Thursday, April 9, 2015

Boston Strong two years later

 I have deep ties to the Boston Marathon.  My oldest brother has been running (almost) every year since 1979, I have friends and other family that run it, I worked the Mile 18 water stop for 5 years keeping the discarded cups from becoming a slippery carpet of ick for the "regular" runners (the people the crowds don't turn out for and look like you and me every day) and walking runners to the medical tent.  I have friends that work for Marathon Sports, including one that is usually at the Boston location on Marathon Monday.  I run, I belong to a running club and the Boston running community is family to me.

My oldest son is runner and he was working as a free lance writer producing press releases for an agency during that dark week and listening to information on scanners the general public does not have access to or knowledge of until the trial and maybe never.  (He will not discuss what he heard nor the agency for whom he was working, he took the NDA very seriously.)  My middle boy worked Mile 18 with me and has worked for a timing company at local races for a while.  My youngest boy was deeply affected and remains so to this day.

So yes, I have some opinions and feelings on this whole thing.

It's clear that Tsarnev is guilty, even his own legal team said as much.  That was never a question.  The question is does he live or die?  Well, we all die eventually it's just does the government give him an expiration date or not.  So understand when I say toss him into the Colorado Supermax and forget about him is the worst we can do to him, but it's not the worst we can do.

The worst we can do is focus on him and his loser brother.  The worst we can do is make him a martyr and let him always be on our mind.  The worst we can do is forget what the words "Boston Strong" really mean.

We are emerging from the snowiest winter on record and it all came over the course of 6 weeks from mid-January through the end of February for the most part.  During those storms one image went viral: a lone man shoveling off the finish line after a foot of snow fell in seemingly no time.  It was done anonymously with no thought of reward or glory and captured when someone happened to look out their window and notice the action.

That is the spirit of Boston Strong.

It is the image of 8 year old Martin Richard holding a sign he made simply saying "No more hurting people. Peace."  It's students going to UMass for a degree in business in Krystle Campbell's name.   It's the people at BU keeping Lingzi Lu's name alive.  It's the memorials in Sean Collyer's name in Somerville and at MIT.  It's the people who lost limbs and sustained injuries who have gone on to live everyday life in an extraordinary way.

It is not allowing the hate and anger to dominate, it is focusing on what is really valuable: the reality that we will not quit, we will not be defeated and our race will go on.  If we give into our anger and hatred, we are not better than those two young men who one day let their negative feelings and dark desires override their humanity to place two explosive devices near the finish line and set them off.

I don't want to be that angry person.  I don't want to be on the same level as the Tsarnevs, I want to be the guy shoveling off the finish line.  I want to be above that anger.  I want to retain my humanity, particularly in the face of deciding what passes for justice on a young man who - even if just for a moment - forgot about his.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hokusai at the MFA

Yesterday I got to see a preview of the Hokusai exhibit at the MFA in Boston.  Everyone pretty much knows "The Great Wave," as it is at least as iconic as the Mona Lisa, the Thinker and a handful of other pieces of art that are part of our collective knowledge and consciousness.

It is part of a series called "36 Views of Mount Fuji," an amazing collection of wood cuts that have Mount Fuji visible from different perspectives and sizes. Like most amazing art, it is overwhelming and needs to viewed multiple times over a period of time.  I know I will go back and spend a lot of time just sitting in the middle of the prints thinking about them.

But one particular print caught my eye:

 I listened as a father explained to his son about the use of color and how it had to be printed in layers.  They listened to audio tour bits, talked about where Mount Fuji was in this print versus a different print where it was barely visible.

Leaning over I said, "You should show him the original Tolkien drawings from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings."

He excitedly reminded his son that they had looked at those a couple of weeks ago when they were reading The Hobbit and his son, who was maybe 8 or 9 years old nodded his head and said, "Oh yeah, I remember."

It was an exciting moment for me as well to realize exactly how much Hokusai quietly reached into our lives.

So many of his prints influenced the Art Nouveau artists, like Mucha and Beardsley.  some of his demons and ghosts, a common subject in Japan but one we don't normally think of when thinking on Japanese art, can be seen in modern horror drawings, effects and designs.

Even more amazing to me was learning many of his original drawings were lost in the process of making the wood blocks that produced the prints.  Like nature, his drawings were temporary and timeless at the same time.

I plan to revisit the exhibit at least a few more times before it closes in August.  I want to spend some time just soaking in the Mount Fuji and the waterfall series.  One of the waterfalls wants to tell me a story and I know I need to sit and listen quietly as it tells me.

One thing I need to do is find out the MFA's restrictions on thing like a folding stool and such.  I see people there with easels and sketch books and such.  So I want to make sure I don't run afoul of things as I sit there with my blank book and write.

Speaking of short exhibits - the time capsule from the State House is there as well.  It was pretty cool to see the stuff that has been tucked away for hundreds of years.  It's only there for a couple of more weeks (until 4/22), so definitely check it out if you can.  No telling how much longer it will be until you can see it again.