Tuesday, August 12, 2008

C-SPANing the globe

There was big excitement in my neighborhood over the weekend. The C-SPAN bus was in town.

OK, it was exciting in my particular part of the neighborhood. We made the short drive over to the Historical Museum in Buffalo to take a look, just making it before closing time (the bus, not the museum).

The bus has been used as part of the network's coverage of political events. It's a mobile television studio, with an interview area in the front and a control room in the back. Clips were shown of interviews done on the bus, including one of Rudy Giuliani in New Hampshire. The bus was used to talk to just about everyone in the process this political season.

The production assistants were friendly when giving the tour. They said that they get asked about Brian Lamb more than anything else; I'm happy to report that they said Brian is as smart and nice as he appears to be on television. The PA's even handed out two C-SPAN pens and a tote bag to us. Can't beat that.

C-SPAN is an odd invention, but an important one. The obvious function is to show the House and Senate in action, but the channel has gone on to do a lot of interesting programming. Where else would you see Presidential homes and burial sites? What other station has a calm discussion of immigration policy at 7:30 a.m., or complete presentations from the National Press Club?

The best part of it, though, is Book TV. This runs from early Saturday morning to early Monday morning on C-SPAN II. Any lover of nonfiction books should check it out.

The channel has presentations from authors from around the country on a variety of subjects. For example, let's look at this weekend's schedule. There's an interview with Billie Jean King on her new book. Ginger Strand checks in for 52 minutes on her book, "Inventing Niagara," which is the best book I've read of any type in 2008. Curious about how states got their shapes? What went on the state quarters? The life of Strom Thurmond? The election of 1800? While there are some repeats from week to week, you usually can find a couple of programs of interests in a given week.

Last week, David Broder sat down to interview George Will for an hour on "After Words," a weekly feature on Book TV. Will, who has a book out, has always been a fabulous advocate for his particular points of view. Even if you don't agree with the opinions, you respect Will's conclusions and how he arrived at them. And who is a better reporter and more objective analyst than Broder? The two talked for an hour on a variety of subjects, and it was consistently interesting.

If you like books, it might be worth while to take a look at the schedule for the coming weekend and jot down programs that might be worthwhile.

But use your own pen. I'm keeping my C-SPAN version.

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