“CW Prepping Charles Darwin Drama,” perfect opportunity for a Darwin facepalm

From The Hollywood Reporter:

CW Prepping Charles Darwin Drama, CBS Readying Gothic Horror Show

Hot writer Adam Karp is prepping two big-swing dramas for The CW and CBS. First, Karp — who won the 2012 Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Award — is readying Unnatural Selection, a drama set to explore Charles Darwin and Captain Robert FitzRoy’s journey through the Amazon.

The CW has handed out a script commitment for the drama that focuses on a 21-year-old Darwin, and his childhood friend Capt. Fitzroy’s journey through the Amazon to return the woman they both love to her native home. During the journey, they encounter a land ripe with political conflict, mysterious creatures, mythical cities and dangerous foes beyond their wildest imagination. The drama is based on Darwin and FitzRoy’s five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, which established the former ahead of his Origin of the Species.

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Darwin images on the screen

I’ve recently noticed two Darwin posters on the screen. One on the television program Parenthood in a classroom:

The other in a trailer for the new Gus van Sant film Restless, in which the lead female character has a fascination with Charles:

That is all.

Update: I watched X-Men: First Class, and grabbed this image:

PBS vs. NASA: Thoughts on popular science education at a local museum

I love living in Portland, Oregon. Great nature parks. Great libraries. Great museums.

One such museum is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), and they always have something interesting going on. Back in April, I was able to take my son to see the Kratt Brothers. They were discussing their new children’s program on PBS Kids, Wild Kratts. Many of my readers might know them from their earlier programs, Kratt’s Creatures and Zoboomafoo. I loved these shows when I was young, and my son now enjoys watching clips and episodes of Wild Kratts on the PBS website (we do not own a television). Each episode starts out with Chris and Martin Kratt discussing a specific animal, sometimes on location. Then they morph into their animated forms and fun and adventure ensues as we learn about adaptations while the Kratts foil the plans of various villains who want to exploit the animals. Oh, and they don creature power suits.

For an event that required parents to sign up for free, but limited, tickets through the OMSI website, I expected that we would get to meet the Kratt Brothers. Their presentation for a room full of kids was about thirty minutes, and they had a question and answer session as well.

Kratt Brothers at OMSI

Kratt Brothers at OMSI

Patrick seemingly entranced by TV characters talking about animals:

Kratt Brothers at OMSI

But did we get to meet them, take our kid’s picture with them? Nope. After the presentation, they darted out the side door of the auditorium so fast that my son was unable to give them a small piece of octopus art he had made for them. And tears gushed. (I passed off the art to an OMSI employee I knew and asked her to make sure they get it). It was a fun event, and I support PBS and most of their children’s programming (Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train can’t be beat for educational shows). The event, however, felt very controlled, and it lacked a sense of personal connection.

The auditorium was full for the Kratt Brothers, children’s television celebrities. Some parents were even complaining on the museum’s Facebook page that they were unable to get tickets, or heard about it too late.

In July, Patrick and I went to OMSI for two more events. Earlier in the month, we headed over to the planetarium early on a Saturday morning to witness the the very last launch of the Space Shuttle: Atlantis (STS-135). The planetarium usually shows the launches of the shuttles, but this was the LAST! We had to go. We sat in the planetarium, groggy but excited, watching NASA television for an hour-and-a-half until the countdown.

Last Space Shuttle launch at OMSI

It was a great moment for me, because the three-decade history of the Space Shuttle program matches my three decades of life; and great for Patrick because he loves all things science and it’s something I wouldn’t want my son to miss.

Last Space Shuttle launch at OMSI

We applauded during that final liftoff, while some of the other folks in the crowd teared up. How many people were there in the planetarium? I’d say about 40 (mostly adults), and that includes news teams who were there to film it (you can see Patrick and I for a brief moment here). That number does not begin to fill up the planetarium.

Two weeks later, we were fortunate enough to go to OMSI again to see a presentation by “OMSI Kid” and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt (he is from Camas, Washington – just over the Columbia River from Portland – and his mother volunteered for OMSI). Barratt flew on the third to last shuttle mission, aboard Discovery (STS-133) as mission specialist.

Barratt spoke of that last Discovery mission, the future of NASA’s space exploration, and the history of the name Discovery for ships of exploration (sea-going and space). He included a question and answer session, and gifted to OMSI an “I am OMSI” shirt he wore while on the International Space Station in 2009.

Before the presentation as people were entering the auditorium, Barratt posed for pictures and gave his signature. After the presentation, he did a formal photo op and signed NASA photographs.

Astronomy Day at OMSI: Astronaut Michael Barratt

Two things struck me about the Space Shuttle and astronaut events. Neither had filled up the planetarium. More people had come out to Barratt’s presentation than the final launch of Atlantis, but still tickets did not run out like they did for the Kratt Brothers. And while Patrick could not keep his eyes off of the Kratt Brothers, he was difficult to keep his attention in Barratt’s presentation. That is not to say he wasn’t excited to meet an astronaut! But there’s an obvious difference between them. Barratt is not a television celebrity, and children haven’t viewed him at a particular time every morning. I am not trying to diminish the Kratt Brothers here; I’d rather my son watch their show and talk about them then what shows on any other channel. I just think Barratt should have more exposure, and it would have been great to see his event overflowing. While I’m sure there’s more to the turn outs and dymanics of each event, the greatest factor is that one is television-based and the other is not.

Astronomy Day at OMSI: Astronaut Michael Barratt

What did Patrick have to show off seeing the Kratt Brothers? A sticker. Barratt? A signed photograph and a picture with him. Which do you think will have a more lasting impression on a curious young mind?

PLAY AGAIN

[Cross-posted from Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas]

On Friday night Patrick and I headed to the Multnomah Arts Center in Portland for a free screening of the documentary PLAY AGAIN. Here’s a description:

One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii.

But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how will this impact our children, our society, and eventually, our planet?

At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole?

This moving and humorous documentary follows six teenagers who, like the “average American child,” spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.

Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, neuroscientist Gary Small, parks advocate Charles Jordan, and geneticist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for a sustainable future.

I really enjoyed the film, and the different personalities of the six Portland-based teenagers and their various reactions to being outside. They were taken into wilderness by TrackersPDX, a wilderness survival education group in Portland. While the teenagers learned to construct their own bows and arrows, I felt something was lacking in the film: a general sense of wonder about nature. In order to connect our youth with nature, to get themselves away from their televisions, computers, and various hand-held devices, must they learn to be, as TrackersPDX classifies, Rangers, Wilders, Mariners, and Artisans? I believe connecting to nature is fulfilled by the simple act of being in nature, by observing landscapes and wildlife and flowers and rivers, and the interactions between it all. If students want to learn how to survive in the wild, that’s okay, but I think the first start to moving away from screens is by showing children the inherent awesomeness of nature.

That said, the film is great, and there are some nice thoughts from Louv, McKibben, and Suzuki about the larger picture. How can we expect our children growing up now and children-to-be to make crucial decisions about their world if they have never had any experiences in nature. From the film: “What they do not know, they will not protect and what they do not protect they will lose” (Charles Jordan, previous Portland Parks and Recreation Director).

I wish I had the money to buy a copy of the film they had there.

Producer Meg Merrill was on hand at the screening, as were two of the teenagers. Some photos:

Play Again producer Meg Merrill

Play Again producer Meg Merrill

Play Again producer Meg Merrill and teenagers from the film

Play Again producer Meg Merrill and teenagers from the film

Play Again poster

Play Again poster

Patrick on stage at the Multnomah Arts Center

Patrick on stage at the Multnomah Arts Center

Teenagers from Play Again film talk to viewers

Teenagers from Play Again film talk to viewers

I encourage you to peruse the film’s website, Facebook page, and here’s the trailer:

Further clips from the film (some not in final version):

Some local media:
Moms’ film counters nature-deficit disorder Moms make work of play, nature in film
New documentary ‘Play Again’ unplugs six Portland-area teens
‘Play Again’ returns to Portland roots with environmental cause

VIDEO: The End of God?: A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion (in 4 parts)

Thomas Dixon, this program’s host, is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary University of London, and author of Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) and co-editor of Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives. You can also read an essay of his about Darwin and religion in America on the Darwin Correspondence Project website.