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November 22, 2012 Edition
From the time he was a kid, Richard Garriott had a dream: he wanted to be an astronaut, just like his father. Unfortunately, NASA disqualified him because of his eyesight, but that merely spurred him on. After making millions of dollars as a founding father of online gaming (he and his company created Ultima Online), he decided to spend it in support of privatized space flight. In 2008, Garriott became the second astronaut to follow his father into space (the first was Russian Sergei Volkov) to go into space when he traveled to the International Space Station via the Russian Soyuz rocket. Follow along with the engaging Garriott as he trains for the mission, first in the United States and then in Russia, then heads out into space and back. Bonus features include the first film in space (made by Garriott in a silly mood) as well as a demonstration of how well magic tricks work (or donít) in zero-g. Spectacular footage of re-entry, plus a personal view of life on the space station make this an enthralling film for those who want a good look at current ordinary life in space.
Eva Markvoort died in 2010 after a 25-year battle with cystic fibrosis, but before she died, she lived a vibrant and happy life as a writer, artist, student, friend, sister and daughter. Her blog, 65_Red Roses, was where she met her friends, Kina and Meg, who also suffer from the disease, and also where she shared some of her pain with her readers. The film begins as she awaits a double-lung transplant and clearly shows her apprehension about the surgery along with her hopes for a positive outcome. Kina has undergone a transplant already and can sympathize, while Meg, who doesnít have insurance, can only hope that she might someday be in Evaís position. In the end, the transplant gives Eva a glimpse of life as it should have been for her before her body rejects her new lungs. Beautifully and sensitively filmed, this is a tear-jerker.
Think of this movie as the West African counterpart to Hoop Dreams Ė instead of Chicago, itís set in Dakar, Senegal, where a school called SEEDS Academy recruits the tallest and best young West African basketball players they can find. The academy puts them through a rigorous academic and athletic training program that sets the sixteen-year olds on the conveyor belt towards the NBA. We watch four young men for several years as they struggle to reach their basketball dreams while learning English, finishing school, and still being young men who want to date, drive, and be accepted by their new country. Inspiring and thought-provoking.
Anyone who has ever scoffed at Benjamin Franklinís proposal that the turkey be our national symbol will find illumination here. Joe Hutto, an artist and naturalist, fulfilled one of his lifeís ambitions when he hatched 16 wild turkey chicks with the help of an incubator. The chicks imprinted on him and for the next year he had a full-time job as a turkey mama. Eventually the chicks grew up and began to assert themselves as independent and wild creatures and he had to let them go. Hutto never anticipated what he would learn from the experience, and he found himself a changed man. Beautifully filmed, this is a show to share with the whole family.
Many of us grew up with Mr. Rogers as our TV neighbor, but to MTV producer Benjamin Wagner, Mr. Rogers really was his neighbor. After his death, Wagner and his brother, Christofer, realized they wanted to know more about the man they both respected so deeply and set to work interviewing Rogerís family, friends and coworkers. In the process, they learned about the part of Rogerís upbringing that turned him into such a child-advocate, heard anecdotes about his career from NPR host Susan Stamberg and NBCís Tim Russert, and uncovered family photos from years ago. What viewers will find in watching this is that Fred Rogers really was the kind and caring person he seemed to be on TV, full of patience, good humor and wisdom. And that he really did like everyone, just the way they were.