Below is a collection of Marcia Deihl’s letters, published between 2000 and 2014.
July 13, 2012: Earhart’s story has touched many
I MUCH enjoyed the update on the search for Amelia Earhart (“A few still believe Earhart mystery can be solved; search revives local connection to aviator,” Page A1, July 9).
I was in a feminist string band in the 1970s in Boston, the New Harmony Sisterhood Band, and one of our best-loved songs was “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight,” which we researched at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library.
Hundreds of women sang along with the five-part harmony of the chorus to our tribute to a courageous woman.
May 28, 2012: The magic of human connection would be lost
Perhaps classes in statistics could be equally absorbed online or in person. But what about humanities classes? The root of that word implies a personal connection between a student and a teacher that no machine can duplicate (”Findings give boost to online classes: Method effective, study concludes,” Page A1, May 22).
I was a student in a Humanities class at the division of general education at Boston University in 1968. One professor read us “The Tell-Tale Heart” at 3 a.m. by candlelight, and acted out with gusto how Ugolino was doomed to forever gnaw the head of Archbishop Ruggieri in “The Divine Comedy.”
Another took us out to knock on doors and talk about racism after Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.
It was a magical time.
Could a face in a computer have mentored us in this way, or given us a kind word in the hallways?
Online education may be fine as an adjunct way of teaching, but I can’t help envisioning what commencement would be like for these online learners. A row of computers with online professors via Skype? It’s just not the same.
Dec. 16, 2009: Unemotional mp3
THANK YOU for Jeremy Eichler’s passionate writing against the literal desensitization of today’s quick and easy music forms (“Untouchable,” Dec. 13, Ideas). I, too, own an iPod and love its many benefits, but it misses the synesthesia (mix of the senses) of a record or even a CD. Sight, touch, and most importantly, smell are missing from the mp3 experience.
I have seen older people with dementia who rarely speak singing along with every verse of a popular song from their youth. But the sense of smell, like musical memory, triggers areas of the brain that “remember’’ past emotional high points. Today when I put E.C. and Orna Ball singing “I’m ready any time you call me, Lord/But give me just a little more time’’ on my record player, the smell of the record jacket transports me to that funky house on Willow Avenue.
If music alone triggers memory and connects both sides of the brain, the addition of the senses of sight, touch, and smell increases it exponentially. Why worry about losing old forms of music? Because the cost-benefit analysis of gaining speed and ease may mean losing out on memory and emotion. The random events of a lifetime, strung together by one’s emotional high points, make up the core of a self.
Nov. 20, 2005: The power and the glory of signs
For sure, the Citgo sign and the White Fuel sign were two separate signs (“Yikes,” Oct. 2 City Weekly).
Any new college student in the Class of ’71 knew that the two, taken together, were one of the best kept secrets of Boston in-jokes.
While one pulsated, the other erupted, so to us they represented how can I put this delicately - our future hopes for intimate social interaction.
Alas, we did “have to be in by 12 o’clock” (some of the words to the Standells’ “Dirty Water.”)
April 3, 2005: The life of the child prodigy
I winced at the attitude of the mother of the 30-year-old prodigy who thought that he was wasting his life and deluding himself. And I was touched by her son’s surprised joy that he could be in a love relationship. A social life is every bit as important as an intellectual one. As Harvard University’s Howard Gardner has said, there are multiple intelligences.
March 14, 2004: Ideas to lure conventioneers across the river
Last week, City Weekly reported that the Cambridge City Council has appropriated $100,000 for a “major city event” to coincide with the Democratic National Convention in July (“City wants to lure delegates from convention, but how?”). Below, readers offer ideas on what that event might be:
The question to ask is: “What does Cambridge in particular have that would interest Democrats of a certain age (mostly baby boomers)?” Answer: It’s Cambridge’s history of social change and bohemian-artistic culture. I perform a show about Cambridge’s bohemian history called “When Hippies Roamed the Earth: Cambridge in the 1970s.” My songs salute the antiwar student riots in the 1970s, community organizing, communal life, and more. Many baby boomers have “outgrown” such a life, but I sense they miss it. So that’s my Cambridge, and I think lots of bored conventioneers would like it.
Feb. 28, 2004: Forget the movie — donate instead
Here’s what I feel about Mel Gibson’s new film: Jesus would forgo the 10 bucks to watch violent, possibly pornographic fiction and donate the same time and money to a real place like Haley House, Boston’s soup kitchen/bakery/service center.
April 20, 2003: The joys of living in a college town
I work at one of our local Cambridge academic institutions, and I do notice that the work-study students in our office seem “younger” every year. But they’re great people and I really love talking to them on a daily basis, even though I feel like an auntie more than a pal. And I admit to reading the obits not just out of curiosity (writing the imaginary “novel” that one sees between the lines) but out of a sense of relief that I am still here. (“And if I’m not there, I know I’m not dead, so I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed” — as sung by Pete Seeger on the Weavers Reunion album).
But the article left out the joys of living in a college town as one ages:
1. Opportunities for activism. As a feminist and bisexual activist, I long ago busted the marketing myths that target my age and gender with new products for manufactured disorders. Since a recent law that allows these prescription medicines to advertise on televsion, we are treated to new created needs with every dose of the evening news.
2. Continuing education. Always take a class in something. You will meet a new pool of fellow travelers and learn something that will make life more vibrant. There are countless opportunities at all price levels in a university town.
3. Cultivate friends who are all ages. My mother is 90 and still writing prochoice letters to her local paper; my friend, teacher, and mentor, Hope Hale Davis, is 99 and still teaching writing. Who’s old? We all live longer, and I may be only halfway through.
4. Spiritual communities. No matter what flavor you pick, having a daily discipline and other people who share your search for something deeper will keep you focused on simple daily pleasures and hope for living forward, not in the past.
5. The arts. If you write or paint or act or perform, you get better with practice, year by year. You often get less self-centered and more involved in the craft itself and in the joy of being “one among.”
March 25, 2003: Danger from ‘embedded’ reporters
Granted, the “embedded” reporters in Iraq and outlying countries are brave and dedicated, but I think the armed forces get more out of them than the public does. If the reporters give out information about our great power, it will scare the enemy; if they give out information that’s untrue, they will confuse the enemy. Could not our leadership be using them for both of these purposes? After all, reporters depend on the people they are covering (the US armed forces) for protection, water, food, and shelter.
I know members of the media have waited for this opportunity since the Gulf War, when they were shut out from the front lines. I hope their professional love of excitement and getting the story do not impair their judgment about reporting “objectively.” Even this is compromised, given their list of “do not reports.” I will continue to consider the source when I read news from the war.
Aug. 18, 2002: With apologies to Woody Guthrie, she sings: This lane’s a bike lane
Re the article in City Weekly (Aug. 4, “Wheel fun, or a wheel pain?”): I am a lifelong three-speed biker who has ridden Rosinante, Black Beauty, Buttermilk, Big Red, Dada, Pol, and Zonker through the streets of Boston/Cambridge for the past 35 years. I wish to report that yes, I have been doored. I have also been “cigaretted.” A casually tossed ciggie butt (not pretty in the first place) has almost hit me more than once.
I will stop: (1) creeping up one-way streets, (2) going through red lights when there’s no one in sight, and (3) smiling as I ride by SUVs in rush-hour when Massachusetts drivers: (1) stop at stop signs, (2) don’t gun the pedal at red (let alone yellow) lights, and (3) stop making U-turns at least three times a day. My bad, their bad; there’s enough hypocrisy to go around for both camps.
For now, I sing as loudly as I can (with apologies to Woody Guthrie and his estate): “This lane’s a bike lane, this lane is MY lane, if you don’t get off, I’ll ring your head off (ring-ring); This lane is MY lane, this lane’s a bike lane, This lane was made for bikes like me!” Nobody bothers me.
Dec. 14, 2001: Beyond good and evil
Chet Raymo’s column “The gray areas save the world” (Page F2, Dec. 11) could well have run on the op-ed page. He speaks for gray, “not black or white. Good or evil. Truth or falsity. Yes or no.”
President Bush keeps using words like “evil” to describe our current enemies. The hijackers probably prayed to Allah as the resisting passengers on Flight 93 prayed the Lord’s Prayer. Both sides combined patriotism and religious belief. Anyone who doubts that glory, God, and war are linked should visit a magnificent mural on the second floor of Harvard’s Widener Library. A dying World War I soldier grasps a golden-haired angel with his right arm and a hooded figure with a scythe with his left. The caption reads: “Happy those who with a glowing faith in one embrace clasped death and victory.” There are political and economic reasons for such fanaticism. Turning the war into an issue of good versus evil cheapens history.
Feb. 24, 2001: Love that old Corona
I loved the article on “obsolete” objects and the people who love them, (“Retro active,” Health/Science, Feb. 20).
At a time when it’s nearly impossible to buy a simple electronic (nonmemory) typewriter, and when the computer soft ware at my job is updated constantly, I cherish my grand mother’s 1916 Corona typewriter. It still works perfectly, and its simple, visible works and fold-up design, its ivory and black metal beauty, and its self-reliance are a delight.
I have a fantasy of taking it on an airplane someday and typing away in my lap as others are told to turn off their electronic devices.
Dec. 9, 2000: A fair portrait of transgender issue
Thank you for Judy Foreman’s straightforward article on transgender lives (“For transgendered individuals, constant conflict,” Dec. 5). Since it was a science/health article, it didn’t address the social stigma of such identities, but the roots of today’s frothing at the mouth really began when Christian missionaries encountered Native American “berdaches,” or twin spirit people.
Usually wife murderers, like child abusers, are heteosexual males who dress “normally.” It should be obvious that there is no genetic link between cross-dressing and wife murdering.
July 3, 2000: The ghosts of Harvard Square
William Saunders remembers many of my favorite Harvard Square ghosts (“Is upscale a downer? The evolution of Harvard Square,” Focus, June 11), but to carry his story even further, consider Harvard Square of 1970:
The Orson Welles Restaurant dispensed full course dinners to the hippies late at night for 75 cents.
The Blue Parrot served delicious vegetarian ethnic food. Street musicians got busted in this era before city permits. I know; I was one.
The Spa served the first frozen yogurt in town. Bailey’s and Brigham’s competed for the best sundae, and, lest we forget, there was the Pewter Pot, Uncle Bunny’s, Jack’s, the funky Harvard Square Theater on Massachusetts Avenue, the Birkenstock shoe store, the “Mom’s clothing” store, Cherry Webb Touraine, and a tiny Mount Auburn restauant called Reflections, which served delicious peanut soup.
But my sharpest memories of all were scattered piles of tiny crystal stones made by the smashed windows of Design Research one hot May night, casualties of the anti-Vietnam war riots.
Saunders is right about the loss of eccentricity, character, and unpredictability in the Square. In this day and age, old, odd, needy people are as unwelcome as old, odd, needy buildings. The more expensive and generic and young our consumer culture becomes, the less we will invent, create, and take our own lives as real in our communities.
I don’t endorse smashing windows again, but I feel there is a slow, soul death going on all around me, much deeper and more insidious than the aesthetic drawbacks Sanders notes.