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Why I Love PBS Reason #36: Your Inner Fish

I kept seeing the previews for this during the montages at the KUAT screenings, so I finally watched episode 1.


I definitely have a new series to watch now. While I was watching it, PBS facebook page posted something about episode 2. I am pretty sure that PBS is stalking me. I am completely ok with this.

I am not really going to talk to much detail about the episode, except to say this guy was awesome: images

And these guys were a little weird: images

Basically the episode was about the “one bone, two bones, lots of bones” that all land animals have, and where that comes from.images

I think it is extremely cook that a fish paleontologist is the one who is tracing the evolution of arms and hands.  

And it shows just how interconnected we all are.

I love learning where we come from, how we got here.  A lof of the time, I am interested in these questions more from an anthropological standpoint.  The questions of culture and society.  Mostly when I watch animal shows or even ecolution shows, I care less about the humans involved.

I think that this show integrates it all very well, and makes me care about the holistic picture of the questions.


Also, the creepy CGI animals. Those are awesome. They move around, they are see through, they even make noise.



Holly Post: The Address

Last week Cerridwen and I had another opportunity to strut our geek cred at a premier for the new Ken Burns documentary The Address, which explores a boarding school of boys with learning challenges memorizing and presenting the Gettysburg Address.  We showed up early so we could be filmed reciting the speech ourselves.  This was way more fun than it sounds.  Cerr went first so I had a few minutes to study the speech, which I hadn’t thought much about since junior high.  I couldn’t help notice how many times the word “here” appeared in such a short speech, Lincoln basically telling us that we had managed to royally screw things up in our own backyard in just 87 years.  

Cropped image of the Nicolay copy of the Gettysburg Address

The film doesn’t focus on the historical impact of the speech, words Lincoln wryly told us that the world would little note, nor long remember.  Instead it explores its use as a teaching tool for teenaged boys with “complex learning profiles.”  These kids are social and intellectual misfits, often landing at the Greenwood School after public schools had failed them.  While the 150 year old words sometimes stymied the lads, they fiercely clung to the notions of freedom and equality set forth in the speech, even though those very concepts didn’t exist even when Lincoln presented them.  His speech was more aspirational than inspirational, but that doesn’t matter to these boys.  One of them, a dead ringer for a 12 year old Conan O’Brien, realistically admits that he probably won’t manage to learn the speech this year, but he is determined to accomplish this task.  His eyes are firmly fixed to the prize, a commemorative coin from his school.  “Public schools might give you sweatpants but I’m gonna get a coin!  Because I earned it!

Possibly the coolest part of this film project is Learn the Address, a national effort to get people to film themselves reciting the speech.  A Gettysburg Selfie, if you will.  I already shot mine, but I may do another with Powerpoint and puppets.  You should do this too.  All the cool kids are doing it.  And why shouldn’t they?  It’s a *Pretty Boss Speech.

*Pretty Boss Shows would like to point out that no vampires were harmed in the creating of our Gettysburg Selfies.


Why I Love PBS Reason #220 American Experience: The Great Famine


Sometimes, it is good to look back at what was.  Especially during times like these.

In The Soviet Union in the early 1920’s there was a famine.  It was one of the largest natural disasters ever.  This famine killed millions of people, displaced millions more.

And for a country coming out of WWI and the relief effort there, it was a cross roads for us.ae_famine_t1200.jpg

Do we take up the humanitarian burden once again and in doing so support a government that we disapprove of? Or do we ignore the hundreds of thousands of people dying each week because we don’t get along with their leaders?

Herbert Hoover actually answered that question for us.images

People remember him as the President during the Great Depression.  Most people forget, or never knew, that he ran the relief effort in Europe after WWI.  And he created the American Relief Administration.  Hoover is really the father of the American Humanitarian Movement.  He gave us this idea, as a nation, that we are more than we were.  We are here to help others.  

This was a novel concept.  And one that, thankfully, our nation has never neglected.

With the Civil War in Syria, the 30 year Civil War in Congo, continuing sectarian violence in Iraq, unrest in Somalia, ethnic cleansing in Central African Republic… I could spend the rest of this post listing ongoing conflicts.  And that isn’t even taking into account the ones like Ukraine where it is more a diplomatic fight than a military one (though that is happening too), America can not, and does not, turn a blind eye.

And it all started with Russia.  


** There are many great aid organizations out there.  And there are many not so great  out there.  PLEASE, before you donate ANYWHERE, do your due diligence.

Many of the big ones, like the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders/MSF and UNHCR would prefer that you donate to their general fund, rather than a specific fund. That way they can make sure the money goes where it really is needed, and they can shift funds if there is a disaster or tragedy to do the most good.

Specific funds are ok too if there is something you have a desire to do.  Just explore the group and make sure that they are actually helping people, not just using the money for administrative costs or advertising.

And don’t forget, after all the glamour is gone: the famine ends, peace is declared; the people still need help.  Peace Corps Partnerships are a great way to keep that help going, in a sustainable way.

Whatever you do, be it local, national or international, keep that American ideal alive.  We are better when we help others.

Why I love PBS Reason #60: Special Events


Last week, Holly and I went to a special screening of Part 1 of The Story of The Jews.  

I am not going to talk to much about the show itself.  While interesting, it wasn’t really that unique overall.  Simon Schama did mention some parts of Jewish history that I had never heard, and I do encourage you to watch it.

What I am going to talk about is the screening.  It was put on by my beloved KUAT.  


It began with a welcome by Jack Gibson, who is the Director and General Manager for AZPM.  We talked to him after.  Holly was at my side as my official apologist, but I don’t think I made to big a fool out of myself.

This was followed by an introduction by David Graibord who is a professor at the UofA.  He also did a Q&A after the show.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the community.  I think Holly and I were the youngest people there, and possibly the only goy there, it was a bunch of people who wanted to support PBS.

After, Holly and I got to talk to Mr. Gibson and Pat Callahan, who is Director of Member Services.  Holly was able to talk with Ms. Callahan about her idea for a TED Talk.

I didn’t squee too much.  

Should I find it strange that I am more excited by meeting people who run KUAT than I would be if I met some movie star?  No? I didn’t think so either.

Holly and I are looking forward to going to other events like this in the future. And if you become a Member, you can come too!


Holly Post: Cosmos—-EFFYEAH!

Sunday night I sat down with much of America (at least it felt like it on Twitter, even if the ratings were a bit thin) to watch the much anticipated reboot of Carl Sagan’s love letter to the universe, Cosmos.  And of course this aired on PBS!  No, wait.  It was on Fox.  [Insert sound of vinyl record going “SKREEEEEE”]

Fox?  The Family Guy channel?  The empire that has given us American Idol, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, and that somewhat dimwitted lady from Alaska? Yeah.  Fox.  And NatGeo!  Seth MacFarlane, the man who put “giggity” in the dictionary, has partnered with Ann Druyan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson to bring Cosmos to a new generation, and they brought plenty of bells and whistles with them. Updated information and splashy animation designed for today’s larger hi-def screens bring “all that is or ever was” into your living room like never before.

Why is this important?  Isn’t one Cosmos enough?  I mean, we have the Science Channel now.  We have Michio Kaku and Phil Plait.  For cryin’ out loud, Brian Cox is a sex symbol!  Isn’t this overegging the pudding?

We’ve lost our drive to explore.  And we need to explore to stay relevant on the global stage.  Meh…I can’t say it any better than this guy:

So what did I love most about Sunday night’s episode, other than its utter lack of Oprah Winfrey or petulant former child stars?   The segment on Giordano Bruno. Bruno (at least the Bruno they gave us Sunday night) insisted that the Vatican’s view of God and universe were too small.  If God is infinite, shouldn’t it follow that the universe is as well?  As someone who possesses a Judeo-Christian theistic worldview, I appreciate when science and God don’t deny each other’s existence.  

I will be watching the rest of the series with as much squee as a girl can muster.  Oh, and re: Pluto not being a planet:

Heh.  Giggity.

Why I Love PBS: Reason #223: Secrets of the Vatican

Full disclosure: I am not Catholic, but I work for a Catholic organization.

This means that I am extremely interested in what the Catholic Church does, the policies, etc.  

Ok, fuller disclosure: I also like conspiracy theories, the crazier the better. And the best always come out of the Vatican.  Dan Brown wasn’t the first to come up with that idea.


So, Frontline just did Secrets of the Vatican.  It was less conspiracy theory and more “these are the problems facing the new pope”.


For most of us, on the outside looking in, there are a lot of problems.  Most of them institutionalized.

A priest, or any religious leader, should be better than we are.  They should be good people, who serve their god, not their own ego.  This is, unfortunately, pretty rare, in any religion.

A place like the Vatican, with all its pomp and ceremony, is a very easy place to be seduced by ego.  And when a group of people are allowed to run rampant with little or no checks, well, you have the scandals we see: sexual abuse, financial abuse, ego outweighing good.

Ratzinger wasn’t my favorite guy when he was head of the Inquisition.  As pope, I didn’t see much improvement.  And he was a product of the institutionalized church, so how and why would he change anything.  

Pope Francis though, he is an unknown quantity.  LIke most of the world, I had no idea who he was before he was elected.  

So far, so good.  I hope he lives up to the promise he has created.


Why I Love PBS Reason #35: Honey Badgers

Do you remember this video?  

Well, PBS does.  Nature did a show called Honey Badger: Masters of Mayhem, which was basically an hour long version of the YouTube video.  

Last night, a friend called to make sure I was doing ok and said I should come over and drink wine while she cleaned her house.  I sat there, drank wine, knit and we talked about….I really have no clue. That part doesn’t matter.  We just talked.

So, today, I decided to clean my own house. I exchanged the wine and the friend for the honey badger.  

Normally, YouTube videos have about the same relationship to reality as the belief that I will actually clean my house today.  But this one, wow.  Honey badger really is bad ass!

And way too smart.  And has a noxious odor that it exceeds from it’s anal gland.

Which kind of means that while I did not have my friends dog cuddling up next to me during the cleaning today, I had a very similar creature keeping my company.

Seriously, there was a scene where the scientist started crying because of the odor.  That was me last night with this guy…


Why I Love PBS Reason #38: Forge

Feb is a bad month for my family.  Mostly, I am ok, but yesterday I woke up and couldn’t breathe.  See, this is the anniversary of my brothers death.  As was pointed out to me, I am not very good at asking for help.  I texted a few friends, asking if they wanted to go to lunch or something, but everyone was busy.  Part of that is that sometimes, I feel like I shouldn’t have to ask.

Having a rough time, and not having anyone to talk to or distract me, I turned to PBS.  

Back to Craft In America, one of my favorites.  

It works well because I have kind of fallen head first into this whole art thing.  I helped with the manual labor for The 5th Annual Tucson Sculpture Festival, hosted by BICAS, and met a bunch of amazing artists and spent nearly 3 weeks surrounded by some amazing pieces.  

It was an amazing time, and I think a turning point in my life.  Definitely for the better.


The thing that was cool was that I work with fiber.  Fiber is transitory.  It will degrade and fall apart and disintegrate.  I like that about what I do.  But in Forge, and at the Sculpture Festival, the pieces are just this side of permanent.  The pieces that these artists make will be around longer than they are, and will remain unchanged, a testament to their vision.

That is a pretty amazing thing.  Especially this week.

Matthew’s greatest fear was being forgotten.  These artists will never be forgotten.  I like that.

Holly Post: Presidents

Cerridwen and I have several go-to arguments lively debates to which we will return again and again.  Who’s the Bert?  Knitting vs. Crochet.  Bacon: God’s Meat Candy or Why Would You Put That in Your Mouth?  Perhaps my favorite is Who’s the Most Interesting President?

Note that I said interesting, not best.  That you could argue forever.  Black Guy or Hat Guy or Handsy Guy, maybe even someday MRS. Handsy Guy…but lacking a degree in Poli-Sci, I prefer to just keep the debate to which of the 44 mostly white, mostly Protestant men is most compelling.  

Cerr says her favorite is John Adams.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t actually love John Adams, who argued in favor of an Aristo-Democratic Monarchy, as much as she loves William Daniels.  And what’s not to love there?  Pins, Abigail.  


My favorite, however, is a political dark horse.  I can’t support his policies, but I can’t help but admire the sheer testicular fortitude of John Tyler.  Tyler found himself in new territory when his running mate William Henry Harrison gave a long-winded inaugural speech, developed pneumonia, and biffed it a month into his term.  No President had ever died on the job before, and there wasn’t really a Constitutional provision for it.  Tyler’s party, the Whigs, tried to marginalize him, making him a figurehead so they could run things behind the scenes, but Tyler maintained his newfound Presidential power.  In retaliation, the Whigs expelled him from the party.  While only a one-term President, Tyler had three First Ladies, but never named a Vice-President. Dude’s got living grandchildren.  C’mon, that’s a movie right there!  

Who is your favorite POTUS?  Maybe you’re a traditionalist and prefer Lincoln or Jefferson.  Maybe you let your freak flag fly for Buchanan (Go pride!)  Or perhaps you have a soft spot for those grainy clips of Camelot.

Thanks to American Experience, you can soak up 37 hours of streaming documentaries of the heavy hanging heads that wore the democratically elected* crown.  (*Gerald Ford and George W. Bush notwithstanding.)  Presidents’ Day is about more than sales on sheets.  Get your Prez on.

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