Hot Air: Smart Guys

As I write this, I’m sitting in the waiting area at my auto service place. I won’t be more specific than that.

Out of the couple of dozen people in this building — customer service people, mechanics, customers, and car salespeople — one is wearing a mask. One.

When not selling cars….

In the showroom, through which I have to pass to get to the bathroom (my daily dose of furosemide — generic for Lasix — makes the trek imperative) a group of four guys stands in a circle maintaining prudent social distancing. One of the four is the guy with the mask. They’re talking about — what else? — COVID-19. The three unmasked guys are clearly accomplished and esteemed practitioners of the sciences of immunology, virology, and public health. Each speaks confidently about what’s going on with this pandemic thing.

The numbers show that this is not much of a problem, one says.

Another says the numbers are all wrong; something suspicious is afoot.

A third suggest the numbers may be fudged in order to keep us all in our homes for an unsaid reason, hinted at by the man’s knowing nod. In fact, as preamble to this pronouncement, he begins, “I don’t trust the numbers. Somebody’s cooking them up so they can….” He halts himself. The pregnant pause and looks he bestows on his chat-mates indicates, at least to me, the unspoken coda would be, “sabotage the president.”

As I say, that’s just me, guessing. I’m pretty confident I’ve guessed correctly.

The man with the mask remains silent.

The other three continue, offering advice they’d give to hospital administrators, the mayor, the governor, and frontline health care providers. They really are astute and learned men. Their range of knowledge and expertise is remarkable. And never once do they violate the facility’s social distancing protocols, the rules of which are posted all around the place. As I drove in to the lot, a sign said the people here are providing a safe and respectful destination for those of us who need auto servicing.

Me? I need an oil change. I’ve already put it off to the tune of 800 miles past due. That’s not a terrible abuse of my hot rod’s engine but I need to get up to Indy Sunday for a COVID-19 test. The state has tabbed me for it as part of its efforts to figure out where and how much this virus has infiltrated Indiana. Why me? I’m an at-risk guy on at least three levels. So, yeah, I’ll take the test both for my own peace of mind and to advance the state’s understanding of where we are today and what we ought to do tomorrow.

Or maybe I’ll be wasting my time Sunday. Maybe I should just contact the state and tell them there’s a group of men standing around the showroom here who know this thing inside and out.

Zoom Schmooze

This is Week Two of the great Big Talk experiment using Zoom to record guest appearances on the program. So far, so good. The audio’s been iffy: my guests and I sound like we’re chatting in a giant coffee can but otherwise things are working splendidly.

Last week, author Craig Fehrman talked about his new book, Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote. That edition of Big Talk was fab, if I do say so myself. I’m particularly proud of the musical selection I dubbed into the tail end of the show: Frank Sinatra’s 1960 campaign ditty for John F. Kennedy, sung to the tune of “High Hopes.”

“Oops, there goes the opposition ker-plop!” Frank, you may recall, was tight as a drum with JFK, pre-Oval Office. Once Randy Jack attained the White House, he found his association with Sinatra (as well as Sinatra’s pals in the Chicago and New York mobs) a tad — shall we say? — uncomfortable. Next thing Frank knew, his old partying chum wasn’t taking his calls anymore. Frank, to that point a lifelong Roosevelt Democrat, was so insulted he eventually switched parties, going so far as to donate $4 million to Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980.

Anyway, this week my guest on Big Talk is just as compelling as Fehrman was. Henry Leck is the founder of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. He started the project back in 1986 while working on his Master’s degree at Indiana University. Over the decades, Leck has become acclaimed all over the world for his work with kids singing. He’s an acknowledged expert in the field of boys’ changing voices, a particular challenge for teachers and pupils.

If, by chance while channel surfing you happened upon the Super Bowl back in 2012, you’d have seen the ICC back up Kelly Clarkson on the national anthem prior to the start of the game. Leck wrote the score for the performance, a real challenge since Clarkson likes to play around with tempi and phrasing more than most.

All those kids wearing blue shirts behind Clarkson are members of the ICC. Leck describes in loving detail the secretive (the NFL insists, legally) process of writing, rehearsing, recording, and synching that has to be done for big production numbers like this. It’s really fascinating stuff.

[If you’re anything like me, the whole militaristic, jingoist, fetishistic shebang of national anthem performances at the Super Bowl will make your hair stand on end. The USA being No. 1 and flags galore and men in uniform beating drums are stirred together by the NFL for its biggest event of the year as in no other sport, although the other games, too, play it all up to the hilt. Nevertheless, the kids got the thrill of performing in front of 130 million TV watchers. And, jeez, they’re good.]

Henry Leck

Leck’s retired now, both from the ICC and from Butler University where he was an associate professor of music. Since his retirement, he and his wife have relocated to Bloomington and he’s taken up painting. To hear him tell it, he’s painted enough pictures to fill a medium-sized gallery. His work was on display at the Bloomington Arts Alliance new gallery, ArtBeat, at the College Mall when this COVID Fever started. As soon as this lockdown is declared finished, head on over to the gallery and check out Leck’s work as well as loads of stuff by scads of extremely talented and imaginative creators.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Come back here tomorrow for the podcast link for today’s edition.

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