New York Critic: “I Simply Don’t Care a Damn What Happens in Nebraska”

(p. C14) ‘I simply don’t care a damn what happens in Nebraska,” ranted a New York critic, “no matter who writes about it.”
Or so Willa Cather claimed. In the long leisure of the grave, the alleged scoffer may ponder how it is that a century after its September 1918 publication, Cather’s “My Ántonia,” its every page rooted in Nebraska, remains very much alive and in print–while he is neither.

For the full review, see:
Robert Garnett. “MASTERPIECE; Rooted in America’s Heartland.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018): C14.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 14, 2018.)

The book mentioned above, is:
Cather, Willa. My Antonia. New York: Collins Classics, 2019 [1st published 1918].

Uncredentialed Entrepreneur Innovated to Save Babies

(p. 1A) He showed up in Omaha 120 summers ago, another unknown showman hoping to make a name for himself at this city’s biggest-ever event, its world’s fair.

He gave his name as Martin Couney, or sometimes Martin Coney. It wasn’t, at least not yet.
He said he was a doctor, a European doctor, a protégé of the world’s finest doctors. He was none of these things.
And yet in Omaha, Dr. Couney set up shop in a little white building on the east midway, not far from the Wild West Show, the Middle Eastern dancers, the roaming fortune tellers and the Indian Congress starring a Native American chief named Geronimo.
The fair, officially known as the Trans-Mississippi and International (p. 2A) Exposition, showcased all manner of things seen as strange, exotic and otherworldly to the 2 million Nebraskans and visitors paying the 50-cent admission to have their minds blown in the summer of 1898.
Couney thought he had just the thing to blow their minds.

“Infant Incubators with Living Infants” read the sign above the entrance.

“A Wonderful Invention … Live Babies” said another.
. . .
Usually the experts are right. That’s why they are experts,” says Dawn Raffel, author of the “The Strange Case of Dr. Couney,” a new biography seeking to save this once-famed faux doctor from history’s trash bin. “But occasionally you get an outlier like this. Someone who is extraordinarily inventive. Who brings us something incredible.”
What Dr. Couney gave us, through decades of work and tireless promotion, was an understanding that we could save babies that since the beginning of time had died before they crawled. We could save them using a piece of equipment designed by a French engineer who realized that if an egg could be nurtured in an incubator, then so could a newborn.
. . .
Newspapers, including The World-Herald, largely ignored the exhibit, Raffel says. The public didn’t seem particularly bothered that a “doctor” had decided to house anonymous newborns on the fairgrounds and put them on public display.
They also didn’t seem particularly interested, either.
. . .
Raffel estimates that Couney and his doctors and nurses saved between 6,500 and 7,000 premature babies all on their own during decades of midway work. But they saved countless thousands more by raising the profile of premature babies. By raising the hope that they could grow into healthy, happy adults.
. . .
“I find him fascinating because he was such a complicated man,” Raffel says. “He deserves more credit.”

For the full story, see:
Hansen, Matthew. “Tech Costs Force Honda To Let Go of Engineering Legacy.” Omaha World-Herald (Friday, Aug. 3, 2018): 1A-2A.
(Note: ellipses between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to sentence, in original.)

The Raffel book on which the passages quoted are partially based, is:
Raffel, Dawn. The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2018.

Boys Town Closes California Sites Due to Intrusive Regulations

(p. 1A) It’s been a century since a young Irish priest named Father Edward Flanagan welcomed homeless boys into a run-down Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha.
But as Boys Town celebrates its centennial, the organization is lessening its focus on the kind of residential care model that made it famous.
The latest wave came in June, as Boys Town announced the shuttering of sites in New York, Texas and California, including one residential care site in Orange County.
. . .
In 2000 under the Rev. Val Peter, then its executive director, the organization had 16 sites — though some were shelters without residential care.
The Rev. Steven Boes, current president and national executive director, insists the Flanagan mission of caring for American families and children remains, despite what he called some tough decisions to close sites.
. . .
(p. 2A) Boys Town decided to shutter its 80-acre residential site in Trabuco Canyon and two family homes in Tustin, California, after years of advocating for regulatory changes in that state. At the time of the June announcement, those homes housed 28 children.
The Trabuco Canyon site was one of 14 Boys Town residential care facilities opened in the 1980s and ’90s as Peter worked to spread the model to larger metro areas around the nation.
Since then, changing state regulations have made it more difficult to implement the Boys Town model in many of those areas, said Bob Pick, executive vice president of youth care.
“We opened those sites 20 or 30 years ago, and it was an exciting time,” Pick said. “But times change, contracts change and we have to serve kids with the highest quality. We just couldn’t do that in some locations.”
When the Trabuco Canyon facility opened, youths stayed for up to two years, Pick said, adding that Boys Town’s own research shows that the minimum stay should be about six months and a yearlong stay is ideal.
Because of contractual rules including mandated length of stays in California, “we couldn’t get kids to stay longer than two or three months,” Pick said. “That’s just not quality care.”
. . .
The changes at Boys Town haven’t come without criticism.
The Rev. Peter worries that the closing of Boys Town sites and focus on research runs afoul of Flanagan’s mission. “I gave my whole life to this — to Flanagan’s dream,” Peter, 83, said. “This is called God’s dream. Times change, but God’s dream doesn’t.”

For the full story, see:
Klecker, Mara. “Renowned care model no longer main focus; Overall trend is toward in-home family consulting, fewer residential sites.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 27, 2017): 1A-2A.
(Note: ellipses added..)

Disney Stories Give Happiness to the Poor

(p. 1B) If the arts community had been blossoming in north Omaha when Adrienne Brown-Norman was growing up there in the 1960s and ’70s, she may never have moved to California and become a senior illustrator for Disney Publishing Worldwide.
. . .
“Of course, though, I would not ever have met Floyd.”
That would be her husband, Floyd Norman, the now-legendary first African-American artist at Walt Disney Studios.
Floyd Norman, 82, began working for Disney in 1956 and was named a Disney Legend in 2007.
. . .
The Normans recently collaborated with legendary songwriter Richard Sherman (“Mary (p. 5B) Poppins”) on a picture book called “A Kiss Goodnight.”
The book tells the story of how the young Walt Disney was enchanted by fireworks and subsequently chose to send all of his Magic Kingdom guests home with a special kiss goodnight of skyrockets bursting overhead.
. . .
Walt Disney later picked Norman to join the team writing the script for “The Jungle Book.” Disney had seen Norman’s gags posted around the office and recognized a talented storyteller.
“I didn’t think I was a writer, but the old man did,” Norman said. “Then I realized that maybe I am good at this.”
Norman named “The Jungle Book” as his favorite project, because he worked alongside Disney.
. . .
“What I learned from the old man was the technique of storytelling and what made a movie work,” Norman said.
“I had an amazing opportunity to learn from the master. If you were in the room with Walt, it was for a reason. There are a lot of people who wanted to be in that room but didn’t get an invitation.”
. . .
One day at the studio the Normans recall pausing to watch the filming of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of Disney’s quest to acquire the rights to film “Mary Poppins.” Norman had worked on the movie and was interested in seeing Tom Hanks’ portrayal of his old boss.
“Tom Hanks rushed from his trailer in full costume to meet Floyd, shouting, ‘Where is that famous animator?’ ” Brown-Norman said. “You don’t expect a man like Tom Hanks to come running up. Then Tom wouldn’t let us leave. He wanted to know more about Walt, and if he was getting it right.”
. . .
“What I enjoy is the love of Disney that made so many people happy,” [Floyd Norman] said. “Maybe they were poor. Maybe they were in a bad home, but they tell me Disney stories gave them an escape. They gave them happiness, and that’s what I like.”

For the full story, see:

Kevin Cole. “Legendary Animator Spread Love of Disney.” Omaha World-Herald (Mon., Aug. 7, 2017): 1B & 5B.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “During Native Omaha Days, Disney’s Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown-Norman reflect on careers.”)

The book mentioned above, co-authored by Sherman (and illustrated by the Normans), is:
Sherman, Richard, and Brittany Rubiano. A Kiss Goodnight. Glendale, CA: Disney Editions, 2017.

Level 3 Failed, In Spite of a Well-Executed, Plausible Business Plan

Level3StockPricesGraph2017-06-09.jpgSource of graph: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.

(p. 1D) Thomas Dowd and hundreds of other Omahans soon will be digging out their Level 3 Communications Inc. stock records. • The reason: This week, Level 3 shareholders are voting to sell the company to Century Link Communications. • The sale marks the end of an investment saga that began 20 years ago with hopes of riches but ended with big losses for most shareholders, despite the efforts of some of Omaha’s biggest names in business. • “It was a very bad experience,” said Dowd, a retired attorney and former director of the Metropolitan Utilities District. “It’s just one purchase at a time, and you think everything’s going good and then, bam! Anyway, lesson learned.” • Although his loss was “substantial,” he said, it didn’t disrupt his lifestyle, and he figures he’s better off than shareholders who lost their retirement savings or other vital funds. He’s still a Level 3 shareholder and will get some cash and Century Link shares in the sale, which is scheduled for September [2017].

(p. 4D) But it works out to about $4.43 for shares he bought years ago, some of them costing more than $100.
. . .
On March 20, 2000, someone sold and someone bought Level 3 shares for $132.25, a price that made the company’s publicly traded stock worth nearly $20 billion. By 2002, the price had nearly collapsed, putting most shareholders into the red.
Level 3 might have an information highway, but its toll system wasn’t collecting enough to earn a profit. It was clear that the nation had a “bandwidth glut,” a huge overcapacity of fiber networks.
Level 3 had installed its network, at an eventual cost of $14 billion, and could cheaply add more lines by stringing extra cable through its conduits.
But others had built networks, too, and the demand for bandwidth wasn’t growing as Crowe had hoped. Researchers also found ways to send more data along existing fibers, meaning greater capacity along existing lines.
Most of the new fiber networks were unused, or “dark.” Only a fraction of fibers in the buried bundles were “lit” by the light waves that carried digital communications and brought in revenue for companies like Level 3.
The supply of fiber far outran the demand, and Level 3’s losses mounted, along with its stock price. Investors lost confidence that the company would begin making profits anytime soon. In fact, that didn’t happen until 2014.
. . .
Dowd, the retired attorney, said he held onto the shares because it didn’t seem worthwhile to sell at the lower prices and he figured someone would buy the company and he would get some of his money back.
“I always thought Walter Scott was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat,” he said. “He never did.”

For the full story, see:
STEVE JORDON. “END OF THE LINE FOR LEVEL 3; Omaha-born company, which laid fiber-optic cable, will cease to exist.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., March 12, 2017): 1D & 4D.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Founder Movie Is Unfair to Entrepreneur Ray Kroc

(p. 1D) McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Darmody of Omaha notes that the Hollywood film about Ray Kroc doesn’t always put the self-proclaimed “founder” of the fast-food chain in a good light.
“The movie makes it seem like he stole something from the McDonald brothers,” Darmody said. “But I can’t fault him. He bought it from the brothers and made it a dynasty.”
. . .
(p. 3D) Ray Kroc not only made a fortune that his wife turned into philanthropy, Jim said, but also created opportunities for people like himself.
. . .
Darmody said the McDonald’s Corp. has an excellent inspection program at stores for consistency and cleanliness.
Communities, he said, also have benefited from the presence of McDonald’s.
Kroc died in 1984. His widow, Joan Kroc, who died in 2003, left her $1.5 billion estate to charity.
. . .
. . . in a 1993 phone interview, Dick McDonald told me that he and his brother had no regrets about selling to Kroc for what later seemed a pittance.
“Neither of us had any youngsters who would go into the business,” said Dick, who had come up with the idea for golden arches. “I guess we could have stayed and piled up millions. But as my brother once said, ‘What can we do with $40 million that we can’t do with three or four million — except pay a lot of taxes?’ ”
. . .
Darmody, who has flipped a few burgers, said he learned some things from the movie, including how the brothers came up with the speedy production system. But without Kroc, he said, McDonald’s wouldn’t be what it is today.

For the full story, see:
Michael Kelly. “Following in the Footsteps of Founder.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., March 2, 2017): 1D & 3D.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Mach 4 [sic], 2017, and has the title “Kelly: McDonald’s franchise owner in Omaha says ‘founder’ Ray Kroc created opportunities for people.”)

Farmer and Mechanic Invented Pivot Irrigation System

(p. D1) LINDSAY, Neb. — Paul Zimmerer’s contribution to agriculture is now forever immortalized.
A recent ceremony in Lindsay dedicated a memorial to the late inventor whose irrigation system dots the landscape throughout the country.
Zimmerer, inventor of the Zimmatic Pivot Irrigation System, died July 31, 2008, at the age of 94.
. . .
Dave Albracht, chairman of the Lindsay Village Board, said Lloyd Castner, a member of the Platte County Historical Society, first approached him about a memorial.
“I’m sure everybody knows that the small towns struggle, and Lindsay wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for the Paul Zimmerer family,” he said.
. . .
Zimmerer opened a blacksmith shop in 1955 and sold modified car engines to be used on irrigation wells. His idea became the foundation of one of northeast Nebraska’s largest companies, Lindsay Corp.
He was a farmer and mechanic and owned Zimmerer Auto Repair and Gas Station in Lindsay before founding Lindsay Manufacturing Co., which is now Lindsay Corp.”

For the full story, see:
Patrick Murphy. “Memorial dedicated to Zimmatic Pivot inventor.” Omaha World-Herald (Fri., Nov. 25, 2016): 4D.
(Note: ellipses added.)