What Do Tchaikovsky and “The Roosevelts” Have In Common?

September 15, 2014

They provided me with an enjoyable weekend. 

CSO Conductor George Del Gobbo conducting his "Know the Score" pre-concert session.  He told us all about Tchaikovsky and his powerful and beautiful music  before the concert. Not only was it informative, but entertaining. The complimentary wine added to the enjoyment.

CSO Conductor George Del Gobbo conducting his “Know the Score” pre-concert session. He told us all about Tchaikovsky and his powerful and beautiful music before the concert. Not only was it informative, but entertaining. The complimentary wine added to the enjoyment.

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s all-Tchaikovsky concert Saturday evening provided a wonderful demonstration of how the sound of a first-class orchestra can lift your spirits to dazzling heights. It was a marvelous experience in transporting sound.  And the champagne and dessert reception before the concert didn’t hurt.  It really helped that the dessert came in small portions. You got that great taste without sending your blood sugar through the roof.

Columbus Symphony in Bill Heard Theater at the River Center.

Columbus Symphony in Bill Heard Theater at the River Center.

Watching Episode 1 of Ken Burn’s “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” was also a special experience.  I have read a few books about Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt and thought I knew a lot about them.  Watching the Burn’s film provided not only some things I didn’t know, but did it in an arresting way with the use of historic movie film and still photographs to great effect.  I knew that Theodore liked war, but I didn’t realize how he took great pleasure in being a killer in Cuba during the Spanish-American War until I saw the Burn’s film.  It wasn’t something he had to do, but something that he wanted to do. That was one side of him.  Another side was his drive to improve the lives of the working class of America, even though he was a wealthy New York aristocrat.   I’m looking forward to the rest of the series on GPTV which runs all this week.

 

 

A TUNEFUL CSO SEASON

September 10, 2014

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As Maestro George Del Gobbo says, “There is nothing in the world like hearing a symphony orchestra live.” The first symphony  orchestra I heard live was the Pittsburg Symphony when it came to Columbus in the mid-1940s. I have been hooked on that wonderful  sound since. And, believe me, being live makes a huge difference.

The CSO  season, which starts Saturday, Sept. 13 at the River Center at 7:30, has something for everyone, including a concert that features the lush sounds of a symphony playing some country music  favorites. The opener Saturday is an all Tchaikovsky  concert. This is great powerful, passionate, romantic, beautiful symphonic music with  melodies that you’ll humming on your way back to your car. Do yourself a favor and join me Saturday and experience what Maestro Del Gobbo says is sound that “comes from the depths of the human soul.”

Oh, the T-shirt is something I won a few years ago when the orchestra held a pops concert that featured an audience quiz.  The orchestra played excerpts and the person who identified the most titles won some tickets and a T-shirt.  It was my lucky  day. I got all of them.  The concert had been scheduled for the band shell in Weracoba Park, but it was moved into the Jordan High auditorium because of rain. That old auditorium has excellent acoustics.

Now’s A Good Time to Visit the Little White House Again

September 9, 2014

My DVR is set to record every episode of Ken Burn’s “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”  The seven-episode documentary about Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt starts Sunday, September 14th, and runs for seven consecutive nights on PBS.

After seeing an impressive preview film of the documentary at the River Center,  a friend and I decided now would be a good time to go to Warm Springs, have lunch at the Bulloch House (really good country cooking and historic ambiance),  and return to the Little White House  for a visit to the newest museum and  the presidential cottage and the historic  pools museum.

 When I was about 13, I swam in that famous pool that was fed by warm spring water and used by President Roosevelt and other polio patients at the  Georgia Warm Springs  Foundation.  It would be open to the public on some holidays.  My family took advantage of that one weekend during World War II.  A young Fort Benning soldier and his wife, who rented a room in our home, went with us.   

The new museum is impressive and does have some artifacts that the old one didn’t display.  The old museum is now used as an office building for the state park.  The very first museum was in the basement of the Little White House.  

We really enjoyed the visit.  I was quite familiar with the cottage because not only have I visited it a number of times, I did a documentary for WRBL on it and the old museum back in the 1980s.  I hadn’t seen it in years, so I had forgotten some of the details, but  as we toured it again, I got the same feeling of “seeing it now” – Edward R. Murrow did a series of historical documentaries for CBS called :See It Now” –  this time.

I actually saw FDR when I was a small boy.  It was only for a few seconds.   Our family car was one of many sitting on the side of Warm Springs Road so we could  watch the presidential sedan  go by as he returned to Warm Springs after a Columbus visit.  

When working for WSB Radio in Atlanta, I interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the Salk vaccine which helped eradicate polio,  in 1958 for a feature for NBC Radio about the 20th anniversary celebration of  National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.  

There have been documentaries about Teddy, FDR, and Eleanor, but none that I know of that showed how their lives intertwined.  Paul Giamatti, Meryl Streep,  Doris Kerns Goodwin, and David McCullough are among the well-known voice-over cast.  I am really looking forward to this one.           

Doing It Not Just To Be Nice, But Out Of Self-interest

September 1, 2014

It was very encouraging to see the members attending the Rotary Club of Columbus Wednesday luncheon give Jamie Vollmer a standing ovation after his talk about how vital it is for business leaders, as well as the rest of the community, to support public education.

Vollmer, a former lawyer and successful  businessman who led the franchise division of the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company in Iowa,  now spends his time making talks and writing books supporting public education. He wrote the acclaimed Schools Cannot Do  It Alone.

It’s not a matter of being nice, he says. It’s a matter of doing what needs to be done for his and the country’s self-interst. For those who have no children in public schools and oppose paying taxes for them,  he said they should be thinking about the how important it is to have an educated work force, and how they have a responsibility to their communities.  He also pointed out that history is very clear about what happens when the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” gets too wide.  The “have-nots” come for the “haves.”

He’s among those who believe that quality education for all children is what will make for a better life  for all members of a community. I tend to agree.

 

 

Mark Cuban’s Sartorial Example

August 26, 2014

As I observed Mark Cuban’s dress for his appearance before about a thousand business leaders last night at the opening of this year’s Jim Blanchard Leadership Conference,  I had to reflect on the example he was setting.  The billionaire, who stated that one thing a leader has to be able to do to succeed is lead by example,  sets an example sartorially that is not good for manufacturers of  dressy clothing.  Remember what Clark Gable reportedly did in the 1934 Frank Capra movie “It Happened  One Night?” He took his shirt off and was not wearing an undershirt. Millions of men stopped wearing undershirts, devastating the undershirt business. 

Cuban, whose audience, with a few exceptions, were dressed in expensive business suits and ties, wore his trademark black tee shirt , blue jeans, and tennis shoes.  It seems just about all of the billionaire computer and Internet leaders wear casual clothing. Steve Jobs did, and Bill Gates still does. 

During the Great Recession  of 2008 , I was shopping in an upscale haberdashery  one day, and I asked one of the store’s managers if the Recession was hurting their business.  He said the economy was not a problem. The problem was “People don’t ‘dress’ any more.”  Well, they’re following examples of some super-rich successful types.  

Great Theatrical Documentary Movies I’ve Missed

August 25, 2014

Each year an Academy Award is given for the Best Documentary and usually I  have  not seen any of the nominated films.  I think  it ‘s because they are rarely shown in a theater near me before they win an Oscar.  Now, there is a solution to that. We can either rent or buy some of them on DVDs or catch a lot of them on Netflix and pay-per-view channels on cable. Still, I had rather see them on the big screen with the big sound in a theater.  Also, being a part of an in-person audience is a dynamic you don’t get at home.

Fortunately some get shown in the Screening Room at the Carmike Ritz 13 in Columbus.  And some get so much publicity they even make it to the larger stadium-seating theaters.  Michael Moore’s highly controversial docs quite often make it to the larger theaters, for instance.  They attract large audiences and make mega-bucks.

Still, there are many critically acclaimed docs ones that  I never seen. I came across a bunch of them when I decided to check out the director of the new feature film If I Stay.  R.J. Cutler got an Oscar nomination  for The War Room, which got rave reviews when it was released in 1993.  No, it’s not about the famous War Room, a bunker that was used as headquarters by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the U.K.’s top  military staff during World  War II.  It was preserved and is open to the public in London. I saw it and was really impressed.  The Cutler War Room film is about the inner-workings of the Bill Clinton’s first campaign for president.  If he had lost, Cutler and company felt the doc would fail, but he didn’t lose and the doc was not a failure.

He also made A Perfect Candidate, which was about the Virginia U.S. Senate election  in  which Republican Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, famous for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, narrowly lost to Democrat Charles S. Robb. a Vietnam War hero and former Virginia governor.  Both candidates gave Cutler’s film crew access to their campaigns. The film got rave reviews.  The Washington Post’s critic called A Perfect Candidate and The War Room the two  best political documentaries ever made.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to rent those docs, and many others that I missed over the years that probably never played in a theater near me.  

I just saw a really good new one about finding  the world’s most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex on a home TV screen, Dinosaur 13, that features Bill Harlan, a former South Dakota journalist who now lives in Columbus and is a friend of mine.  It is playing in theaters in most of the country, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other countries, but not in the Southeastern United States.  I hope Carmike Cinemas will remedy that situation.  Meanwhile, checkout this YouTube about a T-Rex and a really big snake.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVMCuZZ3XKk

 

 

 

NEW BUILDINGS AND STADIUMS ARE NICE…BUT…

August 17, 2014

EMPHASIS NOW NEEDS TO BE ON REDUCING COSTS TO STUDENTS.

The estimated student loan debt in the United States is $1.2 TRILLION. The debt for the average graduate is $29,000. That’s the average. It’s not unusual for a student getting an MD, for instance, to owe more than $150 thousand.

The Economist reports that now there are more than 7 million debtors in default.

Public universities have increased fees by more than 27 percent over five years ending in 2012.

Government funding for education fell 27 percent between 2007 n and 2012.

Higher education costs have risen 1.6 percent more than inflation for decades ending in 2013.

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

VInce Dooley Says College Football Facing it’s Greatest Crisis Ever

August 6, 2014

Unionization attempts, pay for play, player product endorsements etc. issues are threatening the very existence of college football, he says.   

Retired University of Georgia football coach  and athletic director Vince Dooley, who is now a  consultant for Kennesaw State University’s new football  program,  saved the most controversial part of his talk to the Rotary Club of Columbus until the very end of his  very entertaining talk.  After getting a lot of laughs about his years at Georgia, he made the point that to start paying players would bring about the end of college football.

He said giving the players a full scholarship and adding a cost of attendance payment should be enough.  He also wants a law passed to regulate those payments.  If such a law is not enacted, he said, the colleges would get into bidding wars for the best players, driving the costs so high college football would be dismantled. He also pointed out that if a school pays football players it will have to pay the atheletes in the other programs. 

Well, how about a law regulating what coaches can make?   That would stop bidding wars for the best coaches. While we’re at it, we could regulate pay for professional sports stars and coaches.  Could such regulations be considered a restraint of trade?

It’s really hard to make the case for not paying players who take great physical risks when their coaches are being paid millions of dollars, and the schools are raking in many millions more. 

I suppose we should clarify that by saying “some top-tier school” are raking in those millions. I’ve read where only  the top-tier schools make money on their athletic  programs.  Most  of them lose money on those programs. 

 

 

 

The Making of the Modern Middle East Mess

July 29, 2014

What a time to be reading Scott  Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia.  The moment I  saw the book’s cover, I knew  I had to read it because one of the most impressive movies I have ever seen is David Lean’s 1966 masterpiece epic Lawrence of Arabia.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped  bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

T.E. Lawrence, British soldier who played a key role in leading the Arab Revolt that helped bring down the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in World War One.

With the daily Middle East  horrors being shown just about every day on TV, it’s interesting the learn how the modern Middle East was formed a hundred years ago when World War One started in 1914, and the role that T.E Lawrence played in that formation, and about how the United Kingdom and France arbitrarily drew up the borders of the  Middle East nations that resulted in the carving up o the defeated Ottoman empire.  It also delves into the beginning of the formation of Israel. And it tells us about early American  involvement in it all.

The full and very appropriate title of the book is Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

 

 

 


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