www.whyville.net May 16, 2002 Weekly Issue

Staff Writer

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Okay, okay, so this is the opening weekend of Star Wars. I understand that. But there's still some good television out there -- so watch! :-)

After reading all the articles about censorship in last week's paper, I figured you might be interested in this show about Lyndon Johnson and how teenage activism played a pretty big role in "bringing down" a sitting president.

If you have any of the HBO special channels, you might be able to see Middle School Confessions, a story that's all about YOU and what you're going through every day. Think it shows the real thing, or is it an overdramatic piece of nonsense? Write in to me and spout off!

And finally, I never have more fun than when I see brilliant minds going at it "head to head", as it were, trying to solve bizarre problems and overcome mind-twisting obstacles. Even (and especially!) when it's all part of a robot-building class, like in this week's Games Machines Play .

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 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").

Friday, May 17

"National Geographic Today: Vomit Comet" (National Geographic Channel, 7-8pm E/P) Well, I bet I got your attention by revealing the topic of the main report in this science-news program. The "vomit comet" is actually an airplane, designed and operated by NASA to provide scientists the experience of weightlessness (you've seen footage of this happening) but in this case it's being used to test a manufacturing method for a new kind of transparent solid called aerogel . It's the lightest solid on the planet and can support 2000 (three zeros) times its weight -- and you can see through it if it has been brewed up in weightless conditions. The main researcher on this project is 20 year-old Stephen Steiner, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 18

"Path To War" (HBO, 8-11pm, E/P) This is an excellent dramatization of the behind-the-scene events that led U.S. President Lyndon Johnson to escalate the war in Viet Nam and then decide not to seek reelection to the Presidency. It's rated TV-14 for Adult Content and Adult Language. I would say that it's also adult in the same way that Shakespeare's depictions of personality clashes and political infighting reveals how adults behave in positions of power. Watch with your parents. Some of them were your age when the events in this show happened and they will have things to say about that. Go get a book about Lyndon Johnson from the library. You will learn much about how teenage political activism played a really big role in his downfall. (Note related program below, "Vietnam Passage", premiering May 23)

Sunday, May 19

"Middle School Confessions" (HBO2, 5-7pm ET. Rated TV-14. Note: This is HBO2East, a regional channel. The program will be repeated on HBOFamily all week -- see schedule at www.hbofamily.com/parenthandbook.) This documentary was first aired in January and, though controversial, it did not cause a scandal. It's initial episode in a series called "Parent Handbook", and takes a candid look at the inner lives of today's adolescents -- as well as the efforts of teachers, school officials, and parents to help kids navigate what can often be a treacherous rite of passage. In conversations with middle schoolkids 11-14 across the country, you'll see coverage of six major issues of concern to many young adolescents: sexual activity, academics, sexual orientation, violence, alcohol abuse, and depression. The accompanying website has very valuable information for parents and kids (I repeat, it's www.hbofamily.com/parenthandbook).

Monday, May 20

"Lindbergh Flies Again" (History Channel, 9-11pm E/P) Broadcast on the 75th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's pioneering solo flight from New York to Paris (May 20-12, 1927 ), this documentary combines an historical account of that flight with modern coverage of his grandson Eric's repeat (May 1-2, 2002) of that journey. For information on the Eric Lindbergh flight and the aeronautical technology prize-competition of which it has been a part, log on www.xprize.org.

Tuesday, May 21

"Dear America: Journey To the New World" (HBO 4-4:30pm ET, 7-7:30pm PT -- note that this is the reverse of the usual time arrangement) This historical drama weaves fact and some respectable speculation to follow the life of a 12-year old girl named Mem who came to Massachusetts on the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. She forms a friendship with a Native American boy named Squanto, who helps her accept the loss of her mother to sickness and her father's subsequent remarriage. Rated TV-7.

"Games Machines Play" (PBS, 8-9pm E/P) Teachers know that nothing beats a contest to bring out the best in science and engineering students. This documentary follows four such competitions, part of an annual event held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Student-built robots face off on a gyrating teeter-totter, teams operate aerial robots in a simulated hostage-rescue mission, there's a human-powered submarine race and a contest between robot soccer players. Bring it on! (You can also "meet the inventors" of these machines at http://pbs.org/saf/1208.)

Wednesday, May 22

"National Geographic Bee Championship" (National Geographic Channel 6-7pm, ET, 3-4pm PT) Alex Trebek, host of "Jeopardy", returns for the 14th year to moderate the finals of a contest to determine the U.S. "geography champion". Ten state winners, who have triumphed over a field of about 5 million entrants will compete for three college scholarships.

Thursday, May 23

"Vietnam Passage: Journeys From War To Peace" (PBS 10-11pm Central Time. Note: This programs airs at various times in other time zones and on several dates following this one. Check out available times at www.pbs.org/vietnampassage) This new documentary describes the last 25 years in Vietnam through the perspective of seven individuals whose lives, once defined by war, now exemplify the struggle of a people entering an era of peace. The film blends newly filmed individual narratives of the final days of the Viet Nam war with archival footage and photographs of that past era. A valuable website with information for students and teachers is available at www.pbs.org/vietnampassage.


Thursday, May 16
    Moon Madness
    Black Sheep Squadron: Up For Grabs Friday, May 17
    National Geographic Today: Vomit Comet

Saturday, May 18
    Path To War

Sunday, May 19
    Middle School Confessions

Monday, May 20
    Lindbergh Flies Again

Tuesday, May 21
    Dear America: Journey To the New World
    Games Machines Play

Wednesday, May 22
    National Geographic Bee Championship

Thursday, May 23
    Vietnam Passage: Journeys From War To Peace


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