Archive for April, 2009

How We Can All Improve Our Bedside Manner

April 26, 2009
Dr. Brian Wong, The Bedside Project, at Rotary Club of Columbus, Ga (Photo courtesy" Jim Cawthorne, Cmaera 1)

Dr. Brian Wong, The Bedside Project, at Rotary Club of Columbus, Ga (Photo courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

Our lives are determined by conversations,  what people say to one another,  and the choices people make when deciding on how to respond to another person’s words.  Dr. Brian Wong of the Bedside Project,  brought that home during a talk to to members of the Columbus Rotary Club.  (His appearance was sponsored by St. Francis Hospital.)  It’s the sort of thing that he tells physicians when he is coaching them on how to improve their bedside manner by proper communications.

He used film clips of the movie Gettysburg   to make his point.   Colonel Joshua Chamberlain was faced with dealing with 120 members of the 20th Maine regiment who had mutinied and refused to fight at Gettysburg.  Wong played clips from the movie showing how Chamberlain responded to remarks made by angered mutineers.   He would stop the film and ask the Rotarians to turn to one another and say what they would have said if they had been the colonel,  then he played Colonel Chamberlains response, which was usually the opposite to the first blush immediate reactions by the Rotarians.

Turns out that Chamberlain won the men over by the way he handled the situation. The picked up their muskets and join the famous bayonet charge that defeated Southern troops at Little Round Top.  He did it, according to Dr. Wong by expertly using the space between stimulus and response.  In other words when someone says something to you, that is the stimulus, and the space between that and your response can make a lot of difference. 

Instead of reacting immediately to disrespectful and insubordinate remarks by a spokesman for the mutineers,  he would pause before he spoke,  and then say the opposite of what an immediate, also angry would have been.  It disarmed the mutineers, and he gave a speech – maybe the Hollywood version in the movie had some truth to it, though no one seems to know how much – that inspired all but a few of the men to pick up their muskets again and join in the fight.

The lesson of Dr. Wong, “Use that space before you respond, and, quite often,  it will be the opposite of what you would have said if you had not used it, and the outcome can be much better.”  This is the sort of thing he teaches doctors in inspiring them to improve their relationships with their patients.  I guess it boils down to “look before you leap” and “think before you speak,”  if we put it in terms of well-worn proverbs.

Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators

April 20, 2009

For a lot of my childhood, I lived a block  from the Central of Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue in Columbus.  That depot was a very busy place, especially during World War two.  Not only were there major passenger trains like the Seminole and the City of Miami, which connected Chicago to Florida,  that made a stop in Columbus, but local passenger trains to Macon,  Montgomery, and Atlanta.  During the war,  my mother and I went by train from Columbus to Joplin, Missouri to visit with my brother who would soon be sent to England and Germany.  I was about 13-years-old at the time.   Railroads put every passenger car they had into service,  including some very old ones,  and the train that took us from Birmingham to Springfield, Missouri was so long it was pulled by not one, but two steam engines. 

After the war,  the emphasis  on automobiles and highways,  and the rapid growth of airlines, just about killed the passenger train business.   Well, for those who believe there are cycles to history, the train cycle is here.  Trains are the most economical and fuel efficient way to transport masses of people.  Finally, national leaders, including Presdient Obama,  are recognising this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday,  “President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday for a national high-speed rail network that would include lines crisscrossing Georgia connected through a hub in Atlanta.

“The plan would create a European-like system with trains that could run at more than 100 mph. Obama is pledging $8 billion toward development of the system as part of the economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Finland Passenger Train Car (Courtesy: Jonic)

Finland Passenger Train Car, upper deck (Courtesy: Jonic, Wikipedia)

Our leaders at the Georgia state capitol, however,  have been in love with highways and cars to the extent they, for the most part, ignored rail,  and critics say this could  hamper Georgia in taking advantage of the federal funding for rapid rail.

The legilsature left the Marta system in Atlanta hanging out to dry by not taking action that would allow the system, which is more popular than ever,  to use funds it already has to keep it up and running.  There is a 40-year-old state law that says Marta can’t spend reserve funds on operating expenses.  That made sense 40 years ago when Marta first started, but now that it is a mature system, it makes no sense at all.

As I reported earlier, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre and State Senators Seth Harp and Ed Harbison say that situation will have to be faced and corrected when the legislature goes into a predicted special session in July to come up with a new budget.  Let’s hope they and other legislators come to grips with this problem because it is critical.

Fine Dining Returns to South Columbus

April 12, 2009

My broadcasting buddies of many years in Columbus,  Al Flemming, Don Nahley, and I get together for lunch once a month.  We take turns in hosting, which means we take turns in picking up the check, and the one who pays gets to pick the restaurant.  Friday was Don’s day, and he picked the Fife and Drum at the new National Infantry Museum, which is half open, the front half, which includes the restaurant, IMAX theater, and the gift shop.  These are the only revenue generating attractions at the museum.  Visiting the huge and impressive exhibition area will be free.   

Dick McMichael, Al Flemming, and Don Nahley having lunch at the Fife and Drum, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Dick McMichael, Al Flemming, and Don Nahley having lunch at the Fife and Drum, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

This is the first time Don, Al and I have  eaten there.  We enjoyed it a lot.  All three of us agreed the food was excellent; we will be back, and we’ll bring friends and family. 

Maj. Gen. (ret) Jerry White, Fife and Drum Restaurant, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry White, Chuck Walls, Fort Benning Deputy Garrison Commander, and Sam Friedman, Atlanta real estate developer, Fife and Drum Restaurant, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Sitting at the table next to us  were Maj. Gen (Ret) Jerry White and two of his associates.  Gen. White, who heads up the museum,  has been concerned lately because, as he told me, “Nobody’s coming.”  He said that on one night, if one prominent Columbus family hadn’t come to the IMAX theater, no one would have been there for the evening show.  He had to be feeling a little better about it Friday because there was a fairly large lunch crowd, and some people were taking in the IMAX. 

I had to wonder if opening just the front half was a good idea,  because the main attraction is going to be the exhibit area, and it’s not ready yet.  Maybe waiting until the whole thing opened on June 19th would have been best because the traffic, I am sure, is going to be much greater, and the restaurant and IMAX theater will probably do much better business then.

That being said,  I think you’ll enjoy a trip to the museum right now to enjoy fine dining in the Fife and Drum,  and to catch a movie at the Imax.  I’ve done both, and I can tell you it is worth a trip to South Columbus.  The food is good,  the ambiance is quality, and the IMAX theater is truly a fun experience, and you can shop in the gift store, and you can visit, at no charge, the OCS and Ranger halls of fame.

Besides, the museum needs the money.

Servers wear Revolutionary War style uniforms at the Fife and Drum Restaurant, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

Ikyll Edmond, server, Fife and Drum Restaurant, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, Georgia

The Return of Eric Barr

April 11, 2009
Not too long after Bob Barr came to Jordan High in 1946 to become the school’s first full-time band director,  band members, including me, became aware that he and Annie Barr had a baby.  A few years later, when Eric Barr wasn’t much more than a toddler,  he was dressed in a drum major’s uniform and marched beside the band’s real drum major.  He had become the band’s mascot.  In time,  he would become the real drum major, himself.
Eric Barr, Jordan Red Jacket Band 1963 Drum Major, from JVHS yearbook (courtesy Barbara Motos)

Eric Barr, Jordan Red Jacket Band 1963 Drum Major, from JVHS yearbook (courtesy Barbara Motos)

Over the years, growing up as the first son of accomplished musicians and educators, Bob and Annie Barr,  he became quite proficient in playing the oboe by the time he became a member of his father’s band.  He was so good that he later ended up as the principal soloist of the Dallas Symphony, a world-class orchestra. 

There were some stops in between.  He went to Oberlin College,  where he met and married Cathy,  who also plays the oboe.  After that, he played in the United States Marine Corps Band in Washington for four years.  “I was drafted,” he told me.  “I could go into the Army and serve two years,  or I could go into the Marine Corps and play in the Marine Corps band for four.  I choose the Marine Corps.”  That had a number of perks, including not having to take basic training.  

Serving those four years was quite memorable for him because he spent a lot of time playing for events at the White House,  because the Marine Corps Band is considered  “the President’s own.”  Jimmy Motos,   respected Columbus educator, musician, clarinetist, vocalist,  announcer for the Bob Barr Community Band, and actor,  and Eric’s best friend in the Bob Barr Jordan Band,  told me that Eric played for both the Johnson and Nixon administrations.  “He played for the weddings of both Johnson and Nixon’s daughters. Eric told me that things were more laid back when Johnson was in the White House – you know,  Southern hospitality and all of that.  But, Nixon was more formal.”



Eric brought down the house at the Bob Barr Community Band concert at the Springer on Friday, April 3, 2009, when he played an oboe solo.  And, I believe it wasn’t just because he is Bob Barr’s son,  but because the performance was so outstanding,  but then,  that’s what you would expect of man who was the principal oboest for the Dallas Symphony for 33 years before he retired.

Not only did he and Cathy contribute their musical services by playing with the Bob Barr COmmunity Band,  but after dress rehearsal on Thursday night, he presented a check for $1,000 as a gift from the Barr family, which includes his mother,  a sister and a brother. 

I told him, “Not only did you come and play for the band, you left a thousand bucks with it. That was really special.”

“I should have done it long ago, ” he replied.

Yes, it was a very special concert at the Springer,  one I was happy to announce. While, Jimmy  is the regular announcer,  I was asked to announce this concert because I emceed the first concert of the band twenty years ago.  Since the band was formed as a tribute to my Jordan band director Bob Barr,  I was honored to it then and now.

Dick McMichael, Jimmy Motos,  announcers for the Bob Barr Community Band (Photo: courtesy Barbara Motos)

Dick McMichael, Jimmy Motos, announcers for the Bob Barr Community Band (Photo: courtesy Barbara Motos)

A National Headquarters in Columbus You Probably Didn’t Know About

April 10, 2009

Columbus, Georgia is national headquarters for AFLAC, TSYS,  Synovus, Carmike Cinemas, and was national headquarters  Royal Crown Cola and, of course, the home of Fort Benning,  but did you know it is national headquarters for the  High School Band Directors National Association,  and its National High School Band Director’s Hall of Fame?

Bob Barr Community Band,  Springer Opera House

Bob Barr Community Band, National Band Director's Hall of Fame and 20th ANniversary Concert, Springer Opera House

I learned this when I accepted George Corridino’s invitation to emcee the Bob Barr Community Band concert at the Springer Opera House honoring the Band Director’s Hall of Fame inductees.  When I pressed George for more information about the Hall of Fame, he said, “You need to go see it, Dick.”

“You mean that it’s here in Columbus?”

“Yes,  it’s on Front Avenue.”

It is indeed on Front Avenue in the Arsenal 1 building, now occupied by the Columbus State University Fine Arts Department,  but I learned the hard way that you can’t get in using the Front Avenue entrance.  It’s locked.  You have to go to the Bay Street entrance.  I did, and I finally got in, where I saw portraits and bios lining the walls,  and there were some artifacts,  like a band hat with a big plume on it.

Band hat, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame, Columbus, Georgia

Band hat, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame, Columbus, Georgia

The inductees are high school band directors from all over the country, including the great John Phillip Sousa,  who was a high school band director in New York State before he formed his internationally famous band,  thrilling American audiences with his “Stars and Stripes Forever,”  which he used a finale to his hugely popular concerts.  My grandfather took my mother, who was a little girl at the time,  to see and hear Sousa when he played at the Springer Opera House in the 1920’s.
John Phillip Sousa, Inductee, National High School Band DIrector's Hall of Fame

John Phillip Sousa, Inductee, National High School Band DIrector's Hall of Fame


Among the portraits you can see at the Hall of Fame,  is the one of Bob Barr,  the legendary Jordan High Red Jacket Band director whose bands won national competitions,  and for whom the Bob Barr Community Band is named.  Mr. Barr  –  his former students all still call him Mr. Barr –  insipred a lot of young people to go on to do well in life.

Bob Barr, George Corridino, Inductees, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame

Bob Barr, George Corradino, Inductees, National High School Band Director's Hall of Fame

Another Columbus music educator icon,  has his portrait right next to Barr’s.  George Corradino,  who left his job as assistant director of the Auburn University Band to come to Columbus as band director at Columbus High,  did so at Barr’s suggestion and they became very good friends.  Dr. Corradino ended up as director of the Muscogee County School District’s music program before he retired and started teaching at Troy State.   He has been director of the Bob Barr Community Band for most of its 20-year existence.

Bill Pharris,  who was a Bob Barr Student,  and who went on to director a number of high school bands, including a very successful tenure at Hardaway High in Columbus,  is also an inductee.  George tells me that Pharris is Bob Barr’s most outstanding protege. 

Dr. Oliver Boone, also a former high school band director,  is the executive director for the High School Band Director’s Association.  Other than providing the Hall of Fame for band directors,  it offers a number of services to band directors all over the country, and it is organizing a unique online high school band exhibition.  You can read about it by going to this link.

Oliver Boone,  Executive Director of the High School Band Director's National Association (Photo courtesy of the NHSBNA)

Oliver Boone, Executive Director of the High School Band Director's National Association (Photo courtesy of the NHSBNA)

It is, in my view,  that this national organization is in Columbus because this city has been the home to some truly fine high school band directors.  We have mentioned some, but there are others. One of them was David Gregory,  who directed the Hardaway High School Band when my son Rick was in it.  That was the band that took first place in the Allentown, Pennsylvania Bi-centennial Band Festival in 1976.  I hope to see Gregory’s picture hanging in that hall of fame soon.

So now you know,  Columbus is the national headquarters for the High School Band Director’s National Association and Hall of Fame.  

Coming up,  another reason the Bob Barr Community Band Hall of Fame Inductee and 20th Anniversary Concert was so special.


April 9, 2009


  Thanks to newsy blogs folks can get information about some interesting events, people and places they don’t get in the mainstream media.   I came across something interesting to anyone who has ever been influenced by a band director.  It’s something that is right here in Columbus and I didn’t even know it was here.

Now,  to learn more about it,  simply go to my podcast link.  (I have to do a podcast occasionally just so I don’t forget how to get it online.)


Dick McMichael, Dick's World Broadcasting Network

Dick McMichael, Dick's World Broadcasting Network

Muscogee Legislators “Tell It Like It IS’

April 8, 2009

The state budget crisis,  the transportation fiasco,  a July session of the Georgia Legislature,  Sen. Harp’s plans to run for statewide office, billboards highlight the town hall meeting at the Columbus Public Library.

Muscogee County legislators made no attempt to sugarcoat what was not a satisfying session of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Muscogee County Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Both state senators,  and the dean of the delegation,  all were not happy that the legislature failed to come up with a transportation plan.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre said,  “It was irresponsible.  It cannot stand. It will not stand.  I am going to make this clear in a news conference Thursday.   It will be addressed this year. ”

He predicted the legislature will be going back into session in three months to deal with the state budget,  and,  he seemed to be saying it will also deal with transportation plan.

“It is wrong for the state to tell the people of Atlanta what they can do with the penny tax they approved at the polls to expand Marta.”

Marta,  the Atlanta area public transit system whose ridership has soared,  cannot access it’s own money to improve and expand the system without the state’s approval.

“That’s wrong.  It has to be changed.”

The audience at the Muscogee County Democratic Party town hall meeting at the Columbus Library applauded enthusiastically.

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

And the Republican state senator who was at the Democratic meeting also got a few big hands, himself.  Sen. Seth Harp, said he would have voted for either of the plans, the one favored by the House or the Senate plan, but he didn’t think either would get taxpayer support.

“They waited too late.  They should have passed it last year. Now, with the recession causing pain in the pocketbook,  it is doubtful that people will vote a penny tax regionally or statewide,” Senator Harp said.  The tax is necessary to fund the plan, which advocates say is urgently needed.  All you have to do is drive to Atlanta to know that the situation is critical.

Sen. Harp might not have pleased his Republican following with one remark he made.  He joined Rep. Smyre in thanking President Obama for sending $1.6 billion in stimulus money to Georgia.  He said with the critical budget problem facing Georgia, the federal money does help. 

“I agree with Calvin.  The legislature will be going back into session in July.  The budget just approved by the legislature banks on the economy getting better. I hope it will, but I am not confident about that.  We will be making more cuts.  For instanceteachers will probably have tobe  furloughed.

“And if we have to do that, say for ten days.  I – and I hope my fellow legislators will join me – will not accept my pay as a senator for those ten days.”

That one elicited a big round of applause. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Harp looked over at Sen. Ed Harbison,  a Democrat,  and said the two of them work together probably better than any two lawmakers in the Senate.  He also let everyone know that he recently learned that he and Harbison served in the same unit in the Vietnam War.  More applause.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

And Rep.  Debbie Buckner, also a Democrat,  drew a round of applause when she said that, though some things she supported weren’t approved,  the effort that she and other lawmakers to kill the bill that would allow billboard companies to cut more trees on public property was successful.  The crowd like that one, too.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley was the first to point out that the state is in dire straights over the econ0my and that the cuts that will accompany the budget will cause pain for a lot of people.

When Sen. Harp confirmed he is not running for again for the seat he now holds,  but instead will run for either insurance commissioner and attorney general,  and will make an announcement next week on which one,  Rep. Hugley said, “Oh, go ahead and announce it tonight.”  Sen. Harp said he would wait.

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the candor of the legislators at the town hall meeting.   They didn’t try to spin the truth about the state of the state or the legislative session that just ended.  The one they predict for  July will, no doubt,  will be a stem-winder.

L-E’s Chuck Williams Did a Great Job, but I Can’t Say the Same for the Overall Performance of Our Lawmakers

April 6, 2009
Georgia Capitol gold dome, Atlanta

Georgia Capitol gold dome, Atlanta

Yes,  we can be thankful that the Ledger-Enquirer went to the trouble of adequately reporting on the Georgia legislature this year.  In my opnion, the paper  certianly put the right man on the job.  Chuck Williams did it the old fashioned way, which, to me, is the best way.  What’s the old fashion way?  Actually putting reporter boots on the ground;  in this case,  letting him go to the State Capitol in Atlanta to do the job,  and it was a fine job, indeed.

And it was a very essential job.  As was quoted in Chuck’s Sunday legislative wrap-up,  “These are dangerous times,”  said Republican House Speaker Glenn Richardson. “You are passing laws for the entire 9 million people of Georgia.”

While Chuck did his job, I’m afraid our lawmakers didn’t do their’s.  Thankfully,  enough of them in the House voted to kill the bill that would give billboard companies more power to cut taxpayer-owned trees on our highways,  but both houses of the legislature  failed to pass a comprehensive state transportation plan.  This is really a crucial issue.  Gas prices are relatively low right now, but they’ll be going back up again.  Public transporation systems are becoming more and more important each day.  The growth of the Marta system,  including more miles of rails,  is essential for the sprawling Atlanta area where close to five million people now live.  Traffic in the Atlanta area is horrific  and shows no signs of getting any better. 

Bottom line:  the majority of our lawmakers failed to come to grips with this gargantuan problem.  Shame on them.

A Very Unusual Boat Show

April 4, 2009

When I pulled into Lake Oliver Marina to check out the boat show,  I couldn’t find the boat show.  I expected to see boats all over the parking lot.  Turns out the boats for sale were on the water,  and there were only four of them, and none was cheap,  ranging in prices from $24,000 to $44,000.  But,  before I had left I realized I had just attended the most enjoyable boat show ever. 

John McCroskey, President, Singleton Marine Group,  Blue Creek Marina, Fafeville, Alabama,  taking me for a ride on Lake Oliver

John McCroskey, President, Singleton Marine Group, Blue Creek Marina, Dadeville, Alabama, taking me for a ride on Lake Oliver

The president of Singleton Marine Croup, which has stores on Lake Martin, Lake Lanier, Lake Oconee, Lake Hartwell and Lake Burton, and is headquartered at Blue Creek Marina on Alabama’s Lake Martin,  personally took me out for a ride on a plush Harris FloteBote.  And it wasn’t because it was me.  He had just taken out a family of about six people before he offered me a ride.

“If I can get someone to go out on the water with me,  the odds are very high that he’ll end up buying a boat from me,  maybe not on that day nor the boat we rode in,  but some boat that my company sells,”  John McCroskey told me.

John McCroskey getting ready to cast off for our ride on Lake Oliver

John McCroskey getting ready to cast off for our ride on Lake Oliver

Since I had no intention of buying the $24,000 Harris pontoon boat he was showing me, I thought maybe I shouldn’t take him up on his offer of a ride,  but I explained to him that I was going to feature the boat show on my blog, and decided to take a little spin around Lake Oliver.  He was happy to oblige.

We had a very pleasant time on the lake.  Boating on a big pontoon boat can be a very relaxing experience.  I showed him the former Bill Heard mansion that he could pick up for $19 million if he desired.  As we approached it he said, “It looks like a hotel.”

$19,000,000 mansion on Lake Oliver formerly owned by Bill Heard, Jr.

$19,000,000 mansion on Lake Oliver formerly owned by Bill Heard, Jr.

I said, “it reminds me of one of those 1930’s Hollywood movie star mansions.”

“Right, you can almost see Clark Gable standing on the patio,”  he rejoined.

Then John, getting into the swing of the picture taking, spotted a house with an elaborate flower garden,  and  said,  “Those are some beautiful flowers.”

“Can you get a little closer?”

“Sure,”  he said as he swung the Harris around.

House with nice garden on Lake Oliver

House with nice garden on Lake Oliver

Actually,  I have been thinking about maybe getting a small boat to enjoy cruising again on our wonderful Chattahoochee River – in past years I have owned one motor boat and three sail boats – so I asked him if he had anything cheaper.

“We have one for $1 4,000.  When you add the trailer and hitch it’ll bring it up a couple thousand.”

“How big is it?”

“20 feet.”

The $24, 000 doozy we were riding in is 24 feet.  That meant I could get a pontoon boat that is 4 feet shorter for $10,000 less.  I’m not saying I’ll buy a boat, but if I do, it will probably be from John McCroskey.  He’s a likable good ole boy who gave me an enjoyable Saturday afternoon boat ride on a $24,000 boat.  Thanks John.

Voters Beat the Lobbyists Again on the Billboard Bill

April 4, 2009

The bill that would give billboard companies more power to cut trees on public property didn’t make it through the House.   It had been defeated earlier in the week but the House agreed to a recall;  however, that didn’t happen.  The legislative session ended and SB 164 is dead for now.  Its proponents promise to bring it up again in the next session.

The big lesson here?  Massive numbers of voters contacting their representatives can overcome powerful, well-financed lobbyists for vested interests.  It took a tremendous effort by environmental groups to block this measure again,  but that effort paid off.

Now, we have to stay alert because the billboard industry lobbyists will not give up.  It is a pretty safe bet to say they will be back next year.  But,  folks who want to keep our highways green and beautiful have shown for two years in a row they can put up a good fight.

By all means,  please thank your representatives for being responsible enough to kill the bill for another session of the legislature.