Monday, July 30, 2007

Marking the passing of a true original...

Sad news to report today. Tom Snyder, journalist and interviewer, has died at age 71.

Snyder hosted Tomorrow, a late night interview show from 1973 until 1982. The antithesis of Johnny Carson's Tonight show, which his show followed, Snyder interviewed a wide and deep variety of the famous and not-so famous, presenting real conversation that sometimes could not have been shown on broadcast television any earlier in the evening during that era.

I was a fan from the beginning Tomorrow's run, often dragging myself to school in the morning with my eyelids at half-mast because I'd been up until 2 a.m. watching the show (at that time, Tonight ran for an hour and a half, from 11:30 p.m. until 1 am, with Tomorrow following from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.). The interviews were often serious, sometimes hilarious, and almost never run-of-the-mill.

Snyder hasn't been on television for awhile, but his presence has been sorely missed, at least by me. In a time when "talk show" has become synonymous with tabloid trash like that presented by Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, or with politically correct interviewers like Oprah Winfrey, I wish someone like Tom Snyder would come along again and inject some reality into the genre. He wasn't always politically correct. Some of the individuals Snyder interviewed could likely find a place on some of the tabloid shows. And some of those he interviewed (such as Charlie Manson) were likely presented at least partially for their value in gaining ratings. Still, Snyder's show was never sordid like so many of those shows are today.

Sadly, I doubt we'll see his like again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The first half-year (plus a month) or, What I've Been Reading...

I meant to do this at the beginning of the month, as an inventory of the books I read during the first half of the year but never really got around to it. So, almost a month late and a couple of books longer, here is the list of books I've read so far this year:

1. Rage, Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, 2005) 391 pages (paperback edition).

2. Behind Closed Doors, Natalie R. Collins (St Martin Paperbacks, 2007) 322 pages. 8

3. The Lucifer Gospel, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, New American Library, 2006) 357 pages.

4. Last on the Menu, Sister Eleanor Quin, C. S. J. (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969) 182 pages.

5. The Republican Noise Machine, David Brock (Three Rivers Press, 2004; Afterward copyright 2005) 432 pages.

6. The Templar Legacy, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2006) 487 pages.

7. The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney (Basic Books) 357 pages.

8. An Alphabetical Life, Wendy Werris (Carroll & Graf Publishers) 292 pages.

9. Hotel California: The true-life adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and their many friends, Barney Hoskins (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006) 324 pages.

10. The Alexandria Link, Steve Berry (Ballantine Books, 2007) 462 pages.

11. Michelangelo’s Notebook, Paul Christopher (Onyx Books, 2005) 358 pages.

12. The Collar, Jonathan Englert (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 301 pages.

13. Tutu Deadly, Natalie M. Roberts (Berkley Prime Crime, 2007) 248 pages.

14. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann (Vintage, 2005, 2006) 541 pages.

15. All Saints, Liam Callahan (Delacorte, 2007).

16. The Last Cato, Matilde Asensi (Rayo, 2006; originally published in Spanish, 2001) 458 pages.

17. The Machine’s Child, Kage Baker (Tor, 2006) 351 pages.

18. Evolving God, Barbara J. King (Doubleday, 2007) 262 pages.

19. Gods and Pawns, Kage Baker (Tor, 2007) 335 pages.

20. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, Edward Humes (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007) 380 pages.

21. By Their Father’s Hand: The True Story of the Wesson Family Massacre, Monte Francis (Harper, 2007) 285 pages.

22. Rembrandt’s Ghost, Paul Christopher (Signet, 2007) 347 pages.

23. Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the unsolved murder of a doctor, a secret laboratory in New Orleans and cancer-causing monkey viruses are linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination and emerging global epidemics, Edward T. Haslam (TrineDay, 2007) 374 pages.

Non-fiction titles are in bold. I kind of hesitated before bolding the last title on the list. It is non-fiction, but it is also one of those conspiracy-theory books that make interesting if fairly questionable claims about how history really happened. But, since it is presented as non-fiction, I decided that it qualified as such.

Actually, Dr. Mary's Monkey was in interesting book. I love conspiracy theories even if I can't ultimately buy most of them as presented. The best ones present their claims in terms that make logical leaps that you at least have to think about before dismissing them, and this book managed to do that. Yes, the idea that several people whose names are linked with the JFK assassination (primarily Clay Shaw, Guy Bannister and David Ferrie...the New Orleans contingent, in other words) were also caught up in clandestine research that might have grown our of an adulterated early polio vaccine that is now causing soft-tissue cancers in many of those innoculated with it as well as being the ulimate genesis of HIV takes a fairly big gulp to swallow. But Haslam manages to weave the story in such a way (and with plenty of references to follow up if one is so inclined) that it doesn't seem completely out of the question on first read.

This statement, of course, doesn't mean I believe a word of it. But as a conspiracy theory it certainly does better than the story, for example, that Elvis is alive and well and living in Cleveland or wherever.

I get a new desk...

It's new to me, anyway. And I'm quite excited about it.

What? You think I'm just too easily enthused?

Well, you might be correct, but this has been a two-and-a-half-year odyssey (more than that really, but that long in this location), and I can't quite believe yet that I have a proper desk.

I haven't actually had a proper desk in years. In fact, my current computer has never had a desk before. But, when I moved into my current apartment I was determined to get a desk, all the more so when I began working from home, about a month after the move.

For all that determination, my computer was ensconced firmly on the floor for about the first six months in the new place. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, honestly. Surfing the net while lying on the floor can be quite comfortable. On the other hand, having to work on the floor for several hours per day gets old quickly. Finally, I got frustrated with it.

Because I didn't have any way to get a proper desk home (not being willing to pay for delivery), I went down to my local Wal-Mart and bought a round, green plastic patio table to use as a desk. And it served well enough, although I've had a permanently sore shoulder on my mouse arm for the past two years because the mouse cord wasn't quite long enough to be in a position to reach easily due to the shape of the table.

Awhile back, my best friend acquired a new desk and offered to give me her old one. Which was fine, except that she didn't have any way to get it across town to my place until yesterday, when friends of hers were in town from southern California with their pick-up (they were bringing her a love seat that they no longer needed). They offered to deliver the desk, and so now it is here right next to my favorite window so that I can still look out and contemplate the trees when I'm waiting for updated information for work. I now have room for my printer on my desk, so that it isn't living on the hearth in front of my fireplace anymore.

So, thanks to Pamela for finding her dream desk so that she didn't need this one anymore. And thanks to Karen and Scott for venturing up into the unbearably hot (but not as bad as last year's) Central California weather and offering to bring me my new desk. The old green plastic table I've been using will be living with them now.

Now, all I need is to get a good desk chair, because this metal folding chair that I'm sitting on now is ruining my back.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's all about me or, the 8 Things About Me meme...

I was tagged by Miko at Mind on Fire for this “Eight things about me” meme. So here are eight things about me that may or may not be interesting and that you might or might not know about me. But first…

The Rules: “Each person posts the rules before their list, then they list 8 things about themselves. At the end of the post, that person tags and links to 8 other people and then visits those peoples’ sites and comments letting them know that they have been tagged, and to come read the post, so they know what they have to do.”

1) I have specific memories from before I turned 1 year old. Yeah, I know…the psychologists say that isn’t possible. They’re wrong.

2) I am terrified of anything medical. I get anxiety attacks if I have to go into a hospital or even a doctor’s office. In fact, it is so bad that I can’t even sit through a one-hour medical drama on TV. Which is kind of too bad, because I always thought Dr. Luka (on ER) was awfully attractive.

3) My Very Brady Moment: When I was in the ninth grade, I briefly shared a stage with Robert Reed, Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams, who of course played Mike, Marsha, and Greg Brady on “The Brady Bunch”. This was right at the height of that iconic television show and the occasion was Shakespeare Festival. I was dressed in Elizabethan costume and taking part in the pageant at the awards ceremony at the end of the day, and the three of them were the guest celebrity award presenters. Me? I wasn’t impressed, as I never like the show very much (although I adore “The Brady Bunch Movie” because it is so evilly funny).

4) I’m a professional props handler…or, in my preferred job title, props mistress. I’ve worked with the Central California Ballet for several years on a number of productions. It has been an occasional opportunity for my inner theater geek to come out and play, and I’m still amazed that they have paid me to do any of this.

5) Mortifying confession: I got a giggling fit in the middle of my grandfather’s funeral. The minister (Southern Baptist) had this really bad southern accent, obviously fake as it occasionally faded away (think Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood”). After awhile, it just got to me and I started to giggle. Fortunately, I was able to disguise it until it finally passed.

6) When I was young, I lived near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory where they tested many rocket engines, including the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo missions to the Moon. For a long time, it seemed like they did a test almost every night. Sometimes, when the tested the largest engines, it would sound like the whole mountain was going to take off. There was also a nuclear meltdown there just before I turned three (and when I lived within a couple of miles of the place, as the crow flies), which could be the reason that I have a screwy thyroid gland.

7) I once attended a school for just five days. When I was in elementary school, my father’s job required him to work away from home for a month or six weeks at a time. At first, he would stay out of town during the week, leaving my mother and I at home, and he would come visit on weekends. But after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 he decided that when he had to be out of town, we would travel with him, just in case…(cue ominous music). Well, when I was in fourth grade he had to work down in Coachella Valley, and so we found a motel room with a kitchenette in El Centro and I was put in school there. However, a few days later, my dad happened to find a very nice apartment for a good weekly rent ($44 per week, as I recall) and we moved to Brawley, where I spent a bit longer in school…almost a month and a half, I think.

8) My favorite place in the world is Disneyland. Yeah, I know. Not politically correct in some circles, and considered immature in others. But I love Disneyland. I still clearly remember parts of my first visit there, when I was almost 2 years old, and I’ve pretty much lost track of the number of times I’ve been there. I think the reason I love the place so much is that it is the only place guaranteed to allow me to lose every bit of my anxiety and stress…a wonderful thing for someone like myself, who is prone to anxiety attacks. The lines don’t bother me; people cutting in line don’t even bother me. I can just chill and enjoy myself and forget the rest of the world. And that is a rare and wonderful thing.

Well, I don't know 8 bloggers to tag for this, and almost all the people I do know who blog have already been tagged for this, so if you read this and wish to join the fun, consider yourself tagged and drop a link in the comments when you get your list up on your blog.