Tag Archives: PBS


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One summer, while I was in college, I spent 4 months working as a fire fighter in Lassen National Forest and Park.  I lived that summer with a crew of 10 firefighters at an isolated fire station near the entrance to the Lassen Park and fought quite a few forest and brush fires in and around the park.  It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.  My respect and reverence for our forests and the natural environment was heavily influenced by that adventure.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Together, we must protect and defend our National Park System:  It Belongs To All of Us!

(Here is a link to 20 video excerpts from the Ken Burns documentary film about our National Parks.  This film took FIVE YEARS to shoot and edit.  I think it is one of the very best documentary films ever made.)



American Heroes who helped create the national park system:    In 1901, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a member of the Senate Park Improvement Commission.  In 1910, he was approached by the American Civic Association for advice on the creation of a new bureau of national parks. This initiated six years of correspondence, including this letter on January 19, 1912:

“The present situation in regard to the national parks is very bad. They have been created one at a time by acts of Congress which have not defined at all clearly the purposes for which the lands were to be set apart, nor provided any orderly or efficient means of safeguarding the parks . . . I have made at different times two suggestions, one of which was . . . a definition of the purposes for which the national parks and monuments are to be administered by the Bureau.”

His best contribution was of a few simple words that would guide conservation in America for generations to come and were preserved in the National Park Service Organic Act (1916):

“To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

National parks began to be designated in the second half of the 19th century, and national monuments in the early part of the 20th century. Each park or monument was managed individually or, alternately in some cases, by the United States Army, each with varying degrees of success. Beginning in 1911, Senator Read Smoot of Utah and Representative John E. Raker of California had submitted bills to establish the National Park Service to oversee the management of all these holdings. The bills were opposed by the director of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, and his supporters. The Forest Service believed that a National Park Service would be a threat to continued Forest Service control of public lands that had been set aside for the timber trade. Beginning in 1910 the American Civic Association with the support of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Sierra Club had led the call for a federal service to manage the parks. The noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was also a booster of a single national organization to manage the National Parks.

Successful and influential industrialist Stephen Mather was challenged by Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane to lobby for legislation creating a bureau to oversee the National Parks. Mather accepted pro bono (accepting a perfunctory salary of $1) and with assistance primarily by a young lawyer named Horace Albright a campaign was begun. By 1915, regular meetings were occurring in Washington at the home of Congressman William Kent of California. The group’s regulars were Congressman Kent, J. Horace McFarland of the American Civic Association, and the few Washington staff members of the Department of the Interior responsible the National Parks.


http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks  PBS brings you a preview of the newest Ken Burns documentary series, THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICAS BEST IDEA. The 12-hour, six-part documentary series, directed by Burns and co-produced with his longtime colleague, Dayton Duncan.  Premiered on Sunday, September 27th, 2009 (check local listings) Buy the DVD: http://www.shoppbs.org/entry.point?entry=3473255&source=PBSCS_YOUTUBE_NAP…

“TESLA Master of Lightning” PBS Documentary

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“Washington, D.C.- Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century, with over 700 worldwide patents to his name. He was a visionary genius whose radical ideas created the technology that connects the world with power and information. One of history’s most controversial and misunderstood people, his incredible story is finally being brought to the screen.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), a Serbian immigrant to America, has become a cult hero. He is known and respected in scientific and engineering circles, but he also appeals to a youthful and general audience with no formal background in science. In addition to his work, his life is filled with intense personal drama, triumph and tragedy.

Tesla’s most famous invention is his system of AC power generation and transmission that is used universally today. He also invented the Tesla coil to create high-frequency electricity. This led to the creation of neon and fluorescent lighting, radio transmission, remote control, and hundreds of other devices that are now an essential part of our everyday lives. The documentary finally sets the record straight on Tesla’s inventions and accomplishments. Edison and Marconi are frequently credited for the invention of AC power transmission and radio, respectively. The program demonstrates that this is not the case.

TESLA, Master of Lightning, is a multi-media project that tells the comprehensive story of the life and work of Nikola Tesla for the very fist time. The program combines dramatizations with rare footage and photographs to weave a story filled with science, drama, and mystery. Included are many new and unknown details of Tesla’s life, including the influence he had on the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program. A great deal of the story is told in Tesla’s own words, drawn from his autobiographical and scientific writings, and performed by Stacy Keach.

Mr. Keach has long had a personal interest in Tesla’s work. Says Keach, “Without Nikola Tesla, the world, as we know it today, would not exist.  Unlike Thomas Edison, who invented Direct Current (DC), Tesla was the man responsible for giving us Alternating Current (AC), which gives us electric power over long distances. Radio, television, and the world of wireless electronic transmission, are all direct results of Tesla’s vision. Yes, he was also an eccentric, a germophobic, and something of a megalomaniac—human qualities which make a profile of his life all the more fascinating..for many years I entertained the notion of trying to mount a one-man show about his life. I am truly honored and thrilled to be a part of this exciting documentary. ”

Eight years in the making, the project includes the PBS documentary special; the companion book written by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth, published by Barnes & Noble; and an extensive educational website at www.pbs.org. The documentary and the book contain an extremely rare collection of photographs documenting Tesla’s life and inventions. These photos are like lost pages of electrical history and an important resource for scholars. The website will contain other rare Tesla information, including correspondence, scientific papers and articles.