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Albert Brooks and Carl Reiner, Webb Telescope 2 years in, The Chosen TV Series

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2023 3:46 pm

Albert Brooks and Carl Reiner, Webb Telescope 2 years in, The Chosen TV Series

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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December 24, 2023 3:46 pm

Hosted by Jane Pauley. In our cover story, David Pogue looks at the first two years of discoveries by the James Webb Space Telescope. Also: Ben Mankiewicz talks with old friends Albert Brooks and Rob Reiner, who's directed an HBO documentary, "Albert Brooks: Defending His Life"; Lee Cowan goes behind the scenes of the Biblical series "The Chosen"; Conor Knighton attends a concert of carolers deep underground at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky; Luke Burbank visits Leavenworth, Wash., a top Christmas destination; Tracy Smith profiles card illustrator, children's book author and record producer Sandra Boynton; and a "Sunday Morning" tradition: members of the Young People's Chorus of New York City perform music of the holidays.

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Discounts not available in all states or situations. Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning. Tis the day before Christmas, the perfect time for stories of the season and the holiday. The stars play no small role in the story of Christmas.

The three wise men look to the heavens and saw a guiding light. We're still looking skyward, only now as David Pogue will show us with an invaluable celestial tool. It was a Christmas miracle. Liftoff. After 30 years of work, NASA launched the biggest, most powerful space telescope ever built.

It literally went perfect, as close to perfect as one could have even imagined. Two years later, we're finding out if it was all worth it. Oh my gosh, the Webb Telescope is doing better than it was supposed to?

Our new, amazing Eye in the Sky, coming up on Sunday Morning. Christmas is also a season of mirth. Ben Mankiewicz talks about comedy and connection with best friends Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks.

Wait a minute. It's the comedy duo we've been waiting for. What has been the key to this friendship? We never borrowed money. From either of us.

No, we never did. Albert Brooks and Rob Reiner on a friendship since high school. Always looked up to him. Albert was always one of the people for me.

And mine was Nixon. Rob Reiner! And why one says the other is the funniest guy in the world, ahead on Sunday Morning. Lee Cowan takes an inside look at a popular TV program about the life of Jesus, and viewers who've embraced it with a passion.

His care is for women, for the vulnerable. On this Christmas Eve, there's no shortage of shows depicting the life of Jesus. I'm Judas of Karyote. The Chosen, however, hopes it's bringing something a little different.

Those movies from the past that were told about Jesus, I think they lack a little bit of the emotional resonance that I'm going for. So let's eat! Why believers and non-believers alike are Choosing the Chosen, ahead on Sunday Morning. In your holiday mail this season, you might find a card that's the handiwork of artist Sandra Boynton. Tracy Smith profiles the author and artist whose trademark is simplicity with style. From Luke Burbank, we have a postcard from Leavenworth, a town in Washington state which echoes the sights and spirit of Bavaria. Connor Knighton introduces us to some carolers lifting their voices to the heights while deep underground in a Kentucky cave. Plus a story from Steve Hartman, humor from Jim Gaffigan, commentary from Father James Martin, and more on this Sunday morning for Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2023.

We'll be back after this. Normally being a little extra can be a bit much, but when it comes to healthcare, it pays to be extra and United Healthcare makes it easy with Health Protector Guard Fixed Indemnity Insurance Plans. Underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company, they supplement your primary plan, helping you manage out-of-pocket costs without the usual requirements and restrictions like deductibles and enrollment periods. So when it comes to covering your medical bills, you can feel good about being a little extra.

Visit UH1.com to find the Health Protector Guard plan for you. Once upon a time, three wise men looked to the heavens and saw a guiding star. Millennia have passed, but as David Pogue will show us, we're still looking skyward, aided by a wondrous tool. The story of Christmas features a miraculous astronomical sight. Yes, it was the Star of Bethlehem which shone so brightly.

But this Christmas, we're blessed with an abundance of new visions from the skies. Jupiter and its rings, 385 million miles away. The Carina Nebula, 7,500 light-years away. The Phantom Galaxy, 32 million light-years away.

And the deepest regions of space, 13 billion light-years away. These pictures come from the James Webb Space Telescope, which lifted off on Christmas Day two years ago. Lift off, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe. In 1989, NASA began thinking about a successor to the Hubble Telescope. The new machine would have massive gold-plated lenses that could detect infrared light, invisible to our eyes but capable of passing through dust and gases from 100 times farther into the universe. The Webb would also be much bigger than the Hubble, three stories tall and 70 feet wide. Too big to fit into any existing rocket. NASA's solution? Fold it up.

How complex is this unfolding process? They have things that are called single-point failures. This has to move this way and there's only one of them. Webb has over 300 of those. The light goes from here to here to here.

Scott Willoughby oversaw the Webb's construction at Northrop Grumman. We first met 10 days before the launch. 300 things that have to go exactly right?

Correct, yeah. So now, on the second anniversary of the launch, we can finally ask... So how'd it go? It literally went perfect. As close to perfect as one could have even imagined. It just seems improbable given that moving parts are always hell.

Yeah. People actually asked after, did you overblow how hard this was, right? And the truth was, practicing for everything as if it could go wrong was the best preparation for making it go right. It took almost seven months for the telescope to unfold, calibrate and reach its orbit a million miles from Earth. And because infrared is a form of heat, it also had to get cold, minus 400 degrees. Even the sun's heat would blind the telescope to the faint infrared signals from space. So we have to block out any shred of that sun by deploying a big sun shield, a big umbrella effectively. There's only one star in the entire universe we'll never see. And it's ours. It's the sun. Finally, the science could begin. This is the flight control room. This is where we talk to the telescope.

We're telling it, hi there, anything unexpected happened, send us all the sweet, sweet data that you've been collecting over the last several hours. Jane Rigby is the Webb's chief scientist. She works at NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. The elevator pitch for the Webb telescope was to get the baby pictures of the universe, right?

We have delivered exactly what we promised on that topic. We've gone from basically ignorance about what that first billion years of the universe was like to having it in crisp high definition. Another Webb mission, to examine distant planets to see if any of them have atmospheres like ours, maybe to find one we could live on. But how can a telescope know what's in a distant planet's atmosphere? Turns out, when a planet passes in front of its star, the elements of its atmosphere, oxygen, nitrogen, whatever, block specific bands of light. And by analyzing how the rainbow changes when the planet is in front of the star, we can tell you what the atmosphere of that planet is like. The Webb has already studied the atmospheres of dozens of distant planets. We found carbon dioxide and methane on this one, which suggests that it has oceans.

It's such a joy that this telescope is working so well because it was built really well by the engineers. But not all the Webb headlines have been triumphant. The one in June 2022 didn't sound good at all. Webb's been hit by a meteorite, made a hole. Yes. What was that day like?

Yeah, it was wonderful. And we designed the mirrors to get hit by micrometeorites. You know, small particles, say grain of sand or something like that. But when you're truly talking about one small spot and something 22 feet across, right? The impact of it was really irrelevant.

It actually didn't impact science at all. But there were also some questions about the photos. Was NASA manipulating them? Colorizing them?

That question actually comes up a lot. Is what Webb sees real? NASA image experts Joe DePasquale and Elisa Pagan can answer the questions about colorizing.

They're the ones who do it. It's our job to be able to translate that light into something that our eyes can see. As it turns out, there's a lot of light that people can't see. Like ultraviolet light, which bees can see.

Or infrared light, which pit vipers can see. Ultraviolet light travels in very short waves. Infrared waves are much longer. And that's what guides the colorizing process. We're taking the shortest wavelengths, applying the bluer color. The middle wavelength, that's the green. And then the longest wavelength, it's assigned the red. This is what we think is the truest representation of what we could possibly see. If we could see an infrared light.

If you're that viper that can see from it. Right. In just the first year of Webb observations, scientists published over 600 papers based on its discoveries.

And according to Scott Willoughby, the telescope has one more little gift for us this Christmas. When we launched, we never had a corrector on rocket engines. We saved all of that fuel and effectively on day one, doubled the launch of the mission from 10 years to 20. Wait a minute. So you told Congress that this thing would run for 10 years. That's right. And now you're saying we get another 10 for free?

That's right. We used zero contingency fuel and that leads to 10 more years of operations. So for at least 20 years, scientists around the world will keep peeling back the mysteries of the universe. And the Webb will keep sending back pictures that amaze and amuse us.

From the optical quirk known as the question mark to the galaxy cluster that NASA calls the Christmas tree and beyond. I'm Mo Rocca, and I'm excited to announce season four of my podcast Mobituaries. I've got a whole new bunch of stories to share with you about the most fascinating people and things who are no longer with us. From famous figures who died on the very same day to the things I wish would die, like buffets.

Listen to Mobituaries with Mo Rocca on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. More than a billion holiday cards have been delivered so far this season or soon will be. Among them, you might very well find the witty, whimsical creations of artist Sandra Boynton. But Tracy Smith tells us Boynton's found another way to spread Christmas cheer. It's Christmas time. It's Christmas time. The song might not be a Christmas classic yet, but you might know the characters, those simple line drawn animals with facial expressions that say it all.

And that's why I'm so happy. I'm seeing snow, snow, snow. The animals, the lyrics, and the music are all from Sandra Boynton, artist, author, record producer, and at age 70, maybe the mother of all greeting card creators. How long have you been out here?

Forty four years. But when we saw her at her rural Connecticut home this past July, she told us her new project was a bit off her usual path. A Christmas album, Cows and Holly. For her, it's just another stop on a long and quirky road. Sandra Boynton was still a student at Yale when she began making and selling greeting cards one summer as an alternative to waiting tables.

And in 1975, she came up with this one, the now famous birthday card, Hippo Birdie to use. It was a game changer. How successful were the cards? Exceedingly. They were exceedingly successful.

Way beyond, I think, what anyone imagined. And it pretty quickly got to the point where, like I, in an airport, you know, I could give my identification and somebody would say, are you related to the guy who does the cards or is it your dad who does the cards? Because he assumed it was a man because I only use my last name.

So it said Boynton. And I think it was just an assumption that a cartoonist is man. Occasionally I would say I am the guy who does the cards. She also broke new ground by asking for a percentage of each card sold and they agreed to it. They agreed to it.

They agreed to it. So you were the first person basically in the greeting card business. I was.

To get a royalty. And I think for a long time I think I was the only. And it was only a matter of time before she graduated from greeting cards to children's books. Her first, the immortal classic, Hippos Go Berserk, was a runaway bestseller. Do you have any idea how many copies it sold?

Oh my goodness, you'll have to ask them. I'm not good at the statistics. A Gajillian, I think, is the correct.

A Gajillian, we'll go with that. She quickly established herself as a bestselling author and now has her own imprint, Boynton Books. But after her youngest child went off to school in the mid 90s, Boynton started to focus on another of her passions in life, music. So finally there was a little time to just go, I want to do music and I want to do children's music because it's in general terrible. Children's music is terrible. Yes. People don't like it when I say this. It was back then.

It's condescending. It's done by people who have an idea of what children's music should be. My idea of what children's music should be is music. Yes, I woke up this morning and I couldn't find my shoe. So in her usual, unusual way, she started writing children's songs and she got some pretty famous people to record them.

Like the late, great B.B. King on her One Shoe Blues. For another song, she asked a neighborhood friend, Meryl Streep. That's her singing Nobody Understands Me. And now, in a little studio not far from her house, a new Christmas album is taking shape.

When did you guys start working on this? It was a year ago spring. Was that right? With producer Mike Ford, Boynton wrote more than a dozen songs and, as always, found some pretty well-known people to record them. For instance, she thought Yo-Yo Ma would be perfect for a cello part. And he was.

And so was country great Lyle Lovett. Do you ever, when Sandy says, I think this person would be a good person for this track, say you're out of your mind, you're not going to get that person? I'm usually amazed that she can really just pinpoint the perfect person to get.

So that's really an impressive thing. You can have all the toys, I don't need them because Talk about impressive. Zooey Deschanel said yes. I just got to dance with Santa Claus And for a minute, Patti LuPone turned the little recording studio into a Broadway stage.

The album won't be out until next September, but there's no doubt that the woman who started out on greeting cards will continue to push the envelope. If you could reflect on this ride of yours, this 70 year ride of yours, What would you say? I just feel so fortunate. I just feel so, that I found my place. My dad would have said that I would have been happy wherever I landed. And I hope that's true. Yes, Christmas time. But I'm glad I landed where I have.

And that's why I'm so happy to be with you. You. It's really snowing. Hi, it's me, the Grand Poobah of Bah Humbug, the OG green grump, the Grinch.

From Wondery. Tis the Grinch Holiday Talk Show is a pathetic attempt by the people of Whoville to use my situation as a teachable moment. So join me, the Grinch, along with Cindy Lou Who. Hello, everyone. And of course, my dog Max. Every week for this complete waste of time. Listen as I launch a campaign against Christmas cheer, grilling celebrity guests like chestnuts on an open fire.

Don't try to get my heart to grow a few sizes, but it's not going to work, honey. Your family will love the show. As you know, I'm famously great with kids. Follow Tis the Grinch Holiday Talk Show on the Wondery app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Visit the Grinch Holiday Talk Show early and ad free right now by joining Wondery Plus. Many put their hope in Dr. Serhat. His company was worth half a billion dollars. His research promised groundbreaking treatments for HIV and cancer. Scientists, doctors, renowned experts were saying genius, genius, genius.

People that knew him were convinced that he saved their life. But the brilliant doctor was hiding a secret. Do not cross this line that was being messaged to us. Do not cross this line. A secret the doctor was desperate to keep. This was a person who was willing to coldheartedly just lie to people's faces. We're dealing with an international fugitive. From Wondery, the makers of Over My Dead Body and The Shrink Next Door comes a new season of Dr. Death, Bad Magic. I'm Laura Beall.

You can listen to Dr. Death, Bad Magic exclusively and ad free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in the Wondery app. Steve Hartman has the story of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a neighbor who's eased his burden. On Detroit's west side, we found a story on a second story. It's a duplex.

Yeah. Downstairs renter Colin McConnell says the new neighbors above have been disrupting his peace below. I thought it was the Detroit Lions practicing up there some nights, you know.

In actuality, it was three peewees, running backs and fourths across the hardwood. The kids belong to 33-year-old Don Wilson, and for months Colin knew nothing of Don beyond what he could hear through the floorboards. But when they finally met, Colin says he picked up a whisper of something much more. You could just tell something was weighing on him, so that's when I kind of was like, you good? And he just kind of was like, not really. Turns out Don had just lost the love of his life and mother of his children. LaKenya had a stroke and died this past summer. She was 39. Just not having that person here, you know what I mean?

Like, you know, I can't be like her. Juggling the kids and a full-time job with virtually no savings was overwhelming. After Colin heard that, the noise from above became the least of his worries. He posted a video on social media asking for anything to help this guy. And within hours, the boxes started showing up on his doorstep. This is all for you, bro. What?

Yeah, bro. It was everything Don would need for Christmas and beyond. But he says the best gift was that it all came from strangers. That was the best feeling because of random people that you don't expect that surprise joy. It was just, it's amazing.

I never felt it before. Very soon, people around the world will be listening for sleigh bells. But in this tiny duplex, this man will be listening happily for the pounding feet of children enchanted and know that Christmas has come.

Look at that. So subscribe wherever you're listening right now. It's a Kentucky destination where you might say music and nature coexist in perfect harmony.

Connor Knighton takes us there. In South Central Kentucky, the first Sunday in December is special. Each year, hundreds of people flock to Mammoth Cave National Park, then walk deep underground to enjoy some rock around a Christmas tree. The annual Cave Sing concert features groups caroling 140 feet beneath the Earth's surface. Even if the weather outside is frightful, the cave stays delightfully mild year round. The weather is great inside the cave. It's always 54 degrees.

There's no raining or snowing or anything like that. So it's a perfect place to have music inside the cave. Lead park guide Kenitha Sanders' family moved to this area back in 1854. The park believes the first Christmas party in the cave occurred in the 1880s. There were just over 600 families that lived here before we became a national park. A lot of those people worked here for the Mammoth Cave Estates or worked at the hotel, and someone came up with a great idea of why don't we have a Christmas celebration inside the cave. The dried-out tree from that early celebration stayed in the cave for decades. But it wasn't until the 1980s when today's Cave Sing tradition took hold. Line up is usually local.

A brass band or a choir from a nearby college. Mammoth Cave is, by far, the longest known cave system in the world. To deck its hollow halls would take ages.

More than 400 miles of passageways have been mapped so far. The curved stone walls also provide for some world-class acoustics. This is a great space for singers. Some places you go it's very dead, you can't hear yourself singing, but once the men get in here and start singing together, you'll see the joy come over them because you can hear each other really well and you can just enjoy the harmonies. Tim Cash is a member of the Caveman Chorus a cappella group. To me it's like nature's Carnegie Hall. Earlier this year, a man who's played Carnegie Hall more than a hundred times brought his cello down into the cave.

Yo-Yo Ma performed a special concert with the Louisville Orchestra here last April. Say reindeer! Reindeer! Above ground, there's Santa Claus and cookies. For many in the surrounding communities, the Cave Sing tradition is what kicks off the holiday season.

Javier Hernandez and Ariel Cheshire got engaged here nine years ago. It's a special day with her, and now that we have more kids, it's more special. So every year, as long as we can, we're going to try to come and enjoy it.

The concert always ends with a group sing-along. Silent night echoes through the cave. The crowd then exits by candlelight. A reminder of how those first cave carolers would have experienced this place. And that's the moment where I really think this event sets itself apart, because to hear all of those voices raised together in the cave, you can't be mad at someone when you're singing together. You forget all of your differences, and for just a moment we get to experience this amazing place and the true meaning of the season together. Sleep in heavenly peace.

But with parties and presents and any number of festive distractions, we're often reminded not to overlook the real meaning of Christmas. It's a story more and more viewers are following in a popular TV series about the life of Jesus. Lee Cowan takes a closer look. So this is Jerusalem. We are in Jerusalem and now we're going to Capernaum.

To be guided down these narrow streets. This is all built from scratch. As to feel as if you're walking through the Bible itself.

It looks so real. So Simon Peter's house right there and Matthew's tax booth down there. But this isn't the Holy Land. That isn't the Sea of Galilee.

And a man showing us around is no archaeologist. Action! His care is for women, for the vulnerable.

This is a production set in the heart of Texas. Comes in here. For writer and director Dallas Jenkins, the man behind the wildly popular faith-based series The Chosen. There will come a time when this will become far more difficult. When persecution is an ever-present part of your ministry. When that time comes, you will follow in my footsteps. In an era when studies show Americans are getting less and less religious, James and John, come, follow me.

The Chosen have found more than just a niche audience. No, no! Says Jonathan Roome, who plays Jesus.

We even got a letter from somebody from the Church of Satan that was like, you know, I don't believe all this stuff necessarily, but you guys tell a really good story. And I'm like, if that guy is taking the time to write, like, what's going on in his world? While exact numbers are hard to pin down, producers claim more than 200 million people have watched the first three seasons.

That's Game of Thrones kind of numbers. The different ideas that people have in their head of who Jesus was is fascinating and... And fraught. Oh, I'm, I'm, I'm walking through, I wouldn't say I'm trying to avoid landmines, I'm walking through landmines every day. What makes The Chosen different... You look troubled. I am. ...are the backstories that Jenkins has created for some of the gospel's most well-known characters. I'm Judas of Karyot. And we're going to take them down from stained glass windows.

We're going to take them down from statues. And we're going to remind ourselves that these people had the same questions, struggles, and doubts that we have. I hurt you. The tax collector Matthew, for example. He's portrayed as living with mild autism. I never understood why I was so different from everyone else. I can't face him.

Mary Magdalene is suffering PTSD and struggling with alcohol. He already fixed me once. And I broke again. Why didn't you tell me?

Because I... Simon is married. What did I do wrong? You didn't do anything!

And isn't above the arguments that old couples have. You did nothing. You came home from being gone and you didn't even ask how I was. And then there's Jesus himself. One of the rooms is haunted by my dead grandmother. Oh, I'll take that one. Who, it turns out, has a pretty divine sense of humor. You wanted to use the power of God to bring down fire to burn these people up. Well, it sounds a lot worse when you say it that way. I think showing those sides of Jesus while you don't see them often doesn't make them wrong. For all its popularity now, The Chosen was not something studios were jumping to make, especially with Jenkins.

You really thought about quitting? Oh, for sure. His previous film had landed with a thud. Nobody wanted to back him on another project. I imagine that God tends to use the broken and tends to use the humbled. And I wasn't a humble person until that day. Hi, I'm Dallas Jenkins, director. He turned to crowdsourcing to raise money.

A long shot. So we're going to make a television show for you about the greatest story ever told. But boy, did it pay off.

More than $10 million poured in as a record for a crowdfunded media project. I thought, OK, this is bigger than me. Meanwhile, Jonathan Rumi was in a wilderness of his own. It got pretty brutal. Acting wasn't really panning out in Los Angeles. In fact, it wasn't panning out at all. The devout Catholic, he says he prayed and asked why.

Where did I go wrong? Like, what happened? I said, if there's something else I'm supposed to be doing and somehow I missed it, then you've got to tell me. The answer, he says, arrived in his mailbox the very same day. Money for work that he'd long forgotten.

And at the end of that, I had like $1,100. And three months later, I got a call from Dallas. He was asking me to show up for the show. Were they miracles?

Both Jenkins and Rumi say that's up to you to decide. What does seem clear is the show is apparently offering something that a lot of people were looking for. We're loving the sun. It's awesome. This was a fan convention in Dallas this past October. It was sort of like Comic-Con, except instead of superhero costumes, it was Bible-chic. When Rumi arrived, as you might expect, that was a little like the second comic. Look how many people we get to meet and hang out with. That was pretty cool.

Security had to usher him away. It's humbling, man. I'm a dude that shows up and reads lines and says them to another person who's saying lines that they memorized. I don't know that I've met anybody that actually was disconnected enough to think that I'm actually Jesus, just in case it wasn't clear. I'm not Jesus. I'm not Jesus incarnated.

It's not a thing. Give them something to eat. We're out of food. They're out of food. Near the end of season three, the show faced a quandary. How to show the magnitude of Jesus feeding the multitudes without breaking the bank.

Thank you so much for joining us. Extras would have cost a fortune, but what about the show's fans who had so generously donated to get the chosen maid in the first place? I saw this opportunity and we jumped on it. They thought they'd get a few hundred volunteers. They ended up with thousands.

When my wife and I were pulling on to the set at 5.30 in the morning, we started crying, seeing, I can get emotional thinking about it because I'm seeing a couple thousand people already on set. But you clearly need actual food now. So let's eat. As the story goes, five loaves and two fish fed 5,000.

Dallas Jenkins sees his job as just providing the bread and the fish. How or even if his audience feels full, he says, isn't up to him. When I'm writing at the computer, when I'm on set directing, I'm not thinking, oh, I hope the show converts people. That's not the responsibility of a TV show.

Ultimately, what happens as a result of the show is between them and God. Luke Burbank has sent us a postcard from Bavaria by way of a small town in Washington state. It's a Wednesday morning in tiny Leavenworth, Washington, which means it's also time for the most Bavarian alarm clock you've ever heard. Nestled amidst the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth regularly shows up on lists of the top Christmas destinations in America.

And 10-year-old Reed Baker agrees. I like the town and how it's just so wintery, and I love Christmas, so it's my favorite time of the year. Would you take this at Christmas time over Disneyland?

Yes, definitely. And it's not just at Christmas. In fact, the town's Bavarian theme brings tourists all year round. Last year, over three million people visited Leavenworth and many of them stopped by Kevin Reekie's store right on Front Street. They're called Lodens. They're 100% wool hats imported from Germany.

Let's have you try one on. Reekie's dad started the family business 50 years ago, originally making wood toys. It was kind of sawdusty, and he made two of everything. So if he sold a toy boat, he'd just run to the back and craft a new one right then and there.

So by day he's selling toys, and by night he's literally making the toys. Yep, that's the first year. That's kind of how it went.

That's like very strong Santa Claus vibrations. The total, complete Bavarian-ness of Leavenworth is really something to behold, and it's no accident. The town has building codes as strict as any you'll find in the U.S. Any new construction, any remodel projects, any signage change has to conform to our Bavarian, our old world Bavarian code, and it's governed by a board that's appointed by the mayor that's there to enforce or to interpret the code.

But here's the plot twist when it comes to Leavenworth. Under all this alpine, winter wonderland stuff sits a row of humble brick buildings, the remnants of a town that came very early. Of a town that came very close to dying. The buildings themselves, many were boarded up. Some had, you know, the windows broken out of them. I mean, just what you would expect for a town that every other business is closed and just didn't have much going on.

Anne Peavey grew up on an orchard just outside of town. These days she volunteers with the Greater Leavenworth Museum, which tells the story of a boom town fueled by timber and the railroad that eventually had all but busted. So in the 30s, the 40s, and the 50s, you know, they've said that the people that stayed in Leavenworth were the people that couldn't afford to leave or they had their livelihood that was cleaned by something other than lumber and the railroads. Then two strangers showed up with a big idea. Bob Rogers and Ted Price were partners in both business and life who decided to take a chance on Leavenworth.

Bob had been stationed in Bavaria during World War II and had fallen in love with the architecture. The Squirrel Tree Motel the men had purchased together soon became the Squirrel Tree Chalet with waitresses dressed in dirndls and even the occasional visit from a local bear. Business boomed.

Somehow they were able to convince just enough of the business owners in Leavenworth to embrace the idea of betting everything they had on a complete makeover, which is where Robert Johnson and his dad came in. One of the techniques of making old wood or make it look old was we'd take a torch and burn the surface of it and then somebody would have to take a wire brush and brush off all the light grain so that it would look like it was weathered. And I was the one that always got to brush all the charcoal off. I was just, you know, day after day brushing. And that was for the first storefronts.

Johnson has come a long way from those tedious tasks. These days, his family owns not one, but two hotels in town, one of the largest, the Enzian, and one of the newest and hottest ones, the Post Hotel, run by his daughter, Robin John, and her husband. We started going into the Alps and what we found were these unique wellness hotels over there where people were in the lobby in their bathrobes and we just thought, wow, this is really different than what we have over here in the States as far as what we've seen. The hotel is pretty much sold out for months. In fact, it's so popular that people tend to think their website is broken, but it's not. It's just another sign that this fake Bavarian village, which was nearly trapped by its past, has a very bright future.

Well, that's why we're Miracle Town, because it's a small miracle that this confluence of factors came together and the community became successful. Music Movie theaters expect to be very busy indeed this week between Christmas and New Year's. Fun for the whole family. Just ask our Jim Gaffigan.

Parenting is a series of sacrifices, financial, physical, and emotional. Do you know how many horrible kids movies I've seen in the theater? Way too many. I've voluntarily driven to the theater, bought multiple tickets, and sat through absolute garbage, objectively bad movies. I didn't need to read a review. I didn't need to watch a trailer. I knew. Nobody asked themselves, I wonder if The Smurfs is any good.

It's not. They tried to warn us by calling it The Smurfs. I have five children. That means I've been sitting through horrible kids movies for 15 years, a decade and a half of torture. The hardest part?

The self-censorship. After suffering through a movie like My Pretty Pony, any sentient being would need to turn to someone and say, well, that was painful. But you can't say that to an eight-year-old, so you just smile and go, hey, what'd you think?

Yeah, I hope they make another one too. I understand not all dads would make this sacrifice. My father would never have sat through a horrible kids movie. On the rare occasion my dad would take us to a movie, he'd never ask us what movie we wanted to see. We were just happy we were going to see a movie. We didn't know what movie we were going to watch. He didn't know what movie we were going to watch. It was understood when we got to the theater, he'd pick one, buy tickets, and we'd walk in immediately.

It didn't matter when the movie started. That was the beginning of the movie for us. Often we'd sit down and watch the last half of the movie. Then the lights would go on, the audience would get up and leave, but we'd just sit there trying to figure out the plot line. We might ask each other, how do you think the movie starts? Eventually a new audience would come in, the movie would restart, we'd watch up till the point we came in, then my dad would just stand up and leave. We'd follow him out.

That's how we saw movies growing up, which might explain why I find horrible kids movies so annoying and linear. Where am I? Is this heaven? No, it isn't heaven. Is it hell? No, it isn't hell either.

Actually, there is no hell, although I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close. Ha! It's a Sunday morning for Christmas Eve, and here again is Jane Pauley. That's comedian and actor Albert Brooks, who knows a thing or two about making people laugh. Just ask his pal, Rob Reiner. They're in conversation with our Ben Mankiewicz.

Sooner or later, everything in Beverly Hills gets a facelift. This is where we met, but of course there's nothing left of it, just like our friendship. Yeah. Even your old high school. We sat on that bench. We did.

Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks met here at Beverly Hills High 60 years ago in a drama class. This is the first time both of us have been back since we graduated. Right. Over a certain age, it's against the law. Only for you, though. Well, life works best when you remember. You remember nobody bothers you. That's the way it was.

I looked great. When you have to confront the actual people you were with, oh my God, who are you? Yeah. You're my grandmother.

No. You were in love with me. Oh my God. Oh my God.

But you liked older women, so. It brings back no memory. Nothing. They haven't been back, but they've remained close friends for six decades, as Reiner went from playing Meathead in Norman Lear's All in the Family Care for an olive? to a career as a top-tier movie director. This is Spinal Tap, A Few Good Men, Misery. When Harry Met Sally. Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh!

I'll have what she's having. That memorable line came courtesy of Estelle Reiner, Rob's mother. Rob's father, legendary comedian and writer Carl Reiner, knew funny as well as anyone, and during an appearance on The Tonight Show in 1963, singled out his teenage son's teenaged friend. He said, the funniest person I know is a 16-year-old kid named Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein. That's Brooks' birth name.

He changed it at the start of his career because of the other guy named Albert Einstein. I asked, believe me, I asked. You did. And all I got was, ask your dad, ask your mom.

Right. Nobody would tell me. His parents, Harry Einstein, a famous radio comic, and his wife Thelma, never owned up to why they burdened their son with the name of the world's most famous scientist.

I don't think they thought, oh, is he going to get in trouble in gym class? He'll live up to that. That's easy. Albert Brooks met the challenge. He became the funniest comedian of his generation, relativity speaking. He can't split the atom, but he can create energy through laughter. Brooks' originality was on display as soon as he found an audience, mostly on variety shows. I'm Dave and I'm Danny.

Rather than tell jokes, he performed extended bits and created characters, like the world's least talented ventriloquist. I'll sing a song while you have a cigarette. Great idea. What are you going to sing? One of my favorites, Swanee River. Great. No.

Way down upon the Swanee River. It was like an elixir. I mean, it could make dead people laugh. It made everyone laugh.

So I kept getting jobs because of it. Here is comedian Albert Brooks. Albert Brooks. Our friend, Albert Brooks. Sir, Albert Brooks.

I think he's the funniest man in the world, Albert Brooks. As Brooks kept working, Reiner kept pestering with a request. Let me make a movie about your life. I've always looked up to you because to me there was nobody that did what you could do.

Reiner's documentary, Defending My Life, is currently streaming on Max. Why did you make this doc now? Because he wouldn't do it when I wanted to do it.

What was the reason you at this time said that you finally said you would do it? There's a lot of young people who, if they know me at all, they know me as a fish. There's a mollusk, see, and he walks up to a seat.

Well, he doesn't walk up. Brooks voices Marlon in Finding Nemo. I mixed up.

There was a mollusk. You just would like to say, you know, there's more to it. Right. And you can't yourself on a street corner because that's mental illness. Yes.

You could try. Wait a minute. I'm not just a fish. Do you know that in 1975, look, I got my cars here. I knew all the things that Albert had done. I knew how brilliant he was. I wanted them to know. There's a lot to know.

In 1971, Brooks wrote a piece for Esquire magazine about the Albert Brooks famous school for comedians. It didn't exist. Some didn't get the joke. How many applicants did you get?

Two thousand. People thought it was a real thing. I had a two-page talent test, the silliest test you ever saw. A year or so later came a short film about the nonexistent school, a pioneering example of the mockumentary. The pie here is funnier than if it landed in Area 3.

But funnier still, and I think you'll see why, would be to make direct contact with the nose. That was funny. Then came what might have been his big break. In 1974, Lorne Michaels was preparing a sketch comedy show for NBC. It became Saturday Night Live. He asked Brooks to be the permanent host.

Brooks turned him down. Can you imagine 50 years you're doing that? Yeah. 50 years you're saying, that's the Albert Brooks. Good evening. Instead, he made short films for SNL's first season, which led to his true calling, writing, directing, and starring in some of the funniest and most deliberately uncomfortable movies of their time.

Modern Romance, Lost in America, Defending Your Life, and the semi-autobiographical Mother, with Debbie Reynolds as the title character. Mother, the ice cream is colorless. Look under the protective ice. The protective ice?

You've actually named the clear hard crap that sits on the top? 10 seconds. All of this in addition to his work as an actor. This is more than Nixon ever sweated. Most memorably schvitzing his way to screen immortality in broadcast news.

Just how noticeable is this? Huh? I think Albert Brooks is the Marx Brothers meet Richard Pryor. That's the greatest thing I ever heard. I feel good.

Because that's four people. Wait a minute. Here we go. Look at this.

Albert Brooks. Back at their old high school, the two old pals find themselves on the wall of fame. Look, see, there's me right there. There's you.

There's me. Friends still making each other laugh, though don't expect a duet. Oh, Beverly, we love you, our loyalty we sing. To thee, oh faithful, honor our praises we sing. Our custom traditions bring glory to thee. We love you, Beverly. And then there's the end.

We need help. It's a Sunday morning tradition. If it's Christmas, tis the season for the Young People's Chorus of New York City. On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me A partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree. On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me Three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Four holling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Take place, this is what you have said to me. Five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the sixth day of Christmas, last will there stand to be six clams of lamb. Five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the seventh day of Christmas, what you have said to me, seven gold rings, six clams of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the eighth day of Christmas, what you have said to me, seven gold rings, six clams of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the ninth day of Christmas, what you have said to me, seven gold rings, six clams of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the tenth day of Christmas, what you have said to me, seven gold rings, six clams of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the eleventh day of Christmas, what you have said to me, eleven gold rings, eleven clams of lamb, nine ladies dancing, eight mules of milk, seven swimming, six quacks of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the twelfth day of Christmas, what you have said to me, twelve clams of lamb, eleven ladies sleeping, ten mules of milk, nine ladies dancing, eight mules of milk, seven swimming, six clams of lamb, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. And a partridge in a pear tree.

In a pear tree. A Silent Night is tragically rare in parts of the Middle East this holiday season. MTS Tyab is in the town of Bethlehem. It's the nativity scene that has captured the world's attention. And Pastor Munther Isaac, a Palestinian Christian, is the man behind it. They're looking for Jesus in the same way we see on the television when a house is bombed in Gaza, people flood to that house to find any sign of life. Baby Jesus, as if he were born in the ruins of nearby Gaza.

I don't think my faith has been ever tested more than in the last two months. It feels that even God is silent. Silence at the Church of the Nativity, where by tradition, Jesus was born on this very spot. Normally, this holiest of holy sites would be packed full of tourists and Christian pilgrims. But after three months of death and destruction and shattered lives on both sides, there's no Christmas in Bethlehem.

Steps away in Manger Square, there's no tree, no tourists. Few here can remember a Christmas so somber. A somberness shared by hostage families in Israel. And in Gaza, home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities. I believe God right now is under the rubble in Gaza. God is in the operation room. God is with those who are homeless, who are in despair. He suffers with them.

He weeps with them. This is where I think God is more profoundly experienced. Thoughts on this Christmas Eve from Jesuit priest and author, Father James Martin. In the old Charlie Brown Christmas special, Charlie Brown asks the famous question out of frustration over the commercialism he sees this time of year. Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Of course, Linus, a bit of a know-it-all, does. Linus then recites the story of Jesus' birth from the Gospel of Luke. That's the meaning of Christmas for Christians. God loved us so much that he became human in the most vulnerable way possible, as an infant. Now, not everyone watching me is Christian, so let me suggest another meaning. Nothing is impossible for God. Our world today, broken by war and violence, by division and polarization, by poverty and loneliness, can seem hopeless.

We have to remember that Jesus entered just such a world, and after his birth, Mary and Joseph and Jesus even became refugees, being forced to flee into Egypt. So Jesus knew and understood suffering. But Christmas tells us that suffering is never the last word, that despair is not helpful, and that we can always work to make the world a better place, no matter what.

Linus knew that. I hope you do too. Merry Christmas. Once again, the Young People's Chorus of New York City, directed by Francisco Nunez. What's the most favorite song to hear that children love to sing? Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh O'er the fields we go laughing all the way Hop, hop, bells on bobtail ring Making spirits bright What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight Hop, hop, jingle bells, jingle bells Jingle all the way home Oh, what fun it is to ride On a one-horse open sleigh, yes, on an open sleigh Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way home Oh, what fun it is to ride On a one-horse open sleigh On the housetop, on the housetop Landing on a housetop with the Christmas tree inside Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree How lovely, yes, how lovely are the branches on a tree With jingle bells on the Christmas tree We're dashing, dashing, dashing, yes, we're dashing, dashing, dashing Yes, we're dashing through the law Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh Over the fields we go, laughing all the way Hop, hop, bells on bobtails ring Making spirits bright What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight Hop, hop, jingle bells, jingle bells Jingle all the way home Oh, what fun it is to ride on a one-horse open sleigh Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells Jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle Dashing down through the snow Jingle bells Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-24 16:19:06 / 2023-12-24 16:42:35 / 23

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