Sun, Nov. 02, 2003
Screen Notes: Starry `Ocean Symphony' was conducted by native Kansan
By ROBERT W. BUTLER
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.