Archive for September, 2013

Experiencing Jefferson

September 30, 2013
Monticello

Monticello

If “you gotta be there” ever applied, it would certainly be when we’re discussing Thomas Jefferson.  I’ve read and heard a lot about the 3rd President of the United States, but it wasn’t until I toured Monticello that I really grasped the genus of the man.  Taking pictures inside the house is a not allowed, which is why I have to tell you about, instead of showing you, his cutting edge technological achievements such as a copying machine on his desk.  It hooked up two pens so that he could have a copy of everything he wrote.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson's home, making it much larger than it looks.

Tour group standing on a portion of one of the concourse wings which expand Jefferson’s home, making it much larger than it looks.

Standing there in front of his neoclassical home, which he designed, I could almost feel his presence.  Our tour guide told us that he wanted the house to look smaller than it really is.  It appears to be a one-story structure, but it has three floors.  It also has concourse wings which house, among other things,  the kitchen, storage areas, a stable,

Original dormatory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school's founder Thomas Jefferson.  They are still being used.  Only oustanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

Original dormitory rooms and faculty homes at the University of Virginia, designed by the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. They are still being used. Only outstanding students are allowed to occupy the dorm rooms, and some professors still live in the faculty homes.

As our guide told us, Jefferson was a great promoter of democracy and equal rights,  the founder of the University of Virgina, where he planned for educational opportunities to be available for not just the wealthy; however,  only free white males who owned property were accepted.  The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence who proclaimed liberty for all, owned up to 200 slaves, and freed only a handful during his life and none in his will.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virgina.

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia

Someone asked me, “Did your guide mention Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings, the slave who historians now assert bore up to six of his children?”  Definitely.

Yes, he was human like the rest of us, but he was anything but ordinary. He was an original thinker,  an inventor, architect,  diplomat, the first Secretary of State, speaker of five languages, Governor of Virginia, Vice President and President of the United States.  All of this has even greater meaning when you visit Monticello.  I’m really glad I got to see it and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do.

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Hello, Richmond

September 23, 2013

Finally, my travels have brought me to one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, Richmond, Virginia.

The Carpenter Theatre,, a historic renovated movie palace in Richmond, VA.

The Carpenter Theatre,, a historic renovated movie palace in Richmond, VA.

After landing Friday at Richmond’s beautiful modern airport,  and taking I-295 to Henrico County where a friend of mine lives near Short Pump – love that name – I didn’t see anything that you would not see in the rest of homogenous America.  That would change Saturday  evening when we headed into downtown Richmond to have a great dinner at a fine restaurant across the street from the historic Carpenter Theatre where the Richmond Symphony Orchestra performed a really fine Beethoven concert.

The orchestra reminded me very much of the Columbus Symphony.  In other words, it is a very fine regional orchestra.  The only thing about the theater that was like the CSO’s home in the Bill Heard Theater at the River Center was its size.  It has about 1,800  seats.  Bill Heard has almost 2,000, and it’s relatively new and state of the  art.  The Carter is a renovated ornate Loew’s movie palace that was opened in 1928, the  year before the much larger Fox in Atlanta opened.  It’s 65 years old, but the renovation makes it look brand new.  It’s a show in itself.

Still, that’s not a lot different from other large American cities.  What is different is that this city was a major player in the American Revolution and the American Civil War.  This is where Patrick Henry delivered his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech in St. John’s Church, which not only still stands, but is an active Episcopal church today.

Virginia State Capitol

Virginia State Capitol

This, as you know,  is the city that became the Capital of the Confederacy in the Civil War.  That Capitol building still stands and is the Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Gen. Robert E. Lee  Monument, Richmond, VA

Gen. Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, VA

Monuments abound in Richmond.  The superstar Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee have impressive monuments on Monument Avenue.

Virginia Museum of  Fine Arts

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Standing in the midst of all that is a truly modern and  world-class museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  After having lunch in an,  as my friend describes it, a fine dining environmentally pleasant restaurant that brings the outdoors indoors,  we saw extraordinary exhibits, everything from the great classics to Andy Warhol paintings and Art Decor furniture.

More to come.

No Need to Sensationalize Sensational Stories

September 16, 2013

Because it’s “bringing  back the news in news,”  I have switched from the Today show to  CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and  from the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams to the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.  Charlie Rose has a warm tone of voice and is easy to follow and understand.  He has the avuncular quality that served  Walter Cronkite so well. Scott Pelly is also easy to follow and sounds less of a news announcer like Brian Williams, and more like a good neighbor doing what legendary Atlanta WSB Radio Manager Elmo Ellis taught me when worked for him.  He said, “Tell a story the same way you would when talking to a neighbor over the backyard fence.”  Pelly also has great credentials as a news reporter. 

ABC’s Dianne Sawyer also has a warm, conversational delivery, but I stopped watching the  ABC’s World news Tonight  when I felt  that it became “news light,” with the emphasis more on soft than hard news.  When I watch  the evening news, I want news.

Both Sayer and Pelley are gaining on ratings leader Williams He’s still ahead but not as much as he was.  I like him and have no problem watching him, especially when he ad-libs.  He sounds conversational when he ad-libs, but not when he reads.  

I suppose what I like about them most is that they don’t sound rushed.  I sampled ABC’s Good Morning America when the big flooding stories hit and could not believe the sensationalized reporting.  The reporters were talking as fast as they could  and were almost yelling as they wildly gesticulated doing their standups in front of raging creeks and rivers. The video editing of the flooding was done in rapid-fire takes.  That’s really not necessary.  There is certainly no need to sensationalize a story that is already sensational.

As I watched the sensationalized reporting, it occurred to me that the on-air personalities were probably following the directions of some broadcast consultant firm’s coaches.  I remember when some out-of-town consultant  coaches would tell me I needed to pick up the pacing of my delivery, and should  gesticulate  more to emphasize what I was saying.  They really wanted rapid-fire delivery. I would politely listen to them, but I knew they would be leaving the next day, and I continued to deliver the news at my own conversational pace and style.  What did they know about what people wanted in the market  that I had lived and worked in for a lot of years?  One size doesn’t fit all.   

Yes, College Athletes Should be Paid

September 9, 2013

I’ve been saying it for years.  Now,  Time writer Sean Gregory is saying it to  millions.  I guess the magazine still has a circulation of millions.  It’s just not  fair to pay coaches millions and the players, who take the physical risks, nothing.

Alabama’s Sabin  gets $5.3 million a year.  Just about any  Alabama fan will quickly tell you he is worth it.  That championship team pulled in almost $82 million last year.  Some of that money goes to support sports programs that make nothing. O.K., let’s say he is worth it.  However, those fans didn’t go to see him play. They went to see college kids play.  He didn’t take any physical risks out on that football field.  But, he made a lot of money,  and they made nothing in salary. College athletes at the big schools are getting scholarships, which some college presidents say could come  to  $100 thousand in four years.  That’s $25 thousand a year. Gregory says, according to  the revenue they generate, the players should be getting at least $225,047 a year. And, the stars should get more than that. He’s right.  

There are some really prestigious universities that don’t have athletic scholarships. You know, Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.  But, then, football is not their thing, even though college football started at Yale. They still have teams, but football doesn’t pull in millions there, and coaches salaries are quite modest. They don’t need football money.  Harvard, for instance, has a $30 billion endowment. Very valuable degrees are what  they provide.  

 

A New Old-fashioned Movie

September 9, 2013

The reviews aren’t wonderful, and The Ultimate Life is certainly not of Casablanca, Midnight in Paris, or Citizen Cane calibre, but I still enjoyed it. Some, who complain that they don’t make them like they use to, will find in this one, they do.

It’s about a young man whose billionaire grandfather left him with the responsibility of running his charitable foundation and his fight with relatives who try to take over. That’s actually a small part of the movie. Most of it is flashbacks of how the grandfather, a child of the depression,  gets fed up with rich kids making fun of him and declares he will show them.  He will become a billionaire. And, though the going was very tough, and he had to learn how to use the talents  of others to do it, he does. But, he also pays a big price by ignoring his wife and kids to do it.

Not all of the acting is great, some critics call it “wooden,” and some of it is, but there are also some outstanding performances. Peter Fonda, for instance, turns in a convincing cameo. It is definitely a “family movie.” I didn’t hear one four-letter word in it and there were no graphic, torrid sex scenes.. There is a violent World War II scene in it, but it’s tame compared to the usual violence in movies made now.

It passed my test, which is whether or not  I become interested enough in the main characters to care about what happens to them. Now maybe I’ll get a DVD of the 2007 prequel The Ultimate Gift. It didn’t do well at the box-office, but is still selling a lot of DVDs. 

The Public Employees we Value the Most

September 2, 2013

The President of the United States, arguably the most powerful man in the world, has a salary of $400,000 a year. You would expect that someone with his enormous responsibility would be the highest paid public employee in the United States.

He’s not anywhere close.

The highest paid public employees are not presidents, governors, senators, generals, or admirals. They are college football and basketball coaches, college presidents, and some deans at medical colleges. The majority of the top earners are football coaches.