Friday, January 30, 2009

A Blog by Jim: In Defense of Food

One of my favorite desserts as a little boy was chocolate ice cream. My
sister and I would sit together and eat a few bites, then begin stirring
the ice cream into a whipped frenzy of delicious delight.

This was in the 1960s before my mother got swept up in the health food
craze--that cultural phenomenon that delivered wholesomeness to the
suddenly-moot taste buds of many youngsters growing up in the age of

Overnight, the ice cream disappeared, as did cakes, pies, sugared
cereals, fried foods, and many other goodies. One culprit was Adelle
Davis, whose books on food my mother purchased and read with great

I'll never forget my mother serving--in lieu of birthday cake--what we
learned was a "torte." To a young boy this flat square appeared to be a
combination of sawdust and ground cardboard sweetened with honey and
topped with a birthday candle.

Of course, much as we made faces at the new non-tastes, we kids knew the
food she served us would secure our good health for decades longer than
the unfortunate children in town whose unenlightened mothers allowed
them to clog their arteries and mainline sugar into their kidneys on a
daily basis.

In fact, I soon preferred my mother's new and healthy cooking.

All these memories came flooding back when I read Michael Pollan's "In
Defense of Food," the book we're featuring on "In A Word" during our
bookclub segment throughout February. Livermore is reading the book for
its third annual "Livermore Reads Together" program.

Kathy and I talk about the book with guests Christine Wente, V.P.
Hospitality, Wente Vineyards (and a fifth-generation winegrower), and
Lucinda Wisniewski, V.P. for Innovation, The National Food Lab.

Anyone interested in food will enjoy the show as well as the book!

In fact, throughout February, the Livermore Public Library will present
a series of programs related to food, agriculture, cooking, and other
issues explored in Pollan's book. Many copies are available for checkout
at the library's three locations, thanks to a donation by the Friends of
the Library.

Although I've read many books in my life on a wide range of subjects,
I'd never been tempted to read a book about food. And yet now I wonder
why, because Pollan's book provides a fascinating discussion about the
history of food and the emergence of what he calls "nutritionism," which
should be a good thing, right?

No, argues Pollan, nutritionism is bad science. In one chapter called
"Eat Right, Get Fatter," Pollan describes how Americans have become more
obese on the low-fat diets that have been endorsed and encouraged by
experts in the food industry.

This is just one example of the many food myths that Pollan
deconstructs. I won't give away any more of the book, which is subtitled
"An Eater's Manifesto," but I do encourage you, whatever your home town,
to join Livermore by reading "In Defense of Food" and to tune in to our
show on TV30 in February.

For details about events, go online to
for a listing of activities sponsored by the library.

By the way, if you read the book, I promise my mother will be proud of

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meet The Crew!

Oh, I know, we make it look easy. But a lot of hard work goes into creating In a Word! You see Jim and me on every show, but I want to introduce a few of the behind-the-scenes people who make the television magic happen for us every month:

Terisa Thurman, Senior Producer/Director

Terisa is a cooler than the coolest cucumber on the longest vine on the frostiest April morning. NOTHING upsets her. She is as reliable as the sunrise and as sure to shine despite the clouds.

Recently, after going through all kinds of machinations to get a crew to come in on a Sunday to accommodate the schedule of a visiting author, the author's assistant e-mailed (not even phoned, but e-mailed!) to cancel—fifteen minutes AFTER he was scheduled to be in the studio!

I’m still practicing all my forgiveness and loving-kindness meditations on this one. At that particular moment in time, let’s just say, I was more than a little upset.

Terisa, on the other hand—Cool.

“Maybe we can reschedule,” she said shrugging her shoulders. As I thanked her profusely for giving up a Sunday afternoon for this show that would never be, she was completely unfazed, and then she said these words that made me feel really lucky and proud to have her as a part of our crew:

“I love to make TV and that’s why I’m here.”

Then there’s Dar Clark, Studio Manager

Dar is a bit of a mystery. I don’t know much about his history or his experience or his resume. It’s probably best that way. If he ever told me, he might have to kill me.

What I do know about Dar is that he showed up at the station some I-don’t-know-how-many years ago and now he is quietly doing the very same job that three people once did—and he does it better! I know that if Dar is doing the show, everything will be set up on time and it will run as smoothly as humanly possible.

Even though I suggested Dar’s quote should be “It’s all about the lighting,” which it really is and, BTW, Dar is great at lighting, he came up with something much better:

“To leave the world better than I found it.”

And then there’s the newest member of the crew—Kenny Avila, Production Manager

Kenny is a 27-year broadcast veteran—by the looks of him, he must have started his career in elementary school! He has worked at KICU in San Jose and other big-time TV gigs. I’ve only worked with Kenny twice, but I can say he is the utmost professional, he's totally upbeat, and he has an awesome smile.

Kenny’s quote:

“To learn something new every day.”

That’s the crew!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Everything Bad is Good for You (And sometimes things that are good for you aren’t so bad after all)

I thought of this headline because last night Jim Ott interviewed Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You, a book that argues that popular entertainment like video games, reality TV, and other diversions that we literary types like to think are mind-numbing wastes of times are actually—get this—beneficial to our problem solving skills and other important cognitive abilities! Thank you, Steven! I feel less guilty as a parent already!

Jim was interviewing this incredibly smart, (also not bad on the eyes!) New York Times best-selling author about his latest book, The Invention of Air, (from’s product description) “the story of Joseph Priestley—scientist and theologian, protégé of Benjamin Franklin, friend of Thomas Jefferson—an eighteenth-century radical thinker who played pivotal roles in the invention of ecosystem science, the discovery of oxygen, the founding of the Unitarian Church, and the intellectual development of the United States." Wow!

I won’t ruin the suspense by telling you about the interview…You’ll have to tune in to TV30 during the month of February at 6:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 9:30 PM Monday through Friday to see it for yourself.

I also thought of this headline because when my 13-year-old daughter got home from school today, I asked her to take the dog for a walk. Complaints ensued as they typically do when you ask a kid of this age to do anything other than lick the bowl for a bunch of brownies you are baking.

“Oh, come on. It will be good for you,” I implored.

“Why is it that everything that is good for you I don’t like,” she slumped. “Like vegetables.”

“Fruit is good for you. And you like fruit. Blueberries are great for you. Lots of antioxidants! And you LOVE blueberries!”

“But which is better for you, fruit or vegetables?”

“They’re the same good for you.” Brief reflective pause. “Although vegetables probably have fewer calories.”

“See? I’m right!”

And it got me to thinking about how we have this idea in our heads that things that are good for you are bland, boring, obligatory—generally stuff we don’t want to do. And, ok, that is sometimes the case.

But, I’ll tell you one thing that is good for you that is more like eating fruit than vegetables. Something that is thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating, fodder for small talk at cocktail parties or PTA meetings, and sometimes even fun! Watching In a Word!

For over seven years now, In A Word has been interviewing local and international authors of fiction and non-fiction, many of them New York Times bestselling authors (!) and talking to local people about their thoughts and ideas and passions about books. We’re like a literary salon, coming straight to your TV, featuring your friends and neighbors. And we’re on many, many times (at least 60) month! Even if you don’t have a Tivo and you have a social schedule like Paris Hilton, you are bound to have one of those 60 times when you are clicking the remote, looking something other than a repeat of The Real Housewives of Orange County to watch.

So I hope you will tune in. Enjoy. Give us feedback. Let us know what you like, what books you want to see as future bookclub picks, submit essays for our A Few More Words segment, complain about my hair (ok, that last one was for my mother.) Anyway, we would love to hear from you, and love your ideas for the show.

And, by the way, I ended up walking the dog. And it was wonderful.