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Warnings: The True Story Of How Science Tamed The Weather

WarningsOrder this bookStory: Mike Smith, former TV meteorologist and founder of Weatherdata, Inc., recounts the formative events that inspired him to study weather – particularly severe weather – and take it up as a career. His involvement in forecasting such severe weather events as Hurricane Katrina and the devastating 2007 Greensburg, Kansas tornado (which destroyed that entire town), is covered in detail.

Review: A fascinating read for at least half of its page count, “Warnings” promises to be a history of forecasting severe weather in the United States. The first half of the book delivers on that admirably, taking us from the era when tornadoes just seemed to sneak up on (and kill) an unaware populace to modern times, when the debate usually isn’t “was there a warning?”, but rather “how much lead time did the warning give?”. From the fabled first (and quite unauthorized) tornado warning issued at, and for, Tinker Air Force Bace in Oklahoma City, the development of severe weather forecasting and warning is traced through the use of modified navigational radars from ships to the development of Doppler radar and computer modeling (and the very hands-on human data gathering that has to happen for the computer modeling to be even remotely useful or accurate). Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners, episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting halfway through 1986’s Trial Of A Time Lord, and then covering the tumultous unseating of leading man Colin Baker, the casting of his successor Sylvester McCoy, and the making of McCoy’s three seasons as the Doctor. Nathan-Turner’s continuing association with Doctor Who, even after the show was no longer being made, is covered, as are his thoughts on the show’s future (a few years before Russell T. Davies’ new series was announced) and some of its more vocal fans.

Review: A bit closer to what I was hoping to hear from The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, the second volume of the former Doctor Who producer’s audio memoirs still comes in for a landing wide of the mark. Like the first volume, this one concentrates too much on story-by-story anecdotes in a way that doesn’t pause for breath and doesn’t allow for a more elaborate exploration of JN-T’s opinions of any particular event. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners,episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting as a studio floor assistant in the Patrick Troughton story The Space Pirates, through his work as production unit manager, through his rise to the position of producer at the end of Tom Baker’s reign. At the end of the second disc, “JN-T” discusses the 1985 cancellation/hiatus crisis and the beginning of production on The Trial Of A Time Lord.

Review: I’ve had both 2-CD volumes of the late John Nathan-Turner’s memoirs sitting on the shelf for some time, but they sat there until a recent listen to fellow Doctor Who producer Barry Letts’ memoirs spurred me to listen, contrast and compare. As with the two wildly different epochs of Doctor Who itself, trying to compare the two showrunners’ memoirs is an exercise involving apples and oranges. Continue reading

Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise. Continue reading

I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol / 12 Days on the Road / Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Book titleOrder this bookStory: Three books tell the story of legendary punk band the Sex Pistols.

Review: My fascination with the Sex Pistols began with my brother giving me the documentary The Filth and the Fury for either my birthday or Christmas one year with the cryptic words “You don’t know you want this.” He followed that up with John Lydon’s autobiography, “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”, but I just couldn’t get into it, not getting past the first few pages before I put it down. But about a year later, I acquired a different book on the Sex Pistols by their US tour manager, Noel Monk; “12 Days on the Road”, the story of the band’s raucous career-ending tour. With its much more visceral feel and crazy stories right off the bat, it was much easier to get into. So after finishing that, I went back to “Rotten” and then bought original bass player Glen Matlock’s autobiography “I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol”. Three very different perspectives on the story of the band lead to three very different books. Ultimately, they compliment each other, helping to give a more rounded view than any one book would have done alone. Continue reading

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas AdamsOrder this bookStory: Author (and SFX Magazine co-founder) M.J. Simpson references a wealth of interviews with “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” author Douglas Adams – and his friends and associates – to paint a fairly complete picture of his life as a science fiction icon, creative thinker, advocate for the popularization of science and technology, and staunch avoider of deadlines.

Review: “Hitchhiker” is a book that Adams fans probably love or loathe…depending largely upon whether this is the first biography they’ve read of their hero. Years and years ago I was extolling the virtues of Neil Gaiman’s “Don’t Panic”, which, to be fair, is only partly a biography but is also a history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide franchise. However, considering that Adams was intimately involved with Hitchhiker’s Guide up to the time of his death, it seems unlikely that anyone could really tell one story without having to tell the other. Continue reading

Don’t Panic! – The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion

Don't Panic! - The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy CompanionOrder this bookStory: Coming from a somewhat unexpected source, this book can’t seem to decide if it’s a biography of Douglas Adams, or the definitive history of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” story as told in multitudes of media. But in any case, it would be virtually impossible to write the former without at least temporarily lapsing into the latter, so it’s okay. Neil’s just zis guy, ya know?

Review: Though there are wonderfully large amounts of previously unknown information about the behind-the-scenes machinations of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” on TV, on radio, in print, and – gasp! – on stage, I really have to single out the section on Adams’ fan mail as the most hilarious portion of the book. The fan mail itself isn’t that funny; in fact, some of it comes across as positively disturbing. But Adams’ answers never fail to give me a good belly laugh – especially at the thought that the original letter writers probably turned around and tried to read something into them! Continue reading

First Man: The Life Of Neil A. Armstrong

First Man: The Life Of Neil A. ArmstrongBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: The author, through interviews with the man himself and many of his colleagues, friends and family members from various stages of his life, chronicles the life of Neil Armstrong, combat pilot, experimental test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and someone who had to come back to Earth dealing with universal celebrity as the first human being to walk on the moon.

Review: By his very nature, former astronaut Neil Armstrong is quiet, reclusive and admirably level-headed. We truly need more like him in the world. The flipside of that, however, is that perhaps he’s not the most exciting biographical subject in the world. His aeronautical and astronautical exploits are the stuff of legend, and rightly so, and as much as anyone’s possibly can be, his brilliance in those fields is practically a matter of public record now. But with his legendary reserve and unflappability, anything that’s outside of those areas winds up rendering the book…well…dry. Continue reading

Star Trek Movie Memories

Star Trek Movie MemoriesOrder this bookStory: Star Trek’s own William Shatner sits in the captain’s chair once more, this time holding court and spinning tales of the lean years after Star Trek’s cancellation, as well as its unexpectedly successful return via the big screen. These are his voyages.

Review: Despite the relative immunity that biographers and/or autobiographical writers seem to have when telling their side of their respective stories, I’m amazed that Shatner didn’t incite so much as a single lawsuit with his first book, “Star Trek Memories”. It was in that volume that Shatner alleged everything from Nichelle Nichols’ now-well-known affair with Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to Grace Lee “Yeoman Rand” Whitney’s various addictions. That a lot of Shatner’s gossip turned out to be at least partly true in the end was surprising. No doubt his co-stars would’ve had the opportunity to carefully bury these facts when the time came for their own autobiographies. Continue reading

I Am Spock

I Am Spock, hear me roar!Order this bookStory: Leonard Nimoy, who certainly needs no introduction, backtracks to his earliest days as an actor, the series of coincidences and connections that led to his most famous role, and the continuiation of that role – and his new role as a prominent director – on the big screen.

Review: In the 1970s, Leonard Nimoy’s first autobigraphical book, I Am Not Spock, aroused equal parts curiosity and ire among the burgeoning Star Trek fandom that was rising during the show’s post-cancellation syndicated run. Nimoy backpedals a lot in the early part of this book, trying to explain that, at the time, he was desperately trying to outrun his famous character’s shadow and prove that he was capable of many other things creatively. Continue reading