Tom Williams

Program Director | Access Utah Host

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996.  He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.)  He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah” and “Opera Saturday.”  He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.

Ways To Connect

W. W. Norton and Company

Our guest on Tuesday's AU is Mary Norris, who has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker's copy department. She's out with a new book "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen" in which she addresses some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage―comma faults, danglers, "who" vs. "whom," "that" vs. "which," compound words, gender-neutral language―and explains how to handle them. 


Readers of physical books leave traces: marginalia, slips of paper, fingerprints, highlighting, inscriptions. All books have histories, and libraries are not just collections of books and databases, but a medium of long-distance communication with other writers and readers.

"Letter to a Future Lover" is a collection several dozen brief pieces written by Ander Monson in response to library ephemera-with "library" defined broadly, ranging from university institutions to friends' shelves, from a seed library to a KGB prison library-and addressed to readers past, present, and future. 


Sandhill Cranes are some of the best-known, and loved, birds in the United States. Their tall stature and echoing calls combined with their close association with agricultural fields makes them easy to locate and instantly recognizable.  But there is far more to cranes than meets the eye. These magnificent birds have been part of the North American landscape for more than 9 million years. They have also inspired a documentary film "Mating for Life," which focuses on a personal pilgrimage by the filmmaker, Cindy Stillwell, to witness the annual spring migration of the Sandhill cranes. She sees in the birds a metaphor for human transformation. "Mating for Life" is a meditation on nature and art, and poses important questions about our need for both connection and solitude.

On Thursday's AU we'll talk with Cindy Stillwell and crane expert Paul Tebbel, who is the keynote speaker at the Cache Valley Sandhill Crane Festival, Friday and Saturday, June 12 & 13. 

Simon and Schuster

David McCullough, widely-acclaimed as a master of the art of narrative history, joins us for Wednesday’s AU to talk about his latest book, “The Wright Brothers.” McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for “Truman” and “John Adams,” and twice received the National Book Award, for “The Path Between the Seas” and “Mornings on Horseback.” His other, widely- praised, books include “1776,” “Brave Companions,” “The Johnstown Flood,” “The Great Bridge,” and “The Greater Journey.” He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. David McCullough is also featured as narrator in many documentary films, such as Ken Burns’ Civil War series.


Cedar Fort Press

Utah author John Starley Allen joins us for the hour today. His latest book (from Cedar Fort Press) is "A Splash of Kindness: The Ripple Effect of Compassion, Courage & Character." Allen says that the little things you do make a big difference and small acts of goodness have a ripple effect and eventually change the world. He'll tell true stories of positive change, including stories of Romanian orphans; the great athlete Jesse Owens; and Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television. 

    

Mark Klett

Arizona State University Professors Ben Minteer and Stephen Pyne say that from John Muir to David Brower, from the creation of Yellowstone National Park to the Endangered Species Act, environmentalism in America has always had close to its core a preservationist ideal. Generations have been inspired by its ethos—to encircle nature with our protection, to keep it apart, pristine, walled against the march of human development. But Minteer and Pyne say we have to face the facts. Accelerating climate change, rapid urbanization, agricultural and industrial devastation, metastasizing fire regimes, and other quickening anthropogenic forces all attest to the same truth: the earth is now spinning through the age of humans.

    

Scott Davidson- Flickr.com

Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore...Utah.  Officer-involved shootings and incidents continue to happen and to concern us, and Utah has not been immune to these issues. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the first three homicides of 2015 were officer-involved shootings, and the Deseret News reports that so far this year police in Utah have shot and killed four people and wounded at least one. The Utah Legislature is conducting meetings (expected to continue through the summer) on police training, focusing on use of force and interactions with the mentally ill. Today on AU, we’re joined by state Senator Jim Dabakis, Marina Lowe, ACLU Utah Legislative & Policy Counsel, and Salt Lake City Deputy Chief of Police, Krista Dunn.


In the wake of the recent expiration of key provisions of the Patriot Act, our guest for the hour on Wednesday's AU is Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., former Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate's Church Committee on Intelligence, and author of the new book: "Democracy in the Dark: The Seduction of Government Secrecy" (The New Press) which explores key questions such as: how much secrecy does good governance require? 


According to the Deseret News National Edition: "In the spring of 2009, California-based writer Sharael Kolberg did the math and estimated that she spent four months of her year using some form of entertainment technology - whether watching TV or surfing the Internet. So Kolberg, 44, proposed a bold plan to her husband, a marketing executive, and their 5-year-old daughter: rid their home of all technology, from TV and phones to the Internet and digital cameras, for one full year. The result is Kolberg's newly released book, 'A Year Unplugged: A Family's Life Without Technology,' 'We went back to the '80s, basically. I got out my record player and typewriter, we used the phone book and paper maps,' Kolberg said. 'It enhanced our relationships with our friends and family. Technology takes that away from us.'" 


windupstories.com

While the wealthy stay wet in lush high-rise cities, the poor are forced to pay $6.00-plus for a gallon of water, and struggle to find ways north through militarized state lines. That's the frighteningly-plausible future depicted in Paolo Bacigalupi's new novel "The Water Knife." 


Pantheon Press

On Thursday's AU we revisit our conversation with Jennifer Jacquet, author of "Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool."

Robert Sapolsky (author of Monkeyluv) says: "In the age of Anthony Weiner and Miley Cyrus, shame seems an antiquated concept-a quaint tool of conformity-obsessed collectivist societies, replete with scarlet letters and loss of face ..." Jacquet says that in recent years, we as consumers have sought to assuage our guilt about flawed social and environmental practices and policies by, for example, buying organic foods or fair-trade products. Unless nearly everyone participates, however, the impact of individual consumer consciousness is ineffective. 


University of Nevada Press

Former Cache Valley resident Denice Turner has released a new book. “Worthy” is a memoir of loss and the search for acceptance. Raised in a Mormon household, she strives to find her place in the Church, and longs to be worthy of her mother’s love. When her mother dies in a suspicious house fire, Turner is forced to face the stories she has inherited. Contemplating the price of worthiness, she grapples with the mystery of her mother’s death, seeking to understand her mother’s battle with chronic pain.


Torrey House Press

Dave DeWitt is one of the world’s foremost authorities on chile peppers and spicy foods. He is a food historian and an associate professor in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, and co-producer of the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show. He is author of more than fifty books, mostly on chile peppers and fiery foods, but also including novels, food histories, and a travel guide.


Kay Press

“At All Costs” details the life of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, a Pennsylvania native who was among 12 U.S. airmen killed March 11, 1968, when a North Vietnamese Army special forces team scaled a 3,000-foot cliff and attacked their secret radar camp.

 

Etchberger helped rescue three of his comrades, two of whom were severely wounded, and made it safely aboard an evacuation helicopter himself before being shot through the floor as it lifted off from the mountain, where he helped lead a team that aided the U.S. bombing campaign of North Vietnam. He and two fellow airmen were killed outright. Their bodies and those of nine others were not recovered following the clash. The remains of two have since been identified through DNA testing and returned to their families. Author Matt Proietti, along with Sgt. Erchberger's sons Rich and Cory Etchberger, join us to discuss their father's legacy and receiving the Medal of Honor on his behalf.


National Geographic

"Cars, for Americans, more than anything else represent freedom." So says Matt Hardigree, executive director of Jalopnik.com, who is featured in National Geographic Channel's new documentary film, "Driving America," which premieres on Memorial Day. The film examines how car culture has changed the way we live, work, travel and socialize; and looks into the future, including potential game changers like Tesla's electric cars. 


Access Utah is presenting a periodic series of conversations on the hotly-debated topic of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs.) Our last such program, a few months ago, presented the case for GMOs. Wednesday on AU, public interest attorney Steven Druker will present a vigorous case against GMOs. Mr. Druker initiated a lawsuit that, according to him, forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to divulge its files on genetically engineered foods.


Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

How do you sum up a life? What do you include and what do you leave out? Heather Lende, author of the new book "Find the Good," is the obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News in a beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska. She says "we are all writing our own obituary every day by how we live." Shanan Ballam, who teaches Creative Writing at Utah State University, wrote her brother Dylan's obituary. She felt that the obituary was not enough--it left too much unsaid.  So she's been writing "addendum" poems, to "more fully characterize, celebrate, and mourn [her] brother." 

Heather Lende has contributed essays and commentary to NPR, the New York Times, and National Geographic Traveler, among other newspapers and magazines, and is a former contributing editor at Woman's Day. In addition to writing obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, she is  columnist for the Alaska Dispatch News. Her previous books include  If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs.


Graywolf Press

In the 1960s, humans took their first steps away from Earth, and for a time our possibilities in space seemed endless. But in a time of austerity and in the wake of high-profile disasters like Challenger, that dream seems to have ended. In early 2011, Margaret Lazarus Dean traveled to Cape Canaveral for NASA's last three space shuttle launches in order to bear witness to the end of an era.

In her new book "Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight" Dean serves as our guide to Florida's Space Coast and to the history of NASA., taking the measure of what American spaceflight has achieved while reckoning with its earlier witnesses, such as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Oriana Fallaci. Along the way, Dean meets NASA workers, astronauts, and space fans, gathering answers to the question: What does it mean that a spacefaring nation won't be going to space anymore? 

In 1891, Lucien L. Nunn, working with Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Jr., pioneered the world’s first commercial production of high-tension alternating current (AC) for long-distance transmission—something Thomas Edison deemed dangerous and irresponsible. After creating the Telluride Power Company, Nunn constructed the state-of-the-art Olmsted Power Plant in Provo Canyon and the Ontario Power Works at Niagara Falls. To support this new technology, he developed an imaginative model of industrial training that became so compelling that he ultimately abandoned his entrepreneurial career to devote his wealth and talents to experimenting with a new model of liberal education. In 1917, Nunn founded Deep Springs College in eastern California. The school remains one of the most daring, progressive, and selective institutions of higher learning in America.


Joe Hill, labor icon and songwriter for the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, was executed by a Utah firing squad in November, 1915, after being convicted of two murders in a controversial trial. To commemorate the centenary of Hill's death, Folk musician and labor activist John McCutcheon is releasing a new album "Joe Hill's Last Will" which grew out of a one-man play of the same name written by activist and musician Si Kahn.


popsugar.com

In a time of excess for many, some are living with less.  A lot less! Tiny living has become increasingly popular in the past few years and today on Access Utah we'll talk about this thirst for simplicity, how it's changing the lives of those who live this way, how it's affecting the environment around them, and if Tiny Houses could be in the future for more of us.  Our guests include Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller, Co-Directors of TINY, a documentary on Tiny living; Jeffrey White of the Sarah House Project and MicroHouse Utah; and Macy Miller, who lives in a tiny space of her own in Boise, Idaho.


The producers of the new documentary film "The True Cost" note that there has been a 500% increase in clothing consumption in the past two decades, and that the U.S. has gone from producing more than 90% of its clothing in the 1960s to just three percent today. They say that the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically.


National Association of Music Merchants

We'll dive into some great Mariachi music and learn its history on Thursday's AU. We'll talk about how Mariachi music conveys Mexican culture, in Mexico and around the world, and we'll hear music performed by Lila Downs, Selena, and Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez, among others. 

    

Our guide to the music and culture is Maria Spicer-Escalante, USU Associate Professor of Linguistics and Spanish, who grew up in Mexico and continues to love this music. She says the art form is alive and well and being picked up by young people and by all-women groups such as the Mariachi Divas.

Oxford University Press

Homesickness today is dismissed as a sign of immaturity: It's what children feel at summer camp. But in the nineteenth century it was recognized as a powerful emotion. When gold miners in California heard the tune "Home, Sweet Home," they sobbed. When Civil War soldiers became homesick, army doctors sent them home, lest they die. Such images don't fit with our national mythology, which celebrates the restless individualism of immigrants who supposedly left home and never looked back. 

Susan Matt, author of "Homesickness: An American History" says that iconic symbols of the undaunted, forward-looking American spirit were often homesick, hesitant, and reluctant voyagers. Even today, in a global society that prizes movement and that condemns homesickness as a childish emotion, colleges counsel young adults and their families on how to manage the transition away from home, suburbanites pine for their old neighborhoods, and companies take seriously the emotional toll borne by relocated executives and road warriors. By highlighting how Americans have reacted to moving farther and farther from their roots, Matt revises long-held assumptions about home, mobility, and our national identity.

American Folklife Center

 A joint initiative of Utah State University and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will conduct a field-school project, beginning next week, for a field project called Voices: Refugees in Cache Valley. Designed to collect the stories and life experiences of refugees, the project will seek voices from Karen, Burmese, Eritrean, and other refugee communities in Cache Valley, Utah. We'll talk about the project and hear stories of refugees who've settled in Utah on Tuesday's Access Utah.

During the program, Chit Moe, a USU student and Karen Refugee, describes a traditional dance of the Karen people. You can watch a performance of this dance here. 


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