pdeblin | Indy Week

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Re: “Don't Call It a Comeback: Bob Nocek, Former Carolina Theatre CEO, Talks New Ventures and Lessons Learned

This interview with Bob Nocek really jolted me. I was not surprised to read about the economic foibles of the theater when they occurred, but the ego and arrogance of Nocek--all I can say is wow. As a marketing and PR professional I was never awed by the theatre's marketing acumen--there were many empty seats at shows that should have sold more tickets.

The Carolina Theatre as a non-profit depends on donors and volunteers to put on its shows. Their staff is not large and as many 30 volunteers are needed to take tickets, provide customer service and usher during shows. Ultimately, the city of Durham controls the reins of the theater and pays the non-profit that runs the Carolina Theatre.

Nocek's failure to admit responsibility for the theater's fiscal meltdown also jolted me. He arrogantly says he was ""responsible" but did not do the accounting and was unaware of the situation. He was CEO of a small staff and didn't know there were financial problems? He admits in the interview he is capable of keeping his own books for his new company, but didn't have a clue about Carolina's financial condition. I find it very difficult to believe that a CEO in a company that does less than $3 million in business would not be curious enough to know how the business is doing month to month let alone every day. It wasn't hard to see which shows made money and which shows lost. It wasn't hard to figure that there appeared to be a lot of shows that lost money or didn't make enough of a profit compared to the shows that made money. I'm sure the theater knows the break-even point for each show and must have known income and expenses every month. Why didn't Nocek? He couldn't just yell down the hall and ask, "How did we do with that show?" It's not like he was running Exxon.

When an organization fails it is usually not the fault of one individual but a systemic flaw in the business. The Carolina Theatre is run by a board but the CEO has day-to-day operational control. Nocek takes great pride in the growth of the theater under his tenure, but it makes one wonder, given the size of the theater's fiscal hole, how much of that success was an illusion? He claims he increased sales from $600,000 to $2.5 million, but he left a hole of at least $1.2 million. That's not an accomplishment. His failure to take credit but not blame is egomaniacally astonishing.

I also don't understand how Nocek can walk away from a CEO position and then turn around and compete with the organization that suffered under his tenure. Didn't he have a non-compete clause in his contract? The result of the theater's financial disaster under Nocek left the city of Durham holding the bag for $1.2 million of which the city is forking over $600,000 to keep the theater afloat, a sum which the Carolina Theatre's board must match from donations.

His last answer in the interview shows Nocek's true arrogance when he talks about trying to "diversify" the audience by booking money-losing shows like Burt Bacharach and Frank Sinatra, Jr. Who were the diversified audiences he was trying to attract? Dead people?

I wish the Indy had gone deeper into its questioning of Nocek. Any curious resident of Durham must wonder what really happened at the Carolina Theatre.In the interview Nocek castigates people for blaming him. They have that right especially since their questions have not been answered. It's not very comforting to know that Durham's citizens must pay for Nocek's failure while he advertises Bob Nocek Presents across the state.

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by pdeblin on 02/02/2017 at 1:16 PM

Re: “Why I'm protesting at the Legislature

I respect everyone who has been arrested at the General Assembly. Let Thoreau explain:
"Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why does is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?"

6 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by pdeblin on 05/31/2013 at 7:52 AM

Re: “Polish film In Darkness digs deeper into WWII anti-Semitism

Mr. Kuranski, your comment basically trots out the same anti-semitic diatribe as Stalin's Jews, a pamphlet published alongside such notable anti-semitic works as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Jews made up about 5% of Bolsheviks, the same as their numbers in the population at large. Yes, there were some Jewish leaders of Stalin's secret police organizations but to say 39% of Stalin's helpers were Jewish and they "gleefully carried out the orders to murder in cold blood millions of Slavic people" is a lie. Your comment perpetrates anti-semitic myths and is dreadfully shameful.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by pdeblin on 04/19/2012 at 8:12 PM

Re: “Terrence Malick's latest visual epic, The Tree of Life

I don't know how else to say this, but David Fellerath's review of Tree of Life confuses a truly visionary film with a run-of-the-mill Hollywood narrative. It's as if he was writing about Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting "The Luncheon of the Boating Party" and wrote "it's about 15 people under a canopy talking and eating lunch."

Film is a VISUAL art form that usually includes narrative elements. Those elements do not have to be linear or even present and certainly not said by actors to make a successful film. Film doesn't need a story nor dialogue nor people. Narrative elements can be visual and can ask us to assemble them ourselves in whatever meaning we derive. That is the (updated) nature of modern art.

If you randomly pick any of Fellerath's reviews you will read a synopsis of the narrative elements of the film (sometimes following an off-the-wall introduction, such as a film festival in Burkina Faso Fellerath refers to to comment on the differences between "commercial" films and "art" films). He seems to say that art films are indulgent by nature while the exact opposite may be true: commercial films have a singular objective: to make money at all costs.

Fellerath rarely discusses the cinematic nature of film. I bet you could omit "film" and "play" from his movie and drama reviews and have no clue which is a movie and which is a play. Fellerath is not alone. This art of reducing film to its narrative elements plagues American popular film reviewers. Perhaps it is an occupational hazard because they are forced to watch so many Hollywood films that have "a story arc" and little else.

Fellerath further dismisses Malick by mentioning Pauline Kael's negative review of his first film 1973's "Badlands," but doesn't mention that Vincent Canby of The New York Times glowed about 29-year-old Malick and the film, and Badlands outperformed Scorcese's Mean Streets at the New York Film Festival that year.

Badlands is now regarded as an important film and Malick a visionary American director despite the fact that his breadth of work is six films in 30 years.

Like a Renoir, a Pollock or a Picasso painting, Tree of Life is a multi-layered film. It demands much of the viewer as does much of modern art. Ortega y Gassett in his book "The Dehumanization of Art" says modern art's nature is “to dehumanize art … to avoid living forms … to consider art as play and nothing else … to be essentially ironical … to regard art as a thing of no transcending consequence.”

Mark Helperin disagrees writing, ” Until very recently the task of the artist was to work with what was given, to pay homage to God and nature, the presumption being that though he would never achieve perfection he could approach it through the various disciplines that make use of what is already in the universe, of which there is plenty. At his boldest, the artist would, in the language of Broadway, do another take on what God had already created. Never would he presume actually to create, not only because it would be unpardonable vanity but because it would be ridiculous. "

In "The Tree of Life," Malick, without relying on traditional narrative elements, manages to create his own world by commenting on the subjective nature of the Universe. His film says that Ortega Y Gassett and Helperin are both wrong AND they are both right because we now live in an uncertain age where, simply stated, particles behave in ways that are difficult to comprehend, they can be energy and matter at the same time. That is the nature of the modern world we know.

If one confronts the Universe with eyes developed in the 50s, the reaction to the Universe may be similar to the view of the Universe as seen by Sean Penn's character Modern Jack who envisions the Universe as a complicated stew of ontogeny, phylogeny, natural selection and all the messy things that define it.

If you look at "Tree of Life" as a disturbed narrative you are the reviewer stuck in the Old World hoping that the world is still lorded over by Leave it to Beaver. If you try to make sense of all the things you have seen and made since your earliest memories, you, as a being who has come to consciousness, will see a frightening, almost undefinable modern world.

Terrence Malick has tried to impart that complicated, simultaneous vision and we are free to decide whether he has succeeded or not, but I think we are at least obliged to make up our mind using his language and his certainly modern ideas..

Two stars? Give me a break.

A film reviewer has the obligation to understand the form of the film.

Posted by pdeblin on 07/01/2011 at 3:08 AM

Re: “(Update 6) The horrifying case of Pedro Guzman: His ordeal is over as the government drops its appeal

Legal, you are so sanctimonious like everything is black and white. Pedro was brought here by his mother as a refugee from Guatemala. The US Congress in the 1990s passed NACARA which allowed undocumented refugees from central America and Eastern Europe to apply for legal status. Pedro clearly qualifies under the law thus has been granted work permits for over 10 years. There are many other such programs--right now there is a new program for Haitians. Before the 1920s the US had virtually no immigration laws, then the first quotas were introduced to keep out those we felt were politically undesirable. It is a political system that has kept out many refugees (Jews in the 30s, Africans since the 90s). You bring up universities and how aliens take American's place. It is well known that the Chinese government backs Chinese students financially so they can come to the US and complete their higher education. So, our current policy permits well-funded students from Communist countries rather than highly qualified poor students from just across the border.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in our flawed immigration system. It is so flawed, I bet I can prove that your ancestors were illegal and you have no right to be here.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by pdeblin on 05/20/2011 at 1:23 AM

Re: “Worst Films of 2008

Placing WALL E on the worst list is truly mystifying and makes me think either the reviewer slept through the film or has an extreme anti-Disney bias. WALL E tells a multi-layered tale the way a good film should: through a visual narrative accompanied by a tremendous score.On the surface the story is simple: earth is trashed, environmental degradation was caused by global corporations. The real story goes beyond that: how do we find love in a lonely world taken over by technology; how is our aesthetic sense nullified by pervasive marketing; how is our individuality threatened by globalization. What film this year created its own world with such skill using a brilliant visual pallet, outstanding sound effects and beautiful music. WALL E, as animation, went far beyond Pixar's normal high quality entertainment and moved modern animation into a new realm. Unfortunately your reviewer's sophomoric review didn't come close to matching WALL E's quality.

Posted by pdeblin on 01/04/2009 at 10:58 AM

Re: “I Served the King of England and The Duchess look back to European history

David Fellereth's review of "I Served the King of England misses so much. His again with the Nazis comment shows he does not have any understanding of a film not made in America. First, the film starts with main character being released not by the Nazis but by the Communists. Even to this day, there is an article in Prague newspapers almost every day about the Sudetenland, the communist era. It is the seminal moment of consciousness for modern Czechs as much as we are still fascinated by the Wild West or World War II. The film, like most Czech films, is political and personal, and is set forth more in a visual sense than a narrative one, something that is missing from the review. The film, to its credit, jumps back and forth in time and the transitions, to say the least, work effectively and set the film's tone. When one lives in a country where discussions about an individual's actions and thoughts or the lack thereof from a supposed bygone are are still part of the mass consciousness, then this film must be an important commentary for Czechs if not for anyone concerned with government's control over the individual. It is difficult to review works from another country. Hrabal is difficult to translate because h is writing as much about the Czech language as his subject and translating it to film is also quite difficult. I think this is an important film and it is sad that it is glossed over by your reviewer because it has Nazis in it.

Posted by pdeblin on 10/11/2008 at 10:22 AM

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