Inherent Laughter & Social Repercussion: The PBS Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always is indicative of a cross-section of political, nostalgia and a mix of tangible intelligence. The idea is one of perceiving the world through a myriad of eyes which ranges from the essence of independent film in “Independent Lens” to intrinsic investigative reporting on the edge with “Frontline

Beginning the relevant nature works with the Pioneers Of Television highlighting “The Best Of Laugh In”. One of the biggest shows of its time, especially when there was only three networks and viewers could get as high up as 60 million, the sky was the limit but finding new and creative ways to deal with sponsors, censors and the like was always a challenge.

George Schlatter, producer of the show, always relates finding the cast. With the silken voiced Gary Owen, who is now known the world over, the mogul found him in the men’s room of The Smokehouse (across from Warner Brothers Burbank) against the tile wall. With Jo Anne Worley, it was always if nobody else could do it, give it to her. Lily Tomlin bowled him over in the first moments. She came to him in a show he did in NY that got canceled and was doing a barefoot tapdance. What really focused his attention was when she did her rubber freak who ate erasers and everything else. He recalls that when she went on to do Ernestine, the phone operator, for the first time, he made a signal for her to do the dialing with that one finger. Also whenever Lily did her Church Lady (way before Dana Carvey), she made her knees creak. The censors thought it was something else. In terms of maintaining a sense of spontaniety, they always gave the band a heads up when they were doing something a little out there so they could be sure to contain their laughter. Schlatter still remembers the ball they had with the Farkle Family in dealing with the censors. He told them to go “look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls” (which was a popular encylopedia at the time). There were many guest stars. Kirk Douglas came to mind because his sons (specifically Michael) were such fans of the show and encouraged him to go on. One of George’s favorite characters was Gladys but he attributes that to being “glandular” with the scene of her on the bench with her paramour having the pockets out of his coat being the best. In terms of Roland & Martin and their working relationship (which people have always asked about) he says they “were the best nighclub act but couldn’t talk to each other”.

Lily Tomlin follows up the texture of her audition of the barefoot tapdance by saying that she lasted three weeks on that other show “before they fired me”. In terms of Ernestine, she says that George told her that they needed someone on the switchboard as a joke. After doing her rubber bit on-stage (like not a day has passed), she admits that during the time of the show she was too rigid politically to the point that she wouldn’t take a picture with John Wayne. This of course, she said, was fueled by the fact that they had ratings on their side. Her favorite character was the fast talker although she admits “Ernestine thinks she the boss”. The key to the show’s success over the years is that, she says “people get turned on when they see other people having fun”.

Gary Owens, the man with the voice, says that Artie Johnson recommended him to George. One of the most intrinsic moments he remembers is when Billy Graham was a guest. Artie was still wearing his Nazi helmet and comes around to see who’s who. He tells Graham that he has been talking to the man upstairs to which Graham says “Really?” Artie retorts, “Yes. He thinks you’re a schmuck”. Owens also recalls that when Nixon did his “Sock It To Me!” bit on the show, he [Owen] was talking to the incumbent Humphrey on “Meet The Press” when it all happened. He mentions that his father had a deep voice “and so did my mother actually”.

“Forgiveness: A Time To Love & A Time To Hate” takes an “Emotional Life” perspective as to how people deal with the tendencies of letting go but finding closure at the same time.

Helen Whitney, the director of the film, wanted to make something that was passionate but also small in its edification but distinct in concept. This idea seemed to resonate the most deeply for her.

One of the most interesting interrelations for her is the aspect of a wife who abandoned her husband and children and then many years later tries to come back to at least be part of their children’s lives. Daniel Glick, the father, says that 11 years ago he never thought he would be sitting on the stage with his ex-wife but realizes now that forgiveness as an “actual” is not a linear concept but resonated in the themes apparent within this show. The major obstacle is how the production would affect his kids because even though the cameras have been around, they haven’t actually seen the finished product.

Liesbeth Gerritsen, the mother who left, admits that, in being an agent of suffering, it is hard to know how to ask for forgiveness. She see it as “a gnarly question with a gnarly answer”. She can’t admit to say that the experience was therapeutic but only to agree that it was very painful. There however was something about the process, she says, which brings to the forefront that “you cannot be forgiven unless somehow you pay”.

For others like Terri Jentz who was terrorized by an attacker, she provides the perspective that she doesn’t believe that one can dismiss an unforgiveable evil. Her path created an interesting paradox as she looked to new age thinking for an escape. She thought after 15 years she had forgiven this unknown man who escaped but she began to realize that it was just a deadening of her will.

“Independent Lens” is a more and more visceral way is bring the experience of film festivals to public television. In a more saturated world finding this kind of material needs a voice.

“Wasteland”, directed by Lucy Walker, which IR saw at the Provincetown Film Festival, tells the story of an Vic Nunez, a well regarded artist, taking his idea of sustainability into a creative project in the landfills of his native Brazil. When Lucy was at film school at NYU she was always interested in doing profiles of young artists but the reality of approaching the daily life was never that possible at that time in terms of consuming the viewer. She never thought she could do it because the idea of that kind of immersion, at times, doesn’t exist anymore. What surprised her is the lack of awareness she had to the amount of trash in the world. With Nunez, she realized that “the richness of the story was in the rescue of the ingredients”. Nunez grew up poor in Brazil and the film was about recapturing that innocence that he sees in the people there now. In Walker’s mind, that is the kind of thinking that resets the art world. The Brazilian angle of it also offered interesting government involvement because the actualization of the project, more than an art installation, became a social outreach.

Tamra Davis, director of “Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” (which was also a film picked up from last year’s Sundance Film Festival), speaks of her relationship with the artist when she was going to film school (again at NYU). Her first experiences in front of the paintings hit you because (as she describes) they are “arresting” and “loud” to the point that you can “hear them”. Basquiat referenced many things in Davis’ estImation because “he was sampling the world around him”. She met Jean Michel at an art show in Los Angeles when she was 19 and he was 22. He actually mentioned to her about making a movie about him because as she puts it, “it was a reason for us to hang out with each other”. A couple years later, they actually did a formal interview. The resolute aspect is that in order for people to see your work, you have to be known which means placing yourself out there personally for your art to be seen. She accepts the ideal about how the film made in the mid-90s approaches Jean Michel’s life and has she has talked personally to Geoffrey Wright who portrayed the artist but what surprised her is that there was no discussion about his race in that movie. She says that subject was big to Jean Michel. She continues that she made this film for Jean Michel as a friend but also a girl since many women supported him. She wanted to embody her love and sensitivity for him but also relate what life was like for him on a daily basis.

Intonating the adjoining ballroom with a sense of a gala club, Harry Connick Jr. took to the stage to perform songs indicative of his style for PBS’ new special “Harry Connick Jr. On Broadway”. Having in recent years made his own transmutation to Broadway, one would expect that he would be playing to that tendency but all roads for him still track back to his roots as an 11-year-old in New Orleans.

Upon taking the stage the first inference Harry speaks of makes traction to Frank Sinatra whom he has been often compared to, though Connick prefers to see himself as a “piano player” though he joked about his “super-talent” when riffing with his bandmates. “The Way You Look Tonight” used the simple progression of the bass and drums to coordinate the crooner’s silken voice. With “Mason Street Blues” he brought out an exceptional trombone player featured on the program which gave that undeniable Louisiana twang without going into full jam. His sax player then came out as Connick abandoned the piano for a miniscule time frame to sing a slow tempo serenation of “And I Love Her” by The Beatles which was not on the special. Its inclusion showed the range of interpretations that this performer can see life through though he admits that his personification of jazz offers a certain idealism which, when he tried to make a couple funk records, somehow played short. After bringing up a trumpet player for one of their trademark jams (which Connick says sometimes certain audiences don’t understand because they come to hear him sing), the musicianship comes through.

His trademark “It Had To Be You”, best known as a full big band progression, here was done purely with the piano and a sax on a down tempo giving it a different lounge heavy intensity that plays exceptionally different with a sense of knowing. The ending rush was an inventive Mardi Gras Stomp with all the instruments playing in tandem and Connick allowing his jazz cronies to shine closed the set..

Afterwards, the ideas of the man behind the music ventured with a discussion that covered his influences and various thought processes moving up inside the music. Of course, in tandem he brought the comparisons to Frank Sinatra which he explains like linking someone to Brando in acting. Sinatra had a certain phrasing that made his possibilities look deep and endless but this came out of an enlongated thought process. One of the more interesting influences Connick mentioned of his was Freddie Mercury which he said created these infinite thoughts without being pigeonholed or held back by anything. Connick relates that he spoke to Brian May about this in-depth. The crooner also mentions that he went to the Manhattan School Of Music so technique and practice always comes to his mind. Someone, like Mercury, he says, had no training and the amazing elements he could create were astounding. Connick also mentioned his support of the Saints being a true Orleans boy. In terms of a cutting contest, the one person he says he might be reserved to go up against is Art Beau but says that he rules on New Orleans ground. When asked about the evolution of the definition of jazz, he says that the song remains itself though the idea of who is singing it might not. They key is that the personification of it is timeless whether seen through a young boy or an old man.

The other undeniable performer of this tour resided in the notion of David Foster, who is responsible for some of the most enduring songs of the past couple decade. Evidenced by his calm demeanor and humor, his successes and drawbacks haven’t fazed him as he speaks in between certain songs about how their timeline interrelates to each of his different wives and what they got in the divorce settlement.

Needing nothing but a simple baby grand, the act of the way that Foster can coax structures out of different performers are intriguing. He admits he is no singer which brings about comparisons to Barry Manilow but his instinct in terms of reacting to the American people during a specific period of time were, and still remain, remarkable. Take for example, as he spoke, the two young people that he is shepherding right now. After having achieved success in cross-over with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, he is currently working on the debut album of Jackie Evancho, the 10-year old prodigy that sounds like a fully trained adult opera singer.

The greatest gift to talent, in being able to capture what they are capable of, is a sure hand but also exceptional expertise and success on you end plus a sense of humor. In recollecting to the small rapt audience, Foster broke down the progression of his hits songs in an unorthodox way: which wife (he has had three) got a condo or certain baubles from it. He doesn’t sound bitter but makes no apologies for it either. He plays these songs and you begin to realize in a small part the immense impact (at least on easy listening) he has had over the years.

In terms of Wife #1, he begins playing “Look What You’ve Done To Me”, the hit song from “Urban Cowboy” made famous by Boz Scaggs back in 1980 and the one/two punch of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After The Love Is Gone” and “September”, which alone is enough to make a career. What is essential about these songs is how effortless they feel which, as most songwriters will say, is the ultimate compliment.

In terms of Wife #2, the 80s were ruled in texture of Foster through Chicago and Peter Cetera. The blockbuster “Chicago XVI” and “XVII” albums were structured by harder hitting modern pop with heavy drums and guitars while still maintaining the melodic element that made their early hits possible. This new approach gave them an edge and two of the biggest hits through songwriter/producer Foster were “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re The Inspiration” which redefined the band. When Cetera left the band, one of his biggest hits after was the love theme for “Karate Kid Part II” called “The Glory Of Love”, which was again penned by Foster and sported that same necessary edge. Also interspersed among the time period was his instrumental hit for “St. Elmo’s Fire” which became a chart topper as well under his own name.

Again remember, during this whole performance is playing all these live on piano as well while explaining their context. Fast forward to the 90s with Wife #3 (he always remembers his motif) when he worked with Whitney Houston on “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. He wrote the hit “I Have Nothing” and then re-purposed the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You” into the massive life changing single it became. After this structure he began working with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli mixing the notions of classical and pop into a fusion that is still being perceived today.

The first of the live performers to come on-stage was Charice, one of Foster’s new additions (alongside Evancho), who did at amazing belting version of “All By Myself” that simply knocked the floor over, especially when she an upper octave at full pitch and never wavered.

Donna Summer, proving not to be undone by any means, came out and blasted with a cover of the Foster-penned “Unbreak My Heart”, originally sung by Toni Braxton, with a fervor that shows her voice is nothing if not stronger than when she first used it. Wrapping up the evening, she continued into the song she did with Foster in the 70s that permeated and still remains a stalwart around the world: “Last Dance”.

Two intense live performances. “Great Performances” indeed.

Tavis Smiley, who made a big structure with his intrinsic investigation with director Jonathan Demme into New Orleans on his last trip to the press tour, conceded that he doesn’t like the word “interviewer” instead liking to refer to himself as a conversationalist. For him, the key to his show is about listening generously because if you do it well enough, your subjects will open up to you. The idealistic aspect is knowing the difference between optimism and hope. Hope structures the foundation that times will eventually get better. Smiley thinks that this perception of “hope” is wrong and stands to reason why the nation is not unpacking and taking the economic threat more seriously. While he points out that government is to blame, he does think that “we have to engage in the right kind of discourse in regards to civility”. Politicians are not more important to him than artists though. In fact, for his perception, it is quite the opposite.

“Frontline” continued the discussion on the perspective of intelligence sources versus the actual ground level advances in the persistent effort to protect borders. Dana Priest, one of the lead investigators on the terrorism front, says that the ideas start from what government and private enterprise has built since 9/11 and what is a viable tangible fact. Her focus is watching these organizations and how they grow. The possibility resides in the fact of how the government spies on people. If suspicions are heightened, how do the intel committees looking at these issues weigh the points especially if it involves classified material. She specifies though that the Obama administration has been much more specific and vigilant than the Bush administration in its intent to move the matter through the courts. Priest believes that there is a responsibility to the job they do but the balance is to not suffer the consequences, especially when you find a source willing to talk.

Miles O’Brien approaches a different front with his ongoing and deep seated investigation into the airline industry especially in its outsourcing of maintenance to foreign countries. He makes the specified example of a major US airline moving their maintenance hub from San Francisco to Bejing. What that creates is the situation where no one can get into the hangars to see what is actually being fixed. The regionals do less outsourcing offshore but he explains, even going back to the Buffalo crash, that Continental had no legal responsibility whatsoever because the plane itself was a regional contract. No airline wants a crash but what is happening is that there is a system in place and, slowly but surely, the margin is being eaten away. All the decisions add up but the concern is that the crack seen in all these little decisions will add up to a hole that eventually will run all the way through.

The PBS outlay “POV” takes the approach of looking at a problem or situation and unraveling it at its core by the people living it.

“Where Soldiers Come From” attempts to bring a perspective in the aspect that, even at a purely psychological level, the basic aspects of a person can change when coming home from war, even if they don’t see it.

Director Heather Courtney, known for her documentary “Letters From The Other Side”, describes the aspect that her subject is encapsulated in a rural area and a very small town. The problem returning from war here is that are absolutely no employment opportunities. The incentive of signing up for $20,000 is a powerful one. After war service, Courtney admits that TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) has become the hidden war wound. It is complex and not necessarily easy to explain. The idea of her film for her started off in rural America. The physical subject of her film is Dominick Fredianelli whose father was a few years ahead of her in high school. She says that she didn’t have aspirations to be a war reporter in following Dominick with his deployment but “I needed to be there”. She says it was unusual to be embedded but admits that most of their mission is “alot of boredom” with some “wonderful conversations”. With verite, she says, you can get great stuff but you have to be taping for a couple of hours to get that nugget.

Dominick, as the viewpoint through which the narrative is based, says that once he graduated high school, he had to be ambitious. The deployment was in his head and, before and since, he has been treated very well by the veterans administration. He says that when someone asks him if they should join the guard, he says that it comes down to a personal decision. He did it “for my family, my friends and my girlfriend”. He currently goes to a school for design but it was important for him to get this story out there. He admits though it is hard to do every day things with Courtney sitting there with a camera. The key in this kind of outreach is compassion so people have more of an idea what the soldiers go through over in war zones.

Storycorps” blending the essence of social media and animation takes an interesting approach to the idea of a family story taking the audio and placing it against an animated milieu. Different booths were set up at various functions and festivals for people to go in and tell their story to be possibly put on file in the Library Of Congress which acts intently as a motivator.

David Isay, the founder of Storycorps, says that the process is a new thought into the idea of storytelling. At the end of a storytelling session, 2 CDs are burned. One is given to the person relating the story and the other goes to the Library Of Congress. Some of the stories are broadcast on NPR and a select few are adapted for PBS. It all started with a radio program he did. He gave a couple of kids audio recorders which they took around their housing projects. Some of the people they recorded eventually died and the recording was all that was left. It created an “ah-ha!” moment. From there they set up a booth in Grand Central to tap the cross-section though he admits that “you just worry about the Jerry Springer Factor”.

James Ransom, whose story about one of his teachers named “Miss Devine”, was adapted into animation says that he didn’t know what the final result would look like but that the creation of it was “how she was”. He relates that he went into one of the Storycorp booths in Sarasota, Florida. It was an Airstream trailer and the actual interview progressed like a fireside chat. He says what is aired is simply a smaller part of a larger conversation. When he asked his cousin about Miss Devine, she related that she was stern but she was mean. At the time, Ransom relates, corporal punishment was OK but “she was the keeper as far as we were concerned” with “a superpower that was unique”. He admits that there was lessons learned. He remembers listening to plays on the radio but says that Storycorps takes these ideas to a new level because the key to it is “about being yourself”.

PBS continues to address sociological aspects of continuing society both from an intellectual but also an emotional standpoint in how everybody from soldiers to major corporations make decisions that change the balance.

Exacting The Story: The PBS Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always understands the importance of relevant arts and science programming although sometimes its approach appeals more to a bygone generation settled in their ideas with a continual approach to knowledge but not a new approach to thinking in terms of process solving. The reflected programs take on a structure of life gained but still being maintained which in a good way provides a sense of both contentment and warmth in a constantly scitzophrenic state.

American Masters: When You’re Strange This documentary on The Doors which optimizes never-before-seen footage made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and has gone a tightening including a new narration by actor Johnny Depp to replace the temp track by director Tom DiCillo.

John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors, had always been a major proponent force in maintaining their culture relevance whereas other surviving members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger seemed to want the music to speak for themselves. Despite a very public discernation of the use of the name “The Doors” in terms of touring a couple years back, this new ideal between them seems to translate into the want to create a museum piece to accurately represent the band. John says that he is honored that they have been included in the American Masters series making the joke that “now I know why I wear a cape”. He speaks of the process of The Doors from his perspective. He and Robbie had been living together and Jim [Morrison] came to the top of the hill and was depressed. He sat outside looking above the LA skyline and wrote the lyrics (People are strange/when you’re a stranger/Faces look ugly/when you’re alone) before he came back inside which in turn reflects the ideal behind the title. Densmore says that much of the footage in the docu he has seen before but with this incarnation “there is more depth to the story for me”. He speaks that when they played the Hollywood Bowl, Harrison Ford was a grip on the crew. In terms of the actual idea of the band, he likes the confusion. Some of the new footage brought in which he talks about is “The Highway” footage which was shot when they first got big. In “Strange”, Jim is driving in this footage and the radio comes on to say that Jim Morrison had just died which was trippy. He admits that doesn’t remember all the gigs that they played and honestly didn’t “realize what a dangerous force we were”. That came to a culimination he said at the New Haven concert: “Jim was backstage with some fan and the cops maced him”. The band headed onstage and start playing “Back Door Man”. Jim stopped the song and started talking about “the little blue man in the little blue cap”. That was the end of the show. Manzarek got on the mike and told everyone to go to the police station. While Densmore admits Morrison “couldn’t play one chord on any instrument”, “he was a genius with words” and “he had the melodies” and “could do them arpeggio”.

Densmore talks about the long sections of instrumental they would have in pieces like “The End”. He explains it as “very jazzy” but that “creativity sometimes comes in the same package”. In terms of the legacy of Morrison, Densmore says that he looks to him now and sees that “his destiny was to have this quick shooting star” adding that “he was channelling the angst, the music and the magic”. In reference to the Oliver Stone film in the 1990s which was based on his book, he said “Val Kilmer should have been nominated” because his performance “gave me the creeps on set”. He does admit that the Stone movie was “excessive” but as “Oliver says, ‘If you don’t like my film on your chest, don’t go see my movie'”. Densmore makes reference to the aspect of doing commercials because “Jim blew up” and that because of this “The Doors have never done a car commerical”. In terms of influence, he says “you can hear a little of us in U2” though “we didn’t have a bass player”. He admits that they did two albums after Jim died but they eventually realized: “What are we doing?” saying “we didn’t want to replace those leather pants”. Densmore says that Ray and Robbie tried to sing but it “didn’t give us the synchronicity”. The one aspect that he sees in “People Are Strange” which is not in Stone’s movie is “a humor and lightness”. Jim Morrison, he says, “was a blast in the beginning before his self-destruction” because “he became an alcoholic really”. The Doors’ time together he describes more now “as some kind of beautiful dream I had” but with “Strange” now he looks and “it is right there on the screen again”.

Dick Wolf, the TV magnate who was instrumental in getting this new film made, speaks to the addition of Johnny Depp’s voice over after the film was picked up at Sundance in saying “Johnny made one astounding change by personalizing it and using the [band members’] first names”. Wolf continues that “it gave a magnificent shift to evidence for the film” which is “something you can’t buy”.

Independent Lens: Dirt The Movie This film which also came out of Sundance in 2009 talks about the essence of what this specific resource does for the planet.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who was brought in to narrate the doc after its pick up, explains that Bill Benenson [who directed the film] is a neighbor of hers. She admits they “both live surrounded by dirt” but that they “also ended up at the same school as parents”. Her actions in the film are “not on camera” but she “acts as the voice of reason if you will”. It is good now she says that everybody understands the importance of green. She and her husband Christopher Guest were selected to be the EV1 family in terms of getting the new hybrid but admits “they came and stole it back”. Now they got a Honda Clarity but explains that “we’re all trying to do something”. For her, it is about “educating”. She hopes that “one of our kids will fix [the mess we made]” confessing that “we fucked up”.

Gene Rosow, the co-director of the production with Benenson, says that every facet has an effect. He uses the example that a chef he knows in NY mentioned a difference in the tenderness of pork based on certain properties of the dirt it consumes. He speaks to the analogy present in “how we treat dirt is how we treat ourselves”. He does think that awareness is growing but that the generation of kids right now will have to be the ones to see it through. The paradox for him through is that he sees the US as being a divided country. A certain energy emerges because everyone has their own separate tribe though people are starting to understand the fundamental urgency behind the economic and environmental obstacles society is starting to face. Rosow’s belief is that there is starting to be “an awakening to a real crisis” but that there is “a lack of literacy on this issue” that will soon cause people to “wake up”.

Executive Briefing: Sarah Eaton The former Fine Line Features topper displays her key element of processing the different elements necessary to maintain public television on a national scale yet the key still is balancing an aspect of the baby boomer mentality but still bringing in some new viewers.

“Masterpiece” has always attracted a stable of names to its roster. Eaton announced that they are now working on a new production of “Emma” which will be created as a four-hour miniseries for the “Classic” brand while Kenneth Branagh will be working on “Mr. Mollander” for the “Mystery” brand which will also be undertaking three new “Foyle’s Wars”.

Masterpiece Classic: Anne Frank The new intentions of a classic literary anti-hero always revolves around the tendencies of the actress playing her and whether intended awareness is either subtle or oblique.

Ellie Kendrick, who plays the title character, explains, via satellite from London, that the transition of this young woman was difficult to play but “the reason she is so popular is because she is someone that we can identify with”. She sees Anne as “spirited and funny” but that “the diary became her only friend” which she professes “is the kind of woman you run into in this girl’s soul”.

Deborah Moggach, who adapted this new miniseries, explains that it took more than two years to persuade the Anne Frank estate to allows them to pen this new perception and that “it is a testimony to the BBC that it held”. She admits that it isa complicated work to do through Anne’s eyes” because she had to give the characters life “with their own journeys”.

The Tavis Smiley Show Smiley, in headlining a show both boosted by an integrity brand and, by certain accounts, immune to ratings and late night wars, has scored many exceptional interviews over the years especially with his no nonsense style of interviewing.

Smiley begins by talking about the parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam. Specifically, he pinpoints the idea as “a call to conscience”. He says he was talking that morning with staff about they can get at the aspect of where the money is going in this conflict. The question he begs to ask is “Are we beyond the corruption and the damage done?”.

One of the new angles he is approaching this season is a behind-the-scenes view of Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton at work. Smiley has known her for many years but he was interested in how she would approach the ideal of rivals becoming allies. He says “I whittled it down and what I learned is that it is harder than I thought”. He doesn’t understand why she wants this job at 62. There is a point in the piece he did where he believes she might get out before 4 years is done but knows, for sure, she “will not have 8”. He “cannot think of a woman who has been more demonized by the press” but “was surprised how affable she was with the press pool” that travels with her but he did make the point that he was “the only person of color”.

In terms of other people he has met and interviewed he says Fidel Castro was the most interesting in that “there is a charm to him” and that “he is extremely well read and a witness”. He explains that Castro has a “a unique and strategic type of thinking” but that “there are games he plays in conversation” which had Smiley himself “most on edge”.

Smiley also comments on the late night melee that is occurring first indicating that he doesn’t know Conan but that Jay is “a personal friend”. In terms of his opinion, he says “it was a mistake to push him out of the time slot” citing that this move “will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of television” but that “it has been fascinating to watch”. Smiley indicates that “television is changing in alot of ways” but that “there is a comfort in consistency”. The problem is that “NBC ran up against something they couldn’t figure out”.

In terms of new initiatives, he and Jonathan Demme are working together on some piece in regards to the recent New Orleans & Haitian crises. Smiley has been to Haiti a number of times and says that “no country should have to endure the hell they have gone through”.

Demme says that as far as the initial footage they shot in regards to New Orleans “what we have going for us is the people” who have returned to the hard hit Ninth Ward. Demme explains that this is where Brad Pitt’s initiative was launched. The experiment in filming is being done over a 5 year period of which they are in year 2 . The parallel of Haiti he says “is on his mind right now” because of “what you discover when the structure is inadequate”. In comparison, he admits the initiative to rebuild New Orleans which was a distinct hope, did not happen. For him, it is “a humanist canvas of real life and real people” calling this project for him “a wonderful amazing challenge”. One of the most interesting aspects for him is the idea of what “big belief” and “forced faith” is. The reality as he sees it is that “it is take your medicine time but how do you circumvent that” which is the “struggle”.

NOVA: The Pluto Files This new perception and dissertation on the nature of modern astronomy and the changing view on the nature of the universe is elevated by the distinction of personalities, both dissecting and far ranging, that inhabit this new incarnation of the popular science series.

Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute, says the debate of Pluto as a planet or extrasolar object is “about fear”. His perception of the discussion is about points. He says Pluto “is round…it has an atmosphere…it has seasons”. The problem in the modern scientific community is that “the discoveries outstrip the vocabulary to slow them down”. He uses the analogy that the word “manufacturer” used to describe an object “made by hand” but “that definition has evolved”. With the definition of a “planet”, “it depends on what is useful” and if there is “independent importance”. He believes in the thinking “that more is not upsetting to people” but “less is” but that there should not be simply “abitrary change”.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist as well as host of the show, has his own ideas in regards to this mode of thought. His vector revolves around the the fact that you want a word in regards to a universal body that classifies an object in terms of its commonality. He revels in the fact that he believes that there is still “an insatiable appetite for the cosmos” and that there are “certain aspects that tap us all”. The frustrating anglet in terms of the education for him is the idea that the solar system is taught in a certain way which is viscerally outdated. However, in persistence of this specific subject, he says “even if Pluto had been demoted, it wouldn’t have tipped the apple cart”.

The Buddha On the other end of scientific speculation, this series examines a spiritual perception enlisting the eyes of a highly placed subject who is both indicative of the teachings but also is allowing himself to be aware of the world that inhabits new ideologies but that everything remains cyclical.

David Grubin, the filmmaker behind this endeavor which is narrated by Richard Gere, describes Buddha, in his mind “as really the first psychologist” and explains that “Buddha, like Freud, was a realist” in that “he saw an experience for what it was”. The message for the film he hopes is that “it is possible for everyone to be the Buddha”.

The Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta himself was brought into the world in the same place as the Buddha and, although he was born Hindu, he became an ordained Buddhist Monk. Metteyya relates that the key to the question of Buddha is to become a better human being. In relation to modern ideals, he believes that there is always something in the mind from cultural ideas but that one must always take a closer look. In looking at Western culture, he sees that the people are getting something unique but that they are specifically looking for the direct benefit it brings them. This was the first time he had visited the United States. He had requested from his Dharma Mother some ways to see this country. One of the first TV series he saw was “Friends”. The next was “The Simpsons”. He describes the fact that Lisa Simpson takes on all the elements of a Buddhist which is a very adept statement.

In terms of being interviewed for this film (“The Buddha”), he explains that he had no idea what it would be like but that it was important. He looks and wants to understand what Western Buddhism is missing. He sees that people are much more tense here. They want to accomplish something in a ten-day course and “get on with it”. One of the recent books he read examines human intelligence versus IQ intelligence and that we are just starting to understand these connections. Patience is essential. Metteyya relates that “Buddha gave us a path to develop human qualities of sharing, loving others, having patience and not complaining about every single thing”. “The Buddha”, he says, “sees that you are now a seed with many potentials”.

The Venerable Sakyaputta understands that, through Buddhism, people think that they will find “keys to happiness”. However, he sees that “as a Western ideal” that is mired in something “very complex” because “in order to have peace in the heart, you have to think of the mind”. He goes on to say that “Buddha says that the mind and the matter is a unique phenomena that has impact on each other”. The perception he believes is that “mental thoughts have influence where we have emotion in our mind”. He reminds through teachings that “patience is a virtue but that doesn’t mean we have to be waiting and waiting and never get any work done.” The realization has to be “Buddha is not a rock…but a human being.”