“Grandma” Cora’s Sweet Potato Pies

Down a couple of old Maryland country roads that barely show up on state maps you’ll find Grandma Cora, an elderly African American lady who is known throughout those parts for her delicious sweet potato pies, which she lovingly backs on her old stove and sells to make ends meet nicely. I spent an afternoon with Grandma Cora for this “Women in Business” story, and got both happier and fatter as a result.


Posted in Americana, Profile, Women Tags: , , , , , ,

Ken Steele and the Experience of Schizophrenia

Many of us are familiar with people who walk down the street conversing with people and other entitities that we cannot say, but which exist in a hyper-real and undeniable way to them.  What is it like  inside their minds, what do those voices sound like and what do they say?  And what happens when the voices quiet down after a lifetime due to Rispardal or other psychiatric drugs? Meet the late Ken Steele, who vividly described his lifelong struggle with paranoid shizophrenia, and the road back to the shared world.


Posted in Health, Science Tags: , , , , ,

Migrant Farmworkers: How They Live and What They Do

If California were a nation of its own, it would have the twelth largest economy in the world; agriculture would be a huge percentage of it. Much of the labor that produces is done by migrant farm workers who come to the US, sometimes illegally, and follow the crops, before returning home to Mexico and places even further south. I spent some time with migrant farmworkers in California’s immense – and immensely fertile – Central Valley, and filed this report for the VOA.


Posted in Americana, Immigrants and Ethnic Life Tags: , , , , ,

Astrobiology: The Search for Extra-terrestrial Life

The search for life forms (or life-like) forms has intensified in recent years as our technical prowess has increased and our understanding of the forms and chemistry of what life could be has expanded and grown more refined. This piece examines the branch of science that deals with this, and looks at various ways we might recognize and relate to life beyond our planet.


Posted in Science Tags: , , , , , ,

The Ink Dark Moon: Buddhist Love/Sex Poetry from Courtly Japan (written by women)

This is a story about some of the most beautiful short poetry I have ever come across. Edited by the poet Jane Hirshfield (see “Given Sugar, Given Salt” elsewhere in this blog), it is a collection of short erotic haiku-like poems written by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, who were part of the Japanese medieval court.  The themes – transience, love, loneliness, and erotic longing – are eternal, but the words come across both artful and vividly personal (not to mention steamy) across the centuries.


Posted in Arts, Buddhism, Poetry, Spirituality Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nanotechnology and Molecular Machinery

Nanotechnology, which deals with matter in billionths of a meter, allows for the manipulation of matter on an atomic scale. As such, it may represent humanity’s most profound and far-reaching scientific frontier.  This documentary looks at how it works, and what is possible, and what to prepare for, willy-nilly.

The story won VOA’s Annual Award or “Best Original Script.”


Posted in Long form docs (15" and up), Science Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Island at the Center of the World: Dutch New York

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of English sea captain Henry Hudson’s arrival in what’s now New York harbor.  British colonists would play a major role in the development of Manhattan Island.  But historian Russell Shorto says it was largely the 17th century Dutch and their pioneering settlement of New Amsterdam that influenced what Manhattan, New York City and to some extent, even America itself, would become.  Shorto explains how in his book, “The Island at the Center of the World — The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America.”


Posted in Americana, Books, History, New York Tags: , , , , , ,

Two Showgirls of Yesteryear

It may be hard or many of us to imagine the glitter and the sometimes risque fun associated with the old nightclubs, burlesques and vaudeville houses of the 1920s and 1930s, especially in New York, where such entertainment reached a certain height of glamor. But what was that life like for those on the other side of the footlights? For this piece, I spoke with the late Dorshka Rafaelson, formerly of the Ziegfeld Follies, and Isabelle Powell,  widow of Adam Clayton Powell, who graced Harlem’s Cotton Club.  Both were  still-beautiful, and beautifully spirited, women.


Posted in Americana, History, New York, Oral History-oid, Women Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Memorial Day: Vets Remember The Fallen

Memorial Day in America is supposed to be a time to remember those who have died in our wars, and to thank them for their sacrifice.  However, for many of us, Memorial Days does not mean much more than a three-day weekend, and perhaps some flag-waving and parades.  I wanted this piece to serve as a counterpoint in which  veterans from World War One, World War Two, and the wars in Korea, Vietnam and the First Gulf War actually remember and speak about someone they personally knew who died alongside them in combat — who were they, what were their names, how did they die, how did they live?


Posted in Americana, History, Holidays-Season Specific, Oral History-oid Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Middletown NJ: A Town Aims to Heal (9/11/02)

The middle class suburb of Middletown New Jersey lost upwards of 45 people in the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, devastating the town. This piece checks in a year after the event on some of the families who lost loved ones that day, along with town officials, as Middletown continues its path toward recovery — or not.

It is a follow-up from a mini-doc made with many of the same people in the immediate aftermath o 9/11.


Posted in Americana, History, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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