Wednesday, May 29, 2013


By Rob Siegel

Bentley Publishers
ISBN 978-083761720-6
410 pages

Review by Tom Miller

Someone said, “Hey Tom.  You’re a car guy.  This book is being released soon and it’s right up your alley, why don’t you give it a review?”  I said OK and the publisher Fed Ex’ed a copy to me.  I dove into it knowing that the release was scheduled within the next couple of weeks and I set myself a deadline to get the book read and the review written as quickly as possible.  But as I set about the task at hand, I found that each time I picked up the book I had this sense of resentment.  Odd. 

It took me a session or two before I realized that what I resented was the fact that I was under a deadline and that I needed to rush.  This is not a book to rush through.  Not if you are a car guy.  If you are a car guy this is a book to stroll through.  I don’t know how to define exactly what a car guy is, but I know that I am one.  And I know that all car guys know what the term means – and their loved ones probably know as well.  You know, you recognize the smell of brake fluid and old grease that lingers like cologne when you enter a room.  You have barked knuckles and a screw driver in your back pocket.  You think about shock absorbers and tune ups and stuff like that.

Anyway, this book is written by a car guy for car guys about car guy experiences.  It is part autobiography, part encyclopedia, and part advice column.  It is chocked full of useful hints about everything from acquiring a car, repairing a car and even when the sad event is necessary, disposing of a car.  It is a lifetime of experience hard won and passed on gladly.

Now I will forgive Rob for focusing on his passion – BMWs – since I am a died in the wool Detroit iron fan of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, (…and newer, …or older,  if a neat car pops up), but as all car guys know, experience generalizes and sound advice is sound advice.  And this book is full of sound advice.  Rob has written a column for the BMW Car Club of America’s magazine Roundel for over twenty-five years, no mean feat in itself.  To have accomplished that kind of longevity with what surely must be a group of BMW purists speaks volumes.

Included in the book are some amusing anecdotes as well as some self incurred foibles that get told, all of which adds to its entertainment value.  And there are some really neat photos of his passions and his rather unique five car garage – one bay of which is under the deck (why not?  Car guys know how to do that kind of stuff).

This is a book that I will lend out but only grudgingly and to friends who have demonstrated that they are responsible enough to be trusted to not abscond with it.  I also will buy copies of it to give to other car guys for birthdays and I most definitely would recommend it for the upcoming Fathers Day.  Especially if…your Dad is a car guy!

**** Tom Miller is a retired auto industry executive, and an occasional reviewer for BASPP.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Somerville Artist Pauline Lim: Equally at home with Archie Comics and Medieval Art

I am a bundle of neurosis by Pauline Lim

Somerville artist Pauline Lim walked into the Sherman Cafe with a very focused stare and joined me at my usual table. She told me that she just finished meditating in preparation for our interview. After wiping the few remaining crumbs of my luscious oatmeal scone from my table ( A staple of my morning fare for years now), we began to talk about her work and life as an artist.

Lim has for many years lived in the Brickbottom building, an artist residence outside Union Square. Lim said she graduated from Harvard University in 1988 and moved into the Brickbottom, but left for awhile returning yet again again in 2004. She adores living in Somerville stating: "  I love the upscale and downscale; it is scrappier than Cambridge but just as cultured-- a lot of super smart people live here, but Somerville has less the arrogant professorial types."

Living at the Brickbottom has been a great experience Lim told me. There are many group activities such as meditation, book discussion, annual barbecues, etc... Lim smiled: " It is like we are all playmates--surrounded by family. There is a high tolerance for kookiness. We are a bunch of misfits in a way. We are all aware of the false images society puts out about who is a winner and who is not."

Lim told me  that one of her early influences were comics, like Archie and Richie Rich,that she read as a child. And in fact she brings a very comic aspect to her work. At Harvard, where she studied art there was a big emphasis on abstraction. But Lim always liked the realism of comics, and the skill that is brought to the genre.

Lim is very upfront about having a long struggle with the Black Dogs of depression as Winston Churchill once characterized it. Lim reflected: " Being an artist was one step
above committing suicide." She was pressured by her Korean family to achieve success as a doctor or something along those lines. This and other emotional baggage haunted this artist for decades.

Lim made a trip to Europe years ago and came under the influence of the majestic cathedrals she visited. She was also brought up attending  a High Anglican church--all this lead to her interest in medieval religious art. Her paintings explore these serious themes, but she also infuses them with these semi-comical characters giving her work a very quirky appeal.

Lim said much of her work is self-focused and even a cursory look at her work reveals titles like: " I am making my way through life." or "The dream from which I can not wake" would indicate this sensibility. Lim said she is not sure if this intense self-focus  is good or bad. She stated: " It doesn't bring you happiness." But the artist said that after years of struggling with inner demons she is getting to a much better place with her life and art. She left our meeting with an engaging smile. There are many stories in the Paris of New England--this has been one of them.

Review of Sweet Spot by Kenneth Lee

Review of Sweet Spot, Poems by Kenneth Lee, Antrim House, 21 Goodrich Road, Simsbury, CT 06070,, 2012, 78 pages, $17

By Barbara Bialick

Dr. Kenneth Lee, a pathologist in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, has a keen eye for description in his book of slices of his life, from childhood to the present.

The sweet spot of a baseball bat is the perfect way to hit the ball, and so in this collection he shows how to stay in the game.

He takes us from his youth in Teaneck, New Jersey, through his fascinating stint as an air force pilot in Viet Nam to a busy life as a doctor, father, observer, and so on. The first half of the book is one well-crafted poem after another. However, as it travels through the years, I couldn’t concentrate on the growing examination of his many views of his life, often in an almost matter of fact way.

Early in the collection, he records his first trip to his grandfather’s watch shop. He is impressed by the way his grandfather referred to the watches as “movements”. This interest in the elegant fascination in his work carries him through his own profession. Lee knows he is able to save lives in a somewhat similar view of the minute human material he sees on his pathology slides. “I process them/according to established protocol:/a tiny foot, a hand/suspended in the purple slush,/ placental villi/lovely/all those once-ardent strivings/waving like anemones/anxious that I detect/that they had come at least this far.” (“Protocol”)

At a family reunion in New Jersey, near the end of the book, “Jersey Shore Reunion”, he looks back on it all. On the beach he relates his thoughts: “The droning rollers, ghostly foam/I think of how much water/the sea has thrown on its sloping shoulders/since I walked here last, a child on vacation./I turn, the far-off beach house lights,/Mars, the austere moon, indifferent stars.” Likewise the doctor has taken a lot of responsibility onto his own shoulders…

Kenneth Lee is the co-author of a popular textbook, with Christopher Crum, Diagnostic and Gynecologic and Obstetric Pathology. He has also published in many well-respected literary and other journals including Chest, Nimrod, Poetry East, Comstock Review, The Lyric, and Harp Strings Poetry Journal. Some of the poems in the book were published in an earlier poetry chapbook, Cleaning the Attic. He lives with his wife, Kathleen, in Boston, Massachusetts.