it is still just within the D.C. line.

Anyway, this month’s featured tellers were Milbre Burch and Len Cabral. I’ve known Milbre for many years, since we both lived in the Los Angeles area in the 1990’s, and it is always delightful to see her. I was glad to have a chance to catch up with her a bit. And, of course, to hear her tell. Her program was a selection of folk tales from banned lands, i.e. those subject to the immigration restrictions of our current administration. I thought that was a really cool idea for a theme. There was a good mix of stories and she told elegantly and entertainingly, as always. Len’s stories included some from his Cape Verdean heritage. His telling was far more physical, with a lot of voices. Overall, this was a good illustration of the range of traditional storytelling and a very entertaining evening.

Storytelling, Part 2: Voices in the Glen Story Swap: Saturday night was our monthly story swap. It was in darkest Maryland, so I was grateful for carpooling. There was a particularly big turn-out and another wide range of stories. In honor of having just heard Milbre, I told "Be Nice," which I first learned from her.

One Day University: I went to One Day University on Sunday. This is always a good use of a half-day.

The first talk was Is That Really Art? Understanding and Appreciating Modern Painting by Tina Rivers-Ryan. She focused on four artists / styles – Pablo Picasso (cubism), Alexander Rodchenko (constructivism), Jackson Pollack, (abstract expressionism), and Andy Warhol (pop). Her basic point was that one has to understand the language of painting in order to assess its quality. I thought the section on Rodchenko was particularly interesting, largely because he was the one of the four I was least familiar with. I also appreciated her plug for taking advantage of docent tours as a way to learn about art. But I am still completely cold towards Pollack’s work.

The second talk was by Robert Watson from Lynn University on Our Broken Two-Party System: Can American Politics Be Fixed? He was very entertaining, but I found his conclusions depressing. On the other hand, we did survive the 1850’s when Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner to a pulp on the Senate floor in response to an anti-slavery speech. I also appreciated Watson’s point that after 1901 the parties essentially switched positions, largely in response to Theodore Roosevelt. Another good point was the lack of friendships across parties that results from the ease of air travel allowing congresscritters to spend much of their time in their home districts, so they socialize with one another less. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have any suggestions on what to do about the rise of extremism and fact-free politics. Well - he did have one suggestion. Namely, subscribe to your local newspaper.

The final talk was on How the 1960s Shaped American Politics Today by Leonard Steinhorn of American University. He really started with the 1950’s and the post-war prosperity and suburbanization of the American dream. (Hmm, what about the Korean War?) However, the good times really only worked for straight, white, Christian men. That led to the civil rights movement(s) and, combined with the Vietnam war protests, led to huge societal changes. Which led to the backlash by people who think life is a zero-sum game. On a more positive note, he pointed out that millennials are, in general, inclusive. For example, he claimed that even his Trump-supporting students are accepting of sexuality and gender differences.

Overall, it was a stimulating morning.

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