Podcasts

Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Oprah Winfrey

A Wrinkle in Time – Finding the Light in the Darkness

03/09/2018

For decades the science fiction genre has long excluded the female demographic. Although it is unclear why, one can perhaps assume that women’s exclusion was rooted within misogynistic sexual and gender-based viewpoints.  What IS clear, is that Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time was unique for its time and a welcomed surprise enjoyed by all audiences, later winning the John Newbery Medal in 1963. Over fifty years later, it seems only fitting that Emmy Award-winner Ava DuVernay would be chosen to direct the re-adaptation as the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over a $100 million.

Oprah Winfrey

The sudden disappearance of NASA scientist Dr. Alexander Murry (Chris Pine) has caused havoc on both his children Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) as well as his wife Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). This leads to gossiping among peers and bullying by classmates. The Murry family endures as best they can until three celestial visitors –  Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) –  come to help. Asking what appears to be the impossible, Meg, Charles Wallace, and a classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) seek to find Dr. Murry, who has been missing for the last four years. 

Mindy Kaling

Traveling through time and space by a process called tesseract to Uriel, a planet billions of light years away, the three children join Mrs. Whatsit, a spunky, form-changing character who interacts well with the children; Mrs. Who, a great linguist who recites insightful quotes when she cannot find her own words; and Mrs. Which, the most omniscient of the group. After arriving in Uriel, each child is made aware of their special talents. Calvin, a supportive, fearless boy whose agape love for Meg, is quite remarkable to watch as he unfolds. Charles Wallace, a telepathic genius with an extensive vocabulary, is extremely poised for his tender age of five. And Meg is a mathematic wiz, who, like many adolescent girls feels awkward about her appearance due to her curly, brown hair and large spectacles. 

Chris Pine

As the search begins for Meg’s father, the children encounter an evil darkness cast by the “It,” who rules from its planet called Camazotz. The It’s purpose is to cast confusion, jealousy, anger, fear, and pain throughout the world. Realizing that her father has been taken by this entity, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin embark on an unforgettable journey. 

The cinematography and use of color in this film is superb. From the use of aerial photography to the use of cinemagraphs, DuVernay takes the audience on a magical journey. More importantly, slogans such as “Be a Warrior,” and encouraging teaching moments that acknowledge “all hair is beautiful,” and to “embrace your faults,” should resonate well with both young girls and boys of all colors, backgrounds, and religions. Although L’Engle’s strong beliefs in the Christian faith didn’t rear as strongly in the movie as it did in her book, DuVernay does an excellent job of taking a timeless classic and turning it into a stunning re-adaptation.

Top photo: Reese Witherspoon and Storm Reid

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Street Seens: A Gift for Listening

02/05/2017

Jurisprudence and crime detection suffered a great loss when the young Theodore Tyberg chose to follow his roots to Belgium and the study of medicine.

I learned that early last week when we met to speak in his corner office at New York Cardiology Associates and I asked what had led him to become a board-certified internist and cardiologist (which he insists on underplaying by describing it simply as “Doctoring.”) As he responded to the question “what led you to this profession?” I edited my notes, crossing out the word profession and substituted the word vocation.  That word seemed much more to the point, since it summons up the act of hearing a call and responding to it.

“I suppose I always wanted to be a Doctor, except of course for wanting possibly to be a judge or a police inspector,” he replied, with a slightly mischievous smile.

And there it was: a career explained as his passion for asking, and listening and following the clues to solve a mystery.  By early last week I saw a great deal of evidence of the choice he had made.

We will never know the Poirot or Holmes or Benjamin Cardozo that may have been lost to the world; but a certificate announcing his election to Alpha Omega Alpha upon completion of his studies at Chicago’s Rush Medical College testifies to the quality of the doctor he chose to be.  The prestigious medical honor society’s members include more than fifty Nobel Prize winners in Physiology, Medicine, and in Chemistry, all elected to Alpha Omega Alpha as students.  It is described as being the Phi Beta Kappa of medical schools.

In the end, it was that instinctive respect for the gift of listening and hearing that led me to request last week’s interview. It began some years ago when I came to his office seeking his opinion in the absence of my amazing primary care physician/cardiologist Allison Spatz who was away on a rare vacation.

playbill Logan

As I looked around his examining room, I noted a framed Playbill cover of a Gala Tribute to the legendary Josh Logan held shortly after his death in 1988.  It carried this handwritten note: “To Dear Ted, with our deepest gratitude for your compassionate, tender loving care of our parents in their hour of need.” Signed at River House on November 7 1989, by the children of Josh and Nedda Harrigan Logan.  It seems that the passion for asking and listening is contagious.  So, I asked this person I had never met, if he might tell me the back story of that cover.  But to keep you in a bit of the suspense appropriate to the stage, let me say “more about that later” and go instead to the book cover I noted during last week’s visit.  Hospital Smarts: The Insider’s Survival Guide to Your Hospital, Your Doctor, the Nursing Staff – and Your Bill, was co-authored by Dr. Tyberg and his colleague Dr. Kenneth Rothaus and was published in November 1995.  It became an instant winner when it was published by Hearst Books and has gone on to have a continuing and continuously growing life as a website. Oprah saw the idea and its execution as the sort of practical and responsible service she was delighted to bring to her audiences.  Dr. Tyberg expressed his own obvious delight with the remembered experience of appearing on a three-person panel of experts committed to de-mystifying hospitals and hospitalization for patients.

hospital smarts edited

But he was quick to say that he harbored no hidden desire to become another Dr. Oz.  Worldwide web to the rescue! The richness of the book survives and flourishes at Hospital Smarts.  On these cyber pages, the visitor can see the photos and the credentials of the original authors and a team of medical contributors who work together to gather and post the most up to date information on each of the subjects addressed in the 1995 book. They can log on to read favorite passages of the currently out of print paper book (though I attest that I got one from Amazon overnight and for the proverbial song.)

And speaking of a song, let me end the “suspense” mentioned above.  It was in fact a very specific song and its entirely unique performers that inspired last week’s conversation with the multifaceted Dr. Tyberg.  His answer to my question about the Playbill cover for “A Tribute to Josh Logan” presented at Broadway’s Imperial Theater shortly after the legendary producer’s death, began with a story of one of our modern world’s greatest rarities.  A doctor paid a house call! Albeit to two very fragile longtime patients.

There in the storied River House he entered their room and found a husband and wife lying in adjoining beds.  I can hazard a guess that this physician did not lead with queries about the negatives that might have been the reason for seeking his help.  So, he asked Josh and Nedda Logan about what they wanted to tell him about the good things: what delighted them, about what they wanted to share with him, about their lives.  And that was when the dearest and most memorable account settlement happened.  Wanting to give a gift to the man who continued to want to be as much about their wellness as their illnesses, they announced that they had something they wanted to give him.  And so began a duet performance of “I Remember it Well.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sISWPzEqHLQ

With all due respect to Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold who immortalized the song in Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 Oscar-winning film Gigi, it would be hard not to see how they might just have been upstaged by these two aging lovers reporting to their visiting healer.  The tenderness, the playful sparring as memories were recalled and corrected, must have been unforgettable. I know they have been for me, or to put it as they might have done, “Ah yes, I remember it well.”

Opening photo: Bigstock by Shutterstock

“This Building Will Sing for All of Us”

09/28/2016

“A Change is Gonna Come” was released on December 22, 1964 by Sam Cooke. Soulful as well as insightful, Cooke’s lyrics have resonated with the black community for over half a century. On September 24th, 2016 the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) held its dedication ceremony with notable guests such as Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) who fought Congress unapologetically for 15 years for the museum to come into fruition.  Both President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, alongside former President George (who was instrumental in signing the museum bill back in 2003) and Laura Bush joined together to commemorate this once in a lifetime moment. From the thousands watching on the National Mall to those sitting at home or streaming live on the NMAAHC’s app, no one could deny the excitement, admiration, and sense of solidarity.

Leading up to the dedication, a select few were able to preview the museum before it opened to the public. However, for me, I wanted to wait and see it with the one person who means the world to me…my mom. Securing the coveted time passes almost a month in advance was the least I could do for her. On September 25th we arrived early to be greeted by gridlocked traffic, street closures, tight security and extremely long lines. Yet we were not deterred. We entered hand in hand, knowing we were in for an awakening in mind, body, and spirit.

Our first (and my only stop for that day) was the Oprah Winfrey Theater. There, Ava DuVernay’s voice on August 28th played recalling the importance of that particular day throughout African American history. Events ranging from Emmett Till’s death to the March on Washington flashed across the screen. A reminder for some, an introduction to others. Leaving my mother there for a photo assignment had to be one of the hardest things for me; yet the stories she told when we met later that night left me in awe of all that I had missed.

img_8520

Luckily, someone was nice enough to give me two additional tickets for the very next day. Call me selfish, but I longed to see with my own eyes all that I heard. Once again we encountered long lines and tightened security, on the other hand the gridlocked traffic and street closures had thankfully dissipated.  Once again we walked hand in hand through those heavy glass doors, however this time we started together on the lowest level which represented the transatlantic slave trade. It took us four hours to navigate. When we arrived to the second level…we stopped.  It was a difficult decision. Nonetheless we made it. Not only to savor and digest all we had observed, but to take time and reflect.

Upon our departure, a 95 year old woman awaited with her family to board an elevator up to the entrance level. While waiting a bystander who happened to be the singer Betty Entzminger began to serenade her with “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Holding hands the two exchanged this poignant moment that we along with others were allowed to witness. Snapping a photograph, I begin to tear up for many reasons. I thought of my grandmother who is also 95 and hoped that she too will get to see this milestone with her own eyes. For my mother who grew up in Alabama during some of the most turbulent times in America’s history. But also for all the beautiful faces, both young and old. Never had I felt so safe in a public space. Never had I felt the overwhelming positive energy of so many people who looked in some capacity like me. I cannot wait to go back, and will try to at least once a month. Although Cooke’s lyrics still strike a powerful chord, Lonnie G. Bunch, Founding Director of the NMAAHC, captured my sentiments exactly…”This building will sing for all of us.”

Photos by Jai Williams

Jai Williams’ book,  The Plantations of Virginia, will be published by Globe Pequot Press February, 2017.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW