Showing posts with label Clinton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clinton. Show all posts

Friday, February 15, 2013

#1billionrising in Istanbul

"Everyday Five Women Are Killed
through Domestic Violence"
Yesterday was so delightful. The enormity of Eve Ensler's imagination blew me away. It was just glorious to participate in the largest global happening on the planet to date. Turkish media was 100% there for the event. Many newspapers featured it on their front page the day it was to happen and the day after. My local neighborhood municipality actually sponsored a rising themselves and offered people free dance classes. I wasn't able to go because it was during the day but the joy of those who did attend is self-evident! The anthem was perfect as it created and communicated the joyousness of the feminist tsunami circling the world.
New friend and fellow protester
Betül. She was a delight!

I thought there was a rising at 6 p.m. in Taksim Square, but when I got there, the square was empty. I looked around and guessed who would be the most likely to be attending a rising that night. I guessed exactly right on my first try. The young German lady said, "yes, my roommate has organized the one in Kadikoy on the Asian side at 7 p.m." I guess it's been all those years of guessing who speaks English to ask questions that helped me pick the right female to ask! We gathered a Canadian friend of hers and took the ferry over to Asia.

There were all kinds of people there, at least 500 if not more. One young woman had hand-lettered signs on both sides with magic marker and gladly shared them with people she didn't know. I marveled at the time investment, but hey, I had done the same in my own way, with non-stop promotion of #1billionrising in the weeks prior to everybody I could think of.

I realized when I got there, that this was an event that was tailor-made for Turkey. Most Turks dance with abandon and they have wonderful, wonderful folk dances that are easy to learn and enable people of all ages to participate. We started doing the halay in a big circle and gorgeous young women would make that ululating sound as loud as they could with incredible joy. It was FABULOUS.
 Someone translated this to me that night as:
"Hallelujah, the women are united!"
The administrator in me started thinking "well, if I had done this promotion, I would have done this different and that different, starting with designing a dance as easy to learn as the Turkish halay so it could go viral and all ages would dance it up." The official #1billionrising choreography was intimidating to nondancers as a time investment. It looked like it would take multiple rehearsals to learn. That makes it hard for folks to identify with so that they join in up until the last minute. I would also would have waited for a year to do this when Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday so the maximum number of people could join. Had it happened on a weekend, I would have just gone to risings all day, one after the other.

I also wish the President of the United States had given #1billionrising a shoutout in the State of the Union speech the night before. I mean, it's not every single day that 1 billion people decide to organize themselves into mass action. A single "I hear ya!" would have sufficed.

The State Department, which prides itself on social media saavy, seemed like complete nonparticipants on Twitter. I would have thought Hillary Clinton's State Department would have had risings organized at all embassies and consulates. Women's rights were supposed to be hallmark of Hillary's time as Secretary of State. The United Nations, the UK Prime Minister, and the Australian PM were all over #1billionrising on V-Day. America missed a wonderful opportunity to brag about all the work it has done on behalf of women over the last four years. This could have been the capstone event!

It was amazing how hard it was to know about all of the aspects of this. I didn't realize you could order a T-shirt. I didn't know that my municipality was organizing their own rising. I didn't know that there was a #1billionrisingIstanbul Facebook page (the ladies of Izmir, Turkey had over 4,000 likes on theirs). I didn't understand how there would be #1billionrising when @eveensler only had around 22,000 Twitter followers and @vday only had 23,000 followers. There is a Twitter account called @obr that seems to be owned by a very non-active Norwegian, not One Billion Rising. Had information on all the groups organizing been more centralized, it could have been even exponentially larger.

But then I just remembered to myself the wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. "It is not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena." My suggestions are mere quibbles.

Eve Ensler created something of immense power and beauty. My hat is off to her. I can't wait to sift through all of the incredibly diverse videos and take them in. I loved hearing this NPR Talk-of -he-Nation interview with her from the Congo where she expressed her optimism for the future. Most importantly, she talked about when she started with the Vagina Monologues, it was with a theatre of 100 seats. She had no idea the power of her voice. None of us do - all we have to do is take the first step. In my opinion, Eve Ensler deserves the American Medal of Freedom for her service to America and all humanity.

This is one of the most powerful #1billionrisings videos I've seen so far: #1billionrising in jail.

You may be interested in my earlier posts about #1billionrising:


Friday, December 28, 2012

Why the Obama Presidential Library should be built in Springfield, Illinois

President Obama taking the oath of office
I notice the race is on for the Obama Presidential Library. The two cities mentioned as possible sites are Chicago and Honolulu. This astonishes me, as I find the obvious choice to be Springfield, Illinois.
Obama campaign poster
As a community, Springfield had an outsized influence on Obama as he spent his early legislative days there in the Illinois legislature. Why did it have such an influence? Because Springfield has excelled at passing on the message of the Lincoln Presidency to all humanity, even, as it turns out, to future Presidents.
The old
Illinois State Capitol
Obama deeply identifies with Lincoln and used several of Lincoln's signature moves prior to and in his first term: speaking on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol, a long slow train ride to Inauguration, and assembling a Team of Rivals. As Obama conducted his State legislative business in Springfield, Lincoln's words, example, and sites were everywhere in the city for him to identify with, learn from and absorb. Obama even used a term from the Gettysburg address as his first Inauguration theme: "a new birth of freedom."
The Obama family
Placing the library in Springfield would be a gigantic economic boost to Southern Illinois. Chicago is already thriving and doesn't need the Obama Presidential Library to continue thriving. I appreciate that the current Mayor there has some pull, but will the Chicago mayor 100 years from now care as much? Will promoting the Obama Presidential Library and Museum be on the top of that mayor's to-do list?

Honolulu might seem an obvious place since Obama's boyhood was there. However, if it is placed there it ensures that the people who will get to see it are upper-income, older Americans who can afford a Hawaiian vacation plus Japanese tourists on holiday. How would that change the world any? I can't help but think that the young person who could most use the inspiration of the Obama legacy, wouldn't get to see it.

That's why the Obama Presidential Library should be placed in Springfield, Illinois. Think of the savings to education budgets if school children can take in the Lincoln Presidential library and Museum and the Obama library in the same field trip.
The famous hug
after winning a second term
Foreign visitors who come to learn about one of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation,  would learn about two of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation. An Obama Presidential Library and Museum would probably be one of the most important economic drivers of Springfield as a city, even 100 years from now.

Springfield has a lower cost structure for a visit and its slow Southern pace makes for a more reflective experience, plus it places the Obama presidency in the context of wider American history. Tourists can afford to spend more days there so they can take in both the Obama library and museum. If Obama's library and museum are placed in Chicago, people will give one of those two new buildings an afternoon of their time and that's that. Back to business.
Obama in Prague
speaking on disarmament
I'm thinking about the experience created by this placement not only as a library professional, but as a consumer of the experience these destinations create. Between us, my family and I have visited the Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan Libraries. On my last trip back to America, my family and I made a special trip to Little Rock just to take in the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. One of the things that made the Clinton Library experience work so well as an education about American history is that it was partnered with the experience and history of the Little Rock Nine.
Placing the Obama Presidential Library in context with Lincoln's presidency is a powerful history lesson in and of itself. But the most important reason the Obama Presidential Library should be in Springfield, Illinois is the message it sends to people yet unborn.

This is what makes the historical context in Springfield perfect for Obama's legacy. Springfield was the scene of a white riot in 1908 so horrible that the NAACP was formed out of the complete despair that resulted from the event. White Springfield has come to terms with this event and is not in denial. The Mayor officially apologized on behalf of the city. A walking tour has been created that explains what happened. It would not be to Springfield's shame if this story was more widely known around the world, it would be their success story.

Why? Because out of that despair, trying to pick up the pieces after a devastating hate crime, humanity organized. They worked to create a better future by organizing themselves into an association (the NAACP). These citizens had no idea what would result from that work. Out of that community organizing and the changes that resulted in society because of it, 100 years later, there was an almost unimaginable outcome: the citizens of the United States of America elected a black President.

Humanity: there is nothing you can't do if you're willing to come together and work for it. That's the astonishing, hopeful message an Obama Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois could send the citizens of the world.

To put it in President's Obama's words: "We are here because enough people ignored the voices who told them the world could not change."

You might be interested in reading more about my visit to Springfield, Illinois. Touring Springfield, Illinois was one of the things I most wanted to do before becoming an "Empty Nest Expat."

Entering the Land of Lincoln

What Inspires Stories?

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

A living tribute to Abraham Lincoln

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

America's Finest Example of Prairie School Architecture

Route 66 Road Food

How broke is Illinois?

Empty Nest Expat is also on Facebook. I invite you to "like" my page.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Geocaching in Little Rock, Arkansas

The Test Square!
My oldest daughter and her fiance love to go geocaching. I had never tried it before this trip and it was fun to have her show me how it works. I thought it would be a wonderful tool for helping people discover the historic places and natural beauty around them, but my daughter told me it isn't allowed on National Park properties or other significant sites.

Instead, what you end up discovering is some of the quirkiest places. We pursued one cache that started to make me giggle even before we got there and the laughs just kept continuing while we enjoyed the absurbity of it all during the hunt. Here's what the geocacher wrote:
Once upon a time, someone had the idea to create a celebrity walk of fame, similar to the one found outside Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, in downtown Little Rock. Apparently the idea really grabbed hold in the 1980's, as anyone with a drop of celebrity that passed through Little Rock was asked to scrawl a name into cement. Now, the project remains forgotten on the sidewalk outside an unexciting parking garage.
I happened to be looking down while walking to lunch several years ago and found this little piece of history. I spent about 30 minutes giggling and being amazed that day, and I've purposely walked by dozens of times over the years to remember (and mostly giggle) some more. Some of the highlights (and lowlights) you'll see:
  1. President Bill Clinton (although one of the most illegible squares)
  2. The infamous Orval Faubus (governor during the 1957 Central High School crisis)
  3. Just a few squares down: Daisy Bates, civil rights leader
  4. Yogi Bear (including fake footprint)
  5. Ronald McDonald
  6. Bert and Ernie
  7. Half a dozen ballet artists(?)
  8. The Concorde (yes, the airplane)
  9. The 150th anniversary Little Rock commemorative coin (no coin included)
  10. And my personal favorite: Jeckle the Schlitz Malt Liquor bull (complete with hoof print)
You are looking for a baby soda bottle containing only a log, so bring your own pen.
This cost nothing as an activity and we giggled non-stop! The squares were fun to look at and enjoy and it was the kind of quirk that only a local would know about and notice, not a visitor. While I don't intend to take up geocaching, I appreciate the fun of hiding something and the fun of hunting something down.
All in all, Little Rock was as bright and shiny as a penny with a beautiful, safe downtown full of new buildings and revitalized historic ones. The Presidential Library had obviously had a huge impact on the city. My family and I could easily have spent three of four more days there because there was so much to see and do. I know my youngest daughter is excited to go back and run the Little Rock marathon. Why? Because the medals are as big as dinner plates!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Touring the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas

A typical Ozark road sign
We took a scenic route
It wouldn't do to fly back to America without spending more time with my girls than just graduation weekend. I picked their brains about what we could do that was in the area because who knew when we would be back in the center of America again.

Should we go to St. Louis and see the Arch? One of them had already done it. Go to Hannibal, Missouri and celebrate Mark Twain? My girls failed to see how that would be interesting (obviously, they need to read more Twain as he's hilariously funny). Drive the river road along the Mississippi? Go see the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Salina, Kansas?
The gorgeous Ozark Mountains
on the way to Little Rock, Arkansas.
They reminded me of the Lubéron in Provence.
All they need is their own Cézanne to paint them.
Of course, then the real estate prices would quintuple.
We settled on driving down to Little Rock, Arkansas to see the Willliam Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. All three of us love American presidential libraries because they are so evocative of the times and teach us so much about the American political experience.
Small town riverside dinner view
in Allison, Arkansas
When I first visited my youngest daughter at Mizzou her freshman year, I couchsurfed with a fun couple in Columbia, Walt and Mary. I joked then that I would be back in four years when my child graduated. I was!
Mammoth Spring
See how the water springs up out of nowhere?
My girls and I took the route Walt recommended down to Arkansas because he had suggested such outstanding local history sites during my last visit.
One of the highlights on the trip down was stopping just across the Arkansas border to see Mammoth Spring State Park with a beautiful natural spring. My girls had both loved their geology courses in college and so it was fun for them to see the water come pouring out of the ground there.
The beautiful Arkansas river trail
perfect for runners and walkers.
Eventually it will be 17 miles long.
Isn't it beautiful?
Blessed to share
American democratic heritage with my girls -
like my Mom and Dad did with me
The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library -
First Federal building certified by the
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) program
The next day we woke up bright and early to devote the day to the museum and library. I remember when the museum was first built, critics derided it for having the appearance of a 'double wide' mobile home. I snickered when I saw pictures of it on TV because it did sort of look like one.
Having been to it in person now, I consider that a cheap shot. President Clinton wanted the old historic railroad bridge, built in the 19th century, to represent the bridge to the 20th century. His library and museum, right next to it, represented his administration of America as a bridge to the 21st century. The metaphor works. Listening to him explain it on the audioguide, I was grateful for politicians who think in 100-year cycles rather than to the next quarter or election. Where can we find more of those?
There's that 100-year cycle again.
Diagonally across from the museum
is this magnificent old railroad station
where the University of Arkansas
Clinton School of Public Service
is housed.

Let's all say this gorgeous phrase together
from the building:
"The Choctaw Route."

Even more gorgeous,
the name of the passenger train
that did this route was:
"The Choctaw Rocket."
A glorious view of the Railroad Bridge
from "42,"
the elegant cafe in the library.

A pretend shiny dime to whomever can guess
why the cafe is named '42!'
Clinton's stump speech
What's not to like?
I was Bob Dole's Story County, Iowa campaign co-chair in one of his presidential campaigns. I admired Dole's wartime service to his country, his moderate Main Street Republican views, and his biting sense of humor. It was fun to host Elizabeth Dole for a coffee at my mother's home. That was when I was still a Republican.

Even though Gov. Bill Clinton beat Senator Dole in the presidential campaign, Bob Dole was later asked to give the Inaugural Lecture at the University of Arkansas Bill Clinton School of Public Service. I love that about American politics. I admire the stature of Bill Clinton inviting him to do so, and the equal virtue of Bob Dole accepting. As citizens, we should demand our politicians not polarize us and find the common ground.
It's easy to understand why librarians
would support Clinton.

He is a famous practitoner
of recreational reading
(reading for the fun of it).

The library showcased the books that influenced him.
One of them was "Creating a Nation of Readers."
A nation of readers can continually renew themselves.
I came around a corner
 and had my breath taken away
by this fine assemblage
of young American talent.
How can we not have hope for the future, America?

Their teacher told me they were the
"The Gentleman's Club,"
2nd and 3rd grade
from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Norman Rockwell, did I
"do good" with this picture?
Look at those faces!

Two future leaders
thoughtfully take in
a reproduction of the Cabinet Meeting Room.

The pace of change can seem so slow in America that I forget how much things can change in one generation. Examples from the library include: it was during the Clinton Administration that gay people were first eligible for security clearances. The introduction and benediction to Clinton's inauguration seemed so overtly Christian. America would be much more inclusive now. There were photos from the Little Rock school desegregation episode that said, "race mixing is communism." Laughable. Everything seems to get labeled communism or socialism these days. This is a long tradition of over-the-top political rhetoric.
Three stellar staff members at the museum.

The lady on the right told me
that she was halfway through a PhD
but never graduated from high school
because she was a member of the senior class
of Central High School that lost their senior year
when the Governor chose to shut the high school down
rather than integrate.

 2,914 other seniors lost their senior year as well.
Zany gifts to the Presidential family
 are always a popular exhibit at these libraries.
Hillary Clinton and a bench!
One of the things you could look up
 was the Presidential Daily Schedule
and see what the President did on any given day.
I looked up the days surrounding Vaclav Havel's State Visit.
The menu for the Czech Republic State Dinner
with President Vaclav Havel
The best description of this whole event is in
Hillary Clinton's book, "Entertaining at the White House."
While Presidents have to consider things on a level beyond the personal, one thing the Museum brings home is how the personal stories of those from foreign countries inform the President about their nations.

I know President Clinton knew far more culturally about the Czech Republic than necessary (given the 10 million population) simply because of his friendship with Vaclav Havel. Havel had taken President Clinton to the Reduta and even to Czech novelist Bohumil Rabal's favorite pub "The Golden Tiger." The pub keeps Clinton and Havel's picture on the wall.

Nelson Mandela gave the Clintons a personal tour of his prison cell at Robbins Island and described to them what it had been like there. Do Presidents still have the time to invest in that level of personal narrative in understanding a country? I hope so. The Robbins Island visit is detailed in the museum.

One thing I felt the Library and Museum couldn't do justice to was President Clinton's biggest success. His fiscal discipline resulted in the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history. That discipline unleashed a period of enormous creativity in American business. How do you exhibit fiscal restraint in a museum? Maybe the best exhibits of the output created during this time of fiscal restraint are out in the Computer History Museum in California!
President Clinton wanted his library
to echo the bones of
Trinity Library in Dublin.

My one disappointment with the library was the temporary exhibition space was devoted to promoting a corporation instead of hosting an exhibit that would teach us as citizens more about politics. I appreciate that the majority of the population loves sports, but what do the St. Louis Cardinals have to do with a presidential library? It seemed wierd that there were season ticket promotions as a sidebar to the Cardinals exhibit. Respectfully, our experience could have been that much richer with a political exhibit.
You might also like:

An Evening of Jazz at the Reduta

Entering the Land of Lincoln

What Inspires Stories?

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

Sites outside my blog:

C-Span's coverage of Clinton's Presidential Library

William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library website

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Religion will be 'nearly extinct' in the Czech Republic by 2050

The Czech Republic is already the most atheist nation on Earth. Mathematicians and scientists are predicting that the Czech Republic will become even more atheist, and that by 2050, religion will have virtually died out in the Czech lands and in eight other European countries. The exact same modeling program used to predict the death of languages is being used to predict the death of belief. You can click on my title to read the article from the Prague Post.

It's hard to know if Czechs believe in anything because their sense of humor is so black.  I would often tease my Czech friends that they would be completely skeptical when their spouse said "I love you," because Czech people believe no one in authority on anything! What do Czech people believe in?!?

A nation of atheists was planted when the Catholic Pope rejected Czech requests for Mass to be delivered in native Czech instead of Latin more than 100 years ago. The Pope should have learned from the history of Saints Cyril and Methodius (two Byzantine priests from Constantinople) who translated the Bible into Slavic languages so the Czech people could learn it in their own tongue. Cyril and Methodius even created an alphabet for Slavic languages to make translation of the Bible easier.

During the Czech National Revival, if being told they couldn't worship in their own language wasn't enough to drive religion out of Czechs, later in the 20th century, the Communists then further drummed religion out of them.

When I moved to Turkey, I could feel the difference in religious belief immediately.  Maybe the most visual way of seeing it was a conservatism among people on the street.  I saw no public display of affection anywhere and of course, Muslim dress in its varied forms. I also felt my possessions were completely safe on the Istanbul streets. I felt completely safe leaving my consumer electronics not locked up at work because I was 100% sure they would not get stolen. But it was more than that.

Comparing societies, I'll quote my former President.  Bill Clinton says the United States has gotten away from being a "people-centered society & become a money-centered society." Sadly, I agree with him completely. In America, I would say you can literally feel America's predominant religion and values are "commerce," in the Czech lands the dominant religion is none, and in Turkey I would say the dominant religion is, actually, religion.

Upon my arrival, it stunned me is that I found Turkey's spirituality refreshing. After all, they practice a different religion than me!  It was refreshing because the values came from the people themselves. The values in the public square have not been overrun by corporate salesmanship that degraded all things sacred in pursuit of selling something.

My Turkish friends cite the Jesus cage match on the TV show "South Park" as evidence that we in the West hold nothing sacred.  It is completely fair criticism. I see evidence everyday that "The People" are still dictating the values here, not the corporations and the people who create for them.

When the Muslim World doesn't like something the West does, rather than rail against someone exercising their free speech (a value the West holds so deeply it could and would never give it up), they would create more thought and changed behavior with the question "is there nothing you hold sacred?" It's a question that isn't asked enough in my Western culture. 

Now what will the Czech lands do with all those spectacular baroque churches? And what will a nation without belief be like? What will Czech people hold sacred?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Evening of Jazz at the Reduta

 At the Reduta Jazz Club

All of this "Obama in Prague" commotion, took me back to a wonderful memory from "Obama in Prague" weekend last year.  My President had just arrived in Prague, it was the night before his big speech and the entire city was jazzed.  What would be a better thing to do than to go hear some jazz?  Actually, that's what the last democratic American president did when he was in Prague in 1994.

A display of photos from that special night in 1994
of the "Two President's Gig"

Vaclav Havel took Bill Clinton down to Prague's most famous jazz club, the Reduta, and therein a night of magic was created.  It's gone down in history as the "Two President's Gig."  President Havel presented President Clinton with a saxophone.  In this small intimate club, so tiny it could almost be someone's rec room, Bill Clinton played "Summertime" on his new sax.  Czech musician Jan Konopásek, now living in Florida but keeping a home in Prague 1, had also created a piece of music that was a blend of the two nation's hymns.  It was played.  Our Secretary of State at the time, Madeline Albright was also there, which was fitting since she has Czech roots. This evening was beyond statecraft.  This was friendship.

 I knew President Obama wouldn't be there on the eve of his speech.  Lightening doesn't strike in the same place twice -- or at least so I'm told.  But I had a very special invitation from Czech bandleader and clarinetist Pavel Smetáček to come hear his Traditional Jazz Studio band play at the Reduta on a breathtakingly beautiful springtime evening.

 Reduta Bandstand

The evening to me was a celebration of deep roots.  Pavel Smetáček's band has been in existence for 50 years.  When you think of how fashions in music come and go, and personnel come and go, and then you add a totalitarian regime harassing musicians on top of all that -- it's hard to underestimate the accomplishment.

The crowd forming - 
music begins at 9:30 p.m.
Pavel Smetáček's band was not the only Czech jazz institution to have lasted for so long and with such a grand reputation.  The Reduta jazz club has also continuously operated as a jazz club for 50 years as well.  Sometimes I think jazz is celebrated more here in Prague than at home! What wonderful memories Pavel must have created over the years at this club.

Vojtech Hueber
Announcer for the Evening

So there was not only Pavel's 50 years of musical leadership present, and 50 years of Reduta jazz history present, there was also the incredible long-standing friendship between Pavel Smetáček and his friend Vojtech Hueber, PhD present. Spending time with them, it's obvious to see how lucky these two men are to have each other as friends.

Vojtech, associated with Czech Radio's jazz department, also has a lengthy career history in international affairs.  These men have their love of jazz to discuss and also global politics.  Pavel helped represent the Czechoslovakian government with new democratic faces after the Velvet Revolution, having served as the Ambassador to Italy in the early days of democracy.

 The dreamy Smetáček brothers.
Pavel on the left, Ivan on the right.
this picture is better.

Pavel on the left, Ivan on the right,
and me chillin' with the dreamy Smetáček brothers!

Oh, and one other long-standing partnership was on display. Pavel's brother Ivan, was also present that evening.  Ivan played the trumpet for years and no longer plays since his embouchure has taken a well-deserved retirement. Both Pavel and Ivan carry themselves with an urbanity quite uncommon in today's world. Can we bring it back?

 I asked Pavel, "where did you learn to be so elegant?"

"From my father, Václav Smetáček; he was a symphony conductor.  He died in 1986 at the age of 80.  He was known for his handsomeness."  He wrote a piece of music for Pavel's band called "Ragtime Echo."

 I haven't met Pavel's son Stěpán, representing a third generation of musical leadership, but he has his own modern band called the New Orchestra of Dreams (Pavel plays traditional dixieland jazz although he says he's a "tolerant traditionalist!"). Dasha, Pavel's wife, is a flautist.  She played in Pavel's band for 10 years.  She now teaches and has a chamber music ensemble with flutes and cellos.

The depth of all these connections was moving!

The band began to play with a power that just blew those of us in the front row away.  Wow, I want to be like this when I'm his age.  It was so fantastic.  They started off the first set with the song Nobody's Sweetheart. and continued with:
Careless Love,
Some of These Days,
I Can't Give You Anything But Love,
and Oh, Lady Be Good.

I was touched when Vojtech introduced me to the crowd as a special guest of the band.  While many of the people were local, quite a few in the crowd were Asian tourists.  Would I be as hip to their fabulous music if I went to their countries?

The trombone player was adorable.  Anytime he did an extended solo and the crowd clapped he did this very cute "aw shucks" schtick that did not get old. He not only played the trombone, he had a trombone 'kazoo' that he would bring out for fun.

The second set, the band played:
All of Me
Pennies from Heaven
Burgundy Street Blues (arranged by George Lewis)
When You're Smiling
Strutting' With Some Barbecue

The third and final set the band played:

I've Found a New Baby
C-Jam Blues
St. Louis Blues
Sweet Georgia Brown 

I especially appreciated hearing St. Louis Blues because one of the seminal jazz moments in my life was hearing Count Basie's band accompany Joe Louis on that number in Nice, France when I was 17 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday! It was yesterday, wasn't it?

Band members on stage:

Armin Reich - drums
Ondřej Cernil - bass
Antonin Bílý - piano (not pictured but jamming in full force!)
Jaroslav Zelený - trombone et al.
Vitězslav Marek - trumpet et al.
Jan Chvosta - tenor sax
Pavel Smetáček - clarinet

Pavel and Vojtech also gave me some tips on who I should listen to in European jazz. I'll keep those recommendations to myself.  I wouldn't want to say anything that harms a diplomatic legacy.   Thank you gentlemen, for an unforgettable evening of music and terrific fellowship!

You might enjoy this earlier post about Pavel's band:

I Could Have Danced All Night

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Entertaining President Havel at the White House

Here at the Empty Nest Expat blog, I occasionally can't resist trying to be useful. The librarian in me, rabidly interested in politics, would like to recommend to anyone in the Czech Government who will help host the new American Secretary of State and President Obama in April, finding a copy of Hillary Clinton's wonderful book called "Entertaining at the White House."

There's a chapter that describes the State Dinner that she and Bill Clinton planned and pulled off for Czech President Vaclav Havel. The details of the dinner capture all of the hopes of America for the new Czech Democracy led by Mr. Havel and the lengths America went to show it's respect. It's a delightful and fascinating read.
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