What’s the Hurry?

December 8, 2017

If I didn’t have a DVR, I would miss a lot of what is said on the CBS This Morning newscasts.  I find myself rewinding a lot to be able to understand some reports. And sometimes even that doesn’t work because the information isn’t properly explained. Not only do the anchors rush a lot of their copy and run words together, but the production of the reports is often too tight..  Maybe the editors should cut down on the number of stories and give each one a little more breathing room.  Also, in my view,  there needs to be a brief pause between the reports, and transitions help the viewer stay on track.

Any basic course in writing for broadcast news makes it clear that writing for broadcasts is different from writing for newspapers and magazines. Readers can pick their speed and can easily reread the copy.  Listeners and viewers have to be able to understand what is reported the first time around, especially if they don’t have DVRs.  Perhaps it’s time for some producers to get back to the basics.

For some reason, the three major network producers seem to better understand this on the evening flagship newscasts.

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Musical Chairs Make a Big Difference

November 20, 2017

Cameron Bean, Executive Director of Development for Columbia s State University, with Col. (Ret.) Hal J. and Marie A.Gibson standing by the new display for their donation of the Distinguished Chair in Conducting for the Schwob School of Music.

No doubt, one of the main reasons that the Schwob School of Music attracts extraordinarily talented student musicians from all over the world is that it has world-class instructors. And one of the main reasons is they are paid well, thanks to a large number of endowed chairs funded by generous benefactors.  Faculty members who are honored with Chairs in Music get significant supplements to their salaries.

Schwob Wind Ensemble conducted by Jamie L. Nix, The Hal J. Gibson Distinguished Chair in Conducting,

The latest faculty member to receive that honor is Jamie L. Nix, Conductor of the Schwob Wind Ensemble, thanks to Hal J. and Marie L. Gibson.  Cameron Bean, Executive Director of Development for Columbus State University, announced the addition of the Hal J. Gibson Distinguished Chair in Conducting at the Schwob Wind Ensemble Kick-off Concert for the 20th Anniversary CSU Conductors Workshop.  Bean said that Col. (Ret.) Hal Gibson is a retired Schwob School of Music faculty member, who, after leading the U.S.. Army Field Band and the United States Armed Forces Bicentennial Band, came to then Columbus College in 1976 to develop the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, gaining national recognition and acclaim for the Columbus State University band program. He retired from CSU in 1991. The Legacy Hall audience gave the Gibsons a standing ovation.

Col. Gibson and I had a nostalgic conversation during intermission. I got to know him when I accepted an invitation from him to emcee one of his Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s concerts. On June 1st. 1981, he reenacted a John Phillip Sousa concert at the Springer Opera House.  That was special for me because my mother, Sara McMichael, was in the audience. I informed the audience that she had actually attended  Sousa’s last concert at the Springer on February 18, 1922.

The 2nd balcony is used now for lighting, but it was built as a segregated balcony for African-Americans back in Jim Crow days. There was a second box office and flight of stairs that led to it.

The only seats left when her father decided to take her – she was about 11 years old – were in the second balcony, which was called the “peanut gallery” back then. That balcony was actually for “colored” patrons at that time.  However, for the Sousa performance, the high demand for tickets by whites led the Springer to close the second balcony to African-Americans and open it for whites. That was the way it was prior to 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, ending racial segregation in public facilities.

George Washington Warned Us

November 16, 2017

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington spoke not just to the U.S. citizens of 1796, but to  us.  John Avlon wrote in Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations that he warned us about “the forces he feared could destroy our democratic republic.” The main ones, hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, foreign wars, and foreign powers interfering in our elections alarmingly apply to the political environment we are in now, 2017. The book is an interesting read.

 

 

The Solution is the Problem

September 1, 2017

The most powerful story in the world is the one that says that economic growth is the solution to the world’s social and political problems.  However, using today’s technology, that solution creates a greater problem, the destruction of the world’s ecosystem. That’s  a point convincingly made by Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens; A Brief History of Humankind.

The only time that the rapid rise in greenhouse gases slowed, he says, was during the 2008 recession which caused a slowdown in economic growth. Now that economic growth is greatly increasing greenhouse gases continue to increase. Not only do the wealthy economic elite want the growth to continue, but so do the masses of the world.  When the billions of Chinese and Indians, for instance, reach lifestyle parity with Americans and Europeans, the ecosystem will collapse.

Some believe that evolving technology caused this, but that new technology can also solve the problem.  However, others think for that to happen political and economic leaders will have to cause it to happen.

How Long Should a Novel Be?

July 25, 2017

When David O. Selznick produced Gone With the Wind, some Hollywood movie moguls told him it that was too long.  Running time is 3 hours 46 minutes. It has an intermission. His response was that the answer to the question of how long should a movie be, was reportedly, “As long as it is good.”  I would say that reasoning also applies to novels.

I just finished two critically acclaimed novels that some probably feel are long, but, to me, they were not longer than they were good. Compared to two of the greatest novels ever written, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, both running more than a thousand pages, A Gentleman in Moscow, hardcover at 462 pages,  and All the Light We Cannot See, hardcover at 522 pagesare really not all that long.

Both are excellent reads. If I had to rate them, I’d list Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See first.  To me, it has greater emotional depth. It’s historical background is World War II. Towles’  A Gentleman in Moscow is, in a sense, more entertaining. It has a lot of laughs, even if its background is the reign of one of the most notorious dictators of all time, Joseph Stalin. The “gentleman” is Count Rostov, who was sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  I recommend both if you’re into historical fiction.

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience- Part Two

June 23, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part Two

70mm IMAX film is fed from a revolving platter to the IMAX projector.

Not only was the 70 mm IMAX picture on the huge screen, one of the largest in the Southeastern United States, an impressively immersive experience, the projection booth was also big and elaborate.  The two IMAX 70 mm film projectors filled the largest projection booth I have ever seen.  Now, the theater is showing a huge picture on the Giant Screen that is, in my view, just as good, or in some ways even better, with projectors that that don’t come near filling up the booth.

Giant Screen Christie Laser projectors use hard drives, DVDs, live digital presentations, anything on a computer instead of film.

 

Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwith said that instead of spending a lot of time loading the 70 mm film, the operator just inserts a hard drive and pushes a button.  He said, “The picture quality is a lot better. It’s way more sharper than film. It’s a lot more crisp.” When I pointed out that film resolution is still higher than 4K digital, he said the reason laser projection is clearer because laser light is brighter, especially when running 3D movies, and that “When the film runs over and over, you, of course, start seeing lines, you get dust. You get none of that with lasers.”

Another plus, he said, on the laser side is that 4K Xenon lamps last about a thousand hours, whereas laser lights will last ten years or more.  That’s one reason that the National Infantry Foundation decided the laser system would provide longer life and lower cost of ownership. Also, going totally digital saves thousands of dollars in shipping charges.  Film and film canisters are quite heavy. Hard drives and DVDs are not.

Now, all the theater needs is YOU.  The last two times I went, the theater was almost empty. That’s hard to understand because the documentaries that are being shown on a regular basis are really worth seeing in my view. Fortunately, the free movies shown in the summer for the kids draw good crowds. The museum comes out ahead on them because the concession stand does well.  Movies and popcorn go together.

 

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience – Part One

June 22, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part One

The sea change in cinematic theatrical projection is the relatively recent switch to digital  systems. Just as the way film systems evolved technically, digital is doing the same thing.  Film went from grainy black and white flickering silent cinema to sound on film and color and from almost square screens to widescreens that got larger and larger.  Digital has gone from 2K definition which allowed some pixels to be seen to 4K which solved that problem and from and from light bulb to laser lights.  The National Infantry Museum has one of the very few theaters in the Southeastern United States with state-of-the-art Giant Screen laser projectors.  The museum’s theater also has one of the largest screens in the Southeast.

70 mm IMAX film projectors took up a lot space in the large NIM IMAX Theater projection booth. I took this photo in 2010.

Up until last year, the NIM still used  IMAX 70 mm film  projectors. IMAX 70 mm was as good as it got in theatrical projection until digital laser came along. When IMAX switched to digital laser, the museum dropped IMAX and switched to Christie 6P laser projection, and changed the name of the theater to Giant Screen.

When I saw the new documentary “Aircraft Carrier,” I was so impressed with the experience I decided I wanted to learn more about the Christie laser projectors. I wondered why the huge picture on the screen seemed so much more vivid and immersive than the one produced by 70 mm film projectors.  I was able to take a look at the projectors and get an interview with Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwirth.

I’ll take you inside the projection booth in my next post.

 

 

 

 

Another Way to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

May 30, 2017
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Locally grown produce on sale at Uptown Market in downtown Columbus, GA, Saturday, May 27, 2017.

It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States is highest in the world, but  overall quality is low among developed nations. The United States ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization.  As you probably know,  just about all of the developed countries in the world but the United States have universal healthcare.  Certainly the top ten do. While the debate on whether to go single-payer or continue for-profit is important, there is another way to drastically reduce healthcare costs that gets very little attention.  Poor diet reportedly is a major contributor to the cost of healthcare in the United States.

This was graphically pointed out by a Harris County farmer at a Wednesday night group discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia.  He provided some very interesting information from the Sustainable Food Trust. (Click on that link and you can read the report on The True Cost of Food Conference that was held in San Francisco.)

The report tells us the following:

Diseases related to poor diets in the United States account for 86% of healthcare spending.

Obesity annually costs taxpayers $2 trillion in healthcare spending.

About $5 billion is spent on  reactions to food dye.

877 million pounds of pesticides are used each year by industrial agriculture.

Americans spend about 6 percent of their annual income on food now as opposed to 16 percent in 1960. European countries spend 9-15 percent.

The U.S. government annually spends $20 billion taxpayer money on agricultural subsidies.   That  keeps primary crop prices low, which keeps food prices low.

The Government spends $153 billion annually on assistance programs to low-income earners, $75 billion of that in food stamps.

The market favors producing food on an industrial, unsustainable scale. “Sustainability,” in this context, means providing for the current generation without inhibiting the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.

So, the real cost of food is much more than the money you pay for it at the supermarket. For instance, your taxes pay for the $20 billion agricultural subsidies.

Just think about the social costs and dollar costs of  things like rising healthcare costs, air pollution, water pollution, climate change,  illegal immigration, allergens, and others.

So that’s what some believe is the problem. How about solutions. Our Harris County farmer listed these:

— Reward environmentally responsible food production.

— Use money from government subsidies, crop insurance, and food stamps to make sustainable food more available and accessible to the public.

— Raise taxes on artificial-chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

— Create healthcare incentives and encouragement to eat healthy food.

— Create investments in local, sustainable businesses.

— Pay agriculture employees better wages and improve working conditions.

You have to admit, cliché warning, that’s certainly food for thought.  One thought I have is that there needs to be a national educational program to inform the public about the benefits of following a healthy diet.

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One of the stands featuring locally grown produce at the Uptown Market on Broadway in downtown Columbus. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

 

 

TV is Still Politically Powerful

May 19, 2017

IT  STILL  DOMINATES THE NEWS MEDIA SCENE

If anyone truly understood the political power of TV it was the late Roger Ailes, the creator of FOX News, who, according to news report, died because he fell and hit his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach, Florida home.  He played a major role in helping Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump get elected by advising them on how to  use TV.

President Trump certainly seemed to  understand Ailes’ “orchestra pit theory.” It enabled him to get tons of free TV news time, especially during the Republican primary fights. TV fell for the ploy hook, line, and sinker. Many, including me, believe this is the main reason he won the nomination. The “pit” theory, I read in Wikipedia, is explained in this Ailes quote:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

During Nixon’s time, TV was, no doubt where, to a large degree, elections were lost or won. It was and still is where most people get their news. At least, that’s what a Pew poll tells us that was the case in 2016..  However, that is changing.

The poll shows that 57 percent of US adults get their news from TV, cable, network, and local; 38 percent from social media, websites/apps; 25 percent from radio, and 20 percent from print newspapers.

However,  the trend appears headed online.  50 percent of people ages 18 – 29 get their news online, 27 percent of them get it on TV, 14 percent on radio and 5 percent print newspapers.

49 percent of 30 through 49 years old get their news online, 45 percent  on TV, 27 percent  on radio, and 10 percent from print newspapers.

Seniors still depend on TV heavily, 72 percent ages 50 – 64, and 85 percent ages 64 plus. The  age 64 plus crowd give print newspapers their highest percentage, 48 percent.

Where I get my news? From TV, online, radio, and magazines.  What about newspapers? Definitely. Big time.  But, not print editions, unless you count the Ledger-Enquirer online copy of the print edition as a print edition. I read both the e-edition and the website edition. I also occasionally sample newspaper websites from Washington D.C, Atlanta, New York,  Israel, U.K., Russia, France, China, and other countries. It’s amazing what’s out there for us to read now.

 

The Case for Optimism: Episode Four

April 27, 2017

THE UU PATH:  Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

Hallas Midgette

This final of four episodes on Hallas Midgette’s April 23, 2017 talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus sums up his case for the UU path being an optimistic way of navigating through life. In the first episode he used the allegory of an amazing sight he witnessed while driving through a Kansas countryside one night. A field was lit by millions, perhaps billions, of fireflies.  He likened UUs to the fireflies lighting the darkness. “In a world of many religions, UUs stand out as a light in the darkness. That light is optimism.”
Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.  
Quote by Howard Zinn
I think Howard Zinn, an American historian, playwright, and social activist sums up best what I’m trying to convey:

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

The Kansas fireflies that inspired me to make this presentation are a beautiful memory and a symbol of optimism for me.  I am trying to be one of those millions of fireflies that helps shine a light in the darkness.  I invite you to join me.

Please open your hymnals to number:  118                    That is number: 118

Song:  This little light of mine.

In a discussion that Hal and I had following his talk, he pointed out that in spite of all the bad news we get daily in the media, the world has actually evolved into a better place than it was. Since my memory isn’t all that wonderful now, I asked him if he would write a few paragraphs for us about our discussion. I asked him to answer this question:

How would your describe the overall social , political, and economic condition of the world now? 

Wow, that is a big question that I don’t even know how to answer.  The world is big and varied and so are the topics.  It varies throughout the world.  There are spots that are bubbling in a bad way, and then others that are seeing millions….no, perhaps hundreds of millions….moving into the middle class.  Examples are China and India.  Then on the extreme, there is Venezuela which is plunging into a black hole….economically, socially and politically.  There are five famines going on, with at least two of them being caused or seriously aggravated by governments, not drought conditions.  While it is not positive, it is not rare, especially in the number of deaths.  While the back ground music is terrible, over all, the music is getting louder and better.

In addition, I could mention that there are constantly good things happening…almost everyday.  But bad news sells better, possibly because of it being a survival mechanism.  Good things generally don’t kill you.  Just looking at recent news things are getting better.  Scientists have discovered that the mesopelagic zone in the ocean is filled with life, and while we might not find it appealing for our dinner plates, it is perfect for fish meal, fish oil and food for fish farms.  In another recent article, scientists have discovered that the waxworm, a plague to bee keepers, can eat plastic bags….the trash that never goes away.  How about March of this year when Elon Musk’s Space X launched a used booster rocket engine and re-landed it, and how much cheaper it has made going into space.  It has taken 75 years since the Germans launched a V-2 rocket in 1942 to get it done.  Then there is the constant inching forward of green energy through out the world.  I mean, look at India and how they have made one of the largest solar power facilities in the world.  According to some, solar power in India is now cheaper than coal generated electricity.  It goes on and on.