“Samson and Delilah” Documentary Wins Award for UCSD-TV

24281UCSD-TV has been honored with a coveted Platinum Aurora Award for the production of “San Diego Opera Spotlight: Samson and Delilah.” The program was honored in the “Documentary-Cultural” category.

Produced and edited by John Menier and photographed by Menier and Marci Bretts, the 30-minute program provides an insider’s look at the Opera’s 2013 performance of “Samson and Delilah.”

The behind-the-scenes production spotlights the opera’s elaborate sets, bravura arias, large choral numbers, and staging of the stirring “Bacchanale” dance.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this award-winning show,” said Lynn Burnstan, managing director of UCSD-TV. “Granted unusual access, John and Marci captured the opera’s artistic brilliance and organized chaos, as seen from a perspective that’s not readily available or fully appreciated, even to those who follow opera closely.”

The Aurora Awards is an international film and video competition that salutes excellence in commercials, cable programming and documentaries, as well as industrial, instructional, and corporate videos.

Best of Show is the highest honor awarded in each category. Entries come from throughout the U.S. and some 30 countries.

This award comes on the heels of the announcement that this same team was cited for their role in creating the regional Emmy Award-winning video that documented the Malashock Dance company’s 25th anniversary concert.

Watch Samson and Delilah and Malashock Dance – 25th Season Celebration on UCSD-TV.

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Contributed by John B.B. Freeman

What’s the Verdict on Vaping?

27760The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise with annual sales now totaling over two billion dollars. What do we really know about how these devices affect our health? Many people tout them as smoking cessation success stories, but are they just as harmful as traditional cigarettes?

Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander joins our host Dr. David Grant to discuss new research illuminating the potential health risks of vaping.

Watch E-Cigarettes, Vaping, and MRSA – Health Matters online now.

Explore more programs in the Health Matters series.

Arrr – Here be pirates!

8232“To err is human, to arr is pirate.”

This quote (a personal favorite) cleverly illustrates one of many myths Hollywood has popularized about pirates: that all pirates talked like… well, like pirates. You know, “shiver me timbers,” “blow me down” and the like.

Other popular myths include:

- All pirates were missing body parts.
- All pirate ships flew the Skull and Crossbones.
- Pirates buried their stolen treasure.
- Pirates were fond of rum and parrots.
- Sailors became pirates to pursue a life of crime.

And perhaps most enduringly: All pirates were “anarchistic maniacs,” a la Blackbeard.

Here be Pirates chronicles the efforts of UC San Diego history professor Mark Hanna to correct these and other misconceptions about buccaneers. In his Harvard doctoral thesis, several popular courses and ongoing research, Hanna paints a detailed and nuanced picture of pirates and privateers, perhaps less colorful than the Tinseltown version but no less fascinating.

One especially intriguing aspect of Hanna’s work focuses on the profound contributions of those wide-ranging mariners to the development of the natural sciences from the late 16th century through the early 18th century. Occasional pirates such as William Dampier made extensive studies of Pacific Rim flora and fauna, and influenced later scientists such as Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin. To spotlight the efforts of these “citizen scientists,” Hanna worked closely with the Special Collections & Archives at the UC San Diego Library to create Unlikely Naturalists, a local component of the traveling exhibition Real Pirates!, currently on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Unlikely Naturalists features original journals and logbooks held in the Library’s world-renowned Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, which comprises more than 2,000 works spanning nearly 300 years of maritime exploration and discovery.

In addition to first-hand study of materials from the Hill Collection and a tour of the Museum exhibition, Hanna’s students sailed on the Californian, a 1984 replica of an 1847 cutter operated by the Maritime Museum of San Diego. During a four-hour trip students were introduced to sail operations and shipboard life, including the vital importance of teamwork and following the captain’s orders with dispatch.

As Hanna notes in Here Be Pirates, we can’t literally travel back in time, but these resources and activities – first-hand study of primary sources, the Museum exhibition, and sailing on a tall ship – each contribute to fostering empathy, which is vital to the study of the early modern period.

“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a pirate. Then always be a pirate.”

Watch Here be Pirates and browse other programs from the Library Channel.

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Contributed by Arts and Humanities Producer, John Menier

Why are we violent?

786As CARTA co-director Ajit Varki so aptly put it in his concluding remarks, “It was an intellectually stimulating and fascinating but deeply disturbing symposium.”

From interactions in lions and our hominid cousins the chimpanzees, to our Pleistocene ancestors and early human cultures to modern society, CARTA gathered scientists across the spectrum from neurophysiology to sociology to bring their respective microscopes to bear upon the question of aggression within the human species, its role in our development, its causes and its consequences.

While the data are at times grim, disturbing and depressing, it is an important look at an inescapable (or is it?) feature of human evolution, the use of aggression and violence.

Hopefully, if one can remain dispassionate, we are led to ask, can it evolve out of us?

Watch the latest programs from CARTA on Male Aggression and Violence in Human Evolution to learn more.

Weapons of Mass Distraction: Keeping Our Sanity and Balance in a High-Speed, Displacing World, with Pico Iyer

27682In today’s fast-paced digital world, it’s easy to overdose on information and become dizzy from the barrage of instant news and events. While recent technology has made our lives much brighter, longer, fuller and healthier than ever before, how can we ensure that we’re not drowning in information and still have offline lives as well?

Born in England to parents from India, raised in ’60s California, educated at Eton, Oxford, and Harvard, and living in rural Japan, essayist and novelist Pico Iyer writes frequently on globalism for Harper’s, on culture and politics for The New York Times, on literature for The New York Review of Books, and on many topics for magazines from National Geographic to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.

In an interview with UC San Diego’s Peter Gourevitch, Iyer draws upon 40 years of travel across five continents to explore how to make the most of new opportunities, without being depleted — or devoured — by them. This program is presented by the Helen Edison Lecture Series at UC San Diego.

Watch Weapons of Mass Distraction.