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Music Sets the Mood


When I was a kid, my favorite show was PBS’s NOVA. As a child I expected to be on the show as an astronaut – I can imagine my youthful disappointment that I was to appear on NOVA as a politician.

NOVA’s “Big Energy Gamble” aired January 20th to rave initial reviews in the DeVore household. The show detailed California’s effort under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in 11 years while the state is expected to grow by 20 percent.

I was the show’s skeptic. I maintained that it is physically impossible to reach the governor’s lofty goals without first lifting the state’s obsolete ban on the construction of modern, safe, and reliable nuclear power plants.

The NOVA producer, Cass Sapir, was a delight to work with. He seemed genuinely interested in his topic. Producing a top-quality show was important to him. The film crew was wonderful, and the lighting, angles, and sound quality were excellent. I enjoyed the 90 minutes of interview and B-roll they filmed in my Irvine office, but was worried that, with all that material, I could easily be made to look awkward or foolish given that I was likely to be onscreen for three minutes at the most.

After the show aired last week, I exhaled in relief and exalted to Diane, my wife, at the quality of the episode. Not so fast, she said. Did you notice the music? Diane is a music teacher with a degree in music composition. She and a couple of musician friends of hers who compose for the online gaming industry noted that, when mention was made of nuclear power, the music turned pensive and ominous. When solar or wind were being discussed, the music was light, hopeful, and evocative of technology.

I reviewed the show online and, of course, they were right. The music was a tad unsettling around the first two portions I spoke. Check out this YouTube we made of my three segments on the show. At 0:40 into the segment, they discuss California’s economic distress and the music is somber then at 1:12, they cut to nuclear power and the scary music starts. At 1:33, they begin interviewing new Energy Secretary Steven Chu who gets his own hopeful motif – Dr. Chu says we need nuclear power as a bridge before effective large scale renewable energy comes online. The same motif is carried over for my last segment at 1:53.

I should be thankful that it was only the music. A review of the political donations from the staff at WGBH, the PBS affiliate that produces NOVA, shows that for the past 18 years, not a single donation was made to a Republican or conservative cause by any employee there – and liberals wonder why conservatives are often hostile to government-funded broadcasting.

To see my NOVA debut on YouTube, click here.

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