November 12, 2013

The Art Theater: Playing Movies For 100 Years

Nov. 12 marks the 100th anniversary of a movie theater in downtown Champaign. Originally called The Park, it is now known as The Art Theater Co-Op. In honor of this centennial, there is a new book celebrating its history.

It’s titled “The Art Theater: Playing Movies for 100 Years" by Perry C. Morris, Joseph Muskin and Audrey Wells. Illinois Public Media's Jason Croft talked with two of the authors--Perry C. Morris and Audrey Wells--about the long history of the movie house and gets a preview the centenial events.

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Denny Hastert
(Brian Kersey/AP)
October 08, 2013

Former U.S. House Speaker Weighs In On Shutdown

Former U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) says he cannot answer how or when, but he is confident the partial federal government shutdown will come to an end. 

Hastert was not the Speaker of the U.S. House during the last government shutdown, but he was an Illinois Congressman in 1995 and '96. He said back then, Republicans were trying to get a handle on spending. He says it worked.

"We came out with a budget agreement and because of that budget agreement the first three years that I was Speaker we able to pay down about $650 billion of public debt,” Hastert said. “You know, that was, that was, a good result out of that. It was something that was necessary and that's what we did."

Hastert said this is different. He said Washington has failed to reconcile a budget on time, and that causes a logjam.

"If you get in these types of pressure cooker situations it's artificial, because people made it happen,” he noted. “If you go regular process you would never had had it happen.  In the eight years I was speaker we always went regular process."

"The President at least has to put something on the table, so that they begin to bargain," he added.

Hastert's long-term idea for resolving Washington's problems is less obvious. It is not about the budget, and it is not related to the Affordable Care Act.

"You have to change the campaign system," he said.

Hastert blames D.C.'s gridlock on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. He said it took money away from parties, and instead drove contributions and candidates to the far right and the far left.

"I think that Congress has become much more polarized because of McCain-Feingold,” he said. “When it becomes polarized, it's very much more difficult to find solutions to problems."

Republican members of the U.S. House are refusing to pass a spending bill without a delay of the Affordable Care Act.

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Cellist Matt Haimovitz made it big in the classical music scene as a little kid.
(Stephanie Mackinnon)
October 03, 2013

Studying The Science Behind Child Prodigies

Matt Haimovitz is 42 and a world-renowned cellist. He rushed into the classical music scene at age 10 after Itzhak Perlman, the famed violinist, heard him play.

"By the time I was 12, 13 years old I was on the road playing with Israel Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and some of the great orchestras. So it was pretty meteoric," Haimovitz says. "I grew up with a lot of classical music in the household. My mother is a pianist and took me to many concerts."

But nothing in his family history explains where Haimovitz got his extraordinary talent. And that's typical, Ellen Winner, a psychology professor at Boston College who has studied prodigies, tells NPR's David Greene.

"People are fascinated by these children because they don't understand where it came from. You will see parents who say, 'I wasn't like this, my husband wasn't like this.' It seems to sometimes just come out of the blue," Winner says.

 

It's not clear whether a prodigy's brain is any different from the brain of other children, in part because there have been no studies comparing the brains of prodigies to those of average people.

"But I believe that anything that shows up so early, without training, has got to be either a genetic or some other biological basis," Winner says. "If a child suddenly at age 3 goes to the piano and picks out a tune and does it beautifully, that has to be because that child has a different brain."

Children who are extremely gifted tend to be socially different, too, Winner says. "They feel like they can't find other kids like themselves, so they feel kind of weird, maybe even like a freak, and feel like [they] don't have anybody to connect with."

Gifted children are more likely to be introverted, Winner says, and spend more time alone. "On the other hand, they also long to connect with other kids, and they can't find other kids like themselves."

For his part, Haimovitz says he didn't have many friends as a child, mainly because he was so focused on the music.

"There was no time afterwards to party. I would at the time practice four or five hours a day and I'd have to get my homework done, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything because this is what I wanted," he says. "I chose it. But certainly in terms of friendships, they've been few and intense."

As Haimovitz got older, his friendship with his best friend – his music – began to change. He became frustrated creatively. He wanted to play other kinds of music but felt constricted by the image and the expectations of the boy prodigy who played classical music and filled concert halls.

"When you start that early, you suddenly start to grow up in public, and I wanted to experiment," Haimovitz says.

So he took his cello into punk rock clubs and coffee houses. He played Bach and Haydn and Hendrix.

"My teacher, Leonard Rose, we never played any 20th-century music. He didn't like it. But once I was exposed to Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and others, I couldn't really turn back. I wanted to know more," he says.

Bow in hand, he even took a stab at Led Zeppelin.

What Haimovitz did may have been exceptional, even for a prodigy. Winner says as prodigies grow up, they struggle to advance their talents.

"The skill of being a child prodigy is the skill of mastering something that's already been invented – whether it's Western math, classical music or realistic drawing," Winner says. But adult creators actually do something in a new way. "That's a very different skill, and most prodigies do not make that leap."

It's also hard for prodigies to grow up and suddenly not be so special, she says.

Haimovitz says he's been able to navigate all of this. He has a very full life – a wife, two children and music.

"I rarely look back, honestly, because there's so much going on in the present and the future. But those moments when I am in the car and I happen to hear an old broadcast or recording, occasionally I am struck and say 'Wow, I did some good things back then,'" he says.

Winner says that it's often the adults in a prodigy's childhood who determine how they'll fare when they grow up.

"I think it all has to do with how many expectations were put on you as a child: You're a genius. You're going to be a genius when you grow up. That is really dangerous," she says.

"But if you say 'You're terrifically musical and you're going to have a wonderfully musical life,' that's a very different kind of message to give to kids, and a much more positive one."

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 Tom Clancy
(Ralph Lauer/MCT/Landov)
October 02, 2013

Tom Clancy, Master Of Military Techno-Thrillers, Dies

Tom Clancy, the best-selling writer of such "techno-thrillers" as The Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising and Patriot Games, has died.

He was 66.

The news of his death was first reported in tweets from Publishers Weekly and New York Times books reporter Julie Bosman. It was confirmed to NPR Wednesday morning in a statement from his publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Clancy lived in Maryland. According to the Baltimore Sun, he "died Tuesday after a brief illness at the Johns Hopkins Hospital."

Bosman of the Times writes that Ivan Held, president of Putnam publishers, says Clancy "was a thrill to work with."

As the Times wrote in 1988, Clancy was an "insurance agent turned supernovelist" who made the U.S. military "the real hero of his fast-paced, carefully researched techno-thrillers."

Putnam's says "Clancy's blockbuster debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, was published in 1984. Command Authority, Clancy's 17th novel, is due out from G.P. Putnam's Sons in December 2013."

In 2002, Clancy sat down with C-SPAN to talk about books and take calls from viewers.

Watch for more on him from our friends on NPR's books beat.


September 21, 2013

US Plane In 1961 'Nuclear Bomb Near-Miss'

A four-megaton nuclear bomb was one switch away from exploding over the US in 1961, a newly declassified US document confirms.

Two bombs were on board a B-52 plane that went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina - both bombs fell and one began the detonation process.

The document was first published in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The US government has acknowledged the accident before, but never made public how close the bomb came to detonating.

The document was obtained by journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act.

Schlosser told the BBC such an explosion would have "changed literally the course of history".

The plane was on a routine flight when it began to break up over North Carolina on 23 January 1961.

As it was breaking apart, a control inside the cockpit released the two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro.

One fell to the ground unarmed. But the second "assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target - and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina," Mr Schlosser told the BBC's Katty Kay.

Only one safety mechanism, a single low-voltage switch, prevented disaster, he said.

The bomb was almost 260 times more powerful than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The accident occurred during the height of the Cold War between US and Russia, just over a year before the Cuban missile crisis brought nuclear fears to the US's front door.

There has been ongoing speculation ever since, including a 1961 book by former government scientist Dr Ralph Lapp.

The newly declassified document was written eight years after the incident by US government scientist Parker Jones - who was responsible for mechanical safety of nuclear devices.

In it, he comments on and corrects Lapp's narrative of the accident, including listing that three out of the four fail safe mechanisms failed, not five out of six as originally thought by Lapp.

"One set off by the fall. Two rendered ineffective by aircraft breakup," Mr Jones writes. "It would have been bad news in spades."

"One simple dynamo-technology low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe."

There has been no official comment to the newly declassified details.


George Harrison and John Lennon,
(AP Photo/File)
September 16, 2013

Ill. Governor Dubs Saturday `George Harrison Day'

Illinois' governor doesn't want a southern Illinois city's observance of its connection to late-Beatle George Harrison to be just a local thing.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proclaimed Saturday to be ``George Harrison Day'' statewide. That coincides with Benton's plans to unveil a historical marker to commemorate Harrison's 1963 visit to the 7,000-resident city.

Harrison's 1963 stay in Benton was to see his sister, Linda Harrison Caldwell. It occurred while the Beatles were soaring up the charts in England, but before they made their ballyhooed trip to the United States. 

Illinois State Historical Society executive director William Furry says obscurity in America allowed Harrison to walk Benton's streets, jam with local musicians, visit record stores and even camp in the Shawnee National Forest without being hassled by fans.


 Rochus Misch
(Herbert Knosowski, File/AP)
September 06, 2013

Hitler's Last Bodyguard Dies; Was With The Fuhrer In Bunker

Rochus Misch, who served as Adolf Hitler's devoted bodyguard for most of World War II and was the last remaining witness to the Nazi leader's final hours in his Berlin bunker, has died. He was 96.

Burkhard Nachtigall, who helped Misch ghostwrite his 2008 memoir, told The Associated Press Friday that Misch died Thursday in Berlin after a short illness.

Misch remained proud to the end about his years with Hitler, whom he affectionately called "boss.''

In a 2005 interview with the AP, Misch recalled Hitler as "a very normal man'' and gave a riveting account of the German dictator's last days before he and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves in their bunker in Berlin.

Misch said, "he was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman.''


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