Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

How Long Should a Novel Be?

July 25, 2017

When David O. Selznick produced Gone With the Wind, some Hollywood movie moguls told him it that was too long.  Running time is 3 hours 46 minutes. It has an intermission. His response was that the answer to the question of how long should a movie be, was reportedly, “As long as it is good.”  I would say that reasoning also applies to novels.

I just finished two critically acclaimed novels that some probably feel are long, but, to me, they were not longer than they were good. Compared to two of the greatest novels ever written, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, both running more than a thousand pages, A Gentleman in Moscow, hardcover at 462 pages,  and All the Light We Cannot See, hardcover at 522 pagesare really not all that long.

Both are excellent reads. If I had to rate them, I’d list Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See first.  To me, it has greater emotional depth. It’s historical background is World War II. Towles’  A Gentleman in Moscow is, in a sense, more entertaining. It has a lot of laughs, even if its background is the reign of one of the most notorious dictators of all time, Joseph Stalin. The “gentleman” is Count Rostov, who was sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  I recommend both if you’re into historical fiction.


What Excellence at Sochi and Legacy Hall Symbolize

February 11, 2014

As I watched America’s Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson soar through the air on their snowboards,  Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko and 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitshaya flawlessly jump and land their quads and axels on skates, or America’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White impeccably execute graceful lifts and spins as they ice dance in the Sochi Olympics, I have to reflect on the incredible capability of the human brain and body to perform brilliantly.

The same thoughts surfaced as I sat in Legacy Hall at the River Center in Columbus, Georgia and was blown away by a young, skinny, tall, serious-faced Chinese music student at the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music doing seemingly impossibly intricate and really fast things on a viola,  or marvel at the world-class performances by the school’s faculty members Alexander Kobrin, pianist; Sergiu Schwartz, violist, and Wendy Warner, Cellist playing Trios by Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn.

Yes, the human being is capable of thrilling performances in many areas.  But,  there is always this familiar question, why can’t we just get along with one another?  You’d think that if humans have the smarts and talent to do things like brilliantly play a piano and go to the moon, they would be able to solve differences without going to war, individually or collectively.



Why the 20th Century was the Most Violent in History

June 18, 2012


The 20th Century was not the century of two World Wars and a Cold War, but the century of a single Hundred Years War.

Nationalism didn’t cause the conflicts. Empires did. It wasn’t ideologies of class or the influence of democracy or socialism that drove the century. It was race.

Though we thought the West had triumphed, the truth is that power moved towards the Eastern empires.

Those are the controversial assertions of Scottish historian Niall Ferguson in his documentary series War of the World, which is also a highly acclaimed book.  I saw three of the documentary episodes on Netflix, but there is also a website, Top Documentary Films, that offers it free.  You can check it out by clicking this link.

The Ferguson doc is not only exceptional for the creative way it is written and produced, but for a new way of understanding why the 20th Century is the most violent in history. 

One of his interesting claims is that World War III is not in the future.  It started right after World War II.  In other words, the Cold War was actually hot. The United States and the Soviet Union couldn’t fight directly because of the guaranteed mutual destruction that a nuclear exchange would engender.  They fought it through proxy countries.  A couple of good examples were Korea and Vietnam. 

The shift of empire power to the East  started in 1905 when the Japanese sank two-thirds of the Russian fleet.  Up until then the West truly dominated the world, with its empires subjugating  the East. Those empires have since been demolished.  Nations like China and India are ascending.

 And he points out that  war can cause the good guys to be bad guys as they adopt the tactics of the bad guys, using as examples the massive killing of civilians by bombardment from artillery and the air in World War II.

His findings are controversial, but he has a good case for his positions.  Watch the series and tell me what you think.   

A Different Kind of Change of Command Ceremony

July 2, 2008

  Having covered a few change of command ceremonies at Fort Benning over the years, I am familiar with the pomp and ritual of those affairs. Not as familiar as Rotary Club of Columbus President Carmen Cavezza, though. He’s participated in quite a few, ending up as a three star Lieutenant General before he retired.  


  But this one was totally different. He compared a Rotary Club meeting with one at a church. First of all, you “don’t sit in someone else’s seat. That’s followed by a prayer. Then you take up a collection. And you’d better not run overtime.” Rotarians, recognizing the truth in what he was saying, laughed. In fact, he gave us quite a few laughs. We thank him for that. There are no laughs in a military change of command ceremony – well, there had better not be.




Past Rotary Presidents

Past Rotary Club of Columbus Presidents



  34 former Rotary Club presidents, along with a couple hundred other Rotarians, got to see President Carmen (it’s traditional for Rotarians to call each other by first name, even the president) hand over the presidency of the club to U.S. Federal Court Magistrate Mallon Faircloth. He now gets to preside over the 333 member club, the largest service club in Columbus and one of the largest in the state.




Pres Carmen and Pre Mallon

 Rotary President Carmen Cavezza pins president’s pin on incoming President Mallon Faircloth.



  Rotary Clubs all over the world do a lot of good work. They raise hundreds of millions of dollars to do things like eradicating polio. The Rotary Club of Columbus raised 77 thousand dollars during President Carmen’s reign for the Rotary Foundation which supplies the funds for such humane projects.  President Mallon promises to keep up the good work, locally and internationally.


  And you just might be surprised to know where some Rotary Clubs are in the world. For instance, there are three in the People’s Republic of China. That’s right, Rotary Clubs, which are made up of business and professional leaders, in communist China. They have been busy raising funds to help victims of the earthquake that ravaged Sichuan Province. Revolutions can be gradual. The Soviet Union is no more and that came about without a violent revolution. Are there Rotary Clubs in Russia? Yes, quite a few,


  Yes, the world is changing, but, then, it always has been.