Millard Fillmore and middle school: Enough for a sit-com set in Buffalo?

October 28, 2014

Buzz in Buffalo, New York, is that there may be a sit-com coming, set in Buffalo, about education — the kids and teachers at Millard Fillmore Middle School.

Potential cast for a potential sitcom situated in Millard Fillmore's hometown, Buffalo, New York

Potential cast for a potential sitcom situated in Millard Fillmore’s hometown, Buffalo, New York

Seriously?   A reporter for Buffalo Rising, Newell Nussbaumer, wrote:

Do you remember the last time that Buffalo had a sitcom “based” here? Do you recall what the name of the show was? It was Jesse – a show that ran for a couple of years (1998-1999). Since that time there has not been a show “set in” the city of Buffalo. But Jordan Imiola wants to change that. Jordan is currently a screenwriter in LA, who lives and breathes Buffalo, as does his girlfriend. They are huge Sabres and Bills backers, and do their part to expound Buffalo’s virtues whenever they are able. Sometimes they do that by frequenting Buffalo backers bars, and sometimes they simply wear it on their sleeves (both of them sport Buffalo tattoos).

Now Jordan wants to put Buffalo back on the map via a new sitcom that takes place in this city. “The new TV comedy is called “Get Educated.” It’s a Feel Good Comedy similar to “Modern Family” and “The Office,” but it takes place in Millard Fillmore Middle School. It focuses on teachers and students. Growing up, my Grandpa took me to Millard Fillmore’s Birthday Party every year at the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora so that’s what inspired the school name. Also, my mom, Uncle Dave, and Aunt Laurie taught in Western NY schools for years. My mom and Aunt were faculty members of the Cheektowaga-Sloan district where I went to school K – 10. And my Uncle Dave taught at the Stanley G. Falk School and now teaches in the city of Buffalo.”

This is the age of the internet:  You may contribute to the production of the series, at IndiGoGo.

At Buffalo Rising, one commenter paid homage to a teacher at the real Millard Fillmore Junior High School in Buffalo, years ago:

buffalorr10 hours ago
“Millard Fillmore Middle School”–It was named Millard Fillmore Jr. High when it opened in the early sixties. Located on Appenheimer St. off Fillmore Ave. next to the now demolished Kensington Heights projects. My Alma Mater class of ’66. There was an amazing teacher there, Mrs. Stallings, a black woman who for many of the white kids that lived in our all white neighborhood at the time, was the first contact we’d ever had with a person of color. She was so strict that no one dared not turn in their homework or disrupt the classroom. We all ended up with a 90 point or higher grade upon leaving her class along with the feeling that she was one of the best educators we’d ever had. I think that could be material for an interesting TV show.

Okay, I’d watch that.

(Hey, is there a photo of the old Millard Fillmore Jr. High on the internet?)


Millard Fillmore: Ready for his closeup with CBS Sunday Morning?

February 16, 2014

Millard Fillmore as

Millard Fillmore as “Bad President,” by jimmyemery at deviantart. How will Mo Rocca’s story portray Fillmore?

If other news doesn’t interfere, Millard Fillmore is scheduled to get a Presidents Day treatment from reporter and humorist Mo Rocca, on CBS’s “Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood,” on February 16.

What a fine collision!  Fillmore’s story is really pretty good.  Osgood and Sunday Morning are top of the genre.  Rocca is smart, and often funny.  Even if they perform below their par, the segment should be enlightening.

Blogging for the venerable Buffalo News, TV writer and critic Alan Pergament gives more details:

If you’re tired of me telling you how wonderful “CBS Sunday Morning” with Charles Osgood is, better look away now.

Correspondent Mo Rocca — whose chicken wing piece ran on Super Bowl Sunday — is back again this Sunday with a piece on President Millard Fillmore.

Rocca visited the Fillmore home in East Aurora on the same week he was here to sample chicken wings.

According to a CBS spokesperson, Rocca explains in the piece “why Fillmore should be remembered for more than just his unusual name.”

The spokesperson added that University at Buffalo professor Claude Welch is one of the experts that Rocca spoke to “about what made the 13th president stand out.”

“Sunday Morning” airs at 9 a.m. Sundays on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

The timing of the Fillmore piece makes sense since this is President’s Day weekend.

Prof. Welch delivered the annual address at Fillmore’s grave this year, on Fillmore’s birthday, January 7 (delayed a couple of days this year because of cold and snow).

“Sunday Morning” runs from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. on KTVT, Channel 11, in Dallas.  I’ll be ringing bells, and I’ll have to record the show.  Check your local schedule. 

You could do worse on Presidents Day Eve than to learn something more about Fillmore, arguably the man who set up World War II in the Pacific.

That’s something even H. L. Mencken didn’t blame Fillmore for.


Lost history: Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977

August 19, 2013

1958 Publicity photo of Groucho Marx from the television program You Bet Your Life.  NBC Television-NBC Photo/Photographer:  Elmer Holloway

1958 Publicity photo of Groucho Marx from the television program You Bet Your Life. NBC Television-NBC Photo/Photographer: Elmer Holloway

36 years ago?  Grouch Marx died on August 19, 1977? 

cropped version of Image:Grouchoicon.jpg - &qu...

The man became an icon, though too few know the great history behind the icon. “Self-made caricature of Groucho Marx” Wikipedia image

 

That means that not only have your high school history students probably never seen much, or anything, of Groucho Marx and his comic genius; it means their parents don’t know him, either.

What a great tragedy.

Groucho Marx brought genius to American comedy films, to radio, and then to television.  His genius was of a sort that does not age, but remains fresh to audiences of today — get a group of teenagers to view Duck Soup or A Day at the Races and you’ll find them laughing heartily at even some of Marx’s more cerebral jokes.  It is symbolic that the films that brought writer Norman Cousins to laughter, and a lack of pain, were Marx Brothers movies (in the day when one had to rent a projector to show the film, long before VCR).  Cousins went on to a grand second career talking about hope in healing, starting with the book, Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit.  I recommend these films to anyone seriously injured or ill, or recovering.  We got VHS, and then DVD copies of several of the films when our kids were ill, with great effect.

Groucho Marx should be in the pantheon of great Americans, of the 20th century, if not all time, studied by children in high school, for history and for literature purposes.

Groucho’s been gone for 36 years, and we are much poorer for his passing.

More:

Groucho grills Ray Bradbury and a woman named Leticia on You Bet Your Life in a 1955 episode:

English: Groucho Marx & anonymous blogging

“I intend to live forever, or die trying.” ― Groucho Marx (Wikipedia image)


Are you tougher than a Boy Scout?

February 21, 2013

Every kid should have an opportunity to do this stuff. This promises to show Scouting in its better works.

What do you think?

Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout, On the National Geographic Channel starting March 4, 2013 at 8PM eastern time.

More: 

Ad for Tougher Than A Boy Scout, National Geographic Channel

Advertisement for Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout, Naitonal Geographic Channel


Chess games of the rich and famous: William Windom

August 20, 2012

Windom may have been surprised at being called either rich or famous — but he should have been.

William Wiindom, in the orignal "Star Trek" television series

William Wiindom, in the orignal “Star Trek” television series

William Windom, an actor whose face and voice most Americans would recognize, died yesterday.  I became a fan of his years ago when he starred in a short-lived, quirky and ground-breaking television series, “My World and Welcome to It.”  The series was based on the work of humorist and cartoonist James Thurber.  Windom played a cartoonist whose drawings occasionally came to life, complicating his troubles with job, women and family.  The program ran for one season on NBC, 1969-70, with 26 episodes.

Too few guffaws for network television.

Buried in most notices of Mr. Windom’s death was the information that he was a pretty good chess player.

A few of his games got captured on film.

William Windom playing chess against John Wayne - image from Chess.com

William Windom, left,  playing chess against John Wayne – image from Batgirl at Chess.com. Wayne, known to friends and the chess world as Duke, played chess on almost all of his movie sets, and at least once in a movie role.

Windom’s game against Wayne is undated.

William Windom (right) playing chess against Erik Estrada, image from Anatoly Karpov Chess School

Windom, right, playing Erik Estrada. Image from AnatolyKarpoveChessSchool.com, undated (Is this photo by photographer Irwin Fisk?)

Windom, left, playing chess against Claude Akins.  AnatolyKarpovChessSchool.org

Windom, left, playing chess against Claude Akins. Image from AnatolyKarpovChessSchool.org

Windom playing Adam Baldwin, Los Angeles, 1988 - Anatoly Karpov Chess School image

Windom playing Adam Baldwin, Los Angeles, 1988 – Anatoly Karpov Chess School image

In this promo for “My World and Welcome To It,” one may get the idea NBC didn’t know what to do with the show, how to market it.


Typewriter of the moment: LBJ’s teleprompter typewriter

August 6, 2012

LBJ Library photo by Mike Geissinger

July 27, 1967, in preparations for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s televised address to the Nation concerning civil unrest in American cities, an unidentified White House Staff member types President Johnson’s address for a teleprompter – LBJ Library photo by Mike Geissinger, public domain (Other sizes of photo available at LBJ Library site)

The first personal computers were more than a decade away.  Today’s teleprompters — a computer screen mounted to reflect into a glass in front of a television camera lens — had not been conceived.  Teleprompters were cathode-ray tube televisions attached to a massive television camera with a clunky device.  The image would be reversed to reflect correctly.  Into that television would be a closed-circuit feed of a scrolling piece of paper on which was typed, in very large letters, the script the speaker was to read.  In this case, of course, the speaker was the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1967, a special typewriter was required to type out the oversized-font, easy-to-read script on a roll of paper with sprocket holes along the side to enable an automated scrolling.

Just looking at the equipment for the technology of the time is an education.

Schematic of teleprompter system, from Wikimedia Commons

Schematic of teleprompter system:
1. Video camera
2. Shroud
3. Video monitor
4. One-way mirror
5. Image from subject
6. Image from video monitor

Teleprompters allow someone reading a script to look directly into the television camera lens, giving an impression to a viewer that the person is speaking directly to them, instead of glancing down at a script and back at a camera.  Research showed viewers tend to grow disinterested in people looking down at a script, and would more likely be engaged by someone appearing to look at them.

Teleprompters existed in the 1950s, but many local television stations did not use them until into the 1960s — news broadcasts of the time often featured the anchors reading from written scripts on a desk in front of the broadcaster.  A few intrepid news anchors, throwbacks to a more theatrically-inclined era, would memorize an entire script every night.

The schematic is based on modern, smaller television cameras and modern, thin devices to project the word images.  Older versions were larger — sometimes much larger.

Ed Mason as a studio technician, adjusting the teleprompter before a local broadcast - WCIA TV (Illinois) circa 1957

Ed Mason as a studio technician, adjusting the teleprompter before a local broadcast, WCIA television, Channel 3 in Champaign, Illinois; photos from site of DougQuick.com, an on-line tour of history of broadcasting

One popular version put a simple paper scroller mounted above the lens of the very large, studio television cameras — a broadcaster’s eyes could focus an inch above the lens, and viewers couldn’t tell he or she was not looking directly into the lens.

Modern teleprompter mounted on television camera, circa 2005 - Wikipedia image

Modern teleprompter mounted on television camera, circa 2005; text is projected from a thin screen on the top of the camera lens – Wikipedia image

Teleprompters emerged as a symbolic political whipping device in the early 21st century. Partisans wishing to impugn the intelligence of a politician complain that he or she cannot speak extemporaneously, without a script. Oddly, the charge was rarely leveled at President Ronald Reagan, famous for his use of scripts in almost every situation. Reagan’s White House pushed modernizing of the technical devices employed at the White House, including the latest in teleprompter devices.

The most frequently-seen politician-used teleprompters today are simple stands, “conference” teleprompters, designed as much to allow a speaker to use teleprompters with a live audience as to facilitate television use.  The devices are simple stands with a highly-reflective, clear plastic or glass on the top, and computer screen on the floor shining up.

A modern,

A modern, “conference” teleprompter of the style usually seen at public appearances by politicians.

Modern teleprompters cost a fraction of earlier versions.  Everybody uses them now — I’ve even heard of first-time candidates who did not have to go to teleprompter school.

Here I am, reading from a teleprompter at the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, in 2011:

Ed Darrell tries out the Presidential podium and teleprompter

Here I am trying out the teleprompter and podium at the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum, College Station, Texas, in 2011.

And more people using teleprompters, with years in captions, so far as I can get them.

Teleprompter script used by President Kennedy; JFK Library collection, image by thewastesmile

Teleprompter script used by President John F. Kennedy, from Kennedy Library collection; image by a private party.

President Reagan using a teleprompter, in speech from the Oval Office - undated

President Reagan often used teleprompters — in a computerized form by then.

Teleprompter in use:  LBJ addresses the nation prior to signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on July 2, 1964 - LBJ Library and Museum photo

Teleprompter in use:  In the White House East Room, President Lyndon B. Johnson used a teleprompter to address the nation in a live television broadcast, just before he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. People watching include Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator Hubert Humphrey, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, Speaker of the House John McCormack. Television cameras are broadcasting the ceremony.

A more modern use:

Judy Licht using a teleprompter in a broadcast from Italy.

Broadcaster Judy Licht using a teleprompter in broadcast or taping from Piazza Duomo, Milan, Italy, in September 2007.


Quiet giant of Utah journalism, Ernie Ford

June 2, 2011

Sometimes the news comes slow.

Jake Sorenson at the Daily Utah Chronicle sent out a notice that Ernie Ford died last night.  Cardiac issues.  He was 70, after all — young by today’s standards, and not yet used up.

Ford was adjunct faculty and adviser to the Chronicle when I wrote there, and took classes from him.  Ford and Roy Gibson were veterans of Utah journalism who could offer a couple of chapters of a textbook they never wrote on how to write well, and how to write good news stories — with just their markups, questions and corrections in the margins of the news story one had to meet deadline on.

Gibson died several years ago.

More than once I regretted that I had to send the copy, with Ford’s comments, off to “typesetting” in the backshop, knowing I’d never see it again.  We didn’t have a photocopier to just make another copy.

Details to come, Jake said.  We’re losing more than just old, established newspapers.  We’re losing the men and women who made the news, news, and made the news readable, and understandable.

Ford made his reputation at KSL Television News and the Salt Lake TribuneHere’s a 1989 story on his leaving KSL to move to a Dallas station.  Sometime after that he moved on to run the Society of Professional Journalists, in Indiana.  Details on Ford’s life and death to follow, but probably no film at 11:00.

When enough of the big trees fall, you can’t call it a forest any more, you know?

_______________

DePauw University put out a release on Ernie Ford:

Former Prof. Ernie Ford Passes Away at Age 70

98198

Veteran reporter, editor and journalism professor Ernie Ford died June 1 in Greencastle, Indiana

June 2, 2011, Greencastle, Ind. —  Ernest J. “Ernie” Ford Jr., a respected journalist and former member of the DePauw University faculty, passed away yesterday. He was 70 years old.

Ford was born on June 7, 1940, in Salt Lake City, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Utah. After a lengthy career in print and broadcast journalism, Ford came to Greencastle in the spring of 1992 when he was named executive director of the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ). The organization, which was founded by student journalists at DePauw University as Sigma Delta Chi (SDX) in 1909, is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization. SPJ had its national headquarters in Greencastle in the 1990s. 98200

“Ernie Ford was selected because of his strong management experience in broadcast and print journalism,” said Georgiana Vines, assistant managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and chair of the search committee, when Ford’s appointment was announced.

Ford had served as SPJ’s national president during 1991-92 before taking a paid post with the organization. He became a member of SPJ’s national board of directors in 1984, when he was elected Region 9 director, and served as chair of the Ethics Committee, Publication Committee, and the Legal Defense Fund.

98201

Photo, l-r: Ford and David Bohmer '69, director of the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media Center and Media Fellows Program, with former The DePauw editors Eric Aasen '02 and Andrew Tangel '03 in October 2010

A regular lecturer to students in journalism classes and members of the DePauw Media Fellows program, Ford served as a part-time instructor in University Studies during the 2001-02 academic year. Ernie Ford and his wife, Linda, who survives, are also known to a generation of DePauw students as owners of the Fine Print Bookstore, which they operated on Greencastle’s square for 15 years.

He also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Utah State University.

“Ernie was a great teacher who helped his students understand the media industry and journalism,” recalls Andrew Tangel, a 2003 DePauw graduate and former editor of The DePauw who now a reporter at New Jersey’s Bergen Record. “A former investigative reporter himself, he seemed to relish asking tough questions at public meetings on campus and in town. He passed along tips to student journalists and encouraged them to be aggressive, hard-nosed reporters.”

Before coming to Indiana, Ford’s journalism career which included stints as managing editor of KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, assistant news director of KDFW-TV in Dallas, assistant city editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, wire editor of the Idaho Post-Register in Idaho Falls, and general assignment reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. He collected numerous journalism awards, including a 1980 Sigma Delta Chi award for broadcast public service, regional Emmys, the Eudora Welty Award and the DuPont Award. A strong advocate for the First Amendment and the rights of journalists, Ford testified before Congress in support of the Freedom of Information Act and organized a a petition drive that led move the U.S. Supreme Court to permit still cameras in the 47517courtroom.

In 2006, Ford was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Daily Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah’s student newspaper, where he cuts his reporting teeth as an undergraduate and later served as faculty adviser.

Ford served on the boards of the Putnam County Humane Society, Great Lakes Booksellers Association, served of president of Main Street Greencastle, and was a longtime supporter of the Putnam County Playhouse.

A celebration of Ernie Ford’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Putnam County Playhouse, 715 South County Road 100 East, Greencastle.

An obituary is accessible at the website of Greencastle’s Banner-Graphic.

 

 


Naked-eye star gazer Jack Horkheimer, dead at 72

August 22, 2010

Jack Horkheimer, the guy who worked for more than 30 years to acquaint people with the fine old tradition of naked-eye astronomy, died in Miami Friday.  He was 72.

Jack Horkheimer, America's Star Gazer - Photo by Bill Wisser

Jack Horkheimer, America's Star Gazer, at home in a television production studio - Photo by Bill Wisser, first published in Astronomy, January 2006

A short note appears in Sunday’s Miami Herald:

`Star Gazer’ host Jack Horkheimer dies

By ELINOR J. BRECHER, ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

Jack Horkheimer, Public Television’s “Star Gazer,” died Friday afternoon of a respiratory ailment, according to a spokesman for the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium.

Born June 11, 1938, he was 72.

In an e-mail to staff, museum officials said they were “very saddened to have just learned that our resident Star Gazer, Jack Horkheimer, passed away today after being ill for quite some time.

“Jack was executive director of [the] Planetarium for over 35 years and was an internationally recognized pioneer in popularizing naked-eye astronomy. He was also a recognized media celebrity, often being the foremost commentator on all astronomy related happenings nationwide.

Horkheimer was best known as the creator, writer and host of public television’s “Star Gazer,” the 30-year weekly TV series on naked eye astronomy. Seen on PBS stations nationwide, “Star Gazer” reached millions of people, helping create a love of the stars for several generations of enthusiasts.”

Arrangements are pending.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/20/1785361/star-gazer-host-jack-horkheimer.html#ixzz0xJv6dDOq

Many of my best opportunities to watch stars come when I’ve far away from optics to improve the sighting.  Horkheimer’s practical advice on how to eyeball the sky delighted me from the start.

Horkheimer was a media guy, not an astronomer or scientist in any strict sense.  He was a great popularizer of astronomy.  Star Gazer may be the single most effective educational program on astronomy in history, by viewers and by total effect.

Checking his website, I note that he’s got, in the can and ready to broadcast, episodes of Star Gazer for weeks to come.

Here’s Star Gazer for the coming week:

More:


One hopes it’s a joke

June 9, 2010

TV is gooder then books is

Everyone is a critic

You need to read the sign.  Click the picture for a larger view.

Can anyone identify the location of this muffler shop?


Darwin’s Darkest Hour, debuts on NOVA tonight

October 6, 2009

From the PBS press release:

BOSTON, MA—This fall, NOVA celebrates the 200th anniversary year of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book the Origin of Species with three evolution-themed programs.

Each film will approach the topic of evolution in a different way. To kick off NOVA’s fall season on October 6, Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park) star in “Darwin’s Darkest Hour,” a two-hour scripted drama that presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis: whether to publish his earthshaking ideas, or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the Church. In November, NOVA premieres “Becoming Human,” a three-part special on human evolution. The series combines interviews with world renowned anthropologists and paleoanthropologists and the most recent, groundbreaking
discoveries with vivid images of our earliest ancestors to present a comprehensive picture of our human past. Then, on December 29, “What Darwin Never Knew” reveals answers to evolutionary questions that even Darwin couldn’t explain. Scientists are beginning to expose nature’s biggest secrets on the genetic level, with the hope of one day answering the crucial question: How does evolution really work?

Following are descriptions for NOVA films in fall 2009:

Darwin’s Darkest Hour (2 hrs) – Tuesday, October 6
NOVA and National Geographic Television present the extraordinary human drama that led to the birth of the most influential scientific theory of all time. Acclaimed screenwriter John Goldsmith (David Copperfield, Victoria and Albert) brings to life Charles Darwin’s greatest personal crisis: the anguishing decision over whether to “go public” with his theory of evolution. Darwin, portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), spent years refining his ideas and penning his book the Origin of Species. Yet, daunted by looming conflict with the orthodox religious values of his day, he resisted publishing—until a letter from naturalist Alfred Wallace forced his hand. In 1858, Darwin learned that Wallace was ready to publish ideas very similar to his own. In a sickened panic, Darwin grasped his dilemma: To delay publishing any longer would be to condemn all of his work to obscurity—his voyage on the Beagle, his adventures in the Andes, the gauchos and bizarre fossils of Patagonia, the finches and giant tortoises of the Galapagos. But to come forward with his ideas risked the fury of the Church and perhaps a rift with his own devoted wife, Emma, portrayed by Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park, The Importance of Being Earnest, Steven Spielberg’s “Artificial Intelligence”), who was a strong believer in the view of creation and honestly feared for her husband’s soul. Darwin’s Darkest Hour is a moving drama about the birth of a great idea seen through the inspiration and personal sufferings of its brilliant originator.

Hubble’s Amazing Rescue – Tuesday, October 13
In the spring of 2009, NASA sent a shuttle crew on a risky mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time. Hubble has enthralled scientists and the public by capturing deep views of the cosmos and a wealth of data from distant galaxies. It has helped lead the search for alien planets and is a key tool in cosmology’s quest to investigate and map the universe’s mysterious dark matter. The astronaut servicing team carried out the first-ever in-space repairs of Hubble’s defective instruments, a task that required ingenious engineering fixes and the most intensive NASA spacewalk ever. From training to launch, NOVA presents the inside story of the mission and the extraordinary challenges faced by the rescue crew.

Lizard Kings – Tuesday, October 20
Though they may look like dragons and inspire stories of man-eating, fire-spitting monsters with long claws, razor-sharp teeth and muscular, whip-like tails, these creatures are actually monitor lizards, the largest lizards to walk the planet. With their acute intelligence—including the ability to plan ahead— these lizards are a very different kind of reptile, blurring the line between reptiles and mammals. And even though these bizarre reptiles haven’t changed all that much since the dinosaurs, they are a very successful species, versatile at adapting to all kinds of settings. Lizard Kings will look at what makes these tongued reptiles so similar to mammals and what has allowed them to become such unique survivors. But while the creatures can find their way around many different habitats, finding them is no easy task. Natural loners, and always on guard, they sense anything or anyone from hundreds of feet away. NOVA will follow expert lizard hunter Dr. Eric Pianka as he tracks the elusive creatures through Australia’s heartland with cutting-edge “lizard cam” technology for an unparalleled close encounter with these amazingly versatile “living dragons.”

Becoming Human: Unearthing Our Earliest Ancestors – Tuesday, November 3, 10, 17
NOVA presents a three-part, three-hour special—investigating explosive new discoveries that are transforming the picture of how we became human. The first program explores fresh clues about our earliest ancestors in Africa, including the stunningly complete fossil nicknamed “Lucy’s Child.” These three-million-year-old bones from Ethiopia reveal humanity’s oldest and most telltale trait—upright walking rather than a big brain. The second program tackles the mysteries of how our ancestors managed to survive in a savannah teeming with vicious predators, and when and why we first left our African cradle to colonize every corner of the Earth. In the final program, NOVA probes a wave of dramatic new evidence, based partly on cutting-edge DNA analysis, that reveals new insights into how we became the creative and “behaviorally modern” humans of today, and what really happened to the enigmatic Neanderthals who faded into extinction. Shot “in the trenches” where discoveries were unearthed throughout Africa and Europe, each hour of Becoming Human unfolds with a forensic investigation into the life and death of a specific hominid ancestor, such as “Lucy’s Child.” Dry bones spring back to vivid life with stunning animation, the product of a unique NOVA collaboration between top anthropologists and a talented team of movie animators.

What Are Dreams? – Tuesday, November 24
What are dreams and why do we have them? NOVA joins the leading dream researchers as they embark on a variety of neurological and psychological experiments to investigate the world of sleep and dreams.  Delving deep into the thoughts and brains of a variety of dreamers, scientists are asking important questions about the purpose of this mysterious world we escape to at night. Do dreams allow us to get a good night’s sleep? Do they improve our memory? Do they allow us to be more creative? Can they solve our problems or even help us survive the hazards of everyday life? NOVA follows researchers like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Matthew Wilson who is literally ‘eavesdropping’ on the dreams of rats and takes viewers into a sleep lab for a first-hand look at how scientists do their best to eavesdrop on human dreams. From those who violently act out their dreams to those who can’t stop their nightmares, from sleepwalking cats to people who can’t dream, each fascinating experiment contains a vital clue to the age-old question: What are dreams?

What Darwin Never Knew (2 hours) – Tuesday, December 29
Earth teems with a staggering variety of animals, including 9,000 kinds of birds, 28,000 types of fish, and more than 350,000 species of beetles. What explains this explosion of living creatures—1.4 million different species discovered so far, with perhaps another 50 million to go? The source of life’s endless forms was a profound mystery until Charles Darwin’s revolutionary idea of natural selection, which he showed could help explain the gradual development of life on Earth. But Darwin’s radical insights raised as many questions as they answered. What actually drives evolution and turns one species into another? And how did we evolve?

Now, on the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s the Origin of Species, NOVA reveals answers to the riddles that Darwin couldn’t explain. Stunning breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed “evo devo”— are linking the enigma of origins to another of nature’s great mysteries, the development of an embryo.  To explore this exciting new idea, NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the Cambrian explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Here scientists are finally beginning to crack nature’s biggest secrets at the genetic level. And, as NOVA shows in this absorbing detective story, the results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin’s insights while exposing clues to life’s breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined.


Alas, that’s the way it is: Walter Cronkite dead at 92

July 18, 2009

You can’t explain the influence of Walter Cronkite to a high school kid today.  They don’t have any experience that begins to corroborate what you’d say.

Walter Cronkite in the last decade - Texas Parks and Wildlife photo by Richard Roberts

Walter Cronkite in the last decade - Texas Parks and Wildlife photo by Richard Roberts

Along with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, Mr. Cronkite was among the first celebrity anchormen. In 1995, 14 years after he retired from the “CBS Evening News,” a TV Guide poll ranked him No. 1 in seven of eight categories for measuring television journalists. (He professed incomprehension that Maria Shriver beat him out in the eighth category, attractiveness.) He was so widely known that in Sweden anchormen were once called Cronkiters. (from the New York Times)

I’m saddened at the death of Cronkite.  One of the things that saddens me is that he probably could have anchored for at least a decade past when he last signed off.  Nothing against Dan Rather, at least not from me — just that Cronkite was one of a kind.  He won’t be missed by too many people alive today who never had a chance to see him work.

So, go see him work. Media Decoder has a series of YouTube pieces showing what Cronkite could do, what Cronkite did.  It’s history go see.

Other posts on Cronkite at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

More, probably better stuff


Typewriter of the moment: Alistair Cooke for the BBC

June 19, 2009

Alistair Cookes typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alistair Cooke's typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alas, our students now are too young to remember Alistair Cooke’s hosting of “Masterpiece Theater” on PBS, and of course, back then the BBC America service — if it existed — was available only to shortwave fanatics or people  who traveled a lot to the British Isles.

Perhaps more than anyone else other than Winston Churchill, and maybe the Beatles, Alistair Cooke tied England and America together tightly in the 20th century.  BBC’s other writers are good to brilliant, but even their obituary for Cooke (March 30, 2004) doesn’t quite do him justice:

For more than half a century, Alistair Cooke’s weekly broadcasts of Letter from America for BBC radio monitored the pulse of life in the United States and relayed its strengths and weaknesses to 50 countries.

His retirement from the show earlier this month after 58 years, due to ill health, brought a flood of tributes for his huge contributing to broadcasting.

Perhaps for Cooke, from Cooke’s broadcasts, we could develop a new variation of the Advanced Placement document-based question:  Broadcast-based questions. Heaven knows his Letter From America provided profound material on American history:

BBCs famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - www.junemendoza.co.uk)

BBC's famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - http://www.junemendoza.co.uk)


National History Day live webcast – June 18, 2009

June 18, 2009

Oh, gee, we’re running late:  The National History Day competition live webcast is this morning.  Go here: http://www.history.com/classroom/nhd/

And watch this, if you’re too late for the webcast.


Typewriter of the moment: Steve Allen

June 17, 2009

I miss Steve AllenI missMeeting of Minds.”  I miss finding out what Allen would be up to next.

Steve Allen at his typewriter, well before 1999

Steve Allen at his typewriter, well before 1999

An Olivetti electric?  Anyone know for sure?

Steve Allen invented “The Tonight Show” on NBC, and was its first host.  It would have been great to have heard his opinion of Jay Leno’s leaving, and Conan O’Brien’s taking over.


In comedy, truth, wisdom, and education

June 13, 2009

Remember Jonathan Miller and “The Body in Question?

Dick Cavett remembers, discusses the now-75-years-old man.  Plus, delightfully, Cavett has video at his blog at the New York Times.

And here, Miller explains to Cavett just why creationism is in error, and why the study of Darwin and evolution is worthwhile.  You’ll have to go to the  Times site for the full program; here’s a few minutes’ of of Miller:


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