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Bob Elsewhere

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April 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

More than 40 states are projecting billions of dollars in budget shortfalls for the 2012 fiscal year, and governors around the nation are proposing cuts to education, health care and state employee benefits. Tracy Gordon is an expert on state and local public finances, and she joins Bob to explain how states got in these dire straits and the best ways to get out. Next, master novelist Ian McEwan’s book Solar tells the story of a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who, at this mid-point in his career, is happy to coast along on his famous name, even while his personal life falls apart around him. McEwan is the Booker Prize winning author of the novels Atonement, Saturday, and Amsterdam. His book is now out in paperback. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Nicholas Capo. This time of year, sports fans are in the grip of college basketball tournaments. We idolize the players, but few of us ever witness the hard work behind the excellence. Nicholas Capo learned those habits from his father, who excelled at high school basketball. As an English professor, Capo passes on his father’s lessons of discipline and devotion to budding writers. 


Monday, April 4, 2011

In the new book Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, Chicago-based civil rights attorney Joey Mogul reevaluates American’s justice and criminal legal systems through the eyes of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered people. She shares true stories of victimization including Jeremy Burke’s, a white transgendered man who was beaten, forcibly strip-searched, made to wear a dress and expose his genitalia while in a San Francisco holding cell.  Then, filmmaker Tom Shadyac flourished in Hollywood with the hit comedies Ace Ventura, Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty under his belt.  Then a near-fatal bike accident broke his fairytale spell, and when he recovered from his coma, he set out to rediscover life and sort out “what’s wrong with the world.”  Shadyac’s documentary is called I Am, and in it, he interviews great thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (none of whom, it seems, had ever seen his fiction films).


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Child prodigy, chess world champion and international fugitive, Bobby Fischer’s life has fascinated the American public for years. Frank Brady is widely recognized as the person who knows most about the life and career of the man who became a notorious recluse. The two met as children and their lives intersected personally and professionally over the years. Now Brady traces of the tragic narrative of his friend’s life in Endgame:  Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Political journalist Jeff Greenfield wonders how the United States would have fared if certain events had happened differently.  Looking back, he says minor changes such as a cancelled meeting, a chance encounter, or a shift in the weather could have given us different leaders with different beliefs.  Greenfield’s book is Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan.  Then, for 50 years, the male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo has kept alive the sounds of traditional South Africa.  This three-time Grammy awards winning group was South Africa’s first black musicians to receive gold record status.  Their most recent album is a collection of traditional childhood Zulu tunes called Songs From a Zulu Farm.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Egyptologist and award winning historian Toby Wilkinson’s new book The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt takes readers through 3,000 years of the one of the greatest civilizations in history. Then, in celebration of 40 years on the air, the PBS series Masterpiece presents a new Upstairs Downstairs, a continuation of the popular original series from the 1970s. Dame Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh, who were part of the original cast, return to their roles as Lady Maud and her housekeeper Rose Buck, in addition to a new group of actors for this updated version. Bob talks with executive producer Rebecca Eaton about the return of this PBS classic.  It airs Sunday, April 10th.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Actor Jeffrey Wright has starred in Broadway shows and feature films such as Basquiat, Syriana and Cadillac Records. His performance in HBO’s Angels in America earned him an Emmy and Golden Globe Award.  Now he’s spinning that celebrity credibility into a positive social movement with his organization, the Taia Peace Foundation, which is dedicated to the ongoing progress in Sierra Leone. Wright sits with Bob to discuss the African nation, its ups and downs, and will reflect a bit on his acting career. Then, actress Carol Burnett hosted The Carol Burnett Show for 11 years, winning an outstanding 25 Emmys along the way. Her book “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection” recounts some of Burnett’s most memorable stories and beloved roles over her 55 year career. It’s now available in paperback. Finally, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Mary Plouffe, a clinical psychologist in Maine. In a way, she’s paid to be a serial conversationalist, chopping up her interactions into hour-long segments. Plouffe believes in the power of talk therapy, of course, but she says the silent moments she shares with her patients are just as important.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Fifty years ago, a young, white lawyer from Boston headed to the deep South to help black Mississippians fighting for the right to vote. Gordon Martin served as a Justice Department attorney for the prosecution of a watershed lawsuit, a case that predated the national Civil Rights movement and helped reshape the South. Martin has written a book about the experience titled Count Them One by One.  Then, PEN/Hemingway Award recipient Mark Richard turned to his childhood years in Southern hospitals for his memoir House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home.  Labeled a “special child” by doctors, Richard retreated into a world of books, attempting to block out his alcoholic father and crippled hips.  He eventually defied both his doctors and his parents’ expectations and today is a journalist and author of two books of short stories.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bob talks with actress Robin Wright and screenwriter James Solomon about their new film The Conspirator. Solomon is a former journalist who has spent 18 years trying to get the larger story of the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln to the movie screen. Wright plays Mary Surratt, a southerner who ran a boarding house in DC and the only woman accused in the plot. The Conspirator is directed by Robert Redford, co-stars James McAvoy and opens this weekend.  Then, Bob talks about new spring books with senior book critic Laura Miller


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First, a conversation with Bob O’Neil, Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, about the Center’s annual “Muzzle” Awards—a dishonor given out to those who committed the most egregious or ridiculous affronts to free expression in the past year.  This is the 20th anniversary of the Muzzles and we’ll also look back and hear where some of the most infamous winners are now.  Then, for over twenty-three years, Al Gini was the “Resident Philosopher” for WBEZ in Chicago. A professor of business ethics at Loyola University, Gini has recently written Seeking the Truth of Things, a series of essays on topics he says people actually care about: the meaning of work, sin, laughter, moral courage and leisure. 


Thursday, April 14, 2011

John Francis went 17 years without saying a word. He was tired of having to explain to people why he gave up using motorized transportation.  Now a National Geographic Education Fellow, Francis tells his story in a new book, The Ragged Edge of Silence.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Bob talks with actor and comedian Ahmed Ahmed about creating laughter and understanding in a thoroughly depressing world. Ahmed is Egyptian-American and followed the revolution in Cairo very closely and will also discuss the continuing drama unfolding across the Muslim world. Next, while in high school, Joseph Frederick unfurled a 14-foot banner on a public sidewalk outside his school during the 2002 Olympic torch relay that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” School officials claimed he was promoting the use of drugs and suspended him from school.  Frederick sued, claiming his constitutional rights to free speech were violated. The feud went all the way to the Supreme Court and is a landmark free speech case. James Foster tells the story and explains the ramifications of the case in his book Bong Hits 4 Jesus: A Perfect Constitutional Storm in Alaska’s Capital. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Colette Decker.  She grew up on a farm in Wyoming, one of ten children. Harvest dollars didn’t stretch far, and each of the kids went to work early, even as their classmates had time for games or after school activities. Decker says she and her siblings knew they had less than others, and that created an intense drive to succeed — a hunger for achievement that would have been absent in an easier childhood.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Journalist Martin Davidson has done the taboo: he investigated the ugly truth about his own family.  It wasn’t until well into adulthood that Davidson was compelled to resolve certain unanswered questions about his heritage. The result is the memoir, The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Secret Past. Then, Bob talks with Brian Setzer about his four decades in the music business, the hits in the 1980s with The Stray Cats, his 18-piece “orchestra” and his latest CD, Setzer Goes Instru-mental. The eleven tracks feature Brian Setzer on guitar and banjo playing a mix of original compositions and covers like Blue Moon of Kentucky, Be-Bop-A-Lula and Earl’s Breakdown.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It wasn’t until he had spent twenty years as a professional soldier that Andrew Bacevich began to question the truths he had accumulated about U.S. foreign policy. Bacevich is a retired colonel and now a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the rare military intellectual who is listened to by both the right and the left. His book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, is a critical rethink of American foreign policyIt’s now out in paperback. Then, for 15 years, Dr. Danielle Ofri has been an attending physician at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital Center, America’s oldest public hospital, where often her patients’ only commonality is their need for health.  In her book Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients, Ofri shares the stories of the hundreds of immigrants, documented and undocumented, who have ended up in her care.  Her book is now out in paperback.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Maya Soetoro-Ng was inspired to write her first children’s book, Ladder to the Moon, by her daughter’s questions about her mother, cultural anthropologist Ann Dunham.  Soetoro-Ng is the half-sister of President Barack Obama and a writer and educator. Then, Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski are lead vocalists for the stellar Bluegrass band Union Station. After seven years exploring other projects, Union Station is back with a new album; it’s titled Paper Airplane after a tune written especially for Krauss by Nashville songwriter Robert Lee Castleman.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Renegade filmmMonday, April aker Morgan Spurlock joins Bob in studio to talk about his latest feature targeting the advertising industry, Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  His previous documentaries are Supersize Me, Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden, and Freakonomics.  And, yes, Pom Wonderful did actually sponsor this new film.  Then, Bob talks with Judith Shulevitz about her book The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time.  Shulevitz’s book is an exploration of the Sabbath in American history as well as a personal meditation on sacred time in our accelerating lives. Her book is now out in paperback.


Friday, April 22, 2011

By age 15, Bill Hicks already knew he would spend his life as a standup comedian. Less than twenty years later, he would pass away of cancer, but in the interim Bill Hicks made his name as one of the boldest and most original comics of all time. Known as a “comedian’s comedian,” no topic was too close or too weighty for Hicks to tackle: his own family, America, religion and eventually consciousness itself. Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock honor Hicks in their film, American: The Bill Hicks Story. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Connie Spittler. Many people celebrate Earth Day every year, but the Earth itself measures time differently than we do. There’s a slow pace, a vastness of time, in the natural world that’s difficult for us to comprehend.  Spittler finds solace in that impossibly long time span, when she gazes on the Catalinas Mountains in Tucson. Seasons change, good times and bad times come and go, and still the mountains remain, blushing pink in the sunset of every day.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Over the years, Colin Thubron’s work has taken him to some of the most remote lands in the world, from the desert of the ancient Silk Road to the corners of Russia. Thubron, who is often called our greatest living travel writer, recently journeyed to the sacred mountain Kailas in Tibet, holy to both Buddhists and Hindus. He recorded his experiences in his book To a Mountain in Tibet.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anthony Shadid is a foreign correspondent for The New York Times covering the Middle East. Last month, Shadid and three colleagues were arrested and beaten by Muammar Qaddifi’s forces in Libya. Shadid is now reporting on the uprising in Syria and joins us from Beiruit, Lebanon to discuss the latest news. Next, Robert Haddick is Managing Editor of the Small Wars Journal and he writes the “This Week at War” column for Foreign Policy magazine. He talks with Bob about the ongoing conflict in Libya and the evolving role of the U.S. military there and beyond. Then, Mohamed Abdel Dayem is the Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since the fighting began in Libya last month, there have been more than 80 attacks on the press, including four fatalities, 49 detentions, and much more. Then, we remember photojournalist Tim Hetherington who was killed last week while covering the conflict in Misrata, Libya. We pay tribute by sharing Bob’s February 2011 interview with Hetherington and writer Sebastian Junger about their documentary Restrepo. To make the film, they spent most of a year covering one American platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the hit TV show Everybody Loves Raymond, tells his own story of trying to translate Raymond for a Russian audience in his new documentary Exporting Raymond. Then, musician Jessi Colter teamed up with Patty Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Trace Adkins and others to pay tribute to her late husband Waylon Jennings in The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings.  In the works for 3 years, this album features a reunion of the music group Alabama, as well as contributions from Shooter Jennings, Waylon and Jessi’s son, and other musical luminaries.  


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Director Mark Goffman’s documentary Dumbstruck takes viewers to the annual Vent Haven Convention in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky—the ventriloquism capital of the world—and inside the lives of five passionate ventriloquists. Full of eccentric characters, Dumbstruck reveals the human side of this world of dummies. Then, Bob’s favorite husband-and-wife musician team returns to talk and play songs from their newest album, The Long Surrender. Funded by fans and featuring guest vocalist Lucinda Williams, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, otherwise known as Over the Rhine, call this album, “a record we couldn’t imagine in advance.”  


Friday, April 29, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news. Then, earlier today Anglophiles everywhere tuned in for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Surely, they hope the happy couple fare better than their ancestors. Historian Michael Farquhar’s book Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain tells the sad tales of some of Britain’s royal marriages that, like the rulers themselves, met with less-than-storybook ending. Finally, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Marianne Rogowski. She is the youngest of six children. Throughout her childhood, her mother never turned off the kitchen light. She said it was a beacon for her children, a symbol that they would always be welcomed, no matter their failings. Rogowski watched her older siblings learn that lesson of their mother’s unconditional love, and then experienced the welcoming shelter of the late-night light firsthand in college. She has made the same pledge to her own children.