By Elizabeth Deane | Thursday, May 2, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
By WGBH News | Friday, April 13, 2012
April 13, 2012
The more things change ....
In this Feb. 7, 1989 segment from WGBH-2's Ten O'Clock News, reporter Hope Kelly talks to MBTA riders about changes under general manager James O'Leary's tenure. Both ridership and budget increased, and some stations were renovated — but not everyone was happy. Their complaints are a lot like ones riders have today. Their eyeglasses? Maybe not so much.
Check back for a week of WGBH News Focus coverage of the MBTA starting April 23.
Thanks to producer Gary Mott for archival help.
Friday, February 24, 2012
BOSTON — If you can’t catch Opening Day at Fenway Park, don’t worry. We have your ticket to another (former) national pastime that is sure to get you out of your seat.
This Month from the Vault: Dancing Disco, Episode 1, “The New York”
“So what’s a nice television station like WGBH-Boston doing with a national television series called Dancing Disco?” Executive producer Sylvia Davis asked this question in 1979, and then answered it with a line that was both decorous and slightly wacky.
“We’re the people who bring you Julia Child, The French Chef, Masterpiece Theatre, and Nova. Why not disco? We figured if we could teach people the joys of French cooking, we could also teach them the pleasure of learning how to disco.”
Here’s How it Happened
Building on the success of The French Chef, WGBH caught “how-to” fever in the mid-to-late late 1970s. The Victory Garden launched in 1975, and the first episode of This Old House premiered locally in early 1979.
Davis and broadcast manager Mark Stevens jumped in with their disco idea after the huge box office success of John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever (1977). Disco may have been offbeat for public television, but it was in step with the times.
In Boston, “discos began popping up like spring flowers,” Davis explained in a companion book to Dancing Disco. “Based on the marvelous dancing [in the movie], we began looking for someone to teach on TV.”
When Davis saw Randy Deats on an audition tape, she knew he was the right choice. “Suddenly, this man came on and began talking to me. He told me to stand up, start moving my feet, and do what he did. And I did. What Randy Deats could do for me, he could do for others.”
Deats, who is still active in the dance scene and has a studio in Warwick, Rhode Island, is a terrific teacher. In this episode, host and then-WCOZ radio personality Lisa Karlin sets the scene, telling viewers to push back the coffee table and get moving. Then Deats takes over. He teaches a line dance called the New York, so viewers don’t need a partner.
In other episodes, all shot at Club Max in Boston’s Park Square, Deats teaches dances with names like the Rope Hustle, the Triple Hustle, the Rock, and the Drop, among others. The episode featured here has a segment on disco fashion with Mademoiselle magazine fashion editor Diane Smith. Other shows include interviews with DJs, top dancers, special effects experts, musicians, and even a foot doctor—“because you can’t make those moves when your feet are sad,” according to a blurb in the WGBH program guide Prime Time from July 1979.
Whether you’re in it for the dance moves, or the clothes, or just the nostalgia factor, Dancing Disco is fun to watch. And keep in mind that entire cable channels have been inspired by the fruits of WGBH’s creativity in “how-to” programming (think Food Network and HGTV).
Open Vault is the WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA) website of unique and historically important content produced by WGBH's public television and radio stations. It provides online access to video, audio, images, searchable transcripts, and resource management tools —available for individual and classroom learning.
And to learn more about Dancing Disco, visit the Open Vault.
By Bob Seay | Thursday, October 13, 2011
Oct. 14, 2011
BOSTON — Last week, three African women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia; a peace activist Leymah Gbowee, who helped to end Liberia's 14-year civil war, and human rights activist and journalist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, who has been called "the Mother of the Revolution" in that country.
These three women follow in the footsteps of another pioneering African woman leader.
Last month, the world heard news of the death of Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai (pronounced wan-GAR-ee mah-THI), who in 2004 became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai was the leader of the Green Belt Movement, a women-led effort to plant trees.
Using segments from an interview in WGBH's Media Archive from the 1990 series Race to Save the Planet, former Nova producer Linda Harrar offered this personal remembrance.
"The first time I met Wangari Maathai, in 1988 in Nairobi, Kenya, she was a little reluctant to be interviewed. She shook her head and said, 'I get into a lot of trouble because I have a very big mouth!' Then she burst into laughter, flashing her unforgettable smile," Harrar said.
A Vision Is Born
As a strong critic of the government, and a courageous fighter for the environment, Maathai did get into a lot of trouble over the years because of her outspokeness. During the 1980s, Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi labeled the Green Belt Movement "subversive." Maathai was arrested, beaten unconscious and thrown in jail for her protests to save parks and forests from development. But she managed to capture the attention of the world, and through her willingness to put her own life on the line, won many of her most important battles.
Maathai started her career wanting to work on preventing childhood malnutrition. In the process, she realized soil erosion was one of the root causes, and that planting trees would be key to solving it.
In the 1990 WGBH series Race to Save the Planet, Maathai said, "I know for certain that the soil is the sustainer of life. Without it, we cannot live. On this continent, we have seen too much suffering, starvation, due to degradation of the soil, and it has taken millions of years to build this topsoil. It is so important to protect it, because if we don't, we are on our way to the end."
Bringing Home The Brains
While Maathai received some of her education in the United States, afterwards she returned to live in Kenya for the rest of her life. Linda Harrar recalled why this was important to Maathai.
"Wangari hated the 'brain drain' of Africa's brightest students being lured away from home, and she believed that Africans need to develop their own leaders to solve the continent's problems," Harrar said. "But she also understood the need for foreign aid to get some promising programs started."
After earning her PhD in Kenya, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which organized communities of poor women to plant trees and tend to them until they were strong. The women earned a small income for doing this work, in a land where jobs are very hard to find. The Green Belt Movement also taught children to grow green belts around their schools. And it taught farmers to plant trees in rows between their crops, which helps to restore nutrients to the soil.
Making The Mission Possible
Maathai wanted her movement to start with planting trees because it is something that anyone can do. The universality, she said, would help people access the movement.
"Then during the tree-planting campaign, you bring out all the other issues that are very much related: the issues of food production, firewood crisis, soil erosion. All these are part and parcel of what we are discussing, but when we first discuss, we start with the immediate problems, the local problems, the problems we can see every day," Maathai said.
Harrar says the movement planted over 30 million trees.
"Maathai would sometimes say that the healing of Africa is still only a dream. But she understood her own power to inspire people, of all ages and cultures to get behind her," Harrar said.
Maathai also had her human moments of doubt.
"Sometimes I get very discouraged because the problems are just enormous, and although the people are very willing, sometimes they really think that you can solve all these problems at once, and you can't," Maathai said. "But sometimes I also get very encouraged, especially when I see these trees growing in the nursery, or when they're so big that you see the farmers happy in their fields. It's very satisfying. So I go up and down all the time. And most of the time, I think I'm on the better side."
Crossing The 'Vale Of Tears'
What did Harrar find most striking about Wangari Maathai's work?
"Perhaps what I admired so much was Wangari's ability to keep fighting for what she believed in – and to inspire others not to lose heart. I last saw her just after 9/11, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when she was comforting us as Americans for all that we had lost when the Twin Towers fell. One of her best friends had lost a daughter. She of course knew that life can be what she called 'a vale of tears,' but she would always find a way to find strength in what she believed in," Harrar said.
Maathai reflected on why the work mattered so much to her.
"I don't really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me there is a problem and I have got to do something about it, so I'm doing something about it," Maathai said. "I think that that is what I would call the God in me. And all of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet. And it must be this voice that is telling me to do something. And I'm sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet, at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, the fate of this planet!" Maathai said.
Linda Harrar said Wangari Maathai's legacy should serve as a source of inspiration for all of us.
"So here's an idea. If you're feeling sad or depressed, or cynical about the many problems of the world, think of Wangari Maathai's example: Get out and plant a tree, get your kids to plant a tree. It's something you can do for the future. And it would make Wangari smile that dazzling smile," Harrar said.
By Bob Seay | Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Oct. 6, 2011
BOSTON — With the loss of Steve Jobs, we have our own remembrance of him, in a superb WGBH interview from 1990. It's from a series called The Machine That Changed The World, a BBC-TV/WGBH Boston Co-Production. In it, Jobs talks about how that revolutionary device, the Macintosh personal computer, came to be and the particular gifts of the people who made it.
Here are some excerpts from the extended interview with Steve Jobs conducted for that series:
Steve Jobs: "I think the Macintosh was created by a group of people who felt that there wasn't a strict division between science and art. Or in other words, that mathematics is really a liberal art if you look at it from a slightly different point of view. And why can't we interject typography into computers. Why can't we have computers talking to us in English language? And looking back, five years later, this seems like a trivial observation. But at the time it was cataclysmic in its consequences. And the battles that were fought to push this point of view out the door were very large."
Jobs talked about the people on his design team and what they were like.
Jobs: "My observation is that the doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the 'thinker-doer' in one person. And if we really go back and we examine, did Leonardo [da Vinci] have a guy off to the side that was thinking five years out in the future what he would paint or the technology he would use to paint it? Of course not. Leonardo was the artist but he also mixed all his own paints. He also was a fairly good chemist. He knew about pigments, knew about human anatomy. And combining all of those skills together, the art and the science, the thinking and the doing, was the exceptional result."
"And there is no difference in our industry. It's very easy to say, 'oh I thought of this three years ago.' But usually when you dig a little deeper, you find that the people that really did it were also the people that really worked through the hard intellectual problems as well."
On Feb. 10, 1982, the Mac design group had a small party. Along with their cake and champagne, they each signed a large sheet of paper. Jobs had those signatures copied and engraved into the mold for the Macintosh case.
Jobs: "The people that worked on it consider themselves and I certainly consider them artists. These are the people that under different circumstances would be painters and poets but because of the time that we live in this new medium has appeared, in which to express one's self to one's fellow species and that's a medium of computing and so a lot of people that would have been artists and scientists have gone into this field to express their feeling, so it seemed like the right thing to do."
Jobs: "The first few rows had all the people that worked on the Mac. About a 150 people that really made it happen were all seated in the first few rows and when it was introduced, after we went through it all and had the computer speak to people itself and things like that, the whole auditorium of about twenty five hundred people gave it a standing ovation and the whole first few rows of Mac folks were all just crying. All of us were. I was biting my tongue very hard because I had a little bit more to do. But it was a very, very emotional moment because it was no longer ours. From that day forward it was no longer ours. We couldn't change it. If we had a good idea the following day it was too late. It belonged to the world at that point in time."