www.whyville.net Apr 25, 2002 Weekly Issue

Staff Writer

What's On!

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Got some fabulous shows this week!! Do you listen to the radio? What do you think of pop-up ads? Do you know who led England during WWII? Ever read anything by John Steinbeck? If you go to school in the States, you almost certainly will! Did you see the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind"? Ever wonder if that was the real story?

Now for the really cool stuff -- ever think about a time when lipstick didn't exist? Have you ever milked a cow? In the snow? After walking a mile or five? And then had to walk back? How about building your whole home in the course of a couple weeks, before those snows hit and freeze you to death? Watch The Frontier House, a much more interesting "reality" show than that junk that the big TV channels are trying to foist on us.

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!

Thursday, April 25

"The Stock Exchange" (History Channel, 7-8pm E/P) The place where $90 million changes hands every minute used to be just a spot near the wooden wall that early New Yorkers built to keep off marauding Native Americans -- a spot where the dealers wrote up the rules of America's first stock exchange. Nowadays, handshakes have been replaced by computer technology. But the perils even greater than before, as this documentary illustrates -- perils such as the 1929 Crash that nearly wrecked the whole country.

Friday, April 26

"Now - With Bill Moyers" (PBS, 9-10pm E/P) This newsmagazine strays from its title, "Now", in this edition to look at the future -- in this case, the future of radio. Increasingly, that means automation. What's it going to be like with these 'cookie cutter play lists' (stations playing exactly the same songs, chosen by sales figures) and hook-ups to automated program services where there are no live or local voices and canned news that everybody gets whether they are in Tampa or Tacoma?

Saturday, April 27

"Next@CNN" (CNN 1-1:30pm E/P) This tech-news program reports on a new trend in advertising on the web, "floating" ads -- which may people find even more annoying than pop-up ads, and you can't seem to make then go away.

"The Gathering Storm" (HBO, 8-10pm E/P) This dramatization of events in the life of England's WWII leader Winston Churchill reveals that, for a long time, he was almost alone in his struggle to get his country to do something about the rise of Hitler in Germany and the threat that a war a result. The program is rated TV-PG for adult content. This great man (played here by Albert Finney) had marital problems and a temper, so he was not a perfect person. This is also a story of "whistle-blowers", a tiny group of people who tipped Churchill off to the radical right-wing German government's armaments technology and preparations for war. Throughout his lonely struggle he was writing books -- which leaders in his country are expected to do, whether in or out of office -- and his books were so good that he won the Nobel Prize for literature! Log on to your local public library's website for a list. Reading just one will have a permanent, positive effect on your writing style.

Sunday, April 28

"The Life And Times Of John Steinbeck" (C-SPAN, 3-5pm ET, noon-2pm PT) This live broadcast in the "American Writers" series originates in Salinas California, Steinbeck's hometown -- which he wrote about powerfully and often. Scholars, curators and even his son, Thom, will be interviewed about this great Pulitzer and Nobel winner -- focussing on "Grapes Of Wrath". Viewers can join the conversation live by calling (202) 585-3890/1. For in-depth information, go to www.steinbeck.org. Familiarity with his books and the tumultuous eras he lived through and wrote about will be useful to you in every grade level from middle school through graduate school (at least, in U.S. schools -- I actually don't know what they think of Steinbeck outside of the U.S. -- anybody care to write in about that?).

"Extinct" (National Geographic Channel, 8-10pm E/P) The title of this documentary might stir up fear or guilt among some young viewers -- the ones whose boomer parents and teachers have been saying that human exploitation of Nature causes the extinction of various birds, bees and bison. Well, the story is a little more complicated than that. My point is that Nature sometimes does this sort of thing all by itself, with no help from you or your elders. This program looks at some species that flourished during their time, but failed to win the evolution race -- the dodo, the sabretooth tiger, Irish elk and the great Auk.

"A Brilliant Madness" (PBS, 9-10pm E/P) In a way, you could say that this documentary is the "true story" behind the hit movie "A Beautiful Mind". But the problem is that the subject of both films, Nobel Prize winning mathematician/game theorist John Nash, has a history of schizophrenia. In the movie he's played by an actor, so that's not "real". But in the documentary Nash himself appears, giving his account of what happened to him during a period of his life, decades ago, when he saw himself as a secret messenger of God and the victim of an international communist conspiracy. There were space aliens, as well, in his ravings. In the documentary he says he 'willed' his recovery from schizophrenia in 1980. But he also reveals some mixed feelings about having done this, saying, "Madness can be an escape. If things are not so good maybe you want to imagine something better." Lots to wonder about here.

Monday, April 29

"Map Making" (History Channel, 7-8pm E/P) This documentary covers the history of cartography -- from the ancient Marshall Islands' artifacts made of sticks and shells to the NYPD's computerized super-map. Some are works of art, some are tools for law enforcement, space exploration, agriculture -- and many are made nowadays using satellites and global positioning electronics.

"Frontier House" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P -- but check local listings) Here are episodes 1 and 2 a six-part "reality" show about three contemporary American families who chose to spend six months in Montana living like western homesteaders of the 1880's. Episode titles are "The American Dream" and "Promised Land". The families encounter rough times involving food, shelter, relations with one another and neighbors, just like the "good old days" (which weren't really so good, they discovered) . But these modern folk had an added burden -- they knew exactly which modern conveniences and luxuries they were lacking. (When you have built your own table before eating dinner, it's no surprise find yourself saying grace beginning with "Thank you, God, for the table we eat on." That's in the show.) The series website, which includes diaries about the adults' and teens' survival tactics, is at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse. A series companion picture-book, "Frontier House", with background historical information and profiles of the people in the series, is available in stores or via the Atria Books page at www.simonsays.com.

Tuesday, April 30

"Frontier House" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P) Here are episodes 3 and 4, with the revealing titles "Until Death Do Us Part" and "Survival". You'll learn a lot about technology, namely that there are ways to do things without electricity and without gasoline engines. And some of these old fashioned ways are better than new-fahioned ways -- such as providing you exercise.

"Why The Towers Fell" (PBS, 8-9pm E/P) This documentary, in the "Nova" series of science programs, follows the American Society of Civil Engineers' team of structural and fire engineers during their study of the remains of the World Trade Center Towers that fell after a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. What exactly caused the collapse? Fire, internal damage, or design and construction mistakes? For details of their findings, go to http://www.pbs.org/nova/wtc.

Wednesday, May 1

"Frontier House" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P) Here are the final episodes: "A Family Affair" and "The Reckoning". The families survive temperatures dropping to 60 degrees below zero (remember, they had no central heating in their cabins) and deep shows for months on end (also remember, no city snow plows). Boy, are they happy to get back to the 21st century. Would you have made it though the whole six months ''back there"?

Thursday, May 2

"Wuthering Heights" (The Learning Channel, 10-11pm) This documentary looks at the parallels between the life of reclusive English author Emily Bronte and the classic novel about hidden feelings which she wrote. This book is often taught in high school and this program will give you a head start in understanding it.


Thursday, April 25
    The Stock Exchange Friday, April 26
    Now - With Bill Moyers

Saturday, April 27
    The Gathering Storm

Sunday, April 28
    The Life and Times of John Steinbeck
    A Brilliant Madness

Monday, April 29
    Map Making
    Frontier House

Tuesday, April 30
    Frontier House
    Why the Towers Fell

Wednesday, May 1
    Frontier House

Thursday, May 2
    Wuthering Heights


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