Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading Andromeda Strain Again

Recently I finished reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. This well-researched book, which tells the story of the 1918 pandemic, was fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Barry devoted a large portion of the book to the efforts of the scientists who researched the disease, trying to develop a vaccine or cure. Their efforts reminded me of the scientists in Michael Crichton’s novel The Andromeda Strain.

I have a special fondness for this book, because it was how I discovered Michael Crichton.

When I was nine years old, my father decided the family was going to see the 1971 film of The Andromeda Strain. (Dad would just come home and tell us we were going to see a particular film. I hadn’t heard of Star Wars before Dad told us we were going to see it.)

From my father I inherited a love of both science and science fiction. When I saw The Andromeda Strain, I was enthralled. I pestered my dad with questions all during the movie and for the next several weeks.

Two years later, I read my father’s copy of the novel. And I’ve been hooked on Crichton’s work every since.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Michael Crichton – Favorite Holiday Recipes

Here in the U.S. we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 25. Among the many things to be thankful for is Michael Crichton’s life and work. Though it is sad that he is no longer with us, his books, films, essays, and various other projects will continue to entertain people and challenge their thinking.

British-born chef Antony Ballard served as Michael Crichton’s personal chef for five years. From the article An Extra Classy Thanksgiving:

"He's very laid back," Ballard said of Crichton. "He's not a socialite. He just wanted a restaurant-quality lifestyle without ever having to step foot out of his house.

"It's interesting to see how very successful people deal with life," he added, "how they treat people, in particular."

Ballard misses the quiet conversations he used to have with the author, but he chose not to go along when the Crichtons moved to the West Coast.

In the 2003 article Star-Power Holiday Meal, Ballard shared the recipes for some of Michael Crichton’s favorite dishes.

Chestnut and Bacon Thyme Stuffing was “a standard on the Michael Crichton Thanksgiving table” according to Ballard. “Michael and his wife would have his brother’s family over plus some friends, about 12 people in all. They love it.”

And in the 2006 article Elite Holiday Cuisine (pp. 80-82), Ballard wrote:

What would a typical holiday feast consist of at the Crichton home?...The standard on the Crichton’s holiday table is roasted Mahogany Duck. I feel that duck is a good change from turkey. After Thanksgiving you really don’t want to serve turkey again. The Crichtons love the duck.
Ballard also included recipes for Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese G√Ęteau, and a special dessert:

No proper holiday fare is complete unless concluded with English Sherry Trifle.
Michael Crichton loves this dessert. After days on end of writing feverishly for each book, this was his singular treat.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit everyone! (I’ve got to try that trifle recipe!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sean Connery on Michael Crichton

When Sean Connery was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 1996 Golden Globes, Michael Crichton was one of the presenters. He was the one who handed Connery the award.

Connery then mentioned Crichton in his acceptance speech:
(audio track is a bit garbled in places)

It’s a special honor receiving this award from Michael. You know, multi-talented is a much-abused term in our profession. But Michael is the only man I know who can write bestsellers with one hand and take out your appendix with the other hand.
At the press conference afterwards, Connery said of the occasion:

I get the chance to get in the same room as lots of friends. I’m always trying to catch up to Michael, who I adore.

Later in the video clip, Connery says of Michael Crichton:

He’s got a very big influence on my life….I’m interested more in writers and directors than I am in actors as a rule. I really have a terrific measure of affection for Michael here because I wasn’t joking out there when I say he can write bestsellers and take out your appendix. Because he reminds me so much of Umberto Eco in that he’s got all the elements that I adore. Terrific mind, good writer.
Crichton shares some thoughts about Connery during the press conference:

He’s had an enormous effect on my life. He’s one of the few people that I can remember things that he said in passing while we were walking down the street 25 years ago.
I haven’t been able to find a clip or a news story of what Crichton said about Connery before presenting the award. I remember seeing it on TV when it happened. If anyone knows, please let me know.

In the chapter “Ireland” in his autobiography Travels, Crichton writes about directing Connery in the film version of his novel The Great Train Robbery. Crichton recalls:

He’s one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, lighthearted and serious at the same moment. I have learned a great deal from being around him. He is at ease with himself, and is direct and frank. (p. 183, hardcover edition)
(Thank you, Ingrid for discovering the YouTube clip from the Golden Globes!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On A Personal Note

From my post on Thursday:

I had intended to post my own tribute to Michael Crichton today. But I discovered that remembering his death has disquieted me to the point where I am unable to focus enough to finish writing the tribute he deserves. Perhaps posting all these tributes from others has gotten to me. So I’ll post my tribute either Friday or Saturday.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish my tribute. In addition to the grief over Michael Crichton’s death, I’ve been dealing with another as well.

A very close friend of mine died of cancer two months ago today. She was 48 years old. I had known her for nineteen years and she was the closest thing I had to a sister.

When I try to work on my tribute to Michael Crichton, I end up thinking about my friend as well. The sadness multiplies and overwhelms me.

Too many good people have been lost to cancer. How many more?

I will finish and post my own tribute when I am able. In the mean time, I’ll post other things of interest about Michael Crichton.

Sorry for the delay, and thank you for your patience.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking a Brief Break

I wanted to let you know that I’m taking a brief break after posting so consistently recently. I should be posting something new either tomorrow or Monday.

Until then, enjoy this essay:

Vanishing Intellectual Diversity
By Michael Crichton, International Leadership Forum, Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I’ll discuss it later. See you soon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remembering and Celebrating Michael Crichton

I had intended to post my own tribute to Michael Crichton today. But I discovered that remembering his death has disquieted me to the point where I am unable to focus enough to finish writing the tribute he deserves. Perhaps posting all these tributes from others has gotten to me. So I’ll post my tribute either Friday or Saturday.

Today I decided to celebrate Michael Crichton’s life in a special way. In an interview with Amazon, Crichton was asked:

Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?

Crichton’s answers:

Book - Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Witter Bynner version)

CD - Symphony #2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms (Georg Solti)

DVD - Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa

So today I read Tao Te Ching while listening to Symphony #2 in D Major. And tomorrow I’ll watch Ikiru.

Related posts:
One Year Ago

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes - Erik Stengler

Today’s tribute is from Erik Stengler, who created the website Erik’s Michael Crichton Collection in May 2008.

When he learned of Crichton’s death, Stengler wrote:

I am shocked and stunned too, and was also utterly unprepared for this news. Now that our enthusiasm for his work and life was gaining momentum, it is all cut short by this terrible loss.

I must say I couldn't keep back tears, and I will try to turn my webpage into a deserved memorial site devoted to this great author, but most of all, great person.

There is so much to read about the news of Michael Crichton's death, so much to say and so much left unsaid. I am at loss to decide what to say, where to begin, I just can't start. And it's because it is still difficult for me to believe that it has happened.

I first read a book of his in 1994; it was A Case of Need. Since then I just became more and more fond of all his works and started to look out for anything that he has produced, and enjoyed it all.

For me he has been the voice of who speaks out for the human dimension in the world of science and technology, a voice that is much needed, because it is unfortunately not so common. His concern for the human being and love for life will never be forgotten.

To all those close to him, I want to send my most profound condolences and my prayers but also a word of encouragement in these difficult moments: never forget that you have been blessed with the gift of having been near him, of having shared unique moments of his life, of having known and loved such a great person. Many of us have been wishing for just a few moments of the honour of being near Michael Crichton. You have the treasure of having been dear to him. Do regard this as a privilege that life has granted you and count on all of us, his fans, readers and viewers for never allowing his memory to fade off the least.

May he rest in peace.

On his website, Erik Stengler has posted this:

Michael Crichton's death left many of us with a great void, one that never will be filled again. We were unprepared for his departure, because all his works were so full of life. He not only brought dinosaurs back to life, but was profoundly concerned with our life, human life. Many reviews have pointed out the great variety of topics and stories of his works. However, there is a common thread to all of them, if one looks closely: a deep and well-founded worry about the shrinking space left for humaneness in a society that becomes more and more dependent on technology. Michael Crichton was eager to call our attention towards the need of bringing the human being back to the center of our civilization. Be it in the form of robots on the rampage, medical abuses or an exaggerated paranoia about global warming, his warnings against forgetting that people should never be second to any other priority, let alone left out of the picture altogether, will never lose relevance. On the contrary, his reminder will unfortunately be ever more necessary as we go along the path of filling our lives with technology. Let this website be one of the many signposts that keep alive his directions for building a more humane world.

Erik Stengler is the Head of Education and Public Outreach at Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos (Museum of Science and the Cosmos) on the island Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. He is also a freelance screenwriter for planetarium shows.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes - Online Friends

Featured today are tributes from two people who never met Michael Crichton, but corresponded with him online.

The first is Rob Griffiths from Macworld. Crichton was a devoted Mac user. In a November 2000 Los Angeles Times interview, Crichton said:

I started out with Macs back in the 1980s and since then I've never met anyone who could persuade me to switch or any particular piece of software that would obligate me to purchase a PC.

In his tribute Remembering Michael Crichton Griffiths recounts how he was asking for donations to support a website he had developed to provide hints for Mac users. One day he received this email from Crichton:

Your site is great. Tell me where to send a check.

Crichton eventually sent Griffiths a check, a signed copy of Timeline, and a card with handwritten message. Griffiths concludes his tribute:

Michael, thank you for the wonderful entertainment you provided over the years—and for the individual support you provided to some guy running an OS X Web site as a hobby back in 2001. The world has lost a great talent, and you will be sorely missed.

The other person who connected with Michael Crichton online, Russell Thorstenberg, shared his story in the comments section of a Los Angeles Times article:

I corresponded with Michael Crichton by e-mail for over a decade. Several years ago he did the unthinkable -- he helped my daughter, Annette, write her summer book report on "The Andromeda Strain." I was so stunned by his note to her I could only reply, "Your kindness is inspirational." This past May he gave me hiking suggestions for my trip to Hawaii. I say these things to shed light on the true gentleman who was more than a writer, filmmaker, or essayist. He was an inspiration, a role model, and a towering intellect who will not be duplicated.

In November 2005, I participated in an online discussion with Michael Crichton hosted by Barnes & Noble. He was very gracious, and, of course, utterly fascinating. I will always cherish that experience.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tribute to Michael Crichton - Judith Orloff

Psychiatrist and author Judith Orloff posted her tribute Remembering my friend Michael Crichton on her blog. Some highlights:

Michael and I were good friends at the time when I first started exploring intuition and spirituality in the early 1980s during my psychiatric residency at UCLA.

Michael had a wonderful dog he'd take with him. One day his car got stolen and the dog was in it and he was so upset. Thank goodness both were found!

Michael had a big heart, a wide open imagination and was a great buddy for me.

Orloff mentioned Michael Crichton in her book Second Sight:

He reminded me of a huge, magnificent bird, with outstretched wings flying high above the earth. Cynical and smart, he wouldn’t be easily won over by spiritual mumbo-jumbo. (p. 90)