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April 2012

 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Approval ratings for Congress are at record lows. Voters look at their Senators and Representatives and see wealthy adults who squabble like children over partisan issues without seeming to get much work done. It wasn’t always this way. Not so long ago, the Senate was full of dedicated, hard-working people who put service to the nation ahead of loyalty to party bosses and campaign contributors. Ira Shapiro writes about the end of that era in the new book, The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis.

  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Trains played a crucial role in moving 19th Century America, but with the rise of roads, some rail lines fell fallow with disuse. Kelly Pack serves as Manager of Trail Development for the ‘Rails to Trails Conservancy,’ a group transforming former rail lines into thriving bicycle and walking paths. Next, a story about the resurrection of Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  Once a powerhouse of American Industry, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh valley was laid low by the decline and eventual bankruptcy of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. With an eye to new development, the state legalized casino gambling, and in 2009, the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem opened its doors, breathing new life into the former site of Bethlehem Steel’s main plant.

  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bob talks with religion scholar Elaine Pagels about her new book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, & Politics in the Book of Revelation. Then, writers Silas House & Neela Vaswani wrote letters back and forth for a year: House from his native Kentucky and Vaswani from her home in New York City.  Their correspondence became the epistolary young adult novel Same Sun Here, a story about two school children who become unlikely friends through a pen pal program.

  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

German musician Max Raabe is described as having “the looks of Fred Astaire and the deadpan humor of Christopher Walken”  The leader of the Palast Orchestra, Raabe and his sound are an off-beat but charismatic combination of the Roaring ‘20s and futuristic pop.  His most recent album is One Cannot Kiss Alone.  Then, in 1995, celebrated violinist Erica Morini passed away quietly, never knowing that her beloved Stradivarius was mysteriously stolen from her New York City apartment just before she died.  Morini’s relationship with her violin and the man she hired to restore it is dramatized in The Morini Strad, a new play by Peabody-winning playwright Willy Holtzman.  Bob talks with Holtzman and Brian Skarstad, the real-life violin restorer who worked with Morini.   The Morini Strad is at New York City’s Primary Stages through April 28th

  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, after a 14 year absence, director Whit Stillman returns to filmmaking with his fourth film, Damsels in Distress.  Stillman garnered a cult following for his comedies of manners Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), and The Last Days of Disco (1998).  Damsels in Distress stars actress Greta Gerwig as Violet, a college student determined to help her fellow students in her own particular way.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Candance Gordon.  Parenthood is a high-stakes game these days. Some parents organize craft parties, sew their children’s clothes, and create cute cookies for the school bake sale. And then there’s the majority of us, like Candance Gordon. She’s not much good at crafts, and cookie cutouts turn into blobs in her oven. But she never misses a school event, and she always brings the juice boxes. Gordon says she used to feel inadequate, but now she accepts her abilities without longing for maternal perfection.

  

Monday, April 9, 2012

In the field of critical-creativity, author Jonah Lehrer is a superstar. His latest book Imagine: How Creativity Works reveals the importance of “embracing the rut, thinking like a child, daydreaming productively, and adopting an outsider’s perspective” when approaching new tasks and difficult problems. Bob talks to Lehrer about his book and the future of creative science.  Then, Bob speaks with alternative-country singer-songwriter Todd Snider about the changing face of Nashville and about the music from his latest album, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables.

 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Long before the adventures of Thelma and Louise, Marie and Hortense Mancini bucked every social convention of seventeenth-century Europe. Strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, in the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, the Mancini Sisters abandoned their wifely positions, took to the road, and used the post coach service to travel across Europe. They gambled, dressed and passed as men, and soon became a sensation for their scandalous behavior. Elizabeth C. Goldsmith writes a vibrant biography of these two free spirits —feminists before the term existed— who refused to be constrained by the morals, mores, and hypocrisies of their age.  Then, writer Megan Mayhew Bergman moved with her husband to Vermont to help run the family veterinary clinic in 2009.  A stand-out from the writing programs at Duke, Bennington, and Breadloaf, Bergman has used her years in Vermont to write a beautiful collection of short stories titled Birds of a Lesser Paradise.   

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Today’s music studios are chock full of high-end audio equipment, and the rooms are specially engineered for the best acoustics. But for nearly 30 years, some of our most iconic recordings came out of a humble military surplus Quonset Hut set up on Nashville’s Music Row.  Bob talks to musician Chuck Mead, who has just released an album of classic country songs that he recorded in the original Quonset Hut, which has been restored as a studio. Also joining us is music journalist and filmmaker Craig Havighurst, who produced a companion documentary about the Quonset Hut. Their new CD/DVD package is called Back at the Quonset Hut. Then, we remember 60 Minutes legend Mike Wallace.  In 2007, Bob talked to Wallace about his struggles with depression and the continuing stigma attached to mental illnesses.  Mike Wallace died last weekend at the age of 93.

 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bob speaks with Josh Wheeler, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, about the “Muzzles,” their annual censorship awards.  Then, Bob talks to Marion Jacobson, an ethnomusicologist and accordionist, about her book Squeeze This! A Cultural History of the Accordion in America.  It’s the first history of the piano accordion to trace the evolution of the instrument from its invention in 19th century Vienna to its inclusion in nearly every style of American music today - from polka, Cajun and klezmer to Tejano, classical and rock n’ roll.

 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, on April 15th, 1912, the “unsinkable” Titanic, the world’s most luxurious ocean liner, shocked the world by sinking on its maiden voyage from England to New York City.   Historian and best-selling author of Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic Daniel Allen Butler looks back on the 100 year anniversary of this disaster.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Sabrina Dubik .  Children are told not to talk to strangers as a way to keep them safe.    But adults who keep quiet around strangers aren’t safer — they’re more isolated.  Dubik is a college student and a part-time waitress who used to chit chat with customers, but nothing more.  But when an elderly man became a regular, their conversations deepened, and they became friends.  Dubik says the experience taught her that life can be much more enjoyable if she engages in friendly conversations with strangers.

 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shin Dong-hyuk’s first memory was an execution.  Ten years later, Shin watched his mother be hanged and his brother shot, both executed for attempting to escape.  Now 29 years old, Shin’s life is documented in Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West.  Author Blaine Harden is a reporter for PBS Frontline and a contributor to The Economist.  He joins Bob to discuss Shin, the only person known to be born, raised and escaped from a North Korean prison camp. 

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bob talks to Rafe Sagarin, marine ecologist and author of Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters and Disease.   Then, New Orleans pianist Jon Cleary invites us into his home studio again, this time to share music from his latest project, a CD tribute to one of his heroes, Allen Toussaint. The album is titled Occapella.

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ray Bonner has been a staff writer at The New Yorker and a prize-winning investigative reporter for the New York Times. He’s taught and practiced law and served as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney and he has just written Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong, about the wrongful capital conviction of Edward Elmore.  Then, linguist Daniel Everett offers a provocative study on words in his recent book Language: A Cultural Tool.  Everett presents language not as an innate component of the brain — as most linguists do — but as an essential tool unique to each culture.

 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nobody could have imagined that the arrest of two men for a minor criminal offense would reverberate in American constitutional law. So begins Dale Carpenter’s Flagrant Conduct, a work nine years in the making that transforms our understanding of what we thought we knew about Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court decision of 2003 that invalidated America’s sodomy laws.

 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, Abrahm Lustgarten is a journalist for ProPublica who focuses on the energy industry.  He joins Bob to discuss the anniversary of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and his new book, Run to Failure: BP and the Making of The Deepwater Horizon Disaster.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Kathryn Timpany.  Millions of Americans live in the mountains and are drawn to breathtaking views.  Millions more live on the coast and are drawn to the beach.  Timpany loves the prairies of the Midwest.  She was born and raised on the prairie and lives there still.  She says the landscape has shaped the people in unique ways, and that prairie people understand the kind of balance you need to have between freedom and responsibility to guarantee that everyone gets the best possible chance in life.

 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Robert Santelli is the former CEO of the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and he currently heads the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Santelli has also written several books about popular music. His latest is titled, This Land is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folksong. The Grammy museum is partnering with the Woody Guthrie Foundation to observe Woody’s 100th birthday this year.  Then, for many years, Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora has offered her father’s unpublished lyrics to musicians with an interest in setting his words to their music. The latest album in that effort is New Multitudes.  It’s a collaboration between four longtime friends with separate bands, working together for the first time. They are Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, and Jim James. Bob talks with Jay Farrar and Anders Parker about the project.

 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writer Seth Grahame-Smith found surprising success with his 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  It became a New York Times best-seller and spawned many imitators.  Another best-seller, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter followed in 2011 (Tim Burton’s film version will be out this year) and now Grahame-Smith returns with Unholy Night, another dark revisionist tale.  Here he tells his story of the Three Wise Men from the Christian nativity, murderous thieves who unwillingly become guards for Mary, Joseph and their newborn’s journey into Egypt.  Then, when David Finland was 21 years old, his mother Glen tried to teach him to use the Metro in Washington, DC.  If her autistic son could learn the train system, then she figured he could get a job and if he could get a job, then he could move out, and if he could move out, then maybe her marriage to David’s father could get the jumpstart it needed.  Glen Finland shares their bittersweet and humorous stories in Next Stop: a Memoir of Family.

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bob talks to Dale Farran, professor of education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School, about her research on early childhood learning. Then, at a dinner party in 1997, a rich lawyer asked, “I mean you’re a teacher, Taylor. Be honest. What do you make?”  Taylor Mali took offense and since then has been on the defense.  His poem “What Teachers Make” has been viewed more than five million times on Youtube and he now has a book by the same name.

 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

As an ex-felon, writer Jack Gantos might have seemed like an odd choice to win this year’s Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature.   But Gantos has been writing acclaimed books for young people for years, including his popular Joey Pigza series.  His most recent novel Dead End in Norvelt was awarded the 2012 Newbery Medal and the 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Then, Dan Gediman is the Executive Director of This I Believe, Inc. He discusses the 60 essays in the new collection, This I Believe: On Motherhood.

 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, actor John Cusack rose to fame after his starring role the 1989 off-beat teen hit film Say Anything.  Since then, Cusack has been a mainstay in American cinema, starting in cult hits like High Fidelity and Being John Malkovich, as well as Hollywood blockbusters like 2012.   In Cusack’s most recent film, the actor plays horror writer Edgar Allen Poe in the period thriller The Raven.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Annie Azzariti.  She believes that when a loved one dies, their life should not be measured by awards, achievements or by how much money left behind. When Azzariti’s mother died, she and her siblings found an archaeological treasure trove of family mementos.  Hand-made clothes, photographs, telegrams, report cards and years of Mother’s Day jewelry had all been lovingly wrapped and saved.  Azzariti says her mother’s life revolved around her three children, and the keepsakes of their shared lives prove the depth of her love.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012

For a relatively young country, Israel and its supporters wield immense power in shaping United States government policy. Peter Beinart is a former editor of the New Republic who lays out his criticism of the Jewish State in a new work, The Crisis of Zionism. Among Beinart’s more controversial ideas is a proposed boycott on products made in Israeli settlements.  Then, John D’Agata is a journalist and author.  Jim Fingal is a fact-checker.  In 2003, Fingal was assigned to check D’Agata’s magazine story about a suicide in Las Vegas.  Now, they’ve compiled their exchange into the book The Lifespan of a Fact, a re-telling of their back-and-forth as they debated what is truth and what happens when it gets in the way of good story.