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MOVIES – THEN AND NOW A Star is Born Part 2

April 22, 2019

Part 1, I compared the production techniques of three of the four versions of “A Star is Born.” My cliffhanger at the end was the promise that I would compare acting techniques in Part 2.

First, for folks too young to remember the movie serials, I’ll explain the term “cliffhanger.” Each chapter of the serial ended with a “cliffhanger,” which meant it would end with something terrible happening to the protagonists. You had to watch the next chapter to see how they escaped destruction.

Now, back to comparing acting styles.

In the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, the acting was just a shade less than stage acting, which requires projecting not only of dialogue, but of facial expressions and gestures because audiences are at distances from the actors. In movie acting, the camera can come close so that speech and bodily expressions need to be “natural.”

What’s interesting is that in one scene a producer, defending Esther Blodgett’s screen test by noting her acting was “mild.” He pointed out that might be a good thing, that perhaps movie acting would become more “natural” in the future.

Indeed it would. That trend actually started when sound was introduced in the late 1920s. Hollywood had to start hiring stage actors who were vocally trained because many silent movie actors had heavy foreign and/or regional accents and squeaky voices. The problem with the stage actors was they were trained to project voices and bodily expressions. So, they were instructed lessen their projection.

They did, but not to the degree that would come later. The 30s acting was more realistic than the 20s, and the trend continued through each decade. Many movie historians believe the big change in the 1950s when “method” acting took hold with stars like Marlan Brando and James Dean.

Frankly, the effort to make acting totally realistic has often gone too far with actors mumbling to the point they are not understandable. I suppose the trick is to come across as being “natural” while speaking distinctly enough there to be understood.

As far as “A Star is Born” is concerned, the stars performed more naturally with each new version that I saw, it appears to me. Still, my favorite version was the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason. I missed the Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version.

I know this is too long, but I didn’t want to take time to make it shorter.

6Hoyt Bray, Rob St. Clair and 4 others
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Nate Gross

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Movies, Then and Now

April 3, 2019

 

Deciding on watching something new, we rented the latest version of “A Star is Born,” released in 2018, the 3rd remake. I had seen the original 1937 version with Frederick March and Janet Gaynor on TV and the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, but missed the 1976 one with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Of those I saw, my favorite is the 1954 version. Being 23 years old when I saw it in 1954 at a theater at Augusta, Georgia — I was serving in an Army band at Fort Gordon then — the music in it was the popular music of my youth. That’s probably one reason I liked it best.

Another would be the different shooting techniques. The 2018 version was shot in cinema verity style, which is all right for documentaries, but, for me, not in dramas. Cinema verity uses handheld unstable cameras, which makes the audience aware of the camera. Millions of feet of World War II combat films were shot by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers using 16mm handheld cameras. Most dramatic films are shot in the direct style, which uses stable cameras with the idea being that it’s best that the audience is unaware of the camera. In the direct style, actors are instructed to never look directly at the camera lens. The 1937 and 1954 versions were shot in the direct style

How does Lady Gaga compare with Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor and Bradley Cooper with James Mason and Frederick March? Stay tuned for part two of Movies , Then and Now.

Seth, Slow Down

June 22, 2018

Seth Rudersky’s rapid-fire delivery might work in Manhattan, but it didn’t work for me and some others at the RiverCenter’s 2018-2019 Season Reveal Concert in the Bill Heard Theater last night. We simply couldn’t understand what he was saying.

The first admonition public speaking course instructors often give is “slow down.” That is especially important in a large theater, and Bill Heard seats almost 2,000. So, Seth, when you play in big auditoriums,  I think many more folks will better understand what you’re saying if you slow down.

The reveal  part of the concert, which included a video presentation, was easy to follow. The upcoming season is loaded with a large and diverse number of shows and concerts. We plan to attend a lot of them.

 

 

 

Another Way to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

June 10, 2018

The point of the post is still topical, so I’m rerunning it. Your responses, as always, are welcomed.

Dick's World

IMG_1923 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…

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Political Rewind Shows “Old Fashioned Radio” Can Still Work

June 9, 2018

Born in 1930, I have witnessed the evolution of mass broadcasting. When I was a kid, my family gathered around a large console radio in the living room to listen to dramas, comedies, live music shows,  and special events like national political conventions, things that people watch on TV now. Many of the programs featured live studio audiences. That came back to me as a friend and I  “gathered” around a radio to listen to Political Rewind on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The show attracted a sold out audience to Legacy Hall in the River Center in Columbus. It’s usually aired from Atlanta with no studio audience. Columbus Mayor Tersea Tomlinson, who has appeared on it in Atlanta, invited GPB to bring it to Columbus. To me, that was a great idea because not only did it provide a very informative and entertains program, but because it reminded a statewide audience that Atlanta isn’t the only vibrant metro area in Georgia. The River Center competes well with any theater complex anywhere in America now.

We really enjoyed the program. Not only did it inform us politically, it was entertaining. The host Bill Nigut and the panel, State. Senator Josh McKoon, State Representative Calvin Smyre, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Ledger-Enquirer  reporter and columnist Chuck Williams were at the top of their articulate games. And the reactions of the large audience enhanced the experience.

If you missed it when it aired Friday afternoon, you can hear it on the GPB website. In my view, it’s definitely worth a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Varsity and Dinglewood

March 30, 2018

Amazing how two hot dog emporiums have become famous enduring institutions.

I saw where Varsity hot dogs were served to legislators for dinner at the last session of this year’s Georgia legislature. I had my first Varsity fare years ago. The Varsity opened across the highway from Georgia Tech in 1928, two years before I was born.

I enjoyed my visits to The Varsity, but frankly, I like Columbus’ Dinglewood Pharmacy hot dogs and scrambled dogs better. Not only does Dinglewood beat The Varsity in hotdogs (to my taste), but it does in longevity, also. It opened in 1918. I started enjoying their hot dogs and milkshakes in the 1930s. (I haven’t had either in years.)

The Varsity is still a drive-in. Dinglewood was also a drive-in for a while at its old location. It used an empty lot next door for drive-in service until the owners of the lot decided they didn’t like that idea. When that closed it continued “curb service ” on Wynnton Road. I know this because my “big brother” Elbert was a teen-age carhop there in, if my memory is correct, about 1940.

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 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Case for Optimism: Episode Three

April 26, 2017

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

by Hallas Midgette

IMG_1717 (2)

Hallas Midgette

In the first two episodes of this four-part series on a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Coumbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017, Hal told us why he believes the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life and explained how four books helped shaping his optimistic worldview. In this episode he tells us how the Seven Principles affirmed by UUs “virtually scream optimism.”

Hal is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.

 Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles and Optimism

Okay, now you know that I’m an optimist and most probably why.  I look at our seven UU principles, and to me, they virtually scream optimism….that we can and will make a positive difference in the world around us, and that our endeavors will be successful.  Let’s take a look at our seven principles and see why this is so.

 

  1. Number one:  The inherent worth and dignity of every person.   We have no apostates….no “unbelievers,” or sinners not worthy of our illumination.  Everybody is somebody and we believe this message can change the world in a positive way.  And, most importantly, it doesn’t matter if they are part of our tribe or not.  All people are of value, and we are equals in that we all are alive, feel pain, love, and want to be happy and safe.  By embracing this principle, we demonstrate our optimism that we can reach out to all, and do not have to segregate others into infidels, sinners, or apostates.  We welcome humanity to our smorgasbord of ideas and love.

 

  1. Number two:  Justice, equality and compassion in human relations.   Justice is the pillar of stability that ensures that society doesn’t slip back into barbarism and to accept it as the arbitrator of events is supremely optimistic.   Nothing is more positive, in action and belief, than to grasp the concept that others, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, or cultural practices are equal as individuals.  While I might not appreciate someone’s cultural views as much as mine, I do appreciate that that person, as an individual feels the same pain and awe of the world around them.   Compassion is the engine that drives the Unitarian optimistic train.  Compassion is feeling and doing for those in pain or need, making the world a better place.  It provides the underpinnings for optimism, it is the tool for reaching out to others, sharing, and loving.  Compassion, coupled with equality forges the empathy that is necessary to care for and about others, including for those different than ourselves, those outside our tribe.

 

  1. Number three:  Accepting of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.  Tolerance is not fearing others, but embracing them with the belief in a positive outcome.  We embody the Nike cliche’ “No Fear.”  We accept that others have a vision of a different spiritual development or path than our own, but we find that okay.  We encourage and assist them on their path and journey.   One has to be optimistic about the end results of embracing our own belief and fostering the well being of others in the pursuit of their own, but different belief.

 

  1. Number four:  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  This is our vehicle for carrying us into the future.  It is the sword to fight the tyranny of ignorance, intolerance and religious bigotry.  This principle makes a break with previous notions that the search for knowledge is fundamentally wrong…..think about Eve and the apple incident at the Tree of Knowledge.  We generally do not believe that all the Truths and Meanings to life have been previously revealed and encoded in unchangeable form to be forced onto others.  We question rigid thinking and eschew dogma.  We understand that the world is constantly changing and we see the Unitarian role as a positive force in that change.  Will there be turmoil and times of gloominess?  Of course, but we see ourselves as transcending those bumps in the continuum…..as a good optimist should.

 

  1. Number five:  Right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.  This is possibly the most optimistic of all our principles because it has a large trust component that independent, individual action will be thoughtful and produce  an acceptable outcome, and even if we are not in the winning faction of a democratic process, will accept it and  carry on, striving for a positive outcome.   Our conscience is meant to be thoughtful, not coerced, or bounded.  How does the carrot and the stick, namely concepts of heaven and hell, and the role of sin play into this?  It doesn’t, at least for the Unitarian Universalist organization, although it might on the individual level.  I find this extremely optimistic.

 

  1. Number six:  The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.  When looking around without our optimist glasses, the world looks a little like Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  “We didn’t start the fire, It was always burning since the world’s been turning.” Another light metaphor.  It has gotten better over time, but so many just don’t look at the time scale of things and how we, as a species, have improved.   Or, we get too distracted when there are episodes of regional setbacks, like the situation in Syria.  Let’s start at Homo sapiens’ beginning.  Small wandering tribes.  If you weren’t in a tribe or were out wandering away from home when another tribe found you, it wasn’t  “guess who’s coming to dinner,” because you knew the game….protein was protein, and it was you that was going to be dinner.  As tribes evolved into more complex social groupings, congeniality towards strangers became more the norm, especially with the advent of agriculture and the formation of settlements, which eventually became towns and cities.  Human’s greatest discovery after tool making, fire, and language was possibly religion, which helped order society even more and provided the seeds to formalize law.  Then came city states and commerce, then nations.   Now we have international law, a world court, rules for war, though not always followed, the world wide web, and are now on the cusp of full globalization.  I believe there is greater tolerance now than at any other time in the world’s history.  While large pockets of radicals or extreme conservatives exist, they are being more and more marginalized by increased education, and access to tools, like the world wide web, that work to remove the veil of ignorance and localism.  We Unitarians show tolerance for other religions, fight for equality among the sexes, and embrace diversity in its many forms.   I’m not saying that sometimes it’s not crazy out there, that there is still friction to our forward progress, but life and human interactions are unquestionably better than at human’s beginning.  Mankind has come a long way, and the journey isn’t done.  As Billy Joel said in his song:  “We didn’t light it, but tried to fight it.”  We are optimists, we just haven’t tried to fight the fire, we are daily fighting the fire, through words, thoughts and deeds.

 

  1. Number sever:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Some people believe the Earth was given to mankind to subjugate, to be masters over all the animals…that the Earth was Man’s to exploit…that there would be continuous bounty.  The foundation of most of this belief was formulated four thousand years ago when the human population, spread over the whole globe, was only 27 million people, much less than that of Tokyo’s 38 million today.   The population is currently estimated to be 7.4 billion, about 250 times greater than four thousand years ago.  Because of our value in reason, Unitarians in general accept the scientific method and the scientific wisdom that the Earth is a complex organism of which we are but a part.  As mankind has gradually learned, human cells are called eukaryotic cells and generally are a mixture of a nucleus and organelles or structures, in which, one, the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria, is the vestige of a bacteria that took up residence in a larger cell.  Without this combination, there would be no thought or movement.  The approximate 39 trillion eukaryotic cells in the average human, is matched by an equal number of bacterial cells….of over 10,000 different species.  We literally are a zoo.  We are a microcosm of the Earth’s web of existence.  We don’t do well if some of the bacteria living on or in us aren’t healthy.  Case in point is what sometimes happens after we take antibiotics….an intention to kill harmful bacteria, but sometimes includes necessary bacteria as collateral, and consequently causing a disruption in the digestive tract.  Earth doesn’t do well when some of its species aren’t doing well, or become extinct.  While we promote saving the environment, we acknowledge that the world is in flux and always has been.  I am optimistic that we can help those that are blind to see that this current flux, to include climate change, has human handprints and footprints all over it.   Everyday it is estimated dozens of species of animals are becoming extinct because of habitat loss or changes in their ecosystem.  Am I still optimistic?  Absolutely.  Knowing that the Earth has been through at least five extreme extinction events in the past, only to bound back, not just to the level it was before, but with greater abundance of life, I think Mother Earth will survive this 6th major extinction event that is wrought by man.  But, with reason and knowledge and reaching out to educate others, we Unitarians can help in the effort to lessen the effect of this time period scientifically called the anthropocene…..or in layman’s terms…the age of man.

 
Hal uses a quote by  Howard Zinn to sum up his talk.  Episode Four is next.