www.whyville.net Mar 21, 2002 Weekly Issue

Staff Writer

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Mail persons, forest woman, and an Iceman. What is this world coming to? Do you have any opinions on that? Watch those shows, then tell me what you think I mean...

Do you know your Biblical figures? How about your Cold War weaponry?

Now, I think the coolest show this week may be the story of Shackleton's survival of the Antarctic. But maybe you'll like Misunderstood Minds or Testing Our Schools more, since they might affect you or someone you know a bit more.

Watch the shows and let me know what you think. Email me, the MediaWiz of Whyville!

Click here for an index of this week's shows. And now, the Media Menu!

Friday, March 22

"Mail Delivery: Erasing the Miles" (History Channel, 7-8pm E/P) When you have to handle 603 million pieces of mail every day you can't rely on just those little sorting boxes plus a good pair of shoes. You need tons of high-speed sorting technology -- technology that can read! That's what you'll see in this documentary -- but the beginning of mail delivery, which you'll also see, involved clay envelopes in Sumeria, and eventually got around to things like teenagers riding day and night for the Pony Express -- to "erase" the miles separating distant communities. You won't take the mail for granted after seeing this show.

"ChalkZone" (Nickelodeon Network, 8:30-9 pm E/P) The hero of this new animated series is a 10 year old named Rudy whose powers are not in his skateboarding abilityor anything like that but in his wits, talent and vivid imagination. He is a shy comic-book artist (already) who lives in a mediocre town populated by boring people and oblivious parents (oblivious means they don't notice you're an interesting person). In the story, he's a quick-draw artist and regularly climbs through a portal in his drawing board and enters a realm (The ChalkZone) filled with things like robots, snakes and (my favorite) a gum-chewing spider.

Saturday, March 23

"High Tech, High Seas: Propulsion" (History Channel, 3-4pm E/P) This technology documentary in the "Great Ships" series shows how innovations in propulsion have influenced ship design -- from crude oars and paddles, through sails and steam engines to gas turbines and nuclear reactors.

"Next Wave: Forest Woman" (National Geographic Channel, 8:30-9pm ET, 5:30-6pm PT) This is a documentary report about a conservation scientist, Lisa Paciulli, who has gone to live in the rainforest to study a rare breed of monkey and try to preserve the area that she now calls her home, the Sumatran rainforest of Indonesia.

Sunday, March 24

"Stealing The Superfortress" (History Channel, 9-11pm E/P) You think that stealing technology designs only began with folks making illegal copies of software or manufacturing fake Gucci purses in 3rd-world nations? Well, here's a documentary about duplicating whole airplanes -- rivet for rivet. After the Soviet Union fell, we finally learned how Russia got into the business of making U.S. Air Force bombers -- the Superfortress kind that we used to drop the atom bomb during WWII. Among other tricks, they captured one of these things and interned its American crew in the Soviet Union. (And we were supposed to be in the same side back during that war!)

Monday, March 25

"Jezebel: Queen Of Infamy" (A&E Network, 8-9pm E/P) This is a biographical documentary about woman born a Phoenician (that's where Lebanon is today on the Mediterranean coast) princess in the 9th century B.C. who eventually became Queen of Israel. She was tough, aggressive, power hungry and made a lot of enemies -- including the revered Jewish prophet Elijah, who didn't like her being a worshipper of foreign gods. Does this sound interesting? Maybe too interesting? (If you know your Bible, you know she was murdered and her very name became a synonym for "bad girl".) Am I going to get into trouble recommending a TV show about historical characters described in the Bible? The documentary suggests she may just have been an independent woman with executive talents ahead of her time. What do you think?

"Ultimate Guide: Iceman" (Discovery Channel, 9-10pm E/P) Otzi the Iceman is a freeze-dried Ice Age man, found 10 years ago in the snowcapped Alps between Italy and Austria. Scientists have learned a lot about life back then from studying his body and the artifacts he had with him. But only recently have they figured out that he was a murder victim. He didn't just freeze to death -- somebody shot him in the back with an arrow. This documentary shows how modern scientists sometimes have to function as police detectives long, long, long after a crime's been committed.

Tuesday, March 26

"Shackelton's Voyage Of Endurance" (PBS, 8-9pm E/P) This is a documentary about what to do if your scientific expedition's ship is trapped in ice in the frozen Antarctic -- and crushed -- leaving you stranded on an ice floe. Back in 1915, before there were helicopters or ski-equipped airplanes, you had no choice but to walk -- and drag a lifeboat along with you, in case you came to open water. If this sounds frightening, don't watch this amazing account of how Ernest Shakeleton led his crew of 27 over 800 miles of ice and raging seas, month after month, until all were safe. There are heroes in science. This tough guy was one such. Details at http://www.pbs.org/nova.

(Next month there's going to be a movie on TV based on this story, so watch the factual version this week so you can later compare it to the one with the actors in it. This will be like being in a jury hearing different versions of a disaster event. Who really did what? Who really was a good person and who was really all wrong?)

Wednesday, March 27

"Moses And The Ten Commandments" (A&E Network, 8-10pm E/P) This historical documentary, broadcast on the eve of the Jewish Passover, describes the event that's being celebrated -- God's protection of Israel's firstborn boy-children from extermination at the hands of the Egyptians -- and then shows how, after escaping from Egypt, some the ancient Israelites reverted to idol-worship. If you want to get technical about it, this back-sliding is the real reason why God gave Moses the Commandments at that time to get people back to behaving decently.

"Misunderstood Minds" (PBS, 9-10:30pm E/P -- check your local listings, because times on this show may very from town to town) This new documentary about learning problems -- and ways of unlocking minds of students who struggle in school. Five families are followed over a three year period as they search for -- and sometimes find -- strategies for helping their kids learn. There's a very useful companion website at http://www.pbs.org/misunderstoodminds.

Thursday, March 28

"Testing Our Schools" (PBS 9-10pm E/P) This Frontline documentary investigates how the quest for higher test scores is changing teaching and learning in the U.S. One part of the quest will probably work for sure -- everyone will soon know which schools are not making the grade. But will we hear about the ones that are ok? Or how they gave kids what's needed to improve scores? (My theory is that they could all profit from a strong dose of Whyville.) For further info on this testing thing log on to http://www.pbs.org/frontline.


Friday, March 22
    Mail Delivery: Erasing the Miles

Saturday, March 23
    High Tech, High Seas: Propulsion
    Next Wave: Forest Woman

Sunday, March 24
    Stealing the Superfortress

Monday, March 25
    Jezebel: Queen of Infamy
    Ultimate Guide: Iceman

Tuesday, March 26
    Shackelton's Voyage Of Endurance

Wednesday, March 27
    Moses And The Ten Commandments
    Misunderstood Minds

Thursday, March 28
    Testing Our Schools


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