TV and radio

Last night, Jon, Jerry and I finished watching a four-part documentary on PBS, China From the Inside. The documentary was very well done, and I was surprised by how outspoken the critics of the government were. The overall conclusion: China from the inside is in bad shape. The four parts were about politics, women, the environment, and the law. You can guess that there isn’t much good news on any of these fronts. And it all boils down to one basic cause: the government isn’t accountable to the people.

Next up in our Friday nights of learning: The History of the Supreme Court.


Just saw two fascinating shows on KQED:

A story in Frontline World covered an ingenious idea called Play Pumps. It takes water pumps and turns them into a piece of playground equipment, so that kids have fun while they pump water. It started out as a cheap way to bring clean water to poor areas in South Africa, and the company making them is now receiving $15 million in funding from the U.S.

Twisted follows four people with dystonia, a bewildering neurological disorder where a person literally cannot control parts of their own body. Probably the most famous sufferer is Dilbert creator Scott Adams. There is treatment called deep brain stimulation (DBS) where electrodes are implanted into the brain, but doctors don’t know why it works. The film follows one person in particular as he agonizes over whether to get DBS, and then struggles while the doctors try to make the treatment work for him.

I’ve been watching the Tour de France all month. (Its timing works perfectly with my schedule: wake up, watch the last 30 mins while eating breakfast, then go to work.) Can you believe Floyd Landis? From washed up yesterday to a stunning comeback today. I’m really pulling for him to win — it would propel his achievement from an extraordinary single-day race to a legendary tour win.

Another sign of technological change: grainy amateur viral videos posted on the web, and then broadcast on TV for your viewing pleasure.

Once again, it’s pledge time on PBS, when they bring out all their special shows, including reunions of soul and doo-wop singers from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Which means that when I’m in my 60s, I’m looking forward to a pledge special of hip-hop and R&B. Picture it now: a PBS special featuring Ice T, Ludacris, Salt-N-Pepa, 50 Cent, Destiny’s Child (“for the first time in 30 years”), Snoop Dog, Missy Elliott, … After all, if the Smithsonian can exhibit hip-hop, surely PBS can.

I saw MythBusters on the Discovery Channel for the first time last Saturday and again tonight. It has instantly become one of my favorite TV shows. Tonight they fired handguns and rifles, including a 50-caliber, into a pool to see how deep underwater you would have to be to avoid getting hurt (at 30 degrees, only about 3 feet).

They also found that a person cannot go 360 degrees on a chain swing under his or her own power. But it is possible—if you strap a rocket to the person (or dummy, in this case) at 40 degrees.

Sweeeeeet. All in the name of science…

This is the first year I watching the last two weeks of the Tour every day. On the west coast it’s perfect timing: wake up at 7, watch the last hour of the stage on OLN, then get to work by my usual time. And I got totally sucked in — even when it was clear that Lance Armstrong would win his 7th, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen did a good job of keeping each individual stage interesting, and it gave them a chance to talk about riders besides Lance.

Diehard cycling fans foam at the mouth over OLN’s coverage (see the discussion boards at VeloNews). But I’m not diehard (otherwise I would have been waking up at 4:30), so I enjoyed it. So I’m set for next year’s tour, since the field will be wide open, and now I know the names of cyclists to look out for.

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