The Benefits of the Columbus Hoopla
Editor: I read with great interest Ben Wattenberg's June 26 Opinion * 1ommentary piece on the debate over Columbus' historical role and the U. S. pavilion at Spain's World's Fair in Seville.
Readers may be interested to know the following:
There will also be a huge fair in Genoa, Italy, in 1992. Recently, the U. S. Information Agency, which mounts such expositions, announced that the U. S. pavilion at Genoa Expo 92, the world's fair marking the Quincentenary in Columbus's birthplace, will feature the immigrant experience in Baltimore and the maritime culture of the Chesapeake Bay region. The fair will draw millions of visitors between May 15 and August 15, 1992. Remarking on the theme, the U.S. commissioner general for the Expo said "the Chesapeake Bay represents a slice of Americana that the United States can show to the world."
Adhering to the overall theme of the Expo, "Christopher Columbus: The Ship and the Sea," the 5,000-square-foot, multi-media exhibit will "focus on the Chesapeake Bay as a microcosm of American maritime life and culture -- one in which honored traditions and constant change have molded a society rich in diversity and proud of its freedoms."
In addition, "Maryland 1992," the governor's commission, recently announced a full slate of programs. Among them are: a year-long, Chesapeake-wide festival of history and ecology; an educational enrichment kit on our multi-cultural heritage for all state schools, K-12; and an event in Hagerstown and Washington County which will invite, for the first time in history, all 850 federally recognized Native American tribes for a week-long cultural exposition and a summit on the Native American agenda for the 21st century.
Finally, since 1986 a group of local leaders have been promoting the idea of using 1992 to create a marine science center in Baltimore. Greatly expanded and supported by the mayor, the City Council, the governor, the General Assembly and the Maryland congressional delegation, this will open in 1994 on Piers 5 and 6 as the $200 million Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration.
What may be discovered in 1992 is that Baltimore, Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay -- which have no direct ties to Columbus -- stand to benefit most from all the hoopla.
The writer is chairman of the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration.
Blame the Records
Editor: In recent weeks Stephen Wigler has pondered the dearth of top concert pianists now that the world has mourned the departure of Rudolph Serkin and Claudio Arrau.
He missed, however, the one item that not only addresses the situation with pianists, but lends itself to understanding the absence of big-name conductors and violin soloists. In addition, this same phenomenon predicts that this condition could continue indefinitely.
It is, in fact, the advent of the recorded performance. With high-fidelity sound reproduction, the superb artistry of a musician is preserved for posterity. These audio history books then set the bench mark for the style, technique and interpretation of the stagnant classical repertoire.
Thus, recordings have allowed an earlier generation of musicians to claim ownership of either particular composers or masterpieces. Witness the Van Cliburn Tchaikovsky first piano concerto or Arthur Rubenstein's Chopin.
Today's young performers face significant difficulties indeed, in the shadow of these now-legendary recording artists.
No Robin Hood
Editor: President Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu, has been described in many ways recently because of his travels.
Leo Rosten's ''The Joys of Yiddish'' has just the right word for him:''Schnorrer'' -- defined as ''a moocher,'' ''a cheapskate,'' ''a chisler.''
So even if you don't know Yiddish, there's no question what the translation means. A Robin Hood, he's not! What he gives us taxpayers is the back of his hand.
The Cuba I Saw
Editor: In his opinion about Castro's Cuba, Alejandro Portes may be right or he may not; I'm no seer. But having very recently returned from Cuba, I will grieve the change if Cuba gives up its idealism for the future he predicts.
I do not claim to know about everything everywhere, but I have traveled extensively in 11 other Latin American countries. They all have their charm -- and their poverty.
Nothing I saw in Havana compared to the people sleeping in the streets I saw in Brazil's largest city (without mentioning what we see regularly in Baltimore). Cubans were well-clothed, nothing like the shoeless majority in the capital city of Paraguay. Nothing came near the repression of ''democratic'' El Salvador.
Yes, I did see hope and altruism. I met people working for the betterment of all, willing to make sacrifices and building day-care centers (which are seriously lacking here in Maryland at a price middle-class people can afford) and homes.