www.whyville.net May 9, 2002 Weekly Issue

Staff Writer

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Man, *I* want to walk on Mars someday! Or, if I can't do that, maybe get to be President, or go to Smith College??

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, May 9

"Backstory: Cast Away" (American Movie Classics Channel, 7-7:30pm ET, 4-4:30pm PT) This is a documentary about people using high-tech equipment to record the struggle of actor Tom Hanks to get along in the low-tech (or no-tech) world of a person stranded alone on an uninhabited island.

"Muslims" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P) FRONTLINE and the Independent Production Fund present a documentary about one of the fastest growing religions in the world today. Through the lives of ordinary Muslims from Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Turkey, Nigeria, and the United States, "Muslims" illuminates the diverse interpretations of Islam and the many facets of its worldwide resurgence. For in-depth information and a teacher's guide log on http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/muslims.

"Siege Machines" (History Channel, 10-11pm E/P) This is a documentary about the development of giant machines that convert energy into mechanical force to go over, under or through castle walls, entrenchments, or modern technological defenses too strong for conventional force. These machines range from slingshots which sometimes weighed tons -- man's first long range weapons -- to laser cannons and missile-destroying devices used to overcome the barrier of outer space.

Friday, May 10

"The Search For Life On Mars" (History Channel, 11pm - midnight E/P) This is a tough hour to be watching TV, so maybe you should set your VCR to catch this documentary about NASA's successes and failures in the quest to learn what's really happening on Mars. I'm mentioning the show because there's a related website that just this week became available containing a new report from the prestigious National Academies' National Research Council on travel to our next-door neighbor in space. With the super-serious title, "Safe On Mars: Precursor Measurements Necessary To Support Human Operations On The Martian Service", it gives no-nonsense details of what scientists expect we'll have to deal with up there (100 mph swirling toxic dust storms, etc.). Log onto http://search.nap.edu/nap-cgi/naptitle.cgi?Search=safe+on+mars where you can read the report for free or order a print version which you have to pay for.

Saturday, May 11

"First Mothers" (History Channel, 8-10pm E/P) On the occasion of Mother's Day (May 12), this documentary looks at the breed of strong women who raised future presidents of the U.S. For instance, it was Elizabeth Jackson who rescued her son, Andrew, from a British P.O.W. camp during the American Revolution. Rose Kennedy turned her children into voracious readers. And Lincoln famously said, "All I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother." Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and two Bush Presidents' mothers are also profiled.

"Billy Elliot" (Sundance Channel, 9-11pm E/P) This Oscar-nominated British film is about a young teenager who goes to a local gym to learn boxing, discovers a dance class in progress next door and becomes hooked on the idea of a ballet career. This bothers his family, but you will cheer his amazing, suspenseful transformation into a really fine artist. Soundtrack is by T-Rex. Available on video.

"A Child's World" (The Learning Channel, 10-11pm E/P) This episode of a new documentary miniseries about child psychology explores the "Theory Of Mind" which usually develops by age five and allows children to understand that others think and feel in different ways. They also learn to be manipulative and devious. The Sunday, May 12th episode, entitled "The Independent Thinker" puts forth an idea not all parents will agree with: Childhood Tantrums Are Good. And further, Tantrums Display An Early Sign Of An Emerging Sense Of Self. Other ideas presented: by the age of 8, a child has a brain 95% of its adult size, with high development in the area that fosters the ability to plan and theorize. Monday, May 12, in the same time slot, the series continues with episodes about gender development.

Sunday, May 12

"Dinotopia: Part One" (ABC, 7-9pm E/P) This is the initial episode of a three-part live-action "megaseries" based on the best-selling science-fantasy books by James Gurney. It's about a fantastic lost continent in the Caribbean where humans and dinosaurs co-exist in a Utopian, environmentally-friendly society. When an American businessman and his two teenage sons crash-land there, they discover that there is trouble brewing in Paradise. A smart young girl who lives there, and the boys, realize that they are the key to the survival of the Dinotopian Way of Life. Series continues May 13 and 14 at 8-10pm E/P each night. A wonderful website with Dinotopian info and games is at www.visitdinotopia.com.

"60 Minutes" (CBS, 7-9 p.m. E/P) The lead item in this news program investigates whether physicians should be able to ask their patients, as a matter of their health, if they keep a gun in their homes! The second story is about poison gas and the genetic effects it has had on the people in the Kurdish town of Halabja, starting in 1988 when it was used as a weapon against them by the Iraqi central government.

"The Power Of Play" (Animal Planet, 8-9pm E/P) This documentary looks at ''playing" in a new way by watching the survival strategies of certain animals. Do predator animals play differently from prey? Does the prey of our pets differently from their wild ancestors? Even human playing, as survival-training, is examined in this program. (Note the related zoo program May 13th, below.)

Monday, May 13

"National Geographic Today: Zoological Society Of San Diego" (National Geographic Channel, 7-8pm E/P) This daily science-news magazine program will include the first of 12 reports about the latest animal research at the famous San Diego Zoo. Topics will include arthritis surgery for giraffes, sheep, buddies for orphaned rhinos, and new forms of play to recreate natural behaviors for captive tigers and polar bears.

"Masterpiece Theatre: The Road From Coorain" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P) The place in this drama is in Australia, and it bred a remarkable farm girl, Jill K. Conway, the brilliant scholar who became the first female president of Smith College in the U.S. Based on her book by the same title, it's rated TV-14 -- which means some scenes of her romantic life might be unsuitable for younger viewers. The program is accompanied by a website, http://pbs.org/masterpiece/coorain, containing a guide to girls' coming-of-age tales around the world. You can also read Jill Conway's thoughts about this particular film and learn how an autobiography gets turned into a movie.

Tuesday, May 14

"Biblical Disasters" (History Channel, 8-9pm E/P) This documentary examines the scientific evidence of the flooding, conflagrations, plagues and other natural calamities that beset people in Biblical times.

"Evolution: Darwin's Dangerous Idea" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P, check local station times) This is the first part of a rebroadcast of the NOVA Science Unit's documentary series on the ideas of Charles Darwin. It begins with a dramatized account of his research expeditions to South America and the controversy his subsequent writings caused. The remaining parts, detailing how various species have evolved through the millennia, continue in this time slot May 21 and 28 with the final program on June 4 explaining how Darwin connected science and religion. Lots of details available at www.pbs.org/evolution.

Wednesday, May 15

"Inca Mummies: Secrets Of A Lost World" (PBS, 9-10pm E/P) Triggered by the recent discovery of a vast number of ancient Inca mummies underneath the urban sprawl of Lima, Peru, the National Geographic Society is devoting its May print-magazine edition to a major re-examination of the Inca Empire and has released this excellent accompanying documentary by Emmy-winner Allison Argo. Her film is suspenseful because the scientists doing the excavating must constantly deal with modern homebuilders -- mostly poor people -- who want to locate on top of the mummy sites. (Science isn't always simple.) Details and pictures available at www.nationalgeographic.com/inca.

Thursday, May 16

"Moon Madness" (History Channel, 5-5:30pm E/P) This documentary on "lunacy" is difficult to categorize. Is it about astronomy, psychology, or history? Well, all of those, because it covers theories and research through the years into why, alas, violence and passion are commonplace when the moon is full.

"Black Sheep Squadron: Up For Grabs" (History Channel, 6-7pm E/P) and "Piercing the Reich" (History Channel, 8-9pm E/P) Here's a pair of broadcasts about espionage and disguises. The first show dramatizes an incident in WWII where Japanese commandos surprise a U.S. unit, steal their uniforms and infiltrate an event where General Douglas Mac Arthur is scheduled to attend. The second program is a historical documentary about a special U.S. Army unit, disguised as German soldiers, that tried to capture Hitler. For silly versions of this serious matter of disguises, check out the online "Disguise Me" game on the CIA's Kid's site at http://www.odci.gov/cia/ciakids and the disguise activity at http://www.whyville.net/smmk/nice (click on the "Destinations" sign located on the school bus and go to "Pick Your Nose").


Thursday, May 9
    Backstory: Cast Away
    Siege Machines Friday, May 10
    The Search for Life on Mars

Saturday, May 11
    First Mothers
    Billy Elliot
    A Child's World

Sunday, May 12
    Dinotopia: Part One
    60 Minutes
    The Power Of Play

Monday, May 13
    National Geographic Today: Zoological Society Of San Diego
    Masterpiece Theatre: The Road From Coorain

Tuesday, May 14
    Biblical Disasters
    Evolution: Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Wednesday, May 15
    Inca Mummies: Secrets Of A Lost World

Thursday, May 16
    Moon Madness
    Black Sheep Squadron: Up For Grabs


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