My World’s Fair

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What I really wanted to be when I was growing up was a famous novelist – at least as famous as Jules Verne, and maybe even as good. Now I’m resigned to having once visited an event, probably as a seven- or eight-year-old, that was also visited by Kurt Vonnegut, who was then within a few years of becoming what I really wanted to become. Continue reading

“Then you knew where you were”

 

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I have scoured the Internet for a caption. This image is everywhere, and nowhere is a photographer credited. If you know who shot this image, please message me. 

It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our daily lives that we entirely miss major events that are central to parts of our lives that are, in that moment, inactive.

On June 23, 2016, I was busy charging my camera batteries, cleaning my lenses, sorting out my memory cards and road-testing a new one, and packing my gear and clothes to be ready for the Cape Cod wedding of a cousin of mine. I entirely missed the passing of Michael Herr, whose 1977 book Dispatches put some of what people love to call “closure” on my terrible fear of the Vietnam War. Continue reading

“Mr. Hockey” and My Cousin Scotty

 

One of the many ways “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe (1928-2016) was honored during his astounding 33-season on-ice professional career is with the Hart Trophy (since 1961 given as the Hart Memorial Trophy).

The award, which Howe won half a dozen times, is awarded each year to the one player in the league who the hockey writers feel contributed most during the regular season to his team – the greatest solo contribution measured in what is undeniably a great team sport.

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Isaiah 2:4: “[N]either shall they learn war any more”

I am privileged to teach in a first-year writing program at a northeastern U.S. university that allows me to draw in readings as I see fit, as long as the structure of the class follows a model shared by other classes in the program.

My class is called “War Stories.” Everything we read has something to do with war.

Most classes have read large sections of Homer’s “Iliad” (a modern translation, although we dove back into older translations to explore language variations). We always read from Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps, about the Civil War. We view John Trumbull’s paintings from the Revolutionary war and photographs from the Civil War. We read British soldier/poets of World War I, including Wilfred Owen’s often-anthologized “Dulce et Decorum est.” We might read Elie Wiesel’s Night, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five, we might see movies (always by Stanley Kubrick), and we end with modern conflicts: Vietnam and Iraq.

This is not a history class. Neither does it seek to glorify war or warriors. (Hence the reference to Isaiah 2:4: “… neither shall they learn war any more.”) But we do read a lot about war and its often debilitating consequences.

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Memorial Day

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(Above photo by Todd Heisler / Rocky Mountain News)

Monday, May 30, 2016, is this year’s Memorial Day – a federal holiday set aside to honor Americans who died while serving in our nation’s military.

Officially, the day has been noted in some manner since 1868, when it was called Decoration Day. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day – Nov. 11 – which honors all of our nation’s veterans.

Monday – Memorial Day – is a time to honor the more than 1.3 million Americans who have perished during their service over the 241 years of our wars and conflicts and operations, from the beginning of the Revolution that brought us our independence, through Operation Inherent Resolve.

Lily Burana’s extraordinary post from the May 2012 New York Times, along with Todd Heisler’s image of love, heartbreak, dedication, tell a story that echoes across all those years.

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In my own family, we will be honoring my Great-Great-Great-Uncle August Heller …

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