Donner, Dr. Stanley: Origins of Public Television

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We all know that people listen to radio and watch television. The difference between radio and television is in the image. When you listen to radio, your mind creates the image for you. When you watch television, a ready-made image is flashed before your eyes. The early days of television were days of great creativity, when the questions of “how” and “what should we do” were present at all levels of production, ownership and programming. In the early 1950s, a young professor from Stanford University named Stanley Donner was creatively engaged in the development of public television in San Francisco, California. In the last 50 or so years, Professor Donner has participated in and followed the development of this mind-boggling medium.

Professor Stanley Donner in the Radio Curious Studios in September 1998 to share the story of how KQED was organized and successfully applied for funding within a very few days, just before the opportunity lapsed.

Dr. Stanley Donner recommends “The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History,” by Sir Isaiah Berlin.

 

Rosenthal, Ken: The Space Between Brilliance and Madness

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In this program we discuss cultivating beauty in the space between brilliance and madness with Ken Paul Rosenthal, an independent film maker based in San Francisco, California.

Rosenthal says his “work explores the geography of madness through the regenerative power of nature, urban landscapes, home movies, and archival footage from hygiene films.” And his 2011 film “Crooked Beauty”, available on Vimeo, reveals his artistry and cinematography skills.

Rosenthal’s 2018 film “Whisper Rapture” is a musical and mental health documentary focusing on Bonfire Madigan and her cello. The music you are hearing now is by Bonfire Madigan on her cello, with permission.

Not a stranger to demons of the mind, Rosenthal readily shares his personal experiences, and describes how communities of like-minded people can collectively ease the individual pain and find joyful creativity in the spaces between brilliance and madness.
When Ken Paul Rosenthal and I visited by phone from his home in San Francisco, California on July 30, 2018, we began our conversation when I asked him to describe what many people call mental illness.

The books Ken Paul Rosenthal recommends are both by David Abram: “The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World,” and “Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology.” The film he recommends is “Leave No Trace,” about a father and daughter who lived off the grid in the wilderness.

Ken Paul Rosenthal’s website is http://www.kenpaulrosenthal.com
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His 2018 film “Whisper Rapture” can be accessed here: http://whisperrapture.com/

His 2011 film “Crooked Beauty” can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/28315394

Silha, Stephen: The Puckish Whimsical Life of James Broughton

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The puckishly whimsical life and times of poet and film maker James Broughton is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious in a visit with Stephen Silha, the producer and director of “Big Joy,” a biographical film of the life and times of James Broughton.

Broughton believed that in order to live an authentic life we each should follow our own weird. He says:
“I don’t know what the left is doing said the right hand,
But it looks fascinating.”

And:
“I may be infecting the whole body
said the Head
but they’ll never amputate me.”

Stephen Silha and I visited by phone from his home near Seattle, Washington on Mother’s Day, 2014. He began our conversation by telling us what drew him to make a film about his friend James Broughton.

The book Stephen Silha recommends is “The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon,” by Tom Spanbauer.

The music in this weeks edition of Radio Curious is “Twril” by Norman Arnold, from the movie, “Big Joy.”

Most, Stephen: Documentary Filmmaker: Stories Make the World Part Two

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We continue with part two of “Stories Make the World,” with Stephen Most.  He’s a playwright, documentary film maker, and author of the book “Stories Make the World: Reflections of Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary.”  Most presents vignettes of his mentors and experiences, and employs his personal art of storytelling to share who they are and what he has learned in his 54 year career as a writer and story teller.

In part one Most discusses his experience with Peruvian Shamen and Curanderos as a young man when he lived on the north coast of Peru, and the art of documentary making.  Here, in part two, Most tells the story of biologist and conservationist Aldo Leopold, among others, and describes the art of listening.

When Steve Most visited the Radio Curious studios on August 4, 2017, we began part two when I asked him about the art of storytelling.

The books Stephen Most recommends are: “Human Condition” and “On Revolution,” by Hanna Arendt, and “Granada” by Steven Nightingale.

Stephen Most’s website is (http://stephenmost.com/).

Most, Stephen: Documentary Filmmaker: Stories Make the World Part One

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Meaning, which comes from stories, is the topic of our two part series on how stories make the world. Our guest is Stephen Most, author of “Stories Make the World: Reflections on Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary.” In this book, Most shares his experience as a playwright, writer, and creator of documentary films over the past 50 plus years.

Steve Most and I first crossed paths in 1976. We soon determined we had both lived in Peru for several years ten years earlier, and have been friends since.  In his 2007 visit with Radio Curious http://www.radiocurious.org/2011/06/22/most-stephen-river-of-renewal-myth-history-in-the-klamath-basin/, Most and I discussed his book “River of Renewal: Myth and History in the Klamath Basin.”

“Stories Make the World” is a crucial account of the principles and paradoxes that attend the quest to represent reality truthfully.  Most shows how documentary filmmakers and other nonfiction storytellers come to understand their subjects and cast light on the world through their art.

Steve Most visited the Radio Curious studios on August 4, 2017, to record this series on storytelling and the art of the documentary. The central theme of “Stories Make the World” is meaning comes from stories. We begin with Steve Most’s description of his initial experiences starting with his arrival to Peru’s north coast in 1964.  He contrasts information, including raw facts, and meaningful knowledge with a story.

Stephen Most’s website is stephenmost.com.
To stream or download films in the “Stories Make the World” visit: www.videoproject.com/stories.

Sorel, Edward: An Actress, Her Lovers, and a Daft Caricaturist

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Edward Sorel, a satirical caricaturist, and cartoonist, whose first book is Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936, is our guest in this edition Radio Curious. Claiming to be daft about Mary Astor for about a half a century, Sorel describes Astor’s career as a Hollywood-based actress who seemingly more than enjoyed a lustful and salacious life. Astor’s diary, which allegedly revealed the untold stories of her trysts and lovers, was the centerpiece of the sensational 1936 trial to determine the custody of her young daughter.

Sorel, whose pictorial satires have appeared on the covers of forty-six editions of The New Yorker magazine, visited Radio Curious by phone from his home in Harlem, New York City, on February 27, 2017.

The books Ed Sorel recommends are: Iron Dawn: The Monitor and The Merrimack, and the Sea Battle that Changed History, by Richard Snow; and Terrible Virtue, a Novel, by Ellen Feldman.

Steifel, Frank: “Ingelore” Speaking Without Hearing

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What would it be like for you if you were deaf? If you could not speak your first word until you were six? If you had three years of education, your first language was German, and you later emigrated to another country where they speak English?

Ingelore is the first name of a woman who was born in Germany in 1934, and came to America in 1940 at the beginning of the Third Reich, right after Kristallnacht. The film “Ingelore” was made by Inglelore’s son Frank Stiefel, and it tells his mother’s story.

In this edition of Radio Curious, we begin with Ingelore in her own words from the documentary “Ingelore.” As you hear her ability to articulate words in English it’s important to remember she cannot hear.

This interview was recorded on May 29th, 2010 with Frank Stiefel from his home in Santa Monica, California.

The books that Frank Stiefel recommends are “Hand Of My Father,” by Myron Uhlberg, and “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy.

Feeney, Mark: Nixon at the Movies

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Richard Nixon and the movies he watched while he was president is the topic of this archived edition of Radio Curious. On his third night in office, January 22, 1969 Nixon saw “The Shoes of the Fisherman” in the White House movie theater. From then until August 1973, when he resigned the presidency, Nixon watched over 500 movies in the White House, at Camp David, and other places he frequented. This is an average of 2½ movies per week during his presidency.

The book, “Nixon at the Movies: A Book About Belief,” by Boston Globe journalist Mark Feeney examines the role movies played in forming Nixon’s character and career, and the role Nixon played in the development of American film. Ronald Reagan may have been the first movie star president, but Feeney argues that Nixon was the first true cinematic president. In this program, recorded in January 2005, Mark Feeney begins by commenting on the effect the 500 plus movies that Nixon watched had on him and his presidency.

The book Mark Feeney recommends is, “The Whole Equation,” by David Thompson.

This interview was originally broadcast on February 22, 2005.

Benton, Robert: The Human Stain

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This program is about “passing,” a term sometimes used to define a person of color who passes as white. From the 2004 Radio Curious archives we revisit a conversation with film director Robert Benton, about his film “The Human Stain.” It’s a movie about the life of Coleman Silk, an eminent Jewish intellectual and devoted husband; a professor of classics at a small New England college.  The truth about Coleman Silk, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, is far more complex than expected or thought to be.  He hid behind a veil of lies, having masked his African-American origins in order to find a freedom he thought would otherwise be impossible to achieve.  But his world of deception unraveled after embarking on a romance with a much younger woman.

Our guest, Robert Benton, is a three time Academy Awards winner for his work as the Director of “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” “Places in the Heart,” and “Nobody’s Fool.” His film, “The Human Stain,” takes place in the 1990s and is based on the third novel of Phillip Roth’s “American Trilogy” describing the post World War Two turmoil in America.

The title “The Human Stain” emerges from the idea that no matter what a person does, a human being leaves a mark on the world, whether by rage, desire, ambition or accident, a kind of scar; stain that cannot be undone.  For Coleman Silk that stain is the deception and concealment he carried for decades. The human stain is the mark we leave on everything.  It speaks to the fact that we can’t get through life without marking the world around us in some way. We have no choice. It’s part of being human.

Robert Benton and I visited by phone in the fall of 2004.

The books Robert Benton recommends are “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” by Mark Haddon and “The Manuscript Found in Sargossa” by Jan Potocki.

Lowe, Felicia — Chinese Immigration:  The Veil of Secrecy and Silence

Secrecy of and revelation about the trip to America to secure a new life during the Chinese Exclusion era is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious. 

Our guest is Felicia Lowe, whose filmChinese Couplets” tells her mother’s story.  Felicia Lowe was met with refusals and silence when as a child she asked her mother about her childhood. This shroud of silence was lifted when Felicia Lowe’s daughter found an old family photograph taken in China and asked her grandmother to tell the story related to the photograph. 

The film “Chinese Couplets” shows and tells the story of a childhood in rural China, the new identity to secure passage to America, the fear of deportation if the truth were known, and a prosperous and successful life of an immigrant Chinese woman in Oakland, California.   The film “Chinese Couplets” will be shown at the Mendocino Film Festival on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 10 am in the Village of Mendocino, California.

When Felicia Lowe and I visited by phone from her home in San Francisco, California, May 17, 2015, I asked her to tell us about her mother.

The book Felicia Lowe recommends is “The Blues Eye,” by Toni Morrison.

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