www.whyville.net Jan 31, 2002 Weekly Issue

Staff Writer

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In honor of Black History Month, I encourage you to watch The Tuskegee Airmen on Saturday. If you don't get the History Channel, you can rent it at your local video store.

For more current events, there's an engineering documentary on how the World Trade Center collapsed in spite of its rigorous design and construction.

Or, if you're looking for lighter fare, wait until Thursday for a show on Terry Gilliam, member of the madcap comic team Monty Python, and an accomplished movie director in his own right. See where his strangeness comes from -- and where it might lead you!

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

Click here for a list of the shows without descriptions. And now, this week's Media Menu!

Friday, February 1

"Blue Planet" (Discovery Channel, 7-11pm E/P) Did you miss something last week? Here's another chance to catch the first four episodes all in one night of the way cool, Discovery/BBC documentary series about what's going on beneath the surface of that colossal layer of liquid that gives our planet its distinctive color. It's a feast for the eye and the brain. I repeat my urging that you tape this miniseries and also recommend the accompanying website www.discovery.com/convergence/blueplanet/blueplanet.html.

Saturday, February 2

"The Tuskegee Airmen" (History Channel, 8-10pm E/P) This movie, airing in observance of Black History Month, is based on the experiences of the first African American fighter pilots. You'll learn a lot about both flight training and U.S. history in this film. Named for a college campus near where they were trained, the group endured harassment and prejudice but emerged from WWII the winners of medals for their victories over German fighter pilots. The all star cast includes Cuba Gooding, Jr, Andre Braugher and Lawrence Fishburne.

Sunday, February 3

"Pocahontas" (ABC, 7-9pm E/P) This animated movie touches on the main events in the life of a Native American girl born in 1595 who did a lot to help early English settlers in Virginia from becoming a 'lost colony". In the exact "ye olde" words and spelling of the English leader, Capt. John Smith, she was "the instrument to pursurve this colonie from death, famine and utter confusion". It's fun to watch, and the music composed for the show is wonderful. It's interesting to compare the movie version of the story with the account given on the National Park Service/Virginia Antiquities website at www.apva.org/history/pocahont.html.

Monday, February 4

"National Geographic Today: Lost Temples" (National Geographic Channel, 7-8pm E/P ) The main feature in this TV newsmagazine each day this week is the archaeological excavation of a newly discovered pre-Inca temple in Peru. Co-produced with NPR News, which is airing radio coverage of this expedition weekday mornings on the "Morning Report" show, reporters follow UCLA professor Charles Standish into a very remote mountain lake area (near the famous Lake Titicaca) where he says he's working on "the holy grail of archaeology, the question of how civilizations develop."

"The Spy Next Door: Robert Hanssen" (A&E Network, 9-10pm E/P) This documentary in the Investigative Reports series traces the 15 year career of an FBI agent while he worked as a spy for the ''other side" -- the Russians whose activities he was supposed to be watching on behalf of America. You wonder what this rat was thinking while he betrayed his country -- in exchange for $600,000 in cash and diamonds. You will also end up wondering how the FBI could be clueless about him for so long. But I think you need to know that this kind of stuff happens so you can maybe do the right thing if you stumble into something like it (Enron? Taliban?) when you're older. Also, take a look at the atomic spy documentary (described below) Tuesday night on PBS.

Tuesday, February 5

"Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies" (PBS, 8-9pm E/P) This NOVA documentary is about a cat-and-mouse game played in deepest secrecy by U.S. and Russian codemakers and codebreakers during the Cold War. It's taken a long time for this information to come to public attention. It seems that we knew that they were stealing our atomic bomb secrets -- and even which Americans were working for them over here -- but we couldn't do everything we wanted to stop it because we didn't want them to know we had broken their code. This was before computers, so you'll see how they made codes with pencil and paper -- which required them to store certain data in their heads! You're lucky today. Have you ever even considered doing your math homework without using a calculator?

Wednesday, February 6

"The Queen's Story" (PBS, 9-11pm E/P ) Here's an interesting way to learn about the main events 20th Century European history in a way that may be easy to remember. Watch this documentary about the girl who became Queen of England 50 years ago and before that had been prepared since childhood for her role as Elizabeth II. How well would you have done in such a job? (And it is a job. The Queen's husband, Phillip once commented about life in Buckingham Palace, "We live above the store, like other folks." History, bad and good, really did happen outside -- and inside -- their windows.)

"World Trade Center: Anatomy Of The Collapse" (The Learning Channel, 10-11pm E/P) This engineering science documentary looks at the design, construction and tragic collapse of the famous Twin Towers. The original designers tried to anticipate every possible stress -- winds up to 100 mph., even a plane crash. But they didn't anticipate an inferno caused by burning jet fuel. We meet MIT and Worcester Polythenic scientists who investigated the disaster and found that the fireproof cladding protecting the structure's steel skeleton from intense heat was blown away by the initial blast. This weakened the support of each floor, which then could no longer support the weight of the floors above.

Thursday, February 7

"Secrets Of The Stone Age: Wisdom Of The Stones" (The Learning Channel, 6-7pm E/P) There was a time when absolutely nobody anywhere could read or write -- because writing hadn't been invented! This documentary shows how stone age people got their act together and solved their literacy problem by creating an alphabet and teaching it to one another. (I think kids today will understand this sort of thing, especially those who always have to show their parents and teachers how to use a computer.)

"Behind The Camera: Terry Gilliam" (Encore Network, 7-8pm E/P) If you ever wondered what kind of person could think up the weird, yet still scientifically "interesting" stuff you saw on the movie screen in "Time Bandits" or "Twelve Monkeys", or that bizarre glimpse of the techno-future, "Brazil" . Here's the answer. It's Terry Gilliam, a Minnesota boy who ran away to England to hang out with the "Monty Python " crowd. This documentary will put you face to face with a person so unusual that he even seems a little afraid of himself. (Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you have a future doing science fiction -- or even science.)


Friday, February 1
    Blue Planet

Saturday, February 2
    The Tuskegee Airmen

Sunday, February 3

Monday, February 4
    National Geographic Today: Lost Temples
    The Spy Next Door: Robert Hanssen

Tuesday, February 5
    Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies

Wednesday, February 6
    The Queen's Story
    World Trade Center: Anatomy Of The Collapse

Thursday, February 7
    Secrets Of The Stone Age: Wisdom Of The Stones
    Behind The Camera: Terry Gilliam


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