Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘PBS

Accidental Intelligence

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It was an artificial deadline set arbitrarily by his own initiative. Who else would care? As time flittered away, reality began to press upon the drowsy writer that nothing was going to simply drop out of the sky onto the page. Someone was going to need to pull a worthy tale out of their proverbial top hat (or some other oft-referenced lower anatomical location).

Meanwhile, sleep was making a valiant run for the pole position.

Why did any of this matter? Frontline was on later and it was going to be all about the 2018 Camp Fire in California. That kind of real-life drama beats made-up stuff hands down. If he was going to immerse himself in the experience without distraction, his plan was going to need to kick into action ahead of time.

There was nothing noteworthy to report about the animals, the weather, the landscape, the trees, the shrinking hours of daylight, the amount of sugar in dinner, the spinning gears of the day-job, the greatness of family and friends, or the stature of the recently refurbished deck, so something would need to be invented.

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maybe a poem
rich with deep thoughtful meaning
evoking sky blues

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It could be short, like three lines of haiku. Words could be tossed out in a free-form flow of curious reasoning that defies logic but reaches souls. Why not? It’s worked in the past when down to his last gasp for a grasp.

How many times before has he written random nonsense that struggled to hint at coherence and later learned of recipients who thrilled over the poignancy to their very lives? You can’t make this stuff up if it already happened.

The thing is, such a denouement happens in absentia. Often times he never knows, just wings it and relies on grace for an outcome that holds a possibility of reward.

Occasionally, it works.

Such end results get labeled “accidental intelligence” but that doesn’t prevent him from occasionally pretending to believe the results were exactly as intended. <cough, cough>

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Different Perspective

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I am thoroughly enjoying the heavy radio and television programming that has been focusing attention on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon fifty years ago this month. Last night it started with PBS NOVA episode 18, “Apollo’s Daring Mission” which tells the story of Apollo 8 that set the stage for the moon mission to follow.

Those who have had the privilege of flying in airplanes know the sensation of gaining a new perspective about the places we live from above. Just imagine what it was like for the astronauts looking back at the entire planet earth.

After that program, we watched “8 Days: to the Moon and Back,” a fascinating recreation of the Apollo 11 mission using actual recorded audio between and among the astronauts and Houston Control.

I was only ten years old when man landed on the moon. Reliving the experience fifty years later provided a different perspective for me that was significantly more informed.

What an amazing accomplishment that happened in my lifetime. I wonder if I’ll be alive when someone eventually lands on Mars.

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Written by johnwhays

July 18, 2019 at 6:00 am

Moon Chasing

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Fifty years ago this month, the Eagle landed on the moon. I am thoroughly enjoying the 3-part Robert Stone documentary film, “Chasing the Moon” on the PBS program American Experience this week for its revisiting of the history that led up to that epic event of the first human setting foot on the moon.

Catch the ending tonight if you have access to the PBS programming.

I have enjoyed the portions of the first two episodes that reveal what was happening in the early years of my life before my awareness and ability to remember were formed. As the chronicle moves on to years when I was old enough to be making memories, it is interesting to see the mix of familiarity and obliviousness.

Even the astronauts admit to being out of touch with much of the turmoil of the 60s because they were so singularly focused and generally isolated by the space program. I’m not the only one who couldn’t keep track of everything that was happening at the time.

I find it striking to compare the awed engrossment in every launch and mission detail from those early days of space flight to the virtual invisibility of most trips to space now.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

How long before we find shuttling to visit Mars so unremarkable that nobody pays any attention?

If it happens within my lifetime, I probably won’t remember it very long, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

July 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

Didn’t Know

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We didn’t know that we had a potential added resource right in our house for controlling the local fox or foxes that roam our territory. It appears that all we need to do is turn Pequenita into an outdoor cat.

I only remember two times that ‘Nita took interest in activity on my computer screen. Otherwise, she behaves with total disdain toward computer and television screens. That is, until last night.

We had an episode of a PBS nature program about foxes running on our bedroom television last night. Suddenly, uncharacteristically, Pequenita jumped up on the dresser in front of the screen. As the sounds and images of foxes, and an eagle played out, our cat reached up and touched the screen in attempt to catch the fox.

She’s a natural!

I’m thinking, we should probably see how she behaves to a video of our chickens wandering about before we do anything drastic like turn her loose in the great outdoors.

Something tells me she wouldn’t likely have the discretion necessary to determine the difference between friend and foe around our property.

She’s a little too much like Delilah in that regard. If it moves, it is fair game.

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Written by johnwhays

January 3, 2019 at 7:00 am

Powerful Stuff

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For the last week and a half I have been doing my best to catch the PBS broadcasts of the 10-part documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The Vietnam War.” It is a dizzying experience. Even though the presentation is spread over two weeks, it compresses so much history and so many perspectives into each segment that the incomprehensible reality it depicts leaves me dumbstruck in a foggy haze of then and now.

As often happens for me, the review of significant historical events that happened during my lifetime, especially about those of which I successfully accomplished an embarrassing level of blissful ignorance while they were occurring, has a way of disrupting my self perceptions. I get a real sense that I would have been a very different person in my ensuing years if I had given certain events more of my attention.

At the same time, part of me has a sense that I already am that different person I seem to be imagining. I don’t know how it works. Did I mention it is dizzying?

I was certainly old enough to perceive the war in Vietnam as pointless and unwinnable, and thus developed a negative opinion of the political and military decisions being made that prolonged our participation.

This comprehensive documentary is educating me about details of the Vietnamese struggles for independence, the US fears of communism, and the corruption on both sides of the conflict. I value highly the opportunity to hear the perspectives of participants from the other side, which this film presents.

There is one additional aspect that is contributing to an overwhelming feeling this film is giving me. There are an uncomfortable number of moments when the depictions of the drama that played out fifty years ago (plus and minus) resonates uncannily with stories in the news today.

One example being the collusion by Nixon with a foreign government to influence his being elected. Sound familiar?

How could we ever let someone get away with that again?

I wish I knew.

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

Delicious Program

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I want to shout from the stove top about a brilliant three-part program PBS has dished up, “Food – Delicious Science.” It is a thrilling science story of the food on our plates and the physics, chemistry and biology that lies hidden inside every bite.

The hosts, Michael Mosley and James Wong, are wonderful, both to watch and listen to as they guide this exploration of the fascinating details about the food we eat and how our body reacts to it. Their energy for the topic is infectious and their way of describing the complex science of our everyday eating experiences comes across as a comfortable conversation with a friend.

When they taste things that cause a reaction —both good and bad— their expressions convey the experience so well, I almost need to wince or sigh right along with them.

If you eat food, and I’m betting that you do, this program is worth watching. It is informative, entertaining, inspiring, educational, and will absolutely enhance the entire experience of preparing and consuming the nutrition and fuel we need to thrive.

Be forewarned, viewing this program just might generate an insatiable urge to eat something delicious.

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