In This Issue:

  • When Japan Opened the Door: Japonism and Western Taste
  • Stone Quandaries
  • A Magical Ride: Collecting Carousel Art
  • Wright’s Ferry Mansion: Inside the World of a Renaissance Gentlewoman

And much more…

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In My Opinion

John Fiske

Pole Position

John Fiske 

Our little town is currently suffering from a bad case of “monopolar disorder,” and it’s all the fault of the MBTA. If you live in Ipswich, you’ll know immediately what I mean. But as most of you don’t, I’ll explain. Ipswich is on a well-used MBTA commuter rail that runs from Newburyport to Boston. The MBTA (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) is obeying a federal requirement to install a Positive Train Control System to prevent accidents automatically. Well and good.

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When Japan Opened the Door: Japonism and Western Taste

Ivor Hughes

In 1853, Japan began to lift over 200 years of self-imposed isolation from the West. She had closed her doors in the 1630s, a precautionary measure prompted by Western colonization of the Americas, a phenomenon that Japan did not want to see in the Orient. There are differing suggestions about why that isolation continued for more than two centuries, but ongoing European colonization elsewhere in Asia and Australia must have reinforced the original Japanese concerns.

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Stone Quandaries

John Fiske

Out of the public eye, and mostly under the ground, there are some 300 ancient stone structures scattered around New England. Nobody knows for sure who built them, when or why, but that has done nothing to stop the proliferation of possible explanations. Far from it.

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Collecting Carousel Art
A magical ride

Roland Hopkins

There is something very magical about an antique carousel and the hand-carved animals. You don’t even need to get on board to feel it (although it is much more fun if you do.) Just to be in the presence of one of these great, century-old, handcrafted machines is enough to bring a smile, and the sense of the hundreds of thousands of smiles that were there before you. It is more than the music and lights and spinning, jumping horses, it is the horses and figures themselves that are most special. It is as if all carousel animals have a life and a story of their own – which they do, each of them hand-carved by an immigrant artisan during the Golden Age of American carousels.

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Wright’s Ferry Mansion
Inside the world of a renaissance gentlewoman

Barbara Miller Beem

Hers was a rich and full life, that of a poet, naturalist, businesswoman, thinker and good neighbor. Could there be a person worldlier than Susanna Wright? As a single woman, she was involved in every aspect of the day-to-day running of her Pennsylvania home. She corresponded with the great minds of her time, including Benjamin Franklin, and her opinions influenced many. Yet she seldom ventured far from what could be described as her virtual salon.

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Yours Sincerely

John Fiske

I’ll not be spending many more evenings this year standing at the grill, waiting for my steak or chops or chicken to come “just right.” A pity – it’s such a peaceful way of ending the day: I can sip, wait and allow my mind to wander – something it always loves to do, often with no input from me.

This time, my mind, as it so often does, ended up in the seventeenth century. In the here and now, I was being thoroughly American – grilling a steak, but my wandering mind took me back to being very English: I was actually roasting beef, and the roast beef of old England is a long-lived cultural icon. Indeed, the French, those frog-eaters, used to call us “les rostbifs,” and the Tower of London to this day is guarded by Beefeaters, incorruptibly patriotic.

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