Albany Park Theater Project

On Stage, Chicago Students Tackle Immigration, Poverty, Race

Jeffrey Brown did an excellent segment on The NewsHour last night on the Albany Park Theater Project, an after-school community theater project for high school students in Chicago.

The segment is deconstructed on their blog: Monday on the NewsHour: Albany Park Theatre Project.

The Fear Index

Fictional Thriller Tackles Dangers of High-Frequency Trading

This is an excellent Paul Solman NewsHour piece on both high frequency (algorithmic/machine) trading on Wall Street and the author Robert Harris’ new book The Fear Index. Fascinating and scary and you know a movie is going to be made or is in the process of being made. Robert Harris wrote the book The Ghost Writer which was made into an excellent movie directed by Roman Polanski.

By the way, if you’ve not seen the movie Margin Call I recommend it highly.

Stacy Pearsall, combat photographer

The PBS NewsHour had a great piece last night produced by Tom Bearden: A Life Under Fire: Combat Photographer Captures, Carries Wounds of War.

Her photography is first rate, especially her portraits, they’re some of the finest portrait work I’ve ever seen. And her story is compelling: she’s a vet herself who was wounded numerous times in Iraq.

You can see more of her work at her photo shelter site: Stacy Pearsall.

Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light

This is the entire 1995 American Masters program in nine linked parts on YouTube. It’s well worth watching (full screen). We saw it when it first aired on PBS many years ago and I bought the DVD which is now out of print and tough to find. This may be the only way to see this excellent biography of Richard Avedon, one of the greatest photographers in history.

When Tina Brown hired Avedon to be a staff photographer at The New Yorker I saved every image they printed of his. Together Brown and Avedon started the process of loosening up what was getting to be a rather stuffy (if still excellent) magazine. I have many of Avedon’s photo books including Into the American West, now out of print but an incredible collection of portraits.

[via PetaPixel]

Hands-on learning

PBS NewsHour does Maker Faire: “Can DIY Movement Fix a Crisis in U.S. Science Education?”

Xeni Jardin, one of the tech contributors to boingboing has a great post and overview of a piece Miles O’Brien did the other night on the PBS NewsHour on the Maker Faire. Read her excellent post and watch the NewsHour segment, it’s very well produced.

I just commented on her piece, here’s my comment:

Great post Xeni. I too saw the NewsHour segment and have been following the movement for a long time. I’m of the age where we used John Muir’s How to Fix your Volkswagen for the complete idiot (me) as the bible and it worked by making car mechanics more accessible.

For at least one set of roots of the makers movement check out The Whole Earth Catalog and all of the associated publications Brand, Kahn, and others did.

The only thing that bothered me about Miles’ piece was that I think it was put together backwards: the case for making engineering more accessible should have been made first, then the makers movement shown as one possible way to help it happen for people with visual/hands on learning styles.

Hands on learning isn’t for everyone just like book learning isn’t for everyone. The problem with American education is that we design it for book learners so hands on types don’t do well (except in shop class). But, the answer isn’t to cater more to hands on types, the answer is to have many ways in and not rank them one better than another.



Circus is a new six-hour series that takes you on an unforgettable trip with the legendary Big Apple Circus. From the big top to the “back lot,” explore a distinctive world with its own rules, lingo and no fixed address. Follow the diverse characters who make up the Big Apple family and find out what it really means to live life in the ring.

I first posted this in 2010: This recently aired on PBS, we missed it but we can all watch it in one hour segments online. I just finished the first hour and it’s fantastic. This is great behind the scenes footage of amazing performers and producers and circus culture.

Update: We’ve now watched all six 1 hour segments of this show using Netflix and while not perfect it’s quite good. You can watch the segments on the PBS site: here or you can get DVDs or watch it streaming on Netflix here. We watched it streaming with AppleTV.

What’s great about this “docudrama” is the behind the scenes stories of performers, management, and tent riggers. What makes The Big Apple Circus great is that it’s somewhere between street performing and Cirque du Soleil, meaning, it’s well produced but it’s a one ring circus, not a Las Vegas act. The performers are real human beings and we get to see both the behind the scenes and the polished performance.

The Big Apple Circus maintains a “wikipedia-like” site called Circopedia. I found some highlight videos of Sarah Schwarz doing her tight wire act and the LaSalle Brothers doing their juggling act. There’s plenty more video up there so poke around.

Jim Lehrer retires from anchoring the PBS NewsHour

Jim Lehrer Retirement Announcement

For the past few years, Jim Lehrer who co-founded the PBS NewsHour with Robert MacNeil 35 years ago has been slowly but surely stepping back and having other members of the NewsHour team take his place as anchor. MacNeil left the program in a similar fashion many years ago but still helps produce it and no doubt Lehrer, who will show up on Friday nights to moderate the punditry of Brooks and Shields will continue to keep a hand in for many years to come.

Robert MacNeil on Jim Lehrer’s ‘Stealth’ Exit.

I’ve been watching the NewsHour for close to its entire 35 year run and Jim, Robin and the current team (as well as many team members who have moved on) are like family to me.

Here’s a nice history of the program: Jim Lehrer: The Video Highlights.

The PBS NewsHour is a national treasure, in no small part because of the honesty, humbleness, and journalistic integrity of Jim Lehrer.

Photojournalism Pioneer captured the 20th century with lens

Photojournalism Pioneer Captured the 20th Century With Lens

Jeffrey Brown takes a look back at the life and career of the late French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern photojournalism. An exhibit of his photos is currently at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

This is a very nice piece and will give you a good idea of the breadth of the Cartier-Bresson show at MoMA which is well worth seeing.

My Lobotomy

Howard Dully was the youngest person (12) to undergo a transorbital lobotomy, performed by Dr. Walter Freeman. Dully’s book My Lobotomy documents many things: how the medical establishment could allow Freeman to do such monsterous things, what it’s like to grow up with a traumatic brain injury, and how our culture tosses people aside that it can’t “fix.”

We watched The Lobotomist last night, an American Experience biographical piece on Freeman and the context in which lobotomy was invented (pre psycho-pharmacalogical drugs like thorazine). Both Anne and I were close to tears, were close to throwing up, and I could not get the images of ice picks being inserted into the eye sockets of patients (while they were awake) out of my head.

Most patients who underwent this procedure were psychotic, and while that’s no excuse for this neurological butchery, it makes Dully’s experience all the more meaningful: he was a typical boy who, like most boys, drove his step mother crazy by being a boy. She got tired of it and called in Freeman who had a “cure” for his hyperactivity: lobotomy.

I find it impossible to understsand how anyone could compartmentalize the brutality of lobotomy, just like I find it impossible to understand how anyone could compartmentalize the brutality of torture. Human beings are capable of doing such wonderful, and such horrific things.

My Lobotomy at Amazon.

The War

PBS has a great support site for the now ending Ken Burns film The War with background on the various people interviewed and indexed video.

The film had gotten mixed reviews but I’ve been glued to it since the start. When you compare what the US did then vs. what’s happeniing now in Iraq it’s mindboggling. It’s not only that we don’t have the recources to fight a war like we did then, we also don’t have the leadership and the will.