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PBS NewsHour - Brief But Spectacular


The brightest thinkers, makers, artists and inventors give passionate takes on topics that inspire them.

The brightest thinkers, makers, artists and inventors give passionate takes on topics that inspire them.
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The brightest thinkers, makers, artists and inventors give passionate takes on topics that inspire them.




A survivor’s take on justice after sexual violence

As a college athlete, Laura Dunn was sexually assaulted by two male teammates. Her subsequent experience with campus, criminal and civil authorities failing to take action motivated her to become a lawyer and found SurvJustice, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of sexual violence seek justice. She offers her brief but spectacular take on turning trauma into action.


Maroon 5’s PJ Morton on making music ‘selfishly’

PJ Morton is the keyboardist for the band Maroon 5. Growing up the son of a preacher in New Orleans, Morton had early and formative experiences with music. He has now released a solo album, collaborated with music idol Stevie Wonder and been nominated for a Grammy Award. This is his brief but spectacular take on finding inspiration in honesty and songwriting “selfishly.”


Female vets who disabled bombs find a path to healing: ‘Not everything in life is going to hurt you’

How do former service members cope with one of the most stressful jobs in the military? Judy, Ty and Jamie, three female veterans who served in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, offer their Brief but Spectacular takes on post-traumatic growth and transitioning into civilian life.


Songwriter Gabriel Kahane on trains and ‘radical empathy’

Around the presidential election of 2016, songwriter Gabe Kahane decided to take a break from everyday life, escape technology and explore the country by rail. While traveling, he aspired to engage in conversation--but not argue--with strangers of all types of background. This is his brief but spectacular take on how conversations in train dining cars can lead to “radical empathy.”


Bryan Cranston on being ready for luck

Oscar-nominated actor Bryan Cranston, best known for his role as Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” didn't get his big break until age 40, when he was cast in the family TV sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle." Now, he'll be playing the role of Howard Beale in the upcoming Broadway production of “Network.” He shares his brief but spectacular take on an unusual career trajectory and the role of luck.


Comedian Hasan Minhaj on political satire and ‘the American Dream Tax’

Hasan Minhaj, a former correspondent for “The Daily Show,” grew up in California as the son of immigrants, experiencing childhood as a "brown kid in America." With his new show "Patriot Act" premiering this week on Netflix, Minhaj shares his brief but spectacular take on political satire, the "American Dream Tax" and the wisdom he gained working with Jon Stewart.


Poet Phil Kaye remembers his grandfather and reimagines traditional masculinity

Phil Kaye is a Japanese-American poet and filmmaker and co-director of “Project Voice,” an organization that partners with schools to bring poetry into the classroom. He shares one of his poems, “Surplus,” for a brief but spectacular take on his grandfather, Cheerful Al, and the limitations of "traditional masculinity." Kaye's latest book Date & Time is available now.


Why Walter Isaacson writes about innovators who make history

Author, journalist and professor Walter Isaacson has delved into the lives of influential figures ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Ada Lovelace. He believes that those who thrive at the intersection of arts and sciences are the ones who will become a part of history. Isaacson shares his Brief but Spectacular take on what’s it’s like to write about people.


People start revealing things when they ‘feel that you really care’

Telling a person's story is not unlike being a biologist, says Jay Allison. "You go out in the world and encounter actual life and you collect it...and you bring it back and you study it and then you figure out how to present it," he says. Allison, an independent journalist who produces the Moth Radio Hour and founded Transom.org, shares his Brief but Spectacular on finding stories.


This bail fund is trying to disrupt ‘a two-tier system of justice’

There's a cascade of dire problems that can occur even if you're only in jail for one day, says attorney Robin Steinberg. The CEO of The Bail Project -- a national organization that pays bail for tens of thousands of low-income Americans at risk of pretrial detention -- gives her Brief But Spectacular take on disrupting the money bail system and turning the tide on U.S. mass incarceration.


Getting young adults out of their comfort zone can reveal what they really care about

For today's high school students, perfect records are valued more than authentic exploration, says Abby Falik. But the founder of the nonprofit Global Citizen Year sees firsthand the benefit of taking kids out of their comfort zone by giving them a gap year in an international setting. Falk offers her Brief but Spectacular take on preparing a new generation of leaders.


Jonny Sun on the upside of online anonymity

Author Jonny Sun amassed a loyal Twitter following through his honesty, humor and irreverent candor. His latest book, "Everyone’s a Aliebn When U a Alien Too," features the distinctive “intentional clumsiness” for which he is known. We turn to Sun for his Brief but Spectacular take on the upside of online anonymity.


Viral sensation Flossie Lewis is still a spectacular teacher at 94

More than 7 million people viewed teacher Flossie Lewis's Brief but Spectacular take on growing old in 2016. When it aired, her former students contacted us by the dozen, many to express appreciation for the profound impact she had on their lives. Flossie, now 94, returns in this special installment for an inspirational class discussion with some of her biggest fans.


How to give feedback so people hear you’re trying to help

Sometimes acknowledging our weaknesses and limitations can actually make us stronger, suggests Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, author and podcast host. But like arguing, there are constructive ways of giving feedback that can make another person feel like you're trying to help. Grant offers his Brief but Spectacular take on feedback.


How art connects us to our ancestors and ourselves

Growing up in a family with Chinese, Dutch-Indonesian and Native American ancestry, Kayla Briët says the first medium that really allowed her to express her identity was music. Briët offers her Brief but Spectacular take on storytelling through art, language and identity.


How giving people a transaction identity changes lives

As a former refugee, Hamse Warfa remembers first-hand being completely excluded from the global economic ecosystem. It's a problem that affects 2.5 billion around the world, but he's now dedicated to ensuring that banking and market systems be inclusive. Warfa offers his Brief but Spectacular take on creating economic identities for everyone.


Everyone can afford eye contact with those who have nothing

The inhumanity of being on street without the security of a home is a very debilitating experience, says Joe Wilson, the executive director of the Hospitality House in San Francisco. And for those who have nothing, it's the "harshness in our eyes" that really makes an imprint. Wilson shares his Brief but Spectacular take on being homeless in America.


Why Alan Alda pays close attention to people’s faces

Alan Alda had an unusual childhood, but it helped him hone his identity as a communicator. As his mother suffered from mental illness, he became a close observer of people, their faces and body language, which led him toward becoming an award-winning actor, writer, director and now podcaster. Alda gives his Brief but Spectacular take on being connected.


How giving black women time for self-care benefits the whole community

Black women carry the trauma of systemic racism and serving other people before taking care of themselves, and it's killing them, say GirlTrek founders Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison. Dixon and Garrison give their Brief but Spectacular take on mobilizing black women to save their own lives.


Judd Apatow on missing Garry Shandling, being Adam Sandler’s roommate and family trips to Sephora

Judd Apatow, world-renowned writer and director, says most people on Earth are trying to avoid at all costs what it feels like to be a stand-up comedian. Apatow gives his Brief but Spectacular take on comedy and his mentor, Garry Shandling.