Month: August 2017

Accepting Life as It Presents Itself…And Doing Goodness Anyway

Anytime we face natural disasters such as we’ve seen with the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, our first thoughts—and the work of the first responders—are rightly focused on protecting those in harm’s way.  Those of us at the National Trust are thankful that our colleagues in Texas and Louisiana are safe, and we continue to keep the millions affected in those states foremost in our minds.  Knowing that many want to help, I want to share some good counsel for effective disaster giving, if you are so inclined.  No matter the amount donated, the underlying message is to diversify disaster giving. Give to more than one charity. Just like any other investment, spread your funding to more than one organization, with different goals for each. Give to recovery as well as relief: remember the long recovery phase that comes after a disaster. The urgent relief phase often gets the bulk of attention and funding, but don’t forget about recovery, which is often far longer, harder and more expensive.  Recovery done well also requires different kinds of …

Observations from the Road: The Vacation Reading Edition

I’ve now been back from vacation for two weeks, and have finally decided that I am not going to find the time to write lengthy posts on each book I checked off my summer reading list.  So I’m resorting to my trusty “Observations from the Road” formula, to give you short takes on the four books I read over those two weeks. Hallelujah Anyway:  Rediscovering Mercy — Shortly before leaving on vacation, I picked up this book by the popular author Anne Lamott after seeing several short quotes attributed to her work.  Candice’s reaction was, “You’re reading Anne Lamott?” and I understand that sentiment. Yes, she is crafty and crotchety, and she has a “perfectly calibrated NPR appeal” which can grate on some. But yes, I am.  She’s funny and a bit snarky, both traits I enjoy (when I agree) and she’s a very good writer.  She’s also brief (a quality I’m enjoying more as I plow through 500+ page works). This is a book about mercy.  She wanders a bit in getting there, but …

This Explains Everything

I suspect most of us have struggled to understand all that is happening in our country at this time.  Pundits, politicians, and plain folk have all put forward explanations for the craziness afoot in our land.  Nothing that I read connected all the dots. Then I saw that the Washington Post published Trump Goes Back to His Professional Wrestling Days.  And suddenly, it all made sense. Writer David Von Drehle says that too little attention has been paid to Trump’s wrestling background from when he was active in the golden age of “rassling” back in the 1980s and early 1990s. “Trump was among the first self-promoters to hitch a ride on impresario Vince McMahon’s WWE juggernaut. He sponsored two of McMahon’s early WrestleMania extravaganzas back in the Golden Age, steering them to the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall and promoting them through his Trump casinos…But the peak of Trump’s career came in 2007, when he was written into the script of WrestleMania 23 as one-half of the Battle of the Billionaires, facing off against McMahon. …

Emotions Flow Through Places – Thoughts After Charlottesville

Last week I referenced Dr. Mindy Fullilove’s book Root Shock with a story that spoke to how emotions flow through places.  I wrote before the events in Charlottesville—and the reactions to that weekend—brought place, memory, and emotion to the forefront of our national conversation. Stephanie Meek’s statement on Confederate memorials and the confronting of difficult history speaks to how emotions that arise from place are not always built upon strong, positive memories.  Of course, Dr. Fullilove understands this all too well.  Root Shock is focused on the difficult history of urban renewal, something seen in Charlottesville’s destruction of the African-American community of Vinegar Hill in the 1960s.  At the Trust, as Stephanie notes, “we believe that historic preservation requires taking our history seriously. We have an obligation to confront the complex and difficult chapters of our past, and to recognize the many ways that our understanding, and characterization, of our shared American story continues to shape our present and future.”  That is especially true of our Civil War history, and the fact that many of …

Emotions Flow Through Places

It will surprise no one that I read a couple of baseball books and watched several games while on vacation.  But it may surprise you to know that the best piece of writing I read which included baseball as its subject came from the opening pages of psychiatrist Mindy Fullilove’s 2004 book Root Shock:  How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It.  She begins chapter one with several powerful paragraphs.  I’m going to quote extensively from those two pages. “Every once in a while, in a particular location and at a particular time, people spin the wheel of routine, and they make magic.  One such location was Ebbets Field in the heart of Brooklyn, where, through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar struggles for equality in America, hard-working people enjoyed baseball.  That small, unpredictable, and intimate ballpark was a gallery for characters to strut their stuff, and the characters in the stands took as much advantage of the opportunity as …

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

Virtually every reviewer of this 2016 work about the race to save some of the world’s most precious ancient manuscripts calls out the “unfortunate” or “inappropriate” title. And they are right. But then, in the comments section, reader after reader says something to the effect of “I wouldn’t have read this book (or your review) except for the title.” And they are right.   So there you have it.  Don’t let the title turn you off of this marvelous little book.  But also, don’t go into the work thinking that the librarians of Timbuktu are a modern-day version of Indiana Jones.  The tale is good enough on its own, but I suspect the author (and his publishers) thought that “The Very Persistent and Dedicated Librarians of Timbuktu” simply wasn’t going to set books flying off the shelf. Joshua Hammer, a former bureau chief for Newsweek who now serves as contributing editor to Smithsonian, is a talented writer who combines a strong journalism sense, travel writing sensibilities, a grasp of the culture and disputes of a …

A Fine Week

Babe Ruth — when asked in 1930 why he made more money than President Herbert Hoover — replied, “But I had a better year than Hoover.” I had a fine last week in July.  Much better than Donald Trump’s week, I hasten to add. What made my week so special?  I went to two games at Nats Park, where the Nationals lost both games and looked pretty sleepy while doing so But… The weather was clear and cool, with highs around 80 degrees and a light breeze adding to the perfect atmosphere. Ryan Zimmerman — in the midst of a monster comeback year — hit a home run on Tuesday night that gave him the lead for most career home runs by anyone playing for a Washington franchise.  (He passed Frank “Hondo” Howard for the honor.) Any day at the ballpark beats a day without a game. And… …oh yeah, Andrew and Claire each joined me for a game at the old yard.  With Claire in Washington for a month before heading back to graduate …