Uptown Briefs – January 30

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Communities, News, Opinion & News, Uptown Briefs | No Comments

New KPBS documentary explores humanity’s role in wildlife

How are humans intertwined with the Earth’s environment? What role should we play in shaping the outdoors in the generations to come?

These are questions conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan seeks to answer in his new documentary series screening on KPBS, “EARTH A New Wild.”

At a recent screening and Q&A held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, Sanjayan — adopting a singular name, a custom in Tamil culture — explained his thinking that inspired the film’s creation.

Dr. Sanjayan with baby pandas (Courtesy PBS)

Dr. Sanjayan with baby pandas (Courtesy PBS)

In his opinion, many wildlife documentaries, such as “Planet Earth,” only include half the narrative when filming the outdoors. The filmmakers even go through great pains to ensure all traces of humanity are expunged from the film. Sanjayan joked that if an alien species watched “Planet Earth” as a primer for a visit to the planet, they would arrive to a surprisingly different scene.

“They would get to earth and see these humans running around everywhere and say, ‘this isn’t what you sold us!’” he said.

In the five episodes of “EARTH A New Wild,” Sanjayan sets the scene at several unique environments — many centering around man-made problems to natural habitats — and looks at what humans are doing to solve or adapt to them. The series was filmed over the course of 45 shoots in 29 countries.

In one episode, “Plains,” Sanjayan speaks with Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist whose early research led to the mass culling — state-sanctioned killing — of more than 40,000 elephants, as they were believed to be detrimentally trampling plant life across African plains. Today, barefoot and agrarian, Savory hums to a markedly different tune, claiming his original research was incorrect. He now believes that more elephants, not less, are the answer to regeneration of the plains. To prove this theory, he maintains a large herd of frequently migrating cattle on a small piece of land. The experiment has yielded exceptional plant life health. He said that in order to continue improving the environment, he will need to double his herd.

“We weren’t going out there to make a climate change film,” he said. “Climate

change, like population, like consumption, are all sort of background forces, but what we were trying to show were the proximate forces, things that were happening with some immediacy.”

Sanjayan added that he had recently finished working on an Emmy-winning climate change series “Years of Living Dangerously,” and was interested in doing something different.

Although this is Sanjayan’s first major series to be aired to a large audience, the Sri Lankan- born biologist has done segments and provided commentary for a wide range of media outlets, including the BBC, The Discovery Channel and CBS.

“EARTH A New Wild” will begin airing nationally Feb. 4 on PBS. For KPBS’s local schedule, visit

Today’s discussions of man-made harm to the Earth often lead to the highly politicized climate change de- bate. While Sanjayan said he didn’t avoid the subject — touch- ing on it tangentially in several episodes — he confirms that he sought after a different set of problems plaguing the planet.

Talmadge saxophonist composes jazz ballet

Talmadge resident Charles McPherson, a renowned jazz saxophonist, will premiere his jazz ballet, titled “Sweet Synergy Suite,” at the Lyceum Theatre in early February.

The performance is a collaboration between McPherson, choreographer Javier Velasco and the San Diego Ballet Dance Company as part of the Creative Catalyst Fund, which awarded McPherson a $20,000 grant for the project. McPherson’s daughter, Camille, a dancer in the San Diego Ballet, will perform in the piece.

Composing the ballet was a swift departure for McPherson, a Detroit-raised musician who spent years touring the world with jazz legends such as Charles Mingus and Barry Harris. He said the Creative Catalyst Fund encourages artists to venture out of their comfort zones when applying for the program, so he partnered with Velasco and the San Diego Ballet to craft their grant application with a jazz ballet in mind.

To McPherson, composing the piece required a balancing act of opposing forces, since jazz and ballet require starkly different mindsets.

“I had to really structure the compositions, while still being able to improvise, which is an integral part of what jazz is,” McPherson said. “But I also had to straddle the fence and make sure there were plenty of organized, written elements going on that allowed the dancers to recognize the cues.

“So there’s a little bit of a tightrope you have to walk,” he added.

The result was a nine-piece jazz set mixed with elements of Afro, Latin and Cuban music.

Lyceum Theatre will show “Sweet Synergy Suite” Feb. 6 – 8 at various showtimes. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $50 for premium seating, and can be purchased through the Lyceum Theatre box office at or 619-544-1000.

car2go wheels out new fleet

Car-sharing company car2go announced Jan. 28 that it would begin upgrading its San Diego fleet of electric Smart Cars to the 2014 model from its currently used 2010 model.

The new car2go San Diego fleet (Courtesy car2go San Diego)

The new car2go San Diego fleet (Courtesy car2go San Diego)

While interior features will remain consistent with the 2010 model, the 2014 Smart Car is said to accelerate more smoothly, as well as reach a top speed of approximately 84 mph, while the 2010 model tops out at 65 mph.

Now branded as the largest car-sharing company in the world, car2go launched the nation’s largest all-electric fleet in San Diego in 2011. Today, the company serves more than 33,000 users in the city.

In addition to a $35 registration fee, car2go users pay 41 cents per minute. The service works in conjunction with a smartphone app that serves as a car locater and reservation system. For more information, visit

Home Start thrift store opens on Adams

Nonprofit organization Home Start opened a boutique thrift store on Jan. 23 in Normal Heights, selling high-quality used clothing and home décor to fund the services the nonprofit provides to families in need.

Home Start staff and elected officials at the store's grand opening (Courtesy Home Start)

Home Start staff and elected officials at the store’s grand opening
(Courtesy Home Start)

In addition to funding Home Start services, the store will provide workforce experience for financially struggling women, many of whom battle with past abuse, trauma and neglect.

Located at 3611 Adams Ave., the store is a renovated house previously occupied by Curves, a women’s fitness studio. To contact the store, call 619-564-8027 or visit

Jewelry store grand opening

Cecelia’s Fine Jewelry, located at 4669 Park Blvd. in University Heights, is having their grand opening celebration on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 12 – 5 p.m. A custom piece of jewelry made by owner Cecelia Vasquez herself will be given away at 4 p.m. Vasquez, who worked at Francis Family Jewelers for over 20 years, will be offering custom work, jewelry repair, watch repair and appraisals. She will also have gold and diamond jewelry, colored stones, pearls, silver, antique and estate jewelry, all for sale and she will specialize in wedding bands for the gay and lesbian community. For more information call 619-297-7300.

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