31 December 2006

Who Were the Cycladic?

When I was in my younger and more impressionable years, I was thumbing through a book that might have been an encyclopedia. I stopped at a photograph not unlike the one accompanying this entry.

It took my breath away -- and was the beginning of my lifelong interest in ancient Greeks and Modern Art.

What is really bizarre about the whole thing is that no one knows who made these great works of art (the people are called Cycladic, after the islands called the Cyclades), the art was made thousands of years before the Modern Art movement appeared, and to this day still nearly nothing is known about the pieces themselves: were they funerary offerings, statues of gods, or children's toys?

Whatever they are, and whomever made them, they remain some of the most important creations by humans in the history of humanity.

An article about the discovery of more pieces is

More about the art and culture can be found
here and here.

28 December 2006

Nothing's Impossible Now


Tom Cruise's minions have finally stopped interfering with the release on DVD of the only "Mission: Impossible" that really matters. Yes, I refer to the original
television series that ran from 1966 to 1973.

Of course, it is only the first three seasons that matter. Once Barbara Bain and Martin Landau left the show (or were fired, you decide) "M:I" never recaptured the cachet that had made it great. It limped on for several more years, with only a few episodes rising to the previous standard (mostly those with guest star Lee Meriwether).

My super wonderful, sweet (and obviously highly intelligent) in-laws (so to speak) got me the wonderful first season DVD for xmas and life could not be better. Each night, Matt and I are watching an episode (in order) and enjoying virtually every minute.

There are teething pains in this first season: the light banter really does not work, and was quickly eliminated; Bain is given little to do but strut her stuff (the producers quickly saw that this was wasting an impressive talent and started giving her much more meat to work with -- little surprise, then, that Bain won an Emmy for each of her three seasons on the show); the scripts are a little wordier than they would become.

Luckily, these issues were addressed quickly turning the show into what many still consider one of the best series ever on television.

26 December 2006

More History Gone With the Wind

Another example of a surperb archive of history being sold to the highest bidder -- in this case, piece by piece (the worst possible way).

As a journalist -- and what I like to call "contemporary historian" -- I am saddened that so much historically valuable original source material will be scattered to the four winds.

While I understand the sale is for a good cause, there are just too many questions left unanswered:

Will these items be copied before they are sold? Will there be an index created? Will any of this material be donated to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Library? While I do not know the answers, I fear they will be "no."

More on the auction will be found here.

25 December 2006

Candy Greatness

Why is it that candy from the past always seems to have the very best wrapper designs -- especially when compared to the garbage that passes for design today?

Also, can anyone tell me anything about the Pierce Arrow candy -- other than the pretty obvious fact that it was named for the popular car line of the time? Did any of you ever eat one? Was it like a Butterfinger?

Thanks to Matt for finding this link. :-)

23 December 2006

Rudolph, Esq

I'll be the first to admit I have long been a sucker for a certain reindeer whose many good qualities include a bright red nose that helped saved xmas one year. Yes, I am talking about the inimitable Rudolph.

Rudolph has been around for quite some time, being created for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939 by Robert May. While Rudolph's fame was secured by the 1949 recording made by Gene Autry, Rudolph became immortal thanks to television and the 1964 holiday special produced by the venerable Rankin/Bass.

Rudolph's popularity has never dwindled. In fact, it is still growing thanks to a museum exhibition in Atlanta featuring the actual puppets used in the 1964 television program. While they are merely bits of wood and felt, these puppets represent a special something to children around the world.

Hats off to you, Rudolph, for being different -- and proud of it!

More about the museum exhibition will be found

21 December 2006

Holiday Bits of Tid

I certainly wish I could make up something this wacky: a komodo dragon (pictured), who has lived her entire life in captivity without any male komodos, has produced a clutch of fertile eggs. No, really. You can read more about it here. Just like "Jurassic Park," no?

Also, Happy Winter Solstice! Or, to our friends south of the equator, Happy Summer Solstice. Ain't nature fun? More about the solstice is

Lastly, we are still in the midst of Hanukkah. Monday night, we made potato latkes with applesauce. They did not come out great, but were still yummy!

What's next? Oh, yeh, xmas and Kwanza! Yippee!

17 December 2006

Come for the Naked Guys, Stay for the Story

Although I am mostly a fan of early 20th century history, I have always loved a certain small slice of ancient history -- the period about 2000 years ago when Greece and Rome were at their respective zeniths. Here was a time of big thinking (slavery is wrong), new entertainments (the creation of theater), great leaders (Alexander), and momentous world-changing events.

I have also long been a fan of naked guys. So, when I heard of the new HBO series "Rome" I thought it was a great mix of two things I really love. More's the pity that we don't get any of the pay television channels. Sigh!

Fast forward to yesterday, when ever-faithful Netflix whisks to my door the first DVD for the first season of "Rome." I figured I would fast forward to the naked guys and then send it back. Imagine my surprise when I was instantly captivated by the production design (the animated title sequence), the story (blood, devastation, death, war and horror), and the acting (take your pick). Before I knew it the first episode was over without a naked guy in sight. (Well, one a long way away.)

So, I guess now Matt and I are going to be on a "Rome" kick -- if the stories stay compelling. I most appreciate watching the episodes on DVD with the little "learn more" feature turned on. These are little boxes of information that pop up about a certain issue in the story (spear design, the explanation of slave collars). Totally the kind of stuff that I love.

I also greatly admire the adherence to period detail. I know enough about ancient Rome to know some things, and the little pop-up bits of information supply more. With the exception that no Romans spoke English (probably) and none had such good teeth (certainly), it seems I am really watching a bunch of Romans do their thing.

(One technical criticism of the show is that no men would have been circumcised at that time in history -- which, apparently, some actors are. However, I will await judgement on that until I see it for myself.)

P.S. The "Rome"
website is totally fascinating, filled with even more information about the show and the time period. HBO really invested a lot in these "behind the scenes" elements which I really appreciate.

13 December 2006

And Then, There Were None

One of the most painful entries I have had to make on my blog in the nearly one year that it has been around.

According to this article in the New York Times, the baiji dolphin (pictured) is now extinct.

It has been said a civilization is judged by how it takes care of those least able to care for themselves. I think a civilization should also be judged by how well it takes care of its environment.

Either way, we are a very sorry civilization, indeed.

07 December 2006

Water, Water, Everywhere

Two news stories tell the wonderful tales of water being returned to where it had once run freely:

Here the Los Angeles Times tells about water being returned to the once-lush Owens Valley (pictured) after nearly a century of being diverted to quench the thirst of a growing Los Angeles.

Here is the BBC news recounting of the progress made in returning water to the cradle of civilization: the Iraq marshes, which were nearly allowed to dry up after Saddam Hussein blocked the water to retaliate against the inhabitants.

It is always so nice to be able to write about good things being done for the environment. We only have one planet -- for now.

Lastly, here is news about new evidence pointing to the existence of water on the planet Mars right now -- not ancient water, but water that is possibly just under the surface, flowing, as you read this. The implications of this are hard to exaggerate.

03 December 2006

Dewey, We Hardly Knew Ye

I had never heard of Dewey Readmore Books, the official library cat at Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa -- and now he's dead.

Dewey's official web page is here.

The Associated Press article -- and Dewey's life story -- will be found here.

02 December 2006


This is totally weird. Shortly after I wrote about sexism at the toy show (please see my blog of 27 November), comes this astonishing article. I had no idea this trend was afoot -- but all I can say is I support it totally and completely.

I Don't

I am gay. I have been in a very stable, loving relationship with the same man for just over 12 years. And guess what? I don't support "marriage" for gays and lesbians.

Why? Well, as I always say, straight people have been getting married for several thousand years and they still cannot get it right -- why should we buy into that? Do I agree with equal legal rights for gay and lesbian couples? Absolutely. But I want it to be called something else.

The whole concept of marriage is abysmal to me. Marriage started, after all, as a transfer of property (the woman) from father to husband. To this day I do not understand women buying into this -- and don't get me started on the waste of money on weddings! Criticize Hallmark for creating holidays to sell cards; but the wedding industry is way worse for encouraging the lavish waste of (probably) billions of dollars.

Okay, all that said, I want to direct you to this article.

While I do not support the idea of "marriage" I am deeply and sincerely touched by those heterosexual couples who are showing solidarity to gays and lesbians. And this is not a new trend. I actually know people who have said the same thing to me.

Me, personally, I do not support discrimination of any kind -- even if I do not agree with the thing being discriminated against.

Cashing In and Checking Out

I am the first to admit to being a little weird. I am very anal about many things (no jokes please) including accuracy.

One of the most annoying things in the world is the problem with accuracy at the check out in grocers and retailers.

When we go to the grocers, we take a list -- as many people do. Onto that list we write the posted price of every single thing we want to purchase -- which, apparently, no one else in the world does but me.

Why? In large part because of newspaper articles like this.

Although the mistakes we catch are very few, and generally far between, we have at times been overcharged up to $10 in combined errors -- in one shopping excursion! With our average weekly grocery bill around $100, that's an error of 10%. Luckily, I compare the receipt to my list before we leave, and make sure to have all errors corrected.

When we go to other retailers, I double check the receipt before we leave. Usually, there are no problems; but I will keep checking, and newspaper articles like that are why.

29 November 2006

It's All in the Mind

I first heard about the Antikythera Mechanism (pictured) when I went through my "UFO" phase in my early teens. I read about it in one of those books that try to explain away all the great achievements of early humans -- pyramids, Mayan structures, etc. -- by saying extraterrestrials did them.

It was really hard for me to put any stock in all those theories. Early human civilization was not just populated by grunting rock throwers. Such early civilizations created the screw mechanism, perspective in painting, early thoughts against the inherent wrong of slavery -- and other such heady stuff.

Not hard to believe was that some great mind, or assemblage of minds, created the earliest-known mechanism that is something like a computer: the Antikythera Mechanism.

New research, discussed in this New York Times article explains the probable uses of the mechanism: that of a method for determining the position of the moon and planets, possibly for use in the planting and harvesting of crops.

Although it is true another thousand years would pass before the next such mechanism would appear in the historical record, that does not in any way mean humans could not have created it.

28 November 2006

The Other Man Behind Charlie Brown

It's always fun to learn something new about something as iconic as Charlie Brown, the Peanuts, Snoopy, and that pathetic little xmas tree.

We've been to the Charles M. Schultz Museum, seen all the television specials. I even have that fabulous book about the making of the 1965 television special.

But, even though he wrote some of my favorite music, I never knew much about Vincent Guaraldi, the man who wrote the music for the first Charlie Brown television show -- and the next 16 before his death in 1976.

NPR today did a very interesting little tribute to Guaraldi, with some background on how he came to work on the special. You can find that interview here.

More about Vincent Guaraldi will be found here.

More about the museum here.

The book can be found here.

27 November 2006


We watched an otherwise wretched show the other day on HGTV:

"Toy Fair 2006" originated at some huge venue in New York City, and featured the kind of garbage that passes for "toys" nowadays.

Okay, there was one really keen toy: the newly redesigned "Ken," of Ken and Barbie fame (pictured); but most of the "toys" were just expensive, many-batteries-required junk that will be played with for about five minutes on xmas morning and then junked.

That general criticism aside, one thing that really pissed me off was the blatant sexism by the show's hosts (who, out of respect for people who did not have the advantages I had growing up, will remain unnamed): the football games were "for the boys" and the computer software fashion design program was something "every girl would love."

In this modern day and age, why is it that people continue to insist boys do activities related to sports or the military, and girls do computer programs about make-up? Why are we still such a sexist society? Why do we still insist on screwing up so many people by forcing them to play roles that just maybe they don't want to play?

23 November 2006

22 November 1994

Matt and I have had a couple requests to tell the story of how we met. The short version follows:

There were two daily newspapers in Phoenix (those were the good old days) owned by the same company, and housed in the same building -- although that is not directly related to how we met. Matt was a graphic designer for the morning paper and worked in the East Valley office, and I was the theater critic for the afternoon paper working downtown.

I was assigned to review a Broadway touring company show, and when I went to the theater that Tuesday night, Matt was sitting next to me. I always made a point of being very social to people I sit by when at the theater, so Matt and I struck up a conversation.

When the show ended, I had to get to the newspaper to write my review. I told Matt that I was going to a movie the next night with some theater friends, gave him my telephone number, and told him to call me if he wanted to join us. He called, he joined us, we all went out for snacks after the film. I suggested Matt and I see another film Friday night, if he was interested.

The next day was Thanksgiving.

The next day, Friday, Matt called me. We met for a film, went to a local diner for a late-night snack, and started seeing each other regularly after that.

Our relationship built gradually; it was not a bolt from the blue -- although, when we met, I thought he was really cute and clever. (I found out later he had been really sick that night, and almost did not go to the show!)

It was a bit cumbersome to get together because Matt worked days and I worked nights. We often would only be able to see each other when he would join me after work as I attended a theater assignment. (With the exception of that first Thanksgiving, we have at least spoken to each other by phone, if we could not be together, every single day since the day we met.)

22 November 2006


When I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s, I knew several gay couples that had been together for what-seemed-to-me-then like forever: three years, eight years, and -- gasp!-- ten years. These were the exceptions, of course, because I also knew gay couples that had been together about ten minutes and were celebrating their longevity.

In the years since, I marvelled at the really long term gay relationships: Raymond Burr and Robert Benevides were together 35 years, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas were together nearly 40 years, William Haines and Jimmy Shields were together nearly 47 years. And I know a lot of non-famous people who lived quiet lives of love and devotion even longer.

Today marks 12 years for Matt and I -- and it truly does seem like only last week that we met.

Here's to another 50, HBSP!

19 November 2006

You Can't Go Wong

The "New York Times" has an interesting article on one of our favorite directors, Wong Kar-Wai. This Hong Kong director has made lots of films, but is finally making his first American film.

If you want to see one of the most romantic, and most visually stunning films ever made, rent his "In the Mood for Love." Totally awesome.

18 November 2006

A (cough) Clear and (cough) Present Danger

Welcome to sunny, balmy, Phoenix where the current temperature is 82 degrees. While it is snowing in the east, and raining in the Pacific northwest, it is warm here -- too warm.

But before you pack your bags and head to the airport for a little of that warmth, please remember one thing: the air pollution is really bad today. In fact, we are under a high pollution advisory for the second day in a row.

Yes, this silver lining has a cloud -- a brown cloud of noxious fumes, exhaust, dust and lots of other stuff unhealthy to breathe.

It's unfortunate that this is not unusual. Whenever it is cold out, and Phoenix is under a high pressure system, we experience what is known as a cold-air inversion: where the heavier cold air sinks onto the top of our city, holding in place the lighter warm air. The warm air (and the pollution it contains) is trapped -- and so are we.

Please remember this -- and have a little sympathy for we who have no snow to shovel -- when you hear the weathermen and weatherwomen talk about how nice and sunny Phoenix is this time of year.

13 November 2006

An Arm and a Leg

Over the weekend, I saw a fairly interesting movie from 1944 called "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo": a dramatized version of the first bombing raid of Tokyo in 1942. I am also reading about this event, and the people involved in it, in a book called "Flyboys." Pretty grim reading.

However, this post is not about that book or movie; rather, a scene from the movie in which one of the pilots has to have his leg amputated because of injuries when his plane crashed.

The character was going on and on about how he did not want his wife to know about the amputation, and hesitated about his options when he was told it was either his leg or his life.

While I certainly don't think losing an arm or a leg is any kind of picnic, I cannot imagine hesitating if given those options. I am not my leg or my arm, I am my brain.

Could this character's concerns have stemmed from the fact that prosthetics were not as good then (compared to now), or were such people really so badly discriminated against just because they had a fake leg?

I remember an early scene in another war-related movie, "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), when real-life double-amputee Harold Russell returns home for the first time after his injury. When his mom sees his missing hands she has a look on her face that basically says "Our lives are over, his life is over, we might just as well kill ourselves now."

Whatever the context back then, I am just glad people with disabilities are not looked at like such pariahs anymore.

10 November 2006

11/10/2006 - Welcome to the Afterlife

Okay. Here we are.

According to that supermarket tabloid, the world as we knew it ended yesterday. So, I am presuming this to be the "afterlife" -- which seems surprisingly like the "old" life we used to lead.

I have not yet seen any of my dead loved ones, I do not hear any har
ps or flutes, and the air pollution today is kinda bad. So, is this heaven? hell? purgatory? I can't really tell.


08 November 2006

11/09/2006 - Countdown

Just a reminder that, according to that supermarket tabloid, the world will be ending sometime tomorrow -- or, for our friends in the southern hemisphere, sometime later today.

03 November 2006

Cafeteria Style

There is something particularly romantic about a cafeteria. Don't ask me what it is because I can't tell you. Maybe it's related to the automat, the first cousin to the cafeteria.

The automat (top) was the wonderful invention where, for the right amount of nickels, you could open a tiny door to a piece of cherry pie, some mashed potatoes, or a nice piece of ham. Although considered somewhat plain and boring, during the Depression, or the war, the automat was the poor-man's fancy restaurant, the working woman's only square meal of the day.

The cafeteria, invented sometime in the late years of the 19th century, was all of this and a little more: a buffet set up wherein you would pay for what you selected. Or, in the case of the wonderful Clifton's cafeterias in California (bottom), pay only what you wished to pay. (In 1946, Clifton's employed more than 600 staff, serving more than 20,000 meals daily.)

I love cafeterias; and it is sad to report that one of the last major cafeterias in southern California is about to close.

Well, we in Phoenix still have Bishop's which, in our neck of the woods used to be called Furr's, which won out in the competition against Luby's. Sigh. The world moves on too fast.

More on Clifton's can be found here.

More on the last major cafeteria in southern California can be found here.

31 October 2006

Six Legs

Please look at the image to the right. It is of characters from two animated movies featuring insects.

Notice anything awry? Of course you do. The bee at the top and the ant at the bottom each have four legs -- not six like ants and bees do in real life.

What's going on? Do the eminently talented folks at DreamWorks and Pixar not know that insects have six legs? When DreamWorks made "Antz" they knew it.

So, what happened? Is it that our country's education system continues its inexorable spiral down toward the very bottom of the barrel? that humans are better able to relate to anthropomorphic insects? is it just easier to animate four legs than six?

No, really. I would like to know.

30 October 2006

One Bee, Two Bee, Old Bee, New Bee

It's officially called Melittosphex burmensis; but for the sake of this entry, I will call him Bennie. Bennie is more than 100 million years old, and will spend the rest of eternity stuck where he has been all these years: in rock-hard amber.

Bennie (pictured) is not only a new species of prehistoric bee; he is also the oldest identifiable bee specimen ever found -- dating back 40 million years before the previous oldest known bee specimen.

What has scientists intrigued -- beyond the ability to date bees farther back than ever before -- is the fact that Bennie possesses features of both bees and wasps, making him an early proto bee. However, it is not likely that Bennie is actually related to modern bees or wasps; rather, he is probably from a branch that started with a common ancestor to our modern bees, but which led to the dead end of extinction.

More about this amazing find is in this article.

21 October 2006

11/09/2006 - Countdown

You might remember my posting here on 02 October 2006, in which I mentioned that a tabloid has indicated the end of the world will occur on 09 November 2006.

Well, here's a friendly reminder that, not counting today, there are only 18 days left until The End.

Please respond accordingly.

17 October 2006

Remember When

I don't remember when I first wanted to be a journalist. It would have to be when I was pretty young, because I remember writing little "news" stories when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I also don't know what sparked that desire. The work of Edward R. Murrow and his CBS crew was already long in the past, although I knew of it and worshipped at the Murrow shrine.

One thing I do know is that a certain person gave a little push to my love of journalism. His name is Christopher Glenn, and he just died.

He was one of the later CBS gods, starting there in the 1970s. I didn't know much about him then; but I certainly knew his work.

If you are old enough, and watched enough Saturday morning television in the 1970s, you might remember "In The News," the short news breaks between shows. These wonderful capsules of current events are the sole reason I got up early on Saturday, trundled down the hall to the living room, and turned on channel 10 (our CBS affiliate). I pretty much ignored the cartoons, but was right there when "In The News" started.

It's sad when one of our heroes dies. I just hope he knew how many young kids were influenced by his work.

More about Glenn's career will be found here.

15 October 2006

What, Me Worry?

Here we go. I do not get riled up easily. Under stress, I usually get calmer, not more hysterical. When auto accidents happen to other people, I am the first one out of my car (or the house, or whatever) to race over to try to help. This kind of stuff does not bother me. In fact, it is rather thrilling to be able to help.

BUT, and this is a big but, something has changed as evidenced by two recent events.

First, a couple weeks ago, I was at a meeting at work at a four-storey building I am not normally in. Our meeting was interrupted half way through by the loudest fire alarm in the history of fire alarms. We calmly gathered up our things and made our way to the stairs (the location for which I only vaguely knew). There I found all the men waiting in a line, and the women going into the stairway. My comment: "Women and children first? Are you kidding?"

So, we made our way down the stairs. Orderly. Calmly. Our group joined the group coming in off the second floor. Now the group was bigger. Things moving more slowly, but still calmly. Along the way I kept asking if this was a drill. No one knew. Finally, out the door, I saw a Facilities employee I knew. "This is a drill, right?" He nodded. Okay.

We gathered in the parking garage -- and I was shaking. Really. I told the others that I was actually scared. Why? Probably because, just a few days before, Matt and I had watched the 9/11 documentary about the fire department -- the one with actual footage of firemen in the lobby of Tower One. That was scary.

Then, last night, we went out with Matt's family for a belated birthday dinner for Matt. As we were leaving I heard the unmistakable sound of a fighter jet. Looking up we saw a fighter jet very low to the ground flying right over us. That was scary. Know what was even more scary? When the second sound started, louder this time, and a second fighter jet flew over, even lower to the ground. It was so loud I could not hear my own voice. Car alarms started going off all around us.

Know what was even worse? The comments from the others that "Maybe we are under attack." Okay, that is not funny. We've been watching the totally wonderful series "Jericho" and I am telling you that is not funny.

So, we drove home, seeing no evidence of an attack. No mushroom cloud over downtown Phoenix (which would be, ironically, over our house, too) The restaurant we were at is near a university stadium, so maybe the fighter jets were part of some half-time show or something.

Or, something...

07 October 2006

My Dinner with a Murderer

In 1982, while I was still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was dating this really cute guy. He was a live-in worker on a doctor's estate in Danville. Sometime during the year we were together, he mentioned that a woman also lived on the estate and cared for this aging doctor.

"Do you know who Winnie Ruth Judd is?" he asked.

Of course I knew.

Back in 1932, in Phoenix, Judd (pictured) was tried and convicted of having murdered and cut up a couple people, stuffing their bodies in a trunk. My father had often told me stories about Judd, including that our family had a distant connection to the case: His mother worked at the state mental hospital while Judd was housed there (after she was declared insane). She was the stuff of Phoenix -- and family -- legend. (It is probable that she was innocent of the crimes, and had taken the fall for her boyfriend.)

I explained all this to my boyfriend, and asked why he asked. "I know her. She works on the estate." At this I nearly fell over. What a coincidence! He said she was using the name "Marian" and had invited us both over for dinner sometime.

There was no way I could refuse. A date was selected, and we went to her little apartment off the main house. Here was the nicest elderly woman I had ever met. She made us fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and peach pie. We sat and talked, and then said good night. I had been warned not to mention her past; so, despite the fact it was eating at me, I did not say a word. I always wondered whether this wonderful woman was really Judd -- or if my boyfriend was playing a joke on me.

About 10 years later, I heard that a journalism acquaintance of mine was writing a book about the case. I telephoned her, told her the story and asked: "Is it possible this Marian really was Winnie Ruth Judd?" She said not only was that the name Judd had been using, but that Judd was living in Danville in 1982.

I was stunned.

This telephone conversation occurred while Matt and I were still employed by our respective newspapers (me, the afternoon "Phoenix Gazette"; he, the morning "Arizona Republic") both owned by the same family. He suggested we go to the newspaper morgue and look at the official newspaper photographs of the case.

We did. We saw the coroner's photos of the chopped up bodies, photographs of the trunk, the official court photographs of Judd, everything. It was as if my father's tales had come full circle taking us right back to the time Phoenix was abuzz about the murders.

The story about Winnie Ruth Judd will be found here.

A recent newspaper article about an unofficial retrial for Judd is here.

03 October 2006

Butterflies Are Not Free

Here you will find an interesting article about a man who researches Monarch butterflies trying to help them survive.

You know I love animals -- all kinds of animals; but especially those animals whose lives are threatened by the accidental (or intentional) things humans do to them or their environment.

I was born and raised in Phoenix. I remember being a child in the 1960s; and how, during Spring, the citrus trees in our backyard used to be full of butterflies -- I think, Monarchs. Who cares? They were gorgeous, and I loved watching them, and their eggs, and the larvae and the cocoons, etc. Now, in Spring, we are lucky if we see one Monarch or even a dozen other butterflies.

I am part North American Indian, and I very much value the Indian attitude that we are care-takers of the world. It is a world that is much less beautiful with fewer butterflies in it, and we humans are a poorer species because of it.

A very extensive history of these gorgeous creatures can be found here.

02 October 2006


We were at the grocers Sunday, and saw some tabloid with a headline that the world was going to end (for sure, this time) on 09 November 2006.

Thought I would share that with you -- in case you have any last-minute chores you need to take care of.

30 September 2006

Where is This "Other" Phoenix?

I recently had an experience I can only liken to an episode of "The Twilight Zone."

Last night we watched an episode of "We Live Here" that appears on some satellite network called "Fine Living."

This episode was titled "Phoenix," making me think (as I am sure you can understand) that it would be a show about the city where we live: Phoenix (as in "Arizona.") Apparently not.

This show had, as its guests, three people who live in Phoenix.

The first guest, who rides motorcycles, said something to the effect that once you move to Phoenix, you have to have a bike (as in motorcycle), because everyone does. He proceeded to talk about this huge biker culture in Phoenix.

The number of people I know who ride (or even own) a motorcycle is exactly zero.

The second guest took the host to a far distant mountain preserve area for another kind of biking (as in bicycle). She said that this activity is pretty much the reason to come to Phoenix.

While I know a few people who mountain bike, and a couple who hike, this is assuredly not the main reason to visit Phoenix -- at least, not the one in which I live. And, interestingly, this guest did not even suggest sunscreen -- odd, considering how Arizona has more per capita cases of skin cancer than anywhere in the world, excepting the continent of Australia.

The last guest took the host to a Mexican restaurant, stating in almost these exact words, that the official food of Phoenix is Mexican.

Um, the official food of the Phoenix where I live is pretty damn much whatever we want to eat. Yes, we actually have restaurants that feature food from Italy, China, Japan, Thailand, Romania, America (several areas of it), and, oh yes, Mexico. In fact the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to is a couple miles from my house.

Last in a very long list of annoying things in this show occurred toward the end when the guests were all commenting on the beautiful sunset they were watching. When the host asked what makes the sunset so beautiful, one guest offered some lame explanation about the position of the sun in relation to the mountains and the curve of the Earth.

Okay, the reason Phoenix has such dramatic sunsets is simply pollution. Tons and tons of crap in the air fragment the sunlight scattering colors all over the damn place. Sure, the sunsets are gorgeous, but only if you can stop coughing or sneezing long enough to enjoy them.

Just for the record, the Phoenix metropolitan area where we live (and where we both were born) is pretty much just like any other biggish city in America. Some people ride motorcycles, but the dominant mode of transportation is the automobile (see "Sunsets," above). Some people eat Mexican food, but there are plenty of options. Some people mountain bike, but there are also world-renowned art museums, zoos, a fantastic one-of-a-kind-in-the-world botanical garden, theater, dance, art, sports (I guess), and many other things.

And we have pollution. Lots and lots of it.

28 September 2006

"Chinatown" Update

Of course you know that the fantastic film "Chinatown" (1974) is based on a true series of events -- not the detective and the murders; rather, the diversion of waters from the lush Owens Valley.

It's indeed a long, complicated story of deceit, betrayal, engineering marvels, and the needs of the many supposedly outweighing the needs of the few.

The latest chapter is being written as we speak, as you can read in this article in The Los Angeles Times.

I don't know what is more incredible: that the story of "Chinatown" is so amazingly told, or that officials in early 20th Century Los Angeles had the nerve to steal so much water and ruin the lives of so many people.

24 September 2006

! ; ? . " : '

Happy National Punctuation Day

Yes thats right Today is the day the entire world celebrates punctuation or rather it should

You will note that this web log entry is being made entirely without the benefit of punctuation Do you notice the difference

I am doing this because I fear one day punctuation will go the way of shorthand something everyone has heard of but no one knows how to do any more

With text messaging email and the general mess called the United States education system its my guess that punctuation will be a cute anachronism in about fifty years if not sooner

Please do not misunderstand Teachers are two or three of the countrys genuine heroes and I do not fault them at all for the level of ignorance in their students

As a writer punctuation is very important to me I love punctuation I love colons and semi colons and all those other things that help words mean more and more accurately

Here is a link to one of my favorite comedians and one of his best routines yes Victor Borge and his Phonetic Punctuation courtesy of the ever wonderful Internet Archive This is a QuickTime file

More about National Punctuation Day will be found here

23 September 2006

Falling for Autumn

Welcome to Fall! Or, as some call it, Autumn! Or, if you live in the southern hemisphere, Spring!

I love Fall.

The start of Fall, called the Vernal Equinox, is the time when the sun appears directly over the equator. It does this twice a year (beginning of Fall, and the beginning of Spring). The amount of daylight and darkness are basically equal during that day.

In many ancient cultures it signaled the start of harvest time. For people in Phoenix, it usually signals the start of the last month or so of summer; for, although Fall officially starts on 22 September, the weather here doesn't seem to catch up until sometime around All Hallow's Eve.

However, this year, Fall weather started a few days ago -- it was actually 62 degrees at our house Friday a.m. That's a big deal!

Although we have very few trees here with leaves that change colors, I still love Fall!

The illustration is by famed naturalist Charles Harper.

22 September 2006

Crisis in the "Manor"

In the last episode of Animal Planet's fabulous "Meerkat Manor," one of the main meerkats -- Shakespeare -- had gone missing after an attack by a rival meerkat gang.

We were upset to find out this was a season-ending cliff hanger. We figured we would have to wait for the start of the new season of "Meerkat Manor" (29 September in America) to find out that -- whew! -- everything is okay.

Well, no. According to this article in the Los Angeles Times, that's not going to happen.

Fans in England, where the season started on 04 September, say that Shakespeare's disappearance continues -- and that is upsetting a lot of them. It is not so much that an animal might have died -- that is nature's way; rather, that promotions for the new season intimated that Shakespeare's fate would be revealed.

Animal Planet insists it does not know what happened to Shakespeare.

It is one thing to use such an incident as a grabber to make people come back for the next season; but, to not actually resolve the issue is unfair -- sorta like the reason so many people (us included) have dropped ABC's "Lost."

19 September 2006

Sleeping Single in a Double Bed

I recently read two interesting articles about the pros and cons of people in a relationship sharing a bed at night to sleep.

I cannot do the "sleeping together" thing -- and it's nothing new. I think sleeping together or apart has no affect on my relationship with Matt. I get a good sleep; he gets a good sleep. Everyone's happy. (We do, however, share a bed when we take naps on weekends. Aawww.)

The articles are here and here.

17 September 2006

Like, How Hard is This?

A great example of why I dislike local news (in general, and in Phoenix specifically): Friday night we were watching news on one of our local television stations (I won't name them. Why embarrass them further?) and the anchor said something like the following:

"A father had to make the hardest choice of his life: his job or his family." I thought, okay, someone had to pick between long hours away at a good-paying job, or time with the kids. Wrong! It turns out it was this: a local sheriff, watching surveillance video, spotted his son robbing a bank and turned him in. What? This was having to choose between job and family?

The man was understandably distraught over what he did; but, in the report we saw, it was not like he had to make a monumental decision: support a criminal who happens to be his son, or follow the law -- a law that, by the way, everyone is suppose to follow, not just a sheriff.

What irks me about this episode is that the news writer was making the story appear to be something that it was not -- just to hype it. While I understand the supposed need to strive for ratings, this kind of deception is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Antithetically, I feel the same way about a person who finds money in a wallet, or a bag, and turns it in; and the news people fall all over themselves praising the conduct.

Are we so ethically dead inside that "doing the right thing" is somehow unusual? I certainly hope not. It particularly irks me when the person finding the money is a child. It's like the writer is saying: "Look how this innocent child did the right thing. Aren't we pathetic adults ashamed of ourselves?"

Of course any person would be tempted to keep some found valuable; but it is only logical to conclude that the benefits of returning it would far outweigh the damage that would result from keeping it -- even if the person is not caught. Society depends on people conducting themselves a certain way. When that conduct is absent, society disappears.

I do not think it a big stretch to say that much of what is wrong with society today (in general, but specifically in this country) is the distance being placed between what is good for "me" in the short term, and what is good for "us" overall.

13 September 2006

Like Dust in the Wind

As a writer, this really scares me: the possibility that a simple flicker of electricity could wipe out -- forever -- important works that only exist in a digital realm.

Recently, I finished digitizing 30 years of newspaper and magazine articles that I wrote (but not all of them, of course), 10 years of radio documentaries, and miscellaneous other bits and pieces of my writing work.

Every month, I do a data backup of these and other important files so I won't lose them.

It seems, however, that the same issues that are the concern of my little world are being played out by important institutions responsible for important works. Now, that is scary.

12 September 2006

More Wildlife News

The world of nature is providing all kinds of news of late -- including one of the coolest stories around: the discovery of a new species of bird!

Bugun Liocichla
(pictured), named after a tribe near where it lives, was discovered by an astronomer working in India. It is the first discovery of a new species in the area in 50 years.

Of course, every silver lining must have a cloud: the area where this bird was found is slated to be greatly disrupted by the building of a new freeway, which could significantly alter the bird's habitat.

Read more about this cool discovery

09 September 2006

Trekking Through Time

Another anniversary: It was 40 years ago yesterday that one of the most influential television shows in my life made its debut: "Star Trek" -- the first, the best.

I would have just turned seven years old. I always loved watching science fiction movies and television (not reading sci-fi books, though); so I was ready for this "'Wagon Train' to the stars."
Of course, I remember the early episodes, how hot William Shatner (pictured) looked back then, the way-cool special effects.

Mostly, though, I remember having to sneak out of bed at night and into my parents' bedroom to watch it on the tiny portable black-and-white television we had then. This was probably after the show had been exiled to the Siberia of Friday nights (may have been the last season) when it came on after my bed time.
Well, I loved it. None of the later shows quite recreated the appeal of those early chunky, clunky episodes.

Other shows that had me as a kid were "Outer Limits" (yessiree!) and "Mission: Impossible" (totally). I am so glad I am old enough to have been there when these things were new, and television was consistently good (well, better).

More about the "Star Trek" anniversary will be found here.

08 September 2006

FCC Told to Take a Hike

Thanks to three logically thinking, reasonable, and clearly intelligent judges, CBS and its affiliates can re-air a documentary featuring recorded excerpts of people who, in the heat of the events of 11 September 2001, used words that probably should not be uttered in polite company.

The three-judge panel for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals told the Federal Communications Commission to refine its new rules that, if broken, could impose huge fines on stations which air the "offending" programs. One vocal minority group had threatened to bombard the FCC with complaints should the program air -- for its third time. (No complaints were issued the first two times. How odd....)

I, personally, am not offended by the occasional use of "foul" language, and I have been known to utter a word here or there that might make some people blush. However, I am far more offended by a small group of people thinking they can threaten a television network to do things their way -- or else.

If such people are offended by such language, may I suggest a very simple and revenue-neutral solution: don't watch the program. CBS plans to add a disclaimer warning about the strong content. When that disclaimer pops up, change the channel. Better yet, go play a game of Scrabble.

As a clarification, I totally support fines against programs that allow offensive language or conduct in such a situation that it would surprise the viewer -- no matter who is responsible. I understand parents wanting to protect their offspring as long as humanly possible, thinking that the schoolyard is totally bereft of such language or conduct, that the music their wee ones listen to is not actually about sex, violence, drugs, or hurting small animals. I understand those efforts; and, I suppose, applaud them -- as futile as they invariably are.

In summary: fines for the surprises (like the over-hyped boob incident); but no fines when warnings are clearly given.

The CBS show, called "9/11" airs Sunday.

More information about the judges' decision will be found

07 September 2006

Death in Captivity

From a death in the wild to a death in captivity as we mark, today, the 70th anniversary of the death of one of the most enigmatic animals to have ever gone extinct -- if, indeed, it is.

The thylacine (illustrated), known colloquially as the Tasmanian Tiger, is both thought to be extinct -- the last known animal dying in a zoo this day in 1936; and alive, in hiding, protected by a conspiracy by naturalists who want to keep its existence a secret (to protect the animal).

It is true that extinction is the rule, rather than the exception, with animals, plants, fungi, etc. (It is said that more animals and plants have gone extinct than currently live.) Still, it is hard to not be intrigued by this gorgeous marsupial that is something like a dog.

Of course, I do hope this beautiful mammal does still survive and is being protected by a veil of silence. I can just imagine what fate would befall it if it really was alive and the media got wind of it. Sigh! Why is it so hard for humans to just leave well enough alone?

More about thylacines will be found
here and here.

Thanks to
Kris in Australia who wrote about this on her web log.

04 September 2006

Death in the Wild

It is with great sadness that I write of the death of naturalist Steve Irwin -- the crazy, often goofy Australian who yelled "Crikey" while wrestling with an alligator.

Irwin (pictured) was killed by a stingray while filming a documentary in Australia.

While I did not necessarily agree with his antics, and the dangerous chances he took around animals, I do have a great deal of respect for anyone who attempts to educate people about the value of animals of all kinds -- and their importance to the world around us.

Like Rachel Carson, David Attenborough, and Marlin Perkins, Irwin spent his life trying to get people to understand animals. His is a great loss.

More about his death will be found in this article from the Associated Press.

31 August 2006

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

The always-wonderful Today in Literature has an interesting entry today on the monumental article "Hiroshima" published on this date, in its entirety, by The New Yorker magazine in 1946.

Long a fan of the period between the wars (roughly 1918-1946), and a great fan of fellow journalists, I had heard about John Hersey's legendary article for years. I did not actually find and read it until just this year -- when I borrowed the Complete New Yorker that I bought Matt for his birthday.

I think what makes it work so well is the slow, determined pace that Hersey uses to introduce the story, the survivors he interviewed, the sights and sounds he experienced. It is certainly not for the faint of heart; but it is dramatic and compelling in its "You are there" story-telling quality.

If you are any kind of fan of excellent writing then this article is a must read. I could not find the complete text online, but the article is available in book form here.

30 August 2006

Is the Illness Worse than the Couric?

You've probably heard the uproar over a re-touched photograph of Katie Couric that appeared in the CBS in-house magazine Watch!.

The story was broken via blogger
TVNewser. (I have posted the before and after photographs. )

CBS officials have dismissed it as an overzealous employee acting without permission or consent of management.

Okay, firstly, I don't care one way or another about Ms. Couric. Network news and its denizens long ago sold out and lost all credibility with me.
Secondly, I don't particularly care about in-house publications or any pretensions they have of journalistic ethics or ability.

All that said, I don't know what annoys me more about this entire affair: that a network built on ethics in journalism would stoop to something so obvious and unethical, or that someone thought that Ms. Couric looked FAT.

I mean, come on: The woman is 49-years-old -- not 17. She is hardly what anyone would call fat, and I am amazed anyone would think that
she needed to have some pounds removed.

Add to that the unethical doctoring of a photograph and you have a snapshot of what has gone terribly, horribly wrong with ethics in journalism specifically, and ethics in this country, generally.

27 August 2006

Radio: Behind the Mike

I assure you, JAC is not turning into another one of those vintage-radio blogs.


However, in scanning the wonderful internet archive, of which I wrote earlier, I found something really keen: It is a great industrial film from 1938 about how radio shows are put together.

"Back of the Mike" shows how the actors read their dialogue, how the sound effects are created (this is especially interesting), how the music cues are added, and other elements -- all live as you hear it.

There are many commercial movies of the time that give a hint of how all this was done --
"The Big Broadcast of 1937" (1936), "Genius at Work" (1946), etc.; but this short film focuses exclusively on the creation of a radio show, with no other plot to get in the way.

You will find this film
here. You can choose to watch it via streaming video, or download different size files.

24 August 2006

And Now There are Eight

It's official: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved a new definition of a "planet" -- and Pluto does not make the cut. Read the rather surprising news here.

I think I am happy with the new definition -- nothing against Pluto. The IAU has created a new category that will include Pluto: dwarf planets. I don't know.

21 August 2006

Why Is "Studio 60" Doomed?

I can answer that question with three simple words: horny teenage boys, and the fact this fantastic new drama from NBC has nothing that would appeal to them -- television's target demographic.

We were able to watch the pilot episode of this NBC series last night because the network has some kind of exclusive offer for Netflix subscribers: rent a DVD with the first episodes of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "Kidnapped" as well as previews for two other new shows.

"Studio 60" is clever, well-written, incisively observed and character-driven. In short, a diamond in the coal bin of network television that stands no chance of finding an audience.

Here is a list of its faults: Subtle acting, believable characters, and a plot unlike anything else on television. What was NBC thinking? How is this ever going to succeed?

Then, there is the expert writing of Aaron Sorkin ("West Wing"). Every word uttered is totally believable. My favorite line is spoken by the new entertainment president watching news reports of a big fiasco that just occurred at her network. When the reporters keep comparing the event to the movie "Network," she says: "
They've heard of Paddy Chayefsky. That's a step in the right direction."

(This ranks right up there with my favorite line from another doomed television show "All is Forgiven" spoken by a writer who just heard someone quote a famous writer:
"You quoted Tennessee Williams. That means you read!")

If you care about changing the sorry state that is network television today, then you need to rent "Studio 60" from Netflix, or watch it on NBC on 18 September when it premieres. Get it quickly, as quality programming like this will not be around long!

16 August 2006

By Any Other Name

Very interesting article from the New York Times about the new definition of a "planet."

If this is adopted next week by the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union we will have 12 planets instead of the usual 9. How weird is this? Now we will have Ceres592 between Mars and Jupiter, Charon and UB313 outside of the orbit of Pluto.

I dunno. I guess I am more of a purist. To me, a planet should be more than just round and orbiting something.

14 August 2006

Vintage Radio Sources

Mass Bradley asked "Could you publish a list of your fave OTR sites?"

Thank you for asking, Bradley. There are three sites of particular note for listening to and acquiring new episodes of vintage radio and comedy shows.

One of the oldest is When Radio Was -- a daily offering of shows that air on some radio stations across the country. The radio station I worked for in the late 1980s was one of the first to carry this then-new show. I would listen on radio every night. Then our local station stopped carrying it, and the show moved to the internet. You can also purchase episodes from this company.

The newest site (for me) is OTR Fan -- an internet site that, every day, offers new episodes for download, free. I like this site so much I even donated money to it!

Lastly is this wonderful internet archive that relies on people uploading radio programs to it. They are free to download or listen to online.

12 August 2006

Things Radio Taught Me

I love vintage radio and comedy. I listen to shows every day on my ipod or via the internet.

The other day I was trying to figure out just how long I have been interested in vintage radio, and came up with this: about 34 years.

It all started when I was a teen, probably about freshman or sophomore year in high school. Why did I get started? Have no idea. I do know the first show I heard on radio was "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater" hosted by E.G. Marshall. (I got a chance to interview Mr. Marshall and told him about those happy times.)

Imagine my surprise years later when I found out there had been comedies and dramas on radio for about 50 years before "CBS Radio Mystery Theater." I said "What? You mean there were other radio shows?" Ah, for those innocent days.

Anyway, I was also recently thinking about the things I learned about the world listening to those great vintage shows. Here is a list, in no particular order:

1: Times were simpler then. Much.

2: The word "menu" was pronounced differently. I pronounce it "MEN-you"; most people in the 1930s and 1940s (on radio) pronounced it "MAIN-you."

3: Nearly everyone who wrote for radio did not know the proper use of "imply" and "infer" often having characters say "Are you inferring that I did such and such?"

4: Even the most complex mystery can be solved in 30 minutes -- with time to spare for two commercials.

5: The writing in radio is hundreds of times better than the best television writing today.

6: Three women actors have been unjustly forgotten: Marion Jordan ("Fibber McGee and Molly," pictured), Gracie Allen ("Burns and Allen") and Mary Livingston ("The Jack Benny Show.")

7: Add Bea Benaderet to the above list, and make that four.

8: America was one big country during the war, not the splintered fragments it has since become.

9: Women were not considered very bright in the 1920s and 1930s. They somehow got smarter during the war, though. Hmmm....

10: Theater of the mind (which is how radio is often described) is way better than CGI.

Theater of the mind can be really believable. ("War of the Worlds.")

12: Black characters could be played by white actors and no one could tell the difference ("Amos and Andy," and "Beulah").

13: Racism was prevalent in the early years of radio, too.

14: It is said that you could walk down a residential street when "Amos and Andy" was being broadcast and hear an entire episode from all the radios in all the houses tuned to the same station.

The funniest things that happened on radio were unscripted. (Most shows were aired live.)

16: Gale Gordon was in, like, a million radio shows. (Co-starring with Lucille Ball on radio in "My Favorite Husband"; later to co-star with Ball on television in "The Lucy Show.")

17: Hollywood was the place to be in the 1930s.

18: Writing can be good even without the use of obscenities.

19: For some reason, radio actors were not allowed to say the word "lousy." They would say, "That was lou-, uh, bad."

20: According to some science fiction stories, we would be living on the moon in 1964.

21: According to one science fiction story, the world would blow up in 1979. Whew!