Monday, January 17, 2005

On TV and the Archaeologist

My visit to Colombo was in a rush - Zeenas had given me 20 hours notice that I would be given a 30 minute slot on national TV station called MTV
on a program called "Let Us Rebuild". Having never done TV before, I was in a tizzy as to how to prepare - and what to really talk about. The anchors were all visiting the affected areas and essentially I had to just talk to the cameras. I thought over what I was going to say on the way to the TV station and it was all overwhelming trying to get the content right, trying to toe the line for a private station, trying to keep the audiences attention and trying to sort out how one does things differently for TV. The only preparation that I had was attending a session at the AGU meeting in San Francisco about two weeks prior about the Scientist and the Media.

The producer, who arranged this, Zeenas husband, had told me that I need to keep coming back to the theme "let us rebuild". They had to "patch up" my face as they could and after a ponderous start, I was told that I got into my flow. I ended up contextualizing the current disaster in light of the lessons from the last several in Sri Lanka's history and debunking three myths
a. The disaster could have been averted if a few scientists had done their jobs.
b. An early warning system shall take care of future problems.
c. That now that there were international funds that the public can leave matter to these experts and government officials.

I really asked for better support for science and technology and more sensible disaster management.

Eventually, I ran over time by 15 minutes and I had to rush or even skip throgh the punch lines that I had prepared. There was another taping that needed the studio.

The taping is going was edited a few days ago and I think this is going to be telecast in a day or two.

I did meet with Dr. Prematillake at the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology of the University of Kelaniya – he had just returned from Hambantota – explaining why he had a pillow and sheeting in his room along with samples of pollen, teak tree rings and the only and entire laboratory of paleo-ecology in Sri Lanka in a rather small room - one of their students had lost parents and the had been away there for 5 days working to build homes. Also, being ever the scientists, he had stopped in various places along the way to collect samples of what the Tsunami wave brought up – he said that this was the only chance to collect deep sea pollen – this guy works on Pollen – very modest, very unassuming - – he has dated pollen and climate in Horton plains going back to 24,000 years and I only learnt of his work from the literature last year. Anyway, he is going to do this analysis of the minerals that have come up from the sea.