Not only did Atlanta lose to New York City and Northern Virginia for Amazon's new headquarters. The Seattle capitalist giant chose Nashville over Atlanta for a new regional operations center. Why Nashville, which has repeatedly rejected mass transit ...


Amazon jilts Atlanta, as Nashville receives plum and more...

Amazon jilts Atlanta, as Nashville receives plum

Not only did Atlanta lose to New York City and Northern Virginia for Amazon's new headquarters. The Seattle capitalist giant chose Nashville over Atlanta for a new regional operations center.

Why Nashville, which has repeatedly rejected mass transit that Amazon professes to love? Atlanta has MARTA and a new commitment to regional transportation. Atlanta has the world's busiest airport, and, according to its civic boosters, a highly educated tech workforce. Go Dawgs!

Atlanta has.....the ignominy of losing out to Queens.

Music City boasts the hip factor that Atlanta has been losing. The Tennessee capital also has a site under construction for Amazon, while Atlanta's downtown Gulch project is still undecided.

The Georgia GOP legislators'  rash decision  to cancel Delta's fuel tax break probably played a role in Amazon rejecting Atlanta, along with the presumed new Gov. Brian Kemp's shotgun ads and support of "religious freedom" legislation.

But Tennessee is also controlled by GOP conservatives. Far-right loony Marsha Blackburn was recently elected as U.S. senator in Tennessee. She makes Kemp look like Abraham Lincoln.

Nashville over the last few years has become one of those gilded cities that receive frequent national media attention for its food, hip stores and bars, and cool neighborhoods. It's a boomtown, drawing thousands of new residents.

While Atlanta also keeps attracting newcomers, its national hip factor has lagged. Kemp, with his ham-fisted efforts to claim the governor's office over Democrat Stacey Abrams and blatant voter suppression tactics while secretary of state, has generated national derision for Georgia.

Who lost Amazon? Atlanta will be better off without having to pay millions in tax incentives to Jeff Bezos, and will be spared from rising housing costs, worsening traffic and other disruptions.

But Nashville looks to be gaining on Atlanta's status as the Southeast's leading city.



Farewell, Stan Lee

Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four entered my comic book universe late.

I'd grown up in the DC world of Superman, Batman, the Green Lantern and, my favorite, Aquaman.

Marvel Comics grew popular just as I was crashing into adolescence. I recall reading another Marvel series: "Kid Colt, Outlaw," in my childhood years before the company's superheroes arrived.

While I loved Superman, Superboy, Batman and Aquaman, my favorite comic book characters were the combat hero Sgt. Rock and his Easy Company, who foraged across an idealized Europe during World War II. I also read a Dell Comic series that featured adventures of Tarzan and the Lone Ranger.

I was always surprised years after my comic book years at the retroactive critical acclaim given to Marvel editor Stan Lee and his artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. I liked the Marvel books fine, but they always struck me as second rate compared with the stylized DC comics and their Superman/Batman mythical worlds. 

Peter Parker was just another mixed up adolescent like me. I was dazzled by the Fortress of Solitude, the variations on the Krypton origin story, how the space boy's rocket was found by Ma and Pa Kent, Superman's Lois Lane, the battles against Lex Luthor, the crazy effects of red kryptonite. I also loved the recurring Batman characters and themes, and the futuristic illustrations of Gotham City, the Bat Cave and Batmobile.

Lee, who died this week at age 95, created a lineup of characters whom critics believed had more literary depth than the other comic book heroes. Spiderman, the Hulk and Thor reputedly were more nuanced, showing fears and insecurities. The Marvel books also went into "metafiction" techniques such as inside jokes, self-referencing and so on.

I suppose it all went over my addled pre-adolescent head. I found the Marvel books entertaining, but nothing special. I even found the artwork crude and the stories boring. They were sort of like "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" movies.

While the acclaim given Lee is overblown, he was one of those strange American success stories, translating a new-era talents into worldwide fame.


Remembering the poets of World War I

World War I's shocking death toll is reflected in the high mortality rate of its poets.

So many poets linked to the war didn't survive: Wifred Owen, Edward Thomas, Isaac Rosenberg, Rupert Brooke, Guilluame Apollinaire, John McCrae, Charles Sorley, Joyce Kilmer. The poems that brought them posthumous fame were often found in their mess kits, uniform jackets or inside the books they had carried with them to the front.

Two famous English poets who did survive: Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, enjoyed long lives, witnessing another world war, the deprivations of the 1950s and the freedoms of the swinging '60s.

Graves's "I Claudius" was one of the first BBC/PBS popular hits. His academically dubious study of myth and poetry, "The White Goddess," was a bible for 1960s new age mystics. Graves drew upon his war experiences for one of the best memoirs of life in the trenches, "Goodbye to All That." The book is one of the most striking accounts of soldiers' difficulties in returning to civilian life. 

On Sunday, the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, Emory's Michael Carlos Museum sponsored a special program on the World War I poets and how they were influenced by classical literature. The three Emory professors who read poems and gave commentary were fine, but I would have preferred a pure reading of the poems and letting them speak for themselves.

I was not convinced that Homer's "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey" were the major influences on Owen, Brooke and the others. The men killed in World War I were products of one of the last generations steeped in Latin and Greek, and I wondered if they read the classic works in their original languages rather than in translation. I believe that their most recent translation of Homer would have been Alexander Pope's from the 18th century. 

But the lecturers ignored the influence of the English pastoral tradition, although it was mentioned that one posthumous poem was found in a copy of Houseman's "The Shropshire Lad," an English pastoral hallmark. But Houseman was also a classical scholar, so his book found on the poet also showed the importance of Greek and Latin authors.

But the English poetic tradition was the World War I poets' main lodestar.  The upper class, Oxford-educated poets intimately knew the work of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Sidney, Milton, Pope, Blake, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Arnold, Tennyson, Hopkins, Kipling and Hardy. 

Poets like Brooke and Sorley who died early in the war remained faithful to the traditional English iambic pentameter line and expressed the noble sentiments of English history and culture.

Owen, who died five days before the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, strained against the metrical tradition and refined upper-class style, presaging modernism with his sardonic irony and use of the vernacular. His work rejects the traditions of valor and English certitude. 

The armistice was signed in a rail car in France's Compi├Ęgne Forest at 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. But the killing continued for another six hours, until the armistice took effect under the agreement at 11 a.m. Paris time, noon in Berlin.

In many ways, the war never ended. The great war's poems will last until war stops forever. 



A charming afternoon with Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins

That old Rodgers and Hammerstein tune was right after all: There's nothing like a dame.

Four is even better, especially when the dames are Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins.

Director Roger Michell's delightfully low-tech film, "Tea With the Dames," captures the four great ladies of the English theater as themselves, seated at a table enjoying conversation, laughter, tea, and a bit of champagne.

Old chums Plowright, Smith, Dench and Atkins, arrayed before a stationary camera, share gossip, jokes, laments of aging and career triumphs and regrets.

As they laugh and banter with each other, small jewels of theater lore glitter. Atkins vividly describes how she suffers from stage fright. The closest they come to performance is displaying some of their vocal exercises. Their conversation is interspersed with video from some of their celebrated performances as young actresses.

Oliver, the domineering Shakespearian actor and director of the British national theater, looms over the conversation. Each of them gives anecdotes about the difficulty of working with the demanding theater titan. Video shows some of his noted performances, including starring in "The Entertainer" with Plowright and playing Othello in blackface.

Along with Oliver's lauded portrayal of the aging comedian Archie Rice in "The Entertainer, " he's shown playing Hamlet and Henry V.  Plowright remembers writing a fan letter to him as an adolescent girl, and how she thought his signature on the return letter was authentic until she learned when married to him that his secretary stamped his responses to fans.

Smith is the most forthcoming, with memories of visiting Oliver and Plowright's home when their children were small. She also remembers filling in for Plowrightt to comfort Olivier during one of his breakdowns. Plowright recalls the excitement of her marriage to Olivier, before characterizing it as "hell."

Looking back at their younger days, Plowright mentions that none of them were considered great beauties. Yet they glow with glamour in the excerpts from their early performances. As Plowright says, they excelled at creating the "illusion" of theater.

Now blind, Plowright most poignantly shows the ravages of old age. Also in their 80s, Smith, Dench and Atkins laugh about the roles they still receive, and how the acting techniques they considered revolutionary in their youth are now disparaged by a new generation. In their youth, they also mocked older stars.

Reluctantly discussing her starring role in the TV hit "Downton Abbey," Smith disparages the series and discloses that she's never watched it. Dench draws gibes for her recent starring turns in James Bond films and other projects.

Their stories are charming and bittersweet. With their beautiful accents and perfect English, they would be captivating reading the phone book.



Georgia secretary of state win vital for Democrats

While Stacey Abrams' battle for the Georgia governorship draws national attention, state Democrats can take control of the secretary of state's office and curtail suppression of minority voters in future elections.

Incumbent Secretary of State Brian Kemp's voter suppression tactics glare in the national spotlight as he claims a narrow win over Abrams in the governor's race. As Abrams vows legal action over the counting of remaining absentee and provisional ballots, the importance of the secretary of state's office in overseeing fair elections rises. 

As Abrams forges onward, Democratic Secretary of State candidate John Barrow is headed to a runoff Dec. 4 against Republican Brad Raffensperger. If Barrow wins, the former congressman would have the power to curtail Kemp's voter suppression policies and increase the number of Democratic voters.

A Barrow victory would ease the pain of a Kemp win without a runoff.  Meanwhile, the Democrats made major inroads in the state, most notably Lucy McBath's impressive win over GOP incumbent Karen Handel in the suburban 6th congressional district. Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a nationally watched race in 2017.

The party also cut into the GOP's dominance in the Georgia Legislature. Locally, I was pleasantly surprised by incumbent Jen Jordan's victory in the Georgia Senate's sixth district and Democrat Betsy Holland's win over GOP incumbent Beth Beskin in the 54th House District.

After Jordan won a special election in the sixth district against a divided Republican field, state political observers expected her to lose to Republican front-runner Leah Aldridge. The GOP thought it had safely gerrymandered the district, but Jordan took advantage of shifting suburban demographics with an energetic campaign and local connections as a University of Georgia law school alum. Jordan also crafted a successful constitutional amendment to equalize  property taxes for Atlanta schools.

Holland's support in intown neighborhoods of Lenox Part and Morningside and new city areas around Emory gave her a solid win over Beskin, who lost support of Democratic members of Atlanta's legislative delegation and was unable to capitalize on her sponsorship of a successful constitutional amendment to cut property taxes for senior citizens.

These gains brighten Democratic hopes for the future even if Abrams fails in her effort to overcome Kemp. A Barrow win would further strengthen Democratic plans to make Georgia a blue state.