All About Bone

By Roy Meals

I grew up in Kansas City and spent as much time as a could on my grandparents’ farm in central Missouri. There I saw the whole life cycle of bones from birth to butcher to table. I have always enjoyed being outside, and I am not sure whether that stimulated my interest in natural history or vice versa. Either way, my interests led me to major in biology at Rice University, where I gained a deep appreciation for the diversity and adaptations of animal life. During medical school at Vanderbilt University I had the opportunity to further explore the workings and failings of human tissues and was particularly attracted to bone. It appealed to my mechanical, three-dimensional way of thinking.

These inclinations led to an orthopedic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I had the opportunity to drill down, both literally and figuratively, on living bone. The residency was interrupted for two years by my military obligation, which I fulfilled as a general medical officer in Turkey. That experience, and the regional travel opportunities it allowed in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe put bones into an entirely new perspective for me—their historic and cultural implications. The ways that the Hittites and ancient Egyptians managed their dead brethren and the ways that various civilizations have used bone as implements, weapons, and ornamentation enhanced my interest in the unique composition and multiple purposes of bone.

After completing a hand surgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, I joined the orthopedic surgery faculty at UCLA, where my current title is Clinical Professor. My career in academic medicine has allowed me not only to manage many difficult bone abnormalities in the upper extremity, it has also provided the opportunity to write extensively on these topics. This includes many peer-reviewed journal articles and two books, One Hundred Orthopedic Conditions Every Doctor Should Understand and The Hand Owner’s Manual, A Hand Surgeon’s Thirty Year Collection of Important Information and Fascinating Facts. My interest in writing extends to improving the form and content of the works of others. I have been on the senior editorial board of the Journal of Hand Surgery for most of my career including a five-year term as Editor-in-Chief.

Travel continues to interest me, and visits to all of the inhabited continents and 48 states have provided study opportunities regarding my interest in bone. Museums devoted to natural history, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, maritime history, and even fine art and musical instruments exhibit bones and bone artefacts and vouch for its durability and versatility. I have savoured each visit.

I now want to organize my observations and experiences with bone, and in a systematic way share my passion with others. Starting with a blog, www.aboutbone.com and a five-part lecture series in the 2018 winter quarter at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute @ UCLA, my plan is to eventually turn the collected information into a book: Bone. Supporting Life, Capturing History.

 

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra drops in on OLLI Course

Attorney General Xavier Becerra with Instructor Bob Stern

Students of the OLLI course, The Trump Presidency: the Good, the Bad and the Unknown, were treated to an unexpected guest speaker on October 10: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The attorney general talked on the state of California’s response to the Trump Presidency — which has included filing suit against the federal government. Several notable cases have targeted the adminstration’s actions on immigration policy, including a suit against the proposed border wall; one challenging the rescinding of the DACA program for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors; and another seeking to block Trump’s policy of withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities.”

“Along the way, if someone wants to get in our way,” Becerra said, “I’m not going to pick a fight, but if someone wants to fight, like Donald Trump, we’ll be ready.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra taking questions

The 6-week course is taught by Bob Stern, who has been an observer and participant in elections for the past 40 years and has worked for Congressional campaigns and public officials, including Henry Waxman and Jerry Brown. He is frequently interviewed by news outlets, including MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, the Los Angeles Times and other papers throughout the country on election and campaign reform subjects.

At the Luskin Center on UCLA Campus

The class was also given a location upgrade to the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center, along with free parking and refreshments.

The Los Angeles Daily News covered the event, which you can read about here.

You can also hear it on our podcast, which you can find here.

The course runs from  September 28 – November 2. Other guest speakers include:

  • Chris Carson, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States
  • Bill Boyarsky, former Los Angeles Times editor and columnist
  • Jim Brulte, Chairman of the California Republican Party and former State Senator
  • Derek Shearer, former US Ambassador to Finland and Occidental College professor

 

 

The 2017 Osher Institutes National Conference

Stacey Hart, Mary Ann Wilson, Marlene Zweig

I attended the Osher Institutes National Conference in Irving, TX on April 3-5, 2017 at the luxurious Omni Mandalay Hotel. Accompanying me was OLLI’s  volunteer, Marlene Zweig, who joined OLLI at UCLA at its inception in 2005, serving as a member of the original OLLI Advisory Council when fewer than 400 persons participated in the program. She continues to serve as a member of the OLLI Advisory Board and Chair of the OLLI Curriculum Committee. It was our first time to attend.

We marveled at how well organized the conference was — every meeting was well-run, informative, and stayed on schedule; and the attention to detail was apparent down to the color-coded name cards at the final dinner. All the participants were given flash drives that included the slides and handouts of each session. But most importantly, the food was plentiful and delicious. All this thanks to Stacey Hart, Manager of Operations, National Resource Center for OLLI.

We learned that of the 120 lifelong learning programs in the country, no program is like another, nor should be. OLLI isn’t a franchise, they said, but more like a network of bakeries, each one featuring home-baked, delicious cookies.

We were impressed by many of these home-baked surprises: a dance program that included not just ballroom and line dancing but a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”; an acting course on the history of old-time radio that became an active theater performance of a Jack Benny radio show. Which then evolved into productions requiring auditions for actors over 50, featuring such Broadway musicals as Fiddler on the Roof and Grease. Then there were the OLLI members, who with the help of a master gardener, took over a brownfield remediation site and produced 3,000 pounds of fresh produce in its first year and 17,000+ pounds of fresh produce by its fourth year, all of which were donated to food pantries and soup kitchens.

We heard from Executive Director of the Osher National Resource Center (NRC), Steve Thaxton; President of the Bernard Osher Foundation, Mary Bitterman; Senior Program Director of the Bernard Osher Foundation, David Blazevich; and Founder and Treasurer of the Bernard Osher Foundation: the one and only Bernard Osher, who is one cool dude. We were inspired by notable speakers, we networked with colleagues near and far, and we returned with a greater appreciation for UCLA Extension, which provides an infrastructure of support we had always taken for granted.

At a plenary session on fundraising, one panelist got a round of applause when she said she finally got a development officer. The idea of not having one stunned me.

At a new directors’ workshop, we discussed how and if the following offices assisted our work: parking, development, dining services, facilities, mail services, and marketing. One new director said she had none of these services and asked others to tell her how to get them. OLLI at UCLA has all these.

Another director told me he was only allowed to use a classroom on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have our own space in the new Gayley Center with first dibs on two classrooms, a lounge with three personal computers, a TV, refrigerator, microwave, and free coffee.

So, thank you UCLA Extension, for making us feel at home.

And thank you, Mr. Bernard Osher, for bringing happiness into the lives of 160,125 Osher members in 377 towns and cities across the country.

 

Mary Ann Wilson Program Coordinator

OLLI Astronomy Instructor Shelley Bonus Wins Prestigious Award

bonus_shelley-300Shelley Bonus, an instructor with UCLA Extension’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), was recently awarded the 2016 AstronomyOutreach Award for her lifetime of work around the world in public educational outreach in astronomy.

As the Mt. Wilson Observatory Telescope Coordinator, Bonus has been operating telescopes and teaching about cosmology, astronomy, space exploration, and writing at UCLA Extension for more than 25 years. Bonus is an astronomer, writer, lecturer and science translator for stargazers of all ages all over the world. The AstronomyOutreach Network honored her with this lifetime achievement award for her “gift of translating and teaching (often in various languages) some of the most complicated aspects of cosmology and astrophysics … with humor and acute technical accuracy.”

Bonus has received numerous other honors in her career – including, but not limited to, the time the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after her, citing her unique method of translating the most difficult of scientific discoveries to the public. The author of several astronomy texts, including the Solar System Guide for Carl Sagan’s Planetary Society, Bonus wrote the content for Caltech’s Infrared Astronomy website COOLCOSMOS, and continues to write the very popular “Space E! Tracy Planetarium Shows and Lectures.” Bonus is also an archeo-astronomer, linguist, and presentation coach.

“Shelley is one of our most beloved OLLI instructors, and she has a following of students who take her courses quarter after quarter,” said OLLI Program Manager Evan McGinnis. “She is exceptionally dynamic in the classroom, and uses her strong command of the subject matter to create rewarding experiences for everyone she teaches. Many students tell us her courses are the highlight of their time in our program.”

How Volunteering with the American Language Center Led to This

Leonard Blum Russia 1

Leonard and Bonnie Blum with ALC student Lena in front of an entrance to the Kremlin and Red Square.

My name is Leonard Blum and I am an Osher member. Lena, a student from Moscow, who was enrolled in a class of the American Language Center, asked our Osher class for volunteers to aid their students in learning and practicing English. Coincidentally, my wife, Bonnie, and I were planning a trip to Russia. I asked Dylan if he could please ask Lena to contact me to discuss Moscow. She did. Lena came to our home; we had a delightful meeting with her and she gave us valuable information about her city. Lena then tutored my wife in the Russian language. Our time in Moscow coincided with Lena being at home and we were fortunate to have her as not only our guide, but our dinner companion for three out of four nights we were in Moscow. I thank the Osher Institute for facilitating our introduction to Lena, which worked out for our mutual benefit.

Teaching Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism

By Don Parris

Don Parris

Don Parris

I have been teaching Buddhism over the past thirty plus years, and the most frequently asked question of me is how I got into Buddhism and particularly Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism, a discipline that requires intensive study of Theravāda (classical/individual vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, Mahāyāna (universal vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, and Vajrayāna (Tibetan/Tantric diamond vehicle) Buddhism for seven years. It all began with a telephone call.

The call came as my wife and I were chillaxing on the pristine crescent bay sands of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, sipping mai tais complete with little pink parasols spiked in pineapple wedges. A “Grand Budapest Hotel” Zero Moustafa type lobby boy paraded by, in red pillbox hat, searchingly pinging his xylophone, “Call for Mr. Parris. Call for Mr. Parris.” I took it on the house phone in the Mauna Kea’s stunning blue tiled entryway.

“Don! This will change your life!” Frank, my mentor in the global Big-Law firm at which I was a young associate grunt, always spoke emphatically and was not one for such niceties as “hello” or identifying himself. Straight to the chase; and, as always, he was right—emphatically so.

6With that salutation, the force-of-nature that was the Senior Partner Chair of our firm conscripted me and my ever-valiant wife into a trek to the base camp of Mount Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world—“The Five Treasures of the High Snow”—toward the eastern end of the Himalayas. I had never even heard of the mountain’s home, the Kingdom of Sikkim. However, our alpine guide, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, regaled us for weeks with stories not only of Sikkim, but also of the Himalayas, Tibetan Buddhism, Sherpas, bodhisattvas, tantra, yetis, and his and Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 first summit of Mount Everest. After his ascent, Nepal, India and Sikkim fought over Tenzing’s provenance; but first, foremost and forever, he was a Sherpa. Throughout that first trek, the love, care and selflessness the Sherpas and Sherpanis extended to my sometimes struggling wife opened my eyes, mind and heart to a far more evolved life form than the one prowling the hallways of Century City high rises.

4As Frank had prophesized, the Buddhist cultural Himalayas became my life-changing path, journey and sanctuary. I began “taking refuge” not in the Three Jewels of Buddhism—the Buddha (teacher), the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community)— but, in the more western sense of the phrase. I took refuge in the Himalayas where my clients and office couldn’t reach me; and, if I be completely honest, visa versa. However, for me, it soon became less about escape, and more about quest and inner exploration. I eventually took refuge formally in the Three Jewels and became what Buddhism calls a “stream entrant:” one who enters onto the Path seeking a different perspective and way of engaging life. Decades of learning, scholarship, teaching, guiding and practicing later, I’m still swinging through the branches on that evolutionary continuum; but hopefully soon will be able to walk upright.

Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism is an orally transmitted and visually encoded tradition. The Buddha cautioned that its accelerated path to enlightenment—nirvāṇa—was as dangerous as it was expeditious; and, accordingly, had to be undertaken only with the guidance of an appropriate teacher or guru. So, eventually, when fully prepared—or so I thought—I introduced myself to my proposed first teacher, the venerable Geshe Phurba in the alter room of his Himalayan monastery. It was not an audition to be proud of. I bowed, I namasted, I invoked an air of solemnity, and ventured, “I wish to become a Buddhist; I wish to become enlightened; I wish to practice anuttarayogatantra,” showing off a bit with the last to convince him I was learned in his ways, familiar with the highest tantric practices, and serious disciple material.

7His response: “Later.”

Me: “No.” I actually said “no”—to Yoda. By that time I was a partner in the global Big-Law firm; so it was knee-jerk, maybe even genetic. Recovering quickly, I dialed it way back and asked, “Why? It’s already late for me master; I need to start now.”

Geshe Phurba: “You can not. You have no mind.”

Oh, I thought, just a simple misunderstanding. After all, it’s not like I had filled out a formal application for the position. “I have a mind,” I informed him, and promptly proved the opposite by listing everything under my professional CV caption “Awards and Honors:” PBK, Coif, Law Review Editor, JD, Supreme Court clerkship, Big-Law partner . . . .

“Stop!,” Geshe interrupted. “There, you have no mind!” He looked pained, as though it gave him a headache just trying to think down to my level.

Finally, losing all conceit and using his honorific title, I simply asked, “What do I do, Rinpoche?”

“First,” he said, “get a mind. Observe, study, learn, critique, focus, meditate, understand, and practice. Then, teach.”5

“But what about enlightenment?” I blurted out.

Response: “Later.” I had the uneasy feeling we were right back where we started, only much further behind. “Please, Rinpoche, will you help me?”

And he promptly got up and walked out.

Since I was still in the alter room, I did not actually swear; but I channeled it through every fiber of my body.

Eventually Geshe Phurba returned. He unrolled a grimy scrolled painting—a thangka—and hung it on the wall by a small window. He then laid an old frayed rug down before it, motioned me to sit there, and directed me, “Observe, study, learn.”

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

I had no idea—none—at all. But it felt like a test, so I began studying the image. An hour and a half later, he brought me a cup of foul-smelling and fouler-tasting yak butter tea. It’s an odd and challenging concoction of black brick Chinese tea, yak milk churned to butter, and a generous scoop of salt; all of which is whipped into something of thick soup texture. The resultant taste bears little resemblance to tea, but it is chain-chugged throughout the Himalayas.

An hour after the proffered tea, Geshe Phurba returned, motioned me to sit next to him, and asked what I had observed, studied and learned. “Thank you, Jesus” I mumbled silently. I recited my near-photographic-memory description of the eidetic thangka image: details of the creature holding in his fangs and claws a disc of pictographic concentric circles, of the twelve outer ring images, of the six inner panels including one man chopping down another’s tree, the people with bloated stomachs breathing fire, the wretched souls being boiled, sawed, flayed and dismembered, and of the pig, snake and rooster chasing each other in the central hub. Nailed it!

2My master shook his head with what I chose not to recognize as profound disappointment, and asked me again what I had learned. I asked what he meant. He asked me to leave.

And that was the end of my first teaching with my master.

I had been egocentric, not properly intentioned, and not ready to begin. He, however, was infinitely patient, and had actually accepted me as his student. Decades later, I am still studying that image of the Bhavachakra—The Wheel of Life—and I am still learning its teachings. And I have, for decades, as my teacher wished, been teaching Buddhism.

The second most frequently asked question of me is what my classes are like, such as my Summer Quarter 2016 course on Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism. I should note my conviction that you cannot simply intellectualize your way along the 1Vajrayāna/Tantrayāna Path. It is a bit like learning a foreign language; it ultimately requires some period of full immersion in situ. Living in the Himalayas and particularly in a monastery or gompa, being a part of the Buddhist culture and environment, and joining its rhythm and flow, is integral to understanding the Vajrayāna and particularly its Tantric technology. Otherwise, it’s like reading the operator’s manual without ever actually seeing or using a computer.

So, in our course, I’ll complement lectures and textual scholarship with (literally) hands-on, decoded visual components including statues, iconography, artworks, thangkas, ritual objects and artifacts. From our classroom chairs, we’ll (virtually) go on a pilgrimage, explore monasteries, enjoy a festival/teschu, travel throughout the Buddhist Himalayas, and live among the people of the snows as they go about their daily spiritual lives.

On the experiential side, since this is a contemplative tradition, I’ll try to devote (time permitting) the last five to ten minutes of a few classes to sample abbreviated guided meditations, appropriate for beginners or practitioners, of various types and levels of practice from calm abiding mindfulness, to insight-based investigation, wisdom awareness transformation, and finally just a taste of the anuttarayogatantra or unexcelled yoga meditation. For those who wish to participate, the meditations can be done either in classroom chairs or on the floor (bring your own cushion).

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

The course will analyze the paradigms of classical Buddhism (Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, and so forth) without which we cannot understand the more esoteric teachings of the tantra. We’ll explore what is—and, equally important, is not—the Buddhist meaning of suffering/dukkha, no-self or non-self/anātman, impermanence and emptiness/shūnyatā, rebirth and the Bardo Thödol/The Tibetan Book of the Dead, nature of reality, and nirvāṇa. The “great schism” of Mahāyāna Buddhism introduced transformative changes in classical Buddhism based upon penetrating philosophical, scientific and psychological investigations and analyses, which we’ll consider in overview. The propagation of Buddhism into the Himalayas encountered and assimilated the indigenous animistic/shamanic Bön religion. The result of these influences was the “Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma”—Vajrayāna Buddhism—with its paradigm shifts, and singular teachings and practices rooted in the tantra. Throughout, we’ll take a look at the architecture, dance, music and fine arts, and the role they play in Buddhism in the Land of Eternal Snows.

3Most importantly, I want to encourage free, open and intelligent class discussion and participation on the topics addressed in each session of the course.

Don Parris will teach Tibetan Tantric Buddhism this summer on 8 Tuesdays, 1-3pm, Jun 21-Aug 9, in the Gayley Center.

Perry Wolff’s Final Documentary and Great Accomplishments

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On September 3, Perry Wolff screened his final documentary at the Belmont Village in Westwood. He moved to Lake Oswego, Portland on September 28. We will miss him.

Perry Wolff won numerous Emmy and  Peabody Awards during a long career as an executive producer for ”CBS Reports” and other news programs, but after he retired from CBS news, he made a series of art films for public broadcasting, including Images of Jesus, which won the Religious Broadcast of the year award, Michelangelo Restored, The Impressionists, van Gogh, Picasso, and An Essay on Matisse, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1996. In all he received fifteen Emmy awards and fourteen Peabody Awards, as well as numerous Writers Guild, Du Pont and Polk awards.

An OLLI interview in 2011 with Perry Wolff can be viewed here:

https://uclaextensionolli.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/interview-with-award-winning-documentarian-perry-wolff/

A 2-hour interview with Perry Wolff conducted at the Belmont Village Westwood on February 27, 2015 can be seen in segments here:

http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/perry-wolff

Four Must-Reads for the Serious (or Not-So-Serious) Foodie, Part II

DSC_0149Instructor Carlo Coppola led an enthusiastic group through his spring course, Four Must-Reads for the Serious (or Not-So-Serious) Foodie, Part II. This course is a lively inquiry into food history through the eyes of Margaret Visser in Rituals of Dinner, Stewart Allen’s In the Devil’s Garden, Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork and William Sitwell’s AHistory of Food in 100 Recipes. Storytelling and historical reflection are shared by Coppola as he organizes the vast information presented into bitesized, easily digestible pieces. 

Field trips include a tour of LACMA to view art celebrating food and feasting, while the conclusion of the course was marked with a fete including recipes prepared by the students from the Sitwell book.  The beautiful garden setting shared by one of the participants was the perfect back drop.  Students each took on a dish from the menu pulled together by Coppola, who himself tackled Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.

Those looking for an interactive, hands-on history of culture and cuisine will find Coppola’s knowledge, passion and dedication to the topic an educational and enjoyable banquet.

Lisa Deutsch
Culture and Cuisine Consultant
http://www.essentialwanderings.com

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Numbered

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM UCLA Royce Hall, Room 190

An estimated 400,000 prisoners at Auschwitz, both Jewish or non-Jewish, were tattooed with serial numbers, first on their chests and then their left arms; only some several thousand survivors are still alive today.

This beautiful and moving documentary tells the personal stories of Auschwitz survivors now living in Israel, and the meaning their tattoos took on in the years following the war – for themselves and, recently, for their grandchildren. Numbered explores the phenomenon in Israel of grandchildren of survivors having their grandparents’ numbers tattooed on their own arms to preserve the memory of their relatives and as witnesses to history. Guided by testimonies and portraits of these survivors and their families, the film’s protagonist is the number itself, as it evolves and becomes both a personal and collective symbol from 1940 to today.

Director:Uriel Sinai, Dana Doron Producer: Hilla Medalia, Neta Zwebner-Zaibert

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. RSVP requested.

To RSPV please follow the following link: http://www.international.ucla.edu/institute/event/11190

Come Meet Our International Students!

OLLI 3

Our American Language Center seeks volunteers to help international students practice English in their advanced speaking class. These students are ESL learners who want to improve their writing skills for personal, professional, or academic reasons. Our OLLI members will be interviewed by the students so that the students can practice speaking English in a live setting.  The previous sessions were great successes enjoyed by all and we hope to repeat the experience. Volunteers are needed for the following Tuesdays:

  • April 7, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-680. The theme is family!
  • May 5, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-681. The theme is travel!
  • June 4, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-682. The theme is hobbies!

Intercultural Mixers

April 28, 2015 and May 28, 2015
1:15p – 2:30p, 1145 Gayley Center

OLLI members interested in meeting international students for intercultural discussion can arrange group exchanges through Bob Baldwin, Academic Advisor at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension. Mixers consist of 10 – 15 international students who meet with an equal number of OLLI members. Mixers are conducted like a “speed-dating” session, with pairs (consisting of one OLLI member and one ALC student) meeting for 10 minutes per pairing. Questions are provided, but participants are free to talk about anything they like. Mixers can be English-only or bilingual (subject to there being sufficient numbers of ALC students who speak a language which OLLI members wish to practice). For further information, contact Bob at rbaldwin@unex.ucla.edu  or (310) 794-2714.

Language Partners Program (LPP):

The LPP, which has been in operation for over 25 years, provides the opportunity for members of the UCLA and local community to meet international students enrolled at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension, to improve participants’ language skills and intercultural awareness. The LPP is a completely voluntary program, with participants meeting at times and in public locations based on mutual convenience. Exchanges can be bilingual (if OLLI participants want to practice a foreign language in exchange for an equal amount of English) or English only (for intercultural exchanges). Most participants meet in pairs or small groups and engage in free conversation. Interested parties can contact Bob Baldwin, the ALC Academic Advisor, for an LPP application; once the application is submitted, he will then make the necessary match-ups and introductions. For further information, contact Bob at rbaldwin@unex.ucla.edu or (310) 794-2714.

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