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Sun, Nov. 02, 2003
Screen Notes: Starry `Ocean Symphony' was conducted by native Kansan
The Kansas City Star

Perhaps you've caught the TV public service announcement "Ocean Symphony," in which a group of familiar Hollywood faces attempts to play a classical piece and ends up sounding horrible.

The "Ocean Symphony" (it's airing on WDAF-TV) is the latest project of KC native and KU grad Randy Olson, a filmmaker/marine biologist who has combined his loves of the sea and of filmmaking to establish

Shot last May in Los Angeles, the one-minute "Ocean Symphony" features stars like Henry Winkler, Tom Arnold, Dave Foley, Sharon Lawrence, Madeleine Stowe, Josh Lucas and Paul Michael Glaser banging, plucking, blowing and pounding their instruments. They are "conducted" by "School of Rock" star Jack Black, looking demonic in white Mozart wig and tuxedo.

"The only requirement of the actors recruited was that they genuinely care about the fate of the oceans," Olson said, "and that they have no skill in playing the instrument they were given."

The PSA asks: "What if our standards for music were so low we thought this was beautiful?" It then goes on to note that this is precisely the situation we face in evaluating the health of our oceans -- our standards for a healthy ocean have shifted because we no longer remember what the oceans were like before pollution and global warming began changing them.

A baseline is a reference point for measuring changes in ecosystems.

"If we know the baseline for a degraded ecosystem, we can work to restore it," said Olson, a graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest. "But if the baseline shifted before we really had a chance to chart it, then we can end up accepting a degraded state as normal -- or even an improvement."

That's the situation with the health of the sea, Olson said. Scientists began surveying the health of the oceans so late in the game (the first time was in the early '60s) that the established "baseline" was degraded from the very start.

"Ocean Symphony" has been sent to hundreds of TV stations around the United States and has been the subject of an MTV special. Olson has been interviewed by CNN's Lou Dobbs, and this month the PSA will play once an hour on Panasonic's electric "big board" in New York's Times Square.