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Making NewsHour Weekend: Tuning into bigger conversations through music

This year, NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker and Tom Casciato reported on the notion of masculinity through the lens of music and also profiled musician Carlos Santana. They join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss their mutual love for music and how it informs their reporting — and why some of those stories are “unconventional” for television.

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  • Karina Mitchell:

    In our next conversation about the stories we covered in 2019, Hari Sreenivasan sat down with reporter Christopher Booker and senior producer Tom Casciato.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Chris, you did a story this year that's not traditionally a TV story about a concept, an idea: masculinity. How do we get there?

  • Christopher Booker:

    I had become obsessed with this British punk band called Idles. And of the many reasons I like them is that they were actually singing about things you wouldn't necessarily associate with British punk bands, namely, they were holding a mirror to traditional ideas of masculinity. So I was telling Tom, god this album, it's called Joy as an Act of Resistance and I love it.

    [BRIEF MUSICAL EXCERPT]

  • Christopher Booker:

    So it turns out they had really tapped into a conversation that's happening really all around the world as it relates to the behavior and the traditional ideas of how we socialize men with idols. They're talking about the influences of their fathers, how they have always suppressed their emotions.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Joe Talbot is the lead singer and band's principal lyricist.

  • Joe Talbot:

    It's a purposeful journey we're going on.

  • Christopher Booker:

    What is the purpose?

  • Joe Talbot:

    To start a conversation, I think.

  • Christopher Booker:

    The conversation Idles is looking to start is a complicated one, but at its core, they are asking the audience — particularly the men in the crowd — to reconsider how they treat one another, how they treat women and how they treat themselves.

  • Joe Talbot:

    "If you share your feelings, your load gets lighter and you will have a better outcome."

  • Christopher Booker:

    So just as Idles has releasing this album, the American Psychological Association, for the first time ever, released a landmark paper that looked at the traditional ways that we socialize boys and men and how this may be connected to some rather unhealthy outcomes. Men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide. They die from cancer, heart disease at a disproportionately high rate. And much of the research is pointing to: it can't just be explained by our Y chromosome.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Psychologist Christopher Liang is the Chairperson of Lehigh University's College of Education and was a co-author of the APA guidelines.

  • Chris Liang:

    When boys are not allowed to express their sadness, their hurts, when they're growing up, they're essentially taught that they shouldn't have pain. And what that does over time is it creates a condition where boys who are becoming men stuff their pain.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now, you guys both love music. You sit not too far from each other. You're talking about this every once in a while. But you did a piece that I think you've probably wanted to do for a very long time. You got to hang out with Carlos Santana.

  • Tom Casciato:

    About 50 years in the making, that piece. It was for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. And we knew that Carlos was going to do press for that. And that everyone was going to want to hear about his hallucinogenic fueled legendary performance at Woodstock. So we wanted to go in a different direction and talk about the road that led him there.

  • Carlos Santana:

    Well, Tom what happened was that, my father's a musician. When I saw how people, specifically women, looked at my dad when you play the violin and when he sang I looked at them and I looked at him and I was like "Whoa".

  • Carlos Santana:

    My dad would draft me once in a while he says you know so and so it's not as good put on his mariachi suit, but I couldn't get a sound on the violin. I didn't like the way I sounded. I didn't like the way the violin smelled and I didn't like the way it felt. But I try to please my dad as much as I could. And I won a two, three contests in the fairs playing Fascination — (Singing) Doo doo doo doo doo — so they gave me the trophy.

  • Tom Casciato:

    That's not not bad for a guy who didn't like the smell of the violin.

  • Carlos Santana:

    Exactly, but I had to do it to please my dad.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yeah, you know, one of the stories that was interesting this year is about college, our higher education and who's going these days and really our traditional notion of what we think about college, you know, the ivy-covered walls and mom and dad dropping the kids off in the station wagon in the minivan. That's really not who's going to school.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Yeah, it's really changed. It turns out 22% of all college students in the U.S. are parents.

  • Amber Angel:

    I'm the youngest of eight. And I'm the first in my entire family to step foot on a college campus. I mean, I grew up with not having anybody go to college. And so if you grow up, or you see people around you that never look like you do something like this, you don't ever see it for yourself.

  • Christopher Booker:

    To describe Angel's path to her bachelors's degree as a journey driven by grit and determination would be an understatement. But she says it actually started unexpectedly, when her first daughter was just two years old.

  • Amber Angel:

    I was working at Baby Gap, 'cause I got a really good discount on clothes, and just kinda making ends meet. And then I realized I needed to do something with my life to provide for my daughter. And just by accident, I passed Valley College and pulled in. This was eight and a half years ago.

  • Christopher Booker:

    As an enrolled student in the Los Angeles Valley College, a two-year public college in the San Fernando Valley, Angel was able to send her daughter to the on campus licensed childcare facility for free.

    What she didn't know at the time, was this was only part of what was on offer for parents attending LA Valley College, and the other part, would play a pivotal role in helping to keep her stay in school when she gave birth to her second child.

  • Amber Angel:

    I came back when my daughter was 13 days old. And Marni Roosevelt, who's the director of the Family Resource Center, was one of my professors. And so Marni approached me and said, We have a lactation room with a refrigerator for your breastmilk. We have parenting playgroups where you can come with her, and meet with a therapist, and this whole program for student parents.

  • Christopher Booker:

    You know, if you are trying to cobble together a list of classes and a degree, you know, any parents out there know one little thing goes wrong, you're not making it to your 10:00 a.m. class. You've got to get to a study group at 4:00 p.m. and maybe your kid has the flu and the doctor's appointment is at 3:30. You're not going to make it there. But this group has developed a program that offers care, food, counseling. And their graduation rates have gone up substantially.

    After she completed her associates degree at LA Valley College, she was hired by the Family Resource Center. She transferred her credits to California State University Northridge, where tomorrow, May 20th, she will graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Science..

  • Amber Angel:

    It feels like the representation of everything I have done has mattered.

  • Christopher Booker:

    8 years is a long time and you did it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    There's an example of a very concrete story and then you take the absolute opposite of the most abstract idea. Sean Carroll conversation, why quantum physics, why quantum mechanics and why on TV?

  • Tom Casciato:

    I was a kid who never took science classes, never understood science. I convinced myself I had no aptitude for science. And a couple of years ago, I started thinking about, gee, I'd kind of like to know what reality is. I'm getting a little old now. And Sean Carroll is really one of our great science communicators. He's a physicist at Caltech. And Sean Carroll is a proponent of a controversial theory called the Many Worlds Theory, which suggests that there are multiple universes — for example, when a scientist is observing a tiny particle like an electron, another copy of the universe is created, including another copy of yourself. So he would say.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So there's infinite copies of yourself in all of these different universes right now.

  • Tom Casciato:

    There are Haris everywhere.

  • Sean Carroll:

    The people in other worlds aren't me. They might have come from the same youngster as I did —

  • Tom Casciato:

    They might have –

  • Sean Carroll:

    but they're a different person.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Slow slow slow slow down. What do you mean they might have come from the same youngster that you were?

  • Sean Carroll:

    So in other words in many worlds there was a youngster. There was a person who I have descended from over the last some number of years, and the world has branched many, many times since then, and so there are other people in these other worlds who were me back then but now they're different people because the world has branched since then.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Is there a person who used to be me who is the point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers?

  • Sean Carroll:

    There is. Yes.

  • Tom Casciato:

    At my height?

  • Sean Carroll:

    And you won the NBA championship.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Of course, we have no way of accessing these other universes. What he says is that the physicists who who agree with him on this see these universes not in their microscopes, but in their mathematics. It's their equations that tell them this. It's a very controversial theory, but he's far from the only person who's a proponent of it, and he's very convincing about it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are you working on next?

  • Tom Casciato:

    I have a couple other good music pieces coming up with two great vocalists. One of them is Shemekia Copeland who grew up up the street here in Harlem during the hip-hop era, surrounded by blues music.

  • Shemekia Copeland:

    It was about second grade when I realized I wasn't like the other children. Because I had this one teacher that hosted a talent day. And she would have all the kids get up and do something in front of the class.

    And I got up there. And I said, "I'm a woman. I can make love to a crocodile." You know, it was an old Koko Taylor song. And I got myself in a lot of trouble.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Another is a woman called Concha Buika, who is a great flamenco singer, although to call her that doesn't do service to all the different styles she does.

  • Tom Casciato:

    At one point, you made your way to Las Vegas?

  • Concha Buika:

    Uh-huh.

  • Tom Casciato:

    And I understand that in Las Vegas you were a Tina Turner impersonator?

  • Concha Buika:

    Yes, sir.

  • Tom Casciato:

    What was that like?

  • Concha Buika:

    Cool.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Yeah? But did you ever–say to yourself, "Damn, I have this great voice. Why am I impersonating another great singer when I'm a great singer"?

  • Concha Buika:

    Well, because, when you sing for someone, doesn't matter if you are in a big stage, in a small stage, in a wedding, in your home singin' for your family, or singing for someone who's ill because you wanna make him feel good. That is a big stage.

  • Tom Casciato:

    So those will be up soon.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Christopher Booker, Tom Casciato, thank you both.

  • Tom Casciato:

    Thank you, Hari.

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