Archive for January, 2010

Why Jordan Auditorium Renovation is Special to a Lot of Folks

January 31, 2010

The architectural firm that will handle the renovation of the Jordan Vocational High School auditorium hasn’t been selected yet.  (It’s in the last 7 of the 15 SPLOST construction projects.  Architects for the first 9 projects were chosen Saturday.)  When it is selected, I am sure somebody will let its leader know just how important their project will be.  That’s not to say the other projects are unimportant, but we are talking some real history here.

1947 JVHS Red Jacket Band, Jordan auditorium, Columbus, Georgia

That Jordan auditorium, which, in my view, is probably still the most impressive of all of the high school auditoriums in Columbus,  not only served the Jordan student body, but was used by the Three Arts League and other organizations. For Columbus newcomers, or those not old enough to remember, the Three Arts League was an organization made up of  Columbus cultural leaders who brought in world-class symphony orchestras,  solo performers, and roadshow Broadway plays and musicals from the 1930’s to almost now.   I don’t recall when it was disbanded, but with the River Center now in operation, it’s not needed any more.  

I went to see a school play in the auditorum a couple of years ago and was impressed that it had a fairly adequate stage lighting system.  I’ll bet it dates back to when the Three Arts League used the auditorum. It probably needs some serious upgrading.  Hopefully, that will happen when the auditorium is renovated.

The Jordan stage was home for the famous Bob Barr Red Jacket Bands that won national awards in places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.   Barr was the band’s first professional director, coming to the school in 1946 and leaving in 1963.  I was a member of the original band that he started in 1946.   Band practice was the highlight of every day. He was a hard task master, but also very entertaining, doing such things as breaking his baton when we didn’t play something right.  It worked. The band went from 17 pieces to 75 in about six months and played Beethoven’s “Eroica” in its first public concert before the Jordan student body.  He could be mean as a snake, and his expectations were very high, but he got results, and everyone in the band that I knew loved him.  Success means a lot to emotionally charged high school kids.  Remember when you were one?

Some Folks That Truly Deserve to be Called STARS

January 28, 2010


 Rotary Club of Columbus President Bob Jones, Muscogeee Cunty System-wide STAR Student Andrei Markov, his STAR Teacher Luther Richardson (Photo Courtesy:  Jim Cawthorne Camera 1)









STAR stands for Student Teacher Achievement Recognition  program.  More than 21,500 Georgia high school seniors, and the teachers they chose as their STAR Teachers,  have been honored by this program over the last 51 years.

Photographs are courtesy of Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1.




Gay Talese is Not Thrilled with Internet and Tape Recorder Journalism

January 25, 2010


Gay Talese, the man who gave rise to “New Journalism” when he wrote his most famous article for Esquire, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” has a low opinion of the quality of magazine writing today. The only exception to that judgement is the New Yorker, whose writers do it the old-fashioned way: face to face contact with the source. Speaking to an audience at the Columbus Public Library today, he said magazines are all celebrity oriented.l They want to put a celebrity picture on the magazine cover. The story inside might be written by a writer who maybe spent ten minutes with the celebrity, tape recording an interview. He said you can’t really get a meaningful interview that way.

He and his wife Nan chatted a little about their marriage and careers – they have been married for 50 years – and then took questions from the audience. The first question was about his opinion about the blogosphere and the Internet.

Gay Talese

“I don’t know anything about the blogosphere. I don’t use it,” he said. He went on to say that he believed in face to face conversations with sources, not contact with sources via the Internet, or using Google or anything like that. He believes in personal contact. He doesn’t even like or use tape recorders. For one thing, he says they inhibit sources. The person you are interviewing figures he or she has to get it right the first time. “They usually don’t.” When the person being interviewed is more relaxed and becomes comfortable with the interviewer, they come back to a question and give a more thoughtful answer.

When I pointed out that his most famous article, the one that gave rise to the term “new journalism,” the one he wrote for Esquire Magazine about Frank Sinatra, was one without a face-to-face interview, he admitted that was the case. Esquire had paid his expenses to go to Los Angeles to interview Sinatra, but when he got there, “His press agent said Sinatra could not do the interview because he had a cold.” Finally, the press agent told Talese that Sinatra was upset because he had heard that Walter Cronkite was working on a program for CBS on Sinatra’s connections with the Mafia.

Gay Talese

Instead of giving up, Talese stayed on in Los Angeles and interviewed people who knew Sinatra, people who worked with him in movies and recording sessions. “Hundreds of people had worked with Sinatra over the years.” He believes that he probably got a truer picture of Sinatra than if he had actually interviewed him. But, he said, “I was in Los Angeles. I interviewed those people. I made contact with them.”

The “New Journalism” he is credited with starting with that article refers to the technique that he used in writing it. He dropped the old newspaper style of reporting and wrote it in the same way that you would write a novel. It was all true – his stint as a reporter for the New York Times had imbued him with the importance of accuracy – but, the style was novelistic. It worked big time. Esquire ran it as its cover story.

Talese was not happy with what the “New Journalism” became. His complaint is the same complaint he has with bloggers, the lack of accuracy. Too many writers now, he said, sacrifice accuracy. After their appearance in the library’s auditorium, I went up to him, introduced myself, shook hands, and told him I enjoyed their performance – that wasn’t smoke because I definitely did – and handed him a blog business card, telling him that I had a blog and was going to write about their talk. He took the card and thanked me.

Nan Talese

Nan Talese, who is now Senior Vice President at Doubleday, was asked about some of the authors she has edited for the New York publishing firms where she has worked. It was an impressive list, people like James Michener, Pat Conroy and Rosalynn Carter.

She went to Plains to work with Rosalyn on her autobiography First Lady from Plains. She got to know Mrs. Carter well because they spent a lot of time together. She would have dinner with Rosalynn and President Carter. After dinner they would all watch the evening news on television. She said that was an interesting experience, citing one evening when President Carter became irritated with a report about an English public figure and shouted “jackass, jackass” at the TV.

Mrs. Talese said sometimes Jimmy would try to give Rosalynn some advice about how a passage should be written, which irritated Rosalynn, who finally told him, “Jimmy, you wrote your book, now let me write mine.” She said that the two could be competitive and that when Rosalyn’s book hit the number one slot on the New York Times list of best sellers Jimmy was perplexed because none of his books had done that. She added that they were a great couple and she enjoyed being with them.

Fans in line to get Talese books autographed, Columbus Public Library, Columbus, Georgia

I have never read any of Gay Talese’s books, but that is about to change. After today’s delightful presentation by the two of them, he went out into the library’s rotunda for a book signing. I bought A Writer’s Life, which he wrote in 2006, and the best seller about the Mafia, Honor Thy Father, which he wrote in 1971. I got him to autograph both books.

He was born and raised in New Jersey, but when he graduated from high school, he couldn’t get into any universities there or in neighboring states. He was accepted by the University of Alabama, where he majored in journalism. In “A Writer’s Life”, he reports that his journalism instructors weren’t thrilled when he strayed from the newspaper “who, what, where, when, why, and how” inverted-pyramid writing style. But, look what straying from that style did for him when he wrote the Sinatra story in 1966. It played a large role in his publishing success, and revolutionized journalistic style.

Just Because Prime Time Didn’t Work for Leno Doesn’t Mean a Creative Variety Show Wouldn’t Work at 10:00 p.m.

January 23, 2010

So Jay’s coming back and Conan is leaving the “Tonight Show.”  (Poor Conan, he and his staff only get $45 million in severance pay.)  Both of them failed in the ratings game when NBC tried the experiment of putting the Leno  format in prime time. Probably a lot of people will take this to mean that the format just won’t work in prime time.  Maybe Jay’s format won’t work – it didn’t work for me because it came across as tired and contrived – but that doesn’t mean a variety show featuring comedy and music won’t work.

It really depends on how it’s done.  Just look at the roaring success of “America’s Got Talent.”  Sure, it’s a reality show with winners and loser, joy and pain, laughter and tears as the contestants struggle to win the high-tech update of the old amateur show format.  Frankly, I fast forward through a lot of the judge’s nonsense to get to the actual acts. That’s what I am watching and  find entertaining.  As far as I am concerned, they can cut way down on the airtime they give to the judges.

What NBC should really try is not a return to canned, predictable drama series, but a real variety program,  a contemporary version of the Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows.  There are plenty of comedians, singers, dancers, actors, and other interesting and entertaining folks out there to make for a ratings blockbuster. 

Just moving Leno into 10 p.m., sticking with the tried and true,  didn’t work. You gotta get a little creative, guys. Take a few chances.

Panel Discusses Evolution and Creationism at the Springer Monday

January 22, 2010


Dr. Ian Bond sent the following email to me.

Dr. Ian Bond (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

This week the Springer Opera House will begin a three week run of one of the greatest American plays of the past century, “Inherit the Wind,” to mark the 75th anniversary of the famed “Scopes Monkey Trial.” The play reenacts Clarence Darrow’s squaring off against Williams Jennings Bryan in a Tennessee courtroom on the right of a science teacher to teach evolution in a Tennessee public school. The question of the teaching of evolution and creationism in the classrooms of American public and private schools is still hotly debated today, 201 years after the birth of Charles Darwin.
Columbus Technical College Counselor, Dr. Ian Bond, will moderate a panel discussion on Monday, January 25 at 7:00 pm at the Springer Opera House. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
Our panel consists of experts in science and anthropology and professional educators.
            Dr. Brian Schwartz (biology professor, CSU)
            Dr. Donald Moeller (former college science teacher)
            Dr. John Studstill (anthropology professor, CSU)
            Dr. David Schwimmer (paleontology professor, CSU)
            Principal Len McWilliams (headmaster, Calvary Christian Schools)
This panel of titans ensures a lively, informative, and though-provoking discussion as well as an enjoyable evening at Georgia’s Historic State Theater.

Leaders Come Together for the Good of the Community in the Library Green Space Controversy

January 20, 2010

Finally, tf appears that the ugly asphalt from the old Columbus Square parking lot is going tobe removed, and green space will take its place.  At a joint news conference at the new Muscogee County School District Public Education Center building, representatives for the school board, the library board, and the City of Columbus announced a Memorandum of Understanding on the issue.

The understanding is that the city will supply $1,050,412.46 of the 1999 SPLOST Projects to the School Board to remove the asphalt and “for seeding and landscaping said property to the extent that the funds will allow.”

We got a lesson in what can be done when two leaders get together to resolve a controversial issue.  Those two leaders are Mayor Jim Wetherington and School€ Board Chair P$hilip Schley.   Their coming together means the library site is going to be enhanced by a beautiful park instead of a stark old parking lot.  

A Memorandum of Understanding was issued today that allows the City to give $1,050,412.46 to the MCSD to  get the job done.  There were also some land swapping deals between the school system and the city. You can get the details about all of that in the paper and on TV newscasts.  

Attorney Frank Myers, who the mayor gave credit to for helping to bring the two sides together, said that the thing that really got things moving was when the late David Rothschild called Mayor  Wetherington four days before he died and asked him to get the issue resolved.  After that the mayor and  School Board Chair Philip Schley came together.  The city and the school board had been battling over who owned the 1999 SPLOST money that would be used for the park project.  Once they agreed that the public owns it, they decided it should be used to remove the asphalt and build the park. It won’t be called a park, though. State law doesn’t allow a library to operate a park, I was told. I guess it’ll just be library grounds. 

Of course, Columbus Council and the School Board each must approve the memorandum, but it appears they will;  however, you can’t be sure of that.  And this can mean the lawsuit filed by a group that included Rothschild, whom Myers said was totally dedicated to the good of the community, will be dropped.  Josh McKoon, lawyer for the group,  said of the seven plaintiffs in the suit, only one remains to be convinced it should be dropped. McKoon said he hopes it will be dropped and believes it will.

So now it looks as though the asphalt will be removed and replaced by a beautiful green area. That’s what I’ve wanted all along.

Former Foreign Service Officer Facilitates C.A.L.L. Course

January 17, 2010

Lifelong learning is attracting some impressive volunteer teaching talent in Columbus.  For instance, how are you going to beat having a retired State Department Foreign Service officer to facilitate a discussion of global issues that affect everyone?  He is one of the new volunteer facilitators for the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.  C.A.L.L.  has a great group of volunteer teachers and facilitators, but this post would be too long if I listed all of them.    

Bain Cowell, former Foreign Service officer, facilitator for Great Decisions

Bain Cowell,  who will facilitate the Great Decisions course,  worked as a Foreign Service officer, serving as a diplomat in Brazil, the Dominican Republic,  Paris, Luxemburg, and the U.S. Mission in NATO, the European Union, and other places.   I asked him why he agreed to facilitate the course, and he said, via email, “I volunteered as a facilitator for ‘Great Decisions’ because I enjoy teaching-and-learning, especially in the seminar/discussion format.  I have fond memories of previous stints as a graduate student teaching assistant at Yale in the 1960s, as a university instructor/lecturer at Emory and Georgia Tech in the 1970s, and more recently as an instructor at WHINSEC.”

Also, part of his impressive background is his Army service  in the Vietnam War, where he was decorated with a Bronze Star  and Air Medal.  

You’d never know he has that impressive background – oh, I almost forgot;  he speaks four languages – when you talk with him. He is quite  accessable and friendly. 

All facilitators do little promotional announcements at the C.A.L.L. registration meeting.  His class immediately filled up and ran out of the Great Decision course books.  

If  you would like to attend some of the C.A.L.L. classes – there are a lot of them – just fill out a form at the CSU Turner Center for Continuing Education, pay $55 and you’re in. The first class is on January 25th.

MCSD Board Member John Well’s Resolution Calls for the Board to Stay Out of the Architect’s Pool

January 13, 2010

When the Muscogee County School District Board meets Tuesday, the architect’s pool will not be on the agenda, but the subject will, because board member John Wells is going to introduce a resolution calling for  Superintendent Susan Andrews to select an architect for a particular job.  “She then will have to defend her choice, as she should.  If she can’t get five votes, the choice should not be approved, but I think she can.”

This means that the board would have nothing to do with the pool selection. He believes there can not be a consensus on pool selection,  because each member of the board has its own constituency. That doesn’t mean there will be no pool.  She can have one which is selected by the staff, but the board won’t have anything to do with it. 

Will his resolution fly? He doesn’t know.

It seems to me that it’s important that this issue be resolved soon. Waiting too long to get the Special Option Local Option Sales Tax projects started can be quite costly.  If the economy improves and prices start going up, construction costs will increase.  All you have to do is look at how the delay in constructing the Mildred Terry Library doubled the cost to know what can happen.

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

Should being Local Count for More When MCSD Selects Architects for SPLOST Projects?

January 10, 2010

Should local architects get more consideration than out-of town architects when the school board decides on who will design and monitor the building of new schools and school improvement projects that are funded by $223 million of SPLOST money?  Or, should it simply be a matter of who can do the best job for the most reasonable price regardless of where their home office is located? Those are questions the Muscogee County School Board could deal with during Monday’s work session.

When the board was presented with the nine architects who were selected to be in the pool of those considered for the SPLOST construction jobs, board member John Wells wanted to know why there were not more local architects.  Of the nine, only two were local.

School Board Chair Philip Schley told me that he, too, would like to see more local architectural firms in the pool.  He added, “”The 9 that were selected were the ones that made the cut. If we add more local firms, we will have to alter the criteria rules.”  

MCSD Construction Division Director Robert Hecht  also says he would like to see more local architects being considered. However, proximity was a factor that was considered when the nine were selected.   5 percent of the grade was proximity to a building site.  30 percent of the grade was a firm’s prior record of experience in the planning and design of school building team members qualifications. 20 percent was consideration of a firm’s ability to provide services in a timely manner consistent with the schedule.  Another 20 percent is references satisfactory to owner, which in this case in the school board. 5 percent is a firm’s Leed certification experience with school building projects. Leed sets up criteria for building environmentally friendly buildings. And 20 percent of the weighting process is a firm’s value engineering quality assurance  approach and cost estimating methodology.  Using that weighting system,  the committee came up with the nine in the pool.

If the school board decides it wants more local architects in the pool, Hecht says he is prepared to add more.