The Ken Burns Effect

September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Marines marching in Da Nang, 1965. Associated Press, via PBS

Even after the passage of 50 years time, it is hard to imagine anyone except Ken Burns who would have dared to take on a documentary about the Vietnam War. Love him or hate him, he has stature and respect and a resumé that means that, if nothing else, he cannot be ignored. Already, before it has aired, partisans of the extremes of opinion the culture has carried for all this time, are condemning it for not doing what it has expressly set out not to do – bring the issue to resolution. « Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Stories

May 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

Like the great majority of the American population, I have no one in my family who died in military service. Generations of my ancestors served in conflicts from the Civil War to World War II, but no one died in combat. Five years ago I knew only one man who had been killed in Vietnam. The grief of war was an abstract thing to me. I understood Memorial Day, meaning I knew the difference between it and Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, but it still felt like a day of observance that belonged to other people. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sick of Rambo

April 11, 2017 § 6 Comments

Fred, my writing mentor for The One-String Violin, was afraid of this. “You’ll get a young editor who will reject it because it doesn’t fit the stereotypes,” he said. I dismissed it. It is so time for a new look at everything to do with the war in Vietnam, I thought, and that will be self-evident and editors and agents will pick it up in relief. Isn’t everyone exhausted from the effort it takes to buy into that Rambo thing – man against the jungle and the bad guys (who are never us), blood and sweat, violence, snarls … ? « Read the rest of this entry »

Vietnam (War or Country) and Reiki

March 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

In honor of the recent opening of my new energy healing studio, I spent several hours trying to find a way to reorganize this blog site to keep Vietnam and Reiki separate. At first it was a technical problem. How could I describe, in google-terms, that I wanted to sub-divide my site so that if I posted something about Vietnam it would stay in the Vietnam box while a post about Reiki would stay in the Reiki box, neither visible to the other? No one else seemed to want to do that, though, which made me wonder why I did. « Read the rest of this entry »

Assumptions

August 26, 2016 § 1 Comment

table-and-wine-glassI had dinner recently with someone I had known from my neighborhood for several years. She wanted to get us away from our construction chaos, give us a very welcome break. I have known her only as kind and community-minded. She makes a point of greeting new neighbors, signing them up for the listserv, and inviting them to the picnic. She offers to help and she does. She is a few years older than I am. She carries memories. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Thank you for your service”

August 17, 2016 § 1 Comment

thank-you-for-your-serviceA few years ago, Mark and I were sitting with a friend in a Panera restaurant having coffee and talking. Suddenly a man I call the Panera Stranger, thrust his hand at Mark and said, “Thank you for your service!” Mark mumbled something, I was paralyzed, and we were all – including, most likely, the Stranger, were left feeling awkward and uncomfortable. « Read the rest of this entry »

Worldview

April 5, 2016 § 2 Comments

vguernIn Hanoi, three of us went to the National Museum of Fine Arts. My academic training kicked in, so I moved quickly – to get an overview of the history of art in Vietnam, to see how the styles changed. At the point the French began teaching Vietnamese artists a studio style my art historical brain began ticking off the stylistic succession  – Impressionism, Cubism, even a Vietnamese take on Picasso’s Guernica. In spite of my uncharacteristic tunnel vision, though, I noticed that the styles might have been derivative (my first, analytical, word) but the subjects were Vietnamese and the styles served the nation. There were expressionistic fighters (including women) crawling forward, holding weapons. What in Western traditions would have been bucolic landscapes depicting a pastoral life were almost manifestos – images of the land, the villages, the rice paddies, that the fighters were defending. 
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