Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Get Chicks using the Vernacular

I think Alton's right about language here. Science-speak can go in one ear and out the other with no residue of information left behind. I also think it goes even deeper. People who are deep in thought about big problems in science and mathematics are using up a lot of their pre-frontal cortex real estate, the same area where empathy lives, the result being a potentially cool delivery. I've always thought of Alton as "sciency" in his approach to preparing food, I have one of his cookbooks. It's not filled with "food porn" types of images, but sciency explanation and recipes. But with food, and acknowledging what people like and what tastes good, he's bridging the cool world of science with the warm passion for yummy food.  So if indeed he's getting all the chicks (I think he's married tho), it would be for this very unique talent of his. Oh, and the sexy beard.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Medical Treatment of Abraham Lincoln

     With the release of the recent movie, Lincoln, I recalled delving into part of the Lincoln story back a number of years ago while working as a producer for Medical News Network. So I dug up an old VHS of it and re-encoded. But it wasn't Lincoln's life, it was his death that I was unearthing for this story. I'd visited an exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine and discovered they housed many Lincoln death artifacts like the bullet that lodged in Lincoln's brain, pieces of his hair, and instruments used to probe his wound. Certainly, it's Lincoln's life that is the most interesting to learn about, especially the part depicted in Spielberg's great film. It's hard to believe but it's only 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet, though morbid it may sound, Lincoln's death is also quite fascinating, especially from the medical perspective.

     Doctors knew little about head trauma in those days, or even germ theory, but they did manage to keep Lincoln alive for 10 hours after he was first proclaimed to be dead. I don't think much has changed on this story since we produced this video segment with medical historian Dr. Dale Smith, though it was reported that some new papers belonging to Dr. Charles Leale, the first physician on the scene, were discovered last year. But if you are into learning all the details of Lincoln's existence, this 9:30sec video will give you a well-rounded view. For even more detail, check out this interview with avid Lincoln medical buff, Dr. Blaine Houmes. (I recommend wearing headphones for better audio experience.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Legend of the Silk Princess

"Once upon a time, in the high and far off days of long ago, lived a princess in the land of silk.." How best to tell the tale of one of the greatest technology thefts in history? The way the BBC has in its remarkable series, A History Of The World in 100 Objects. Each episode highlights a particular object like the widely known Rosetta Stone, to the hardly known Sphinx of Tharquo, and brings the listener into the time the work was created as well as the life and beliefs of the person who made it. Not only are these stories fascinating, they pack a rich history lesson into riveting 15min podcasts that are free n' downloadable from the BBC's website.

In my business, we're always looking for the right angle or best way to bring a story to life. There's no one way, and not even a best way- what's best for me isn't always best for you or your neighbor. But there's always a chance for the innovative and inspiring and for this I thank the brilliant Art Historian Neil MacGregor and the folks at BBC for dedicating the resources and sharing the significance of the collection at The British Museum.

And now, as the late, great storyteller Paul Harvey would say, for the 'rest of the story'.....
On this faded wooden panel above you can see scenes from the Central Asian story of the Silk Princess. According to this legend, a Chinese princess smuggled the secret of how to make silk out of China and into the country of her new husband, the king of Khotan. As she was a princess the border guards did not dare search her. In this painting her elaborate headdress conceals the cocoons of the silk moth and the seeds of the mulberry tree....more

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Forward

Honoring Grief or Glorifying Hurt?
I've seen these lights each year for the last nine, but this year I stopped and took a picture for the first time. Ten years has passed. Life did indeed go on even for those who felt it couldn't possibly. Yet everyone still feels differently about this date and its forever embedded events- sorrow, hopefulness, resilience, stubborn incomprehension, and still anger. Though less raw, it still breathes fire into the efforts at civic discourse and rebuilding, like the neighborhood mosque. I went by there the other day and peeked inside. People were praying. Seemed a shame that a police officer had to guard the place, ironically, from "extremists." I look forward to the time when we can all truly share something- beyond pure, unfiltered emotion- about the tragic events of 9-11. What have we learned from our trauma and loss of innocence? Listening to a special episode of On Being with Krista Tippet, from St.Paul's Chapel helped me make some sense of the different journeys being made toward healing over the long term. Echoing through the cavernous streets of Lower Manhattan now are the names of the people who lost their lives that day...interrupted by the noxious roaring Harleys of some leather-clad motorcycle club from some other state. Here to share or here to keep rage alive?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How Video Can Improve Education

I'm a terrible cook. If I have a recipe I can wade through it, but I'm someone who simply cannot improvise in the kitchen. My mother says I never learned to cook because I preferred watching re-runs of Bewitched to hanging around the stove like my sister (who's a great cook, naturally). Mom hoped I was learning something else, and I guess I did. I became a TV producer. But this generation of parents may likely shoo their kids out of the kitchen and in front of the boob tube (or computer screen), specifically to watch videos by a former hedge fund analyst turned video producer named Salman Khan. And with good reason. These videos have been designed as homework. Videos as homework?? Yeah, and guess what. It's working. The kids who watch are learning and school districts around the country are starting to take note.

If this is the first time you hear of Khan, great. It was mine. But I think it clearly it won't be the last time. Goes to show how video is just another tool in the learning arsenal. But in the right hands, this method might give our kids a fighting chance at learning to learn, and this country a fighting chance to get back into the global game and compete with American brains.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Reason to Watch the Oscars This Year

With all the country-wide educational cutbacks going on these days- why is it always the art and music that are the first to go? It's things like music that inspire kids so much, and what really gives them boatloads of confidence. So the story of how the Staten Island, NY PS22 glee club got invited to sing at the 83rd annual Oscars gives me faith that on some level people know what's right in the world. There is just absolutely nothing like hearing these emotionally unencumbered voices singing popular tunes- well, actually seeing them sing is even more inspirational and heartwarming. One Youtuber comments, "these guys could bring peace to the middle east." Kinda feels true. They are having so much fun. (I guess singing just makes people feel a little happier than doing geometry). This group of 10-yr olds and their incredible teacher were invited by Anne Hathaway herself and they were ecstatic:

Why does growing up have to dampen our spirits so much? And why does hearing children sing so beautifully make us cry?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Make A Documentary

(Director of Photography Tony Hardmon on location in Parshall, ND)

Many people have asked me how to make a documentary and really there’s no simple answer. I think at the outset though, the key is to find a good story that inspires you enough to push it to the next level, and the next. The story of my friend Rachel Libert’s latest documentary series, Boomtown, which airs tonight on Discovery’s Planet Green Channel, is really a great example of how you can stumble upon a story, investigate, and find a route into the heart of a great tale.

Rachel first read about the town of Parshall, North Dakota in 2008 while reading an AP story on Yahoo news. She found the idea of a tiny, remote town suddenly striking oil fascinating and called the local public officials, thinking it likely that some other film outfit would have already been filming. “Amazingly, nobody else had contacted them,” she said. A week later, she and her DP husband, Tony Hardmon, were there and started filming for the next few days. Within a couple of months they had cut together a short trailer and began to shop it around to broadcasters.

“We basically looked at what programming was out there,” she said, to see which network offerings were closest to their content and approach. Since it a documentary, and not a narrator-driven non-fiction series, “the list became pretty short,” she said. But nine months after they cut the trailer they had a deal with Planet Green to produce the five-part docu-series.

For any filmmaker or producer who has tried their hand at development and pitches, nine months is actually pretty quick. The reason for this says Rachel, was the timing. “Time was of the essence,” she said, as the story was unfolding too quickly and key events would have passed if they’d been forced to wait. That's a big risk that filmmakers make all the time but luckily it paid off when the project fell into the visionary programming hands of Laura Michalchyshyn.

For the entire next year, Rachel and her crew filmed the ups and downs among the people in a tiny town suddenly made rich by oil. She loved the people there and was drawn to how their personal stories were connecting to the mega shift in their world. It was this intimate personal perspective that allowed her to tell the story of Parshall. “My approach is not to think about what I want to say,” she explains, “but to listen to the story unfolding in front of you and to be patient.” As a storyteller, there are things you hope will happen, she continues, but life doesn’t always happen that way. No, it doesn’t.

The irony here is that sometimes in order to tell the most human and honest stories, you really have to let them tell themselves. And that, quite simply, is a splendid way to make a documentary.

Here's the link to the facebook page: