Posts filed under 'tv episodes'

The Playwright’s the Thing

Tonight's show (at 7:30) is an immaculately reconditioned broadcast of a program we first ran a little while ago -- featuring a conversation with one of our local Bay Area treasures: acclaimed playwright Philip Kan Gotanda. Philip's latest play, the Fillmore- and Japantown-based After the War, recently ran at the A.C.T. -- and he always has new, ambitious stuff in the works: not just plays, but also movies and even (sometimes) dance works. He's a deep, fascinating artist, and it was a pleasure to sip some of the organic wine he brought and talk about all kinds of things.

May 21st, 2007

Of Einstein & Bagels

Tonight's show (at 7:30) was tremendous fun. For the first time in our program's short history, we taped in front of a live audience -- at the gloriously remodeled Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The crowd was fantastic -- as was my guest, biographer extraordinaire Walter Isaacson. I loved his Franklin biography from a few years back, and his new, best-selling book -- Einstein: His Life & Universe -- is that rare combination: a page-turner with depth and substance. It was a pleasure to talk with him -- and a relief to discover that he approved of the way I tried to explain general relativity with a bagel and a couple of macaroons (donated by the JCCSF's café).

It was also a thrill for me to be present at the beginning of what I hope will be a long partnership between two great organizations: the JCCSF and KQED. I don't know anything about technical stuff, but I could tell that it was quite a challenge to have the show run relatively smoothly for both the live audience and the viewer at home -- but our crew just did a fantastic job. And the folks at the JCCSF made us feel so comfortable, it was like being in our home away from home.

What would Einstein have made of the convergence of public television and a JCC? One can only begin to imagine. ...

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2 comments May 14th, 2007

Amy’s Back!

Tonight's episode (at 7:30) is a super-duper, buffed-and-shined rebroadcast of a fun time I spent with the divine Amy Sedaris. We spoke of many things -- her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence; bunny rabbits; Totie Fields; lumberjacks; and some other topics of vital importance.

I'm still unsure whether Belva Davis appreciated the sandwich. ...

May 7th, 2007

Natalie & Jonny in the Clair de Loon

Gotta blog quickly this morning, before running off to rehearsal. But being speedy is actually quite appropriate for tonight's show (at 7:30), as my guests -- swimmer Natalie Coughlin and extreme skiier Jonny Moseley -- are both Olympian gold-medalists. They have other things in common as well: both are local kids made good, both are proud graduates of Cal-Berkeley, and both somehow suppressed the urge to mock my obvious athletic inferiority (though I do have to say that my reflexes in bocce are unmatched).

1 comment April 30th, 2007

Splice of Life

A dear friend of mine, a Buddhist, went to India a few years ago and met with a really high-up guy in that discipline. He described this fellow as being, in some ways, the opposite of a stereotypical "wise man": he was accessible, down-to-earth, informal, ebullient, and yet also ... wise. Having spent a little time with Walter Murch, my guest on tonight's show (at 7:30), I think I know how my friend felt.

A three-time Oscar winner, Murch is revered in the film industry as one of its greatest editors. But what's most striking about talking with him is the breadth of his interests, and his fantastic enthusiasm for making connections -- from science, music, philosophy, literature, you name it. It's as if his mind is overflowing into his surroundings; delighted, you just try your best to keep your balance as you ride his brainwaves. I could talk with him for days -- in fact, if someone could arrange that, please let me know!

In the meantime, you can enjoy his thinking as recorded in two extremely cool books: his concise, witty, mystical primer on editing, In the Blink of an Eye, and the delightful, compulsively readable The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film -- a series of wide-ranging discussions with the novelist Michael Ondaatje. Can you say "Ondaatje"? I can't -- but I'm way jealous of how much time he got with Mr. Murch. ...

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1 comment April 23rd, 2007

Life Nell

In recent months, as I've tried to do my own little part to help save the Earth via the nascent (meaning still disorganized) Project Quixote, I've had the great pleasure of meeting people who've actually been devoting their lives to the cause of fighting global warming. Some are neighbors of mine. Some -- bless their patient souls! -- are in government. One is a friend of my brother's who taught himself about energy and then actually wrote energy legislation for several states, including ours. Oh, and I also met Al Gore, who I think has been doing pretty good job of getting the word out.

The cumulative effect of hanging out with these people has been to give me a sense of hope -- albeit, nothing close to certainty -- that people may yet respond to this unprecedented global challenge with unprecedented global resourcefulness. The one thing that I am sure of is that it feels a helluva lot better to try than to stick to my usual practice of drawing the blinds and curling up in a ball. And I know, too, that I'm intensely grateful to folks who, by example, show that it's possible to move forward through our finite lives even while facing infinite-seeming obstacles.

A bonus is when they also provide lots of free food for me and my crew! Such was the happy case when Nell Newman swung by our studio to tape the interview that will be broadcast tonight (at 7:30). Newman, the head honcho of Newman's Own Organics, had arranged for a, like, huge box of their stuff to precede her. (I can assure you all the products found happy homes.) I found her to be remarkably unscathed by a relatively happy childhood with famous actor parents -- and in remarkably good shape, too, considering all the snacks she has access to. Perhaps it's all the surfing she does.

In any case, we talked about her helpful, down-to-earth book, Newman's Own Organics Guide to a Good Life, and other stuff, like predatory birds (a passion of hers). She also checked out the "Wandering Josh" piece we did for this show, which features a visit with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (an energetic advocate of green-osity), a trip to the educational, inspirational Berkeley Marina Shorebird Nature Center, and an off-the-grid experience at the offices of Local Power -- an organization run by Paul Fenn (pictured), the friend of my brother's I alluded to up top.

Between the studio conversation with Nell and the field visits for the WJ, my crew and I learned a ton of stuff about how we can help make things better. (And, yes, we collectively probably gained a ton of weight as well -- but we can probably work it off by building windmills and such. ...)

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April 16th, 2007

There Are No “Good” Wars

warThat's one of the excellent points that documentarian Ken Burns makes in the interview running tonight (at 7:30). He and his colleague Lynn Novick were visiting KQED to talk about their upcoming series The War, which will begin airing on PBS in September. Burns of course rose to fame with his series The Civil War, and he talked with me about how he initially resisted returning to the theme of armed conflict. Indeed, talking with them both, I felt as though I could sense the emotional toll that years and years of research into the horrors of war had inflicted.

The series' perspective is a particularly democratic one -- focusing as it does on the experiences of the soldiers themselves, as well as their families. (Burns and Novick felt that the story already had been told many times over from the viewpoint of the leaders.) But with so many potential protagonists, the challenge was to find an organizing principle for their bottom-up narrative. They ended up focusing on four representative American towns and interweaving the stories of how inhabitants of each were affected by the war. Also, they paid particular attention to the searing experiences of Japanese Americans, who were forced into internment camps and then -- amazingly -- recruited from those very camps to fight in the front lines. My wife is Japanese American, and her parents and grandparents were all placed in these camps -- so I confess that I was feeling especially emotional when we discussed this subject.

ken & lynnAs guests, Burns and Novick struck me as being especially "present" during the interview -- answering my questions not by rote but with real consideration. (This must be especially challenging when on the kind of whirlwind media tour that Burns's success has engendered.) Their emotional openness, in turn, made me feel okay about my own shakiness as I tried to consider the unthinkable suffering endured in this war that I believe was "just" but agree with Burns was not -- could not possibly have been -- "good."

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April 9th, 2007

Door Stories

Why is this blog item different from every other blog item?

Well, first of all, I'm writing it at the home of our friends the Millers, who are about to serve a sumptuous Passover feast.

Also, their computer (which I'm working on now) has one of those wiggly, ergonomically correct keyboards -- which is kind of freaking me out: it's like trying to type while your hands are drunk (possibly from Manischewitz).

And finally, in honor of my people's historic exodus, I am trying to make this item entirely leavening-free.

So here goes:

DelroyTonight's show (at 7:30) features an interview with one of my favorite actors, Delroy Lindo, whose work I admired long before I learned that he lives here in the Bay Area. Lindo's intensity and intelligence always come through, even in monosyllabic action films, though where he really gets to shine is in movies of substance -- like The Cider House Rules, Malcolm X, or (most recently) the delightful dramedy Wondrous Oblivion. After a childhood in England and Canada, he received his acting training at A.C.T. in San Francisco, and eventually gained prominence with Broadway roles in "Master Harold" ... and the Boys and Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

Now he's directing -- and in our neck of the woods, too! His production of Tanya Barfield's powerful, complex play Blue Door begins previews at the Berkeley Rep on Friday and opens on April 11. (I wasn't looking at the computer screen as I was typing that last bit, and on this wiggly keyboard it initially came out as "'k'gsd fl;kg'ks dflgskz 'z'''''k"!) Based on my reading of the script, I'm anticipating that Blue Door -- a multi-generational meditation on history and identity, performed by only two actors -- will be quite a tour de force. If you go catch it at the Rep, maybe I'll see you there!

For now, however, I'm going to start heading toward the Passover table. There's a gefilte fish coming this way with a mean glint in his eye, and I'd better take care of this situation before it gets out of hand. ...

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1 comment April 2nd, 2007

War Stories

PhilipDespite the fact that Philip Kan Gotanda cleverly plied me with wine, I nonetheless have a clear memory of our conversation -- which you can catch on Monday night's episode (at 7:30). And from what I can recall, the Berkeley-based playwright and filmmaker was a marvelous guest -- filling me in on his wide-ranging, passionate, questing body of work.

Gotanda's latest play, After the War, which will have its world premiere at A.C.T. on Wednesday, is arguably his most ambitious: it explores the cultural interactions -- often tense, though sometimes tender -- in the Fillmore District in the period following World War II. As Japanese-Americans returned from the internment camps to which they'd been forced by a shameful government edict, they found many of their former Japantown residences now occupied by (among others) African-Americans who'd come up to work in the city during the war. Gotanda's protagonist, a Japanese-American jazz musician, must try to navigate the roiling cultural waters of his place and time. Having read the play but not yet seen it, I can't wait to get to A.C.T. and check out how director Carey Perloff has brought this sprawling tale to life on stage.

One thing I have seen is Life Tastes Good, the delightfully quirky feature film that Gotanda wrote and directed (it'll soon be out on DVD). I'd also love to visit Mashiko, the Japanese town where he once studied pottery -- but I'm pretty sure such a trip would be outside our show's research budget. Well, at least BART can get me as far as A.C.T. ...

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March 25th, 2007

O Peggy?

PeggyI'm fairly sure I asked some decent questions of local author Peggy Orenstein about her marvelous new memoir, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Fertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother. But there was so much to talk to her about -- I mean, just covering everything in that subtitle could take up a whole miniseries! -- that I was hoping that you, gentle blog reader, could help continue the conversation.

Peggy has graciously offered to respond to your own questions, comments, and stories (via the "comment" link at the bottom of this item) -- so please, chime in! The subject of fertility is such an emotional one for many of us -- as is, of course, the more general topic of parenthood and its complexities. Peggy and I are really looking forward to hearing from you!

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5 comments March 19th, 2007

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