Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Space Science Center Works to Display Shuttle Prototype and to Affiliate with Smithsonian

November 17, 2014

 

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The relatively new whitewater experience in downtown Columbus has impressively increased the number of tourists visiting the Columbus area.  Hundreds of thousands were already coming because of the National Infantry Museum,  the National Civil War Naval Museum, and the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center.  And now, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center could be on the verge of making Columbus an even greater national tourist destination.

CCSSC Executive Director Dr. Shawn Cruzen told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus that adding the 1/4 scale model space shuttle to the center’s museum and affiliating with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will make the CCSSC an even greater tourist attraction, as well as enhance the educational aspects of the facility.

Dr. Cruzen told me that the space shuttle model played a large role in the development of the space shuttle. It was used as a testing prototype.  Developers of the shuttle had to know if the three elements involved in the launching of the shuttle, the main rocket, it’s attached fuel tank, and the shuttle, could withstand the violent vibrations that would  happen during a launch. They found out by submitting the prototype to those vibrations created by a machine. That makes the prototype, a $9.3 million gift of NASA’s to CCSSC, a highly valuable historical artifact.

However, it will take an estimated $2 million to modify the CCSSC building to display it.  As part of the efffort to raise the funds,  the center brought Dr. Valerie Neal, Director of the “Space History Division” of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to Columbus to speak at fund-raising events. She was also scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Columbus, but commercial flight problems caused her to miss that; However, Dr. Cruzen and Mary Johnson,  Assistant Executive Director of CCSSC,  impressively substituted for her, in my view. Their presentations were well-received by the audience.

The CCSSC will do what it takes to make the affiliation application to the Smithsonian  next year, and has a goal of achieving affiliation in 2016.  There are all sorts of educational and promotional benefits in becoming an  Smithsonian affiliate, including use of artifacts and bringing Smithsonian experts to Columbus to speak.

I hope Columbus leaders will give full support to this initiative.  The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a valuable asset for the area.  Shows in the world-class Omnisphere planetarium alone are worth a visit, thanks to the creativity and skills of its director, Lance Tankersley. 

 

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CBS Sunday Morning in the Limelight

November 10, 2014

As I sat watching the illuminating CBS magazine program CBS Sunday Morning,  which has been on the air for  35 years, I learned the roots of the word “limelight,”  which, besides meaning “the center of public attention,” also means an actual light used to illuminate a stage, providing the first following spotlights,  I had to reflect on what an entertainment and informative  treasure CBS gives us every Sunday morning.

The program’s Almanac feature spotlighted Scottish inventor Thomas Drummond who, on November 9th, 1825,  successfully demonstrated a brilliant light produced by a white-hot flame from burning calcium oxide. (Calcium oxide is lime.)  He used a parabolic reflector to direct the light. Theaters quickly embraced the limelight to light stages and provide spotlights before the advent of electric lights. (Wikipedia tells us that Drummond didn’t actually invent limelight. Sir Goldsworthy Gurnery did that. Drummond made it work.)

This is one TV news magazine that leaves you feeling good after watching it. You can’t say that  about the others.  I get tired of being depressed by reports of the bad things going on in the world, so I  look  forward to this program, which I record every week.  Sometimes I actually watch part of it  when it airs. (more…)

Having a Drink with the Duke

July 14, 2014

As I read the news about John Wayne’s estate engaging in a legal battle with Duke University over the use of  the name Duke, it reminded me of  the time I had a drink with the Duke.

The estate wants to put the name “Duke” on the label of bottles of Kentucky bourbon. Duke University reportedly opposes that idea. From personal experience, I know that Wayne did like bourbon.

He had just finished shooting some scenes for The Green Berets, a film about the Vietnam War at Fort  Benning.   Meeting him on location the night before, I had so upset him when I asked if he was making a propaganda movie that he cut the interview short and stormed off, saying, “You’re just trying to provoke me. I’m  trying to make an entertaining  movie.”

The next morning his publicist called me to say that Duke felt bad about the episode with me, that he had been upset by something else and that he would give me another interview if I wanted it. The publicist and I met him at his apartment after that day’s filming.  He gave me his famous smile and a hardy handshake,  explained that he had been in a bad mood the night before because of problems he was having with one of his actors who had a drinking problem,  said he understood I was just doing my job and I could ask  him anything I wished.  I responded by honestly telling him I was a fan and had really enjoyed his latest movie in the theaters, The War Wagon. He invited me to join him at the apartment’s  kitchen table to do the interview.  He also asked me if I would like to have a bourbon and water with him.  Usually, I didn’t drink on the job, but there was no way I was going to  not have a drink with John Wayne.

I interviewed him for an hour.  He gave me a lot of interesting inside stories about such things as the mafia’s influence in Hollywood. I sent both the short interview from the  night before and the hour interview to  CBS.  They only used the one with the verbal fireworks from the night before.

 

Sailing Where Juan Ponce de León Sailed, Maybe

March 31, 2014

Schooner Freedom

Schooner Freedom

Some historians say he landed at St. Augustine, but others say he landed south of there. The record shows that Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled the city in September, 1565. It had been at least 40 years since I had visited America’s oldest city. Besides the fine dining and historical sites,  a highlight this time was sailing on the Schooner Freedom.  It’s a 76 foot long,  double-masted replica of a 19th century blockade runner.  It has something they didn’t, an engine.  The Coast Guard  requires it.  Also, it makes it possible to make at least three excursions a day.  Sailing against the wind and a strong current means almost stranding still.  The trip I was on took 90 minutes.  The skipper did turn the engine off for a little while and used only wind power on the way back when the wind was behind us and the tide going in.

St. Augustine 046

One of most interesting sites at the St. Augustine docks was a replica of a Spanish galleon like the ones that plied the Florida coast between the 15th and 16th centuries.  It’s really looks at home in St. Augustine since Spain used ships like it to bring people and supplies to the city in 1565.  I asked the Freedom’s skipper how it compares in size with one of Columbus’ ships.  He said, “It’s huge.  C0lumbus’ ships were really small.”  He told me that Columbus’ ships were about the same length as his schooner, which is 76 feet.  The galleon replica is 175-feet long.

If you go to St. Augustine, I recommend the cruise.  It was fun.  Also, I recommend the Reef,  a restaurant on Vilano Beach.  My Mahi Mahi was really good; the decor is nautical, and every table has a view of the Atlantic. There are many good restaurants in St. Augustine, but that one really stood out to me.

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. 

An Advertiser’s Solution to Commercial Fast-forwarding

June 21, 2013

As I watched a rare commercial break this morning – I record just about everything I watch and fast-forward through the commercials – I was truly impressed with some photographic magic.  A fresh-faced, well-scrubbed young teen-age boy came  on the screen to tell me about the problems drugs can cause a guy. As he explained what they do to the brain, his face morphed seamlessly into a scraggly bearded,  unkempt, troubled youth. As I said, it was seamless. And, the video trick did not distract from  the message; it  enhanced it.

This type of video art made me reflect on how advertisers could cut way down on people fast-forwarding  through commercials by doing more of it. In other words, give the viewer something artistic and/or entertaining to watch. Some do.

The very effective Aflac duck commercial is a prime example. That one is quite expensive to make so not every advertiser can afford something like it. However, much lower-budgeted commercials can also be artistic and entertaining. Some of you may remember from many years ago the two local seniors advertising Southern Maid No-burn Bacon. At the end of their verbal sparring, one would always end with, “He’ll never learn.” A lot of folks laughed at those commercials and bought that bacon.

Adjusting for High Water

June 19, 2013
Running Heaven's Gate at High Water

Running Heaven’s Gate at High Water

When the river reaches flood stage, which it did today, Whitewater Express continues to operate, but only at Heaven’s Gate, and I do mean right there.   The put the rafts in at the Eagle and Phenix Power Plant, run the rapid, paddle back and do it again. They don’t do the long river run, and they don’t do the more challenging Cut Bait on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee.

There are a couple of advantages to doing the short run over and over. For one thing, as a guide told me, “You do improve with practice.” I noticed that was the case. The first time the raft I was watching did a couple of about-faces during the run. The second time it went straight through with no wabbling around. But, the next time, the raft flipped. When I commented that getting the swimmers back on the raft took up time, Blake Quinney, Assistant Director of Operations for Whitewater Express said “They are having fun.” Indeed, it did appear they were.

Another advantage is the rafters get to run Heaven’s Gate as many times as they can get in an hour and a half. The long river runs do it twice. A drawback could be that there are more different rapids to run on the long run.

Blake was pleased with the amount of business they have done so far. Four- thousand people have rafted down the Chattahoochee since the end of May, and he expects to have served as many as twenty-thousand rafters by the end of August.

 

 

PBS’s “Mr. Selfridge” Stirs Memories of my London Experience

May 13, 2013

As I watch the extraordinary  United Kingdom ITV series “Mr. Selfridge” on PBS, I have to reflect on my department store experiences in London.  I’m not sure whether I went into Selfridge’s, but I went into a department store in the posh Kensington section of London and bought a British-style hat.  I bought the hat so I would blend in with the folks on the sidewalks. It didn’t work. No one else was wearing a hat like that. Everybody was wearing baseball-style caps just like the ones in the good old USA.

I definitely visited Harrod’s and Fortnum Mason.  Both lived up to their reputations. They were shows within themselves. Harrod’s is huge, the largest department store in Europe and has extraordinary merchandize displays.  Selfridge’s is the second largest in the U.K. Fortnum Mason is not all that big, has only a few departments, but is luxurious and patronized by the Royal family. Queen Elizabeth has visited the store herself.  It is also  famous for its many restaurants and its high tea service.

Visiting those stores helped me understand why a department store could be a tourist attraction.  Harry Selfridge, the American who founded Selfridge’s in 1909, said that he wanted his store to be a shopping adventure. That’s what you get in the world-famous department stores in London.

“Mud” Updates Mark Twain Very Well

May 6, 2013

A good story, bolstered by first-rate acting and directing, can still give low-budget movies a good chance to make a neat profit and give mentally adult people a reason to go to the movies.  “Mud” is, in my view, one of those very special movies.

Like Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer,” and “Huckleberry Finn,” which inspired writer-director Jeff Nichols, “Mud” is a coming-of-age story about two boys learning about the pains and joys of  love and life, with the Mississippi River serving as the backdrop. Twain wrote his tales in the late 19th Century. “Mud” is contemporary. 

Matthew McConaughey, as Mud, who hides on an island in the river because he is wanted for murder, turns in an excellent  performance.   Tye Sheridan,  and  Jacob Lofland, as the two young teen-age boys who try to help him, and Reese Witherspoon, as the woman he tries to reunite with, match McConaughey’s performance, with Sheridan standing out as the central character.

We saw it a the Ritz 13, which was doing really big business Sunday afternoon.  “Mud” had a respectable turn-out, with adults out-numbering teenagers by a large margin.  The reason, thoiugh, was that the parking lot was packed because “Iron Man III” was playing on six screens.  I can guarantee you the teenagers were not outnumbered in those theaters.  I plan to see it, too. You know, young at heart and all that.  

“Zorro” is Worth the Drive to Atlanta

April 28, 2013

And that is especially true if someone else is doing the driving, which is what happened Saturday as some 50 members of the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning traveled on a CSU bus to the Alliance Theater.

We had a great time, not only because “Zorro” is a highly entertaining and exciting musical, with some of the best and most exciting staging I have ever seen, but because of the company.  CALL folks enjoy not only learning in classes that have no tests and no required home work, but also in doing special things together.

“Zorro” plays through May 5th, so if you want to see it, you only have a few days left.

Do I recommend it?  Definitely! It is a hoot!