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February 2009


Monday, February 2, 2009

When Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal's brother was killed at a U.S. checkpoint in 2005, the artist channeled the experience into a performance piece. For a month, Bilal lived alone in a room the size of a prison cell -- in the line of fire of a remote-controlled paintball gun. A camera connected him to the internet where people could watch him - and shoot at him - 24 hours a day. The piece was titled "Domestic Tension" and The Chicago Tribune called it "one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time." In 1992, Bilal came to the US where he became a professor, artist and now author. His new book is called Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is Spinal Tap was the first in a long-line of "mockumentaries" for Christopher Guest, including Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. That last one poked fun at folk music, something Guest knows a lot about. Guest plays the mandolin, mandocello, clarinet and guitar. And Guest's band, the Beyman Brothers, is releasing its very first album this month. Guest and band mate David Nichtern talk about the release, Memories of Summer as a Child and then Bob talks movies with Guest. Then, February 3rd marks Felix Mendelssohn's 200th birthday and Sirius XM classical music host Martin Goldsmith explains why Mendelssohn is a composer worth celebrating.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In time for Sesame Street's 40th anniversary, writer Michael Davis tells the story of this beloved children's TV show, from its creation by a group of talented and off-beat innovators to its current state in Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. Then, cult films like Star Wars and Star Trek have created strange social worlds of their own among their devoted fans. Bob talk with director Kyle Newman about his film Fanboys.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Singer-songwriter Graham Nash has released a boxed set for the first time in his career. It features 40 years of music from his solo career, his work with The Hollies, with Crosby, with Crosby and Stills AND with Crosby, Stills and Young. Reflections also features several previously unissued tracks. Then, Dermot Hussey, an expert on Jamaican music and on-air host of Sirius XM's "The Joint," discusses the life of iconic reggae musician Bob Marley to honor what would have been his 64th birthday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Then, book critic Laura Miller grew up wishing she lived in C.S. Lewis' fantasy land Narnia. But when she discovered that the series was full of Christian allegories and theology, Miller felt like she'd been duped. Her new book The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia explores her own journey with Lewis' beloved children books.


Monday, February 9, 2009: Like the host of our program, former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan knows what it’s like to lose a high-profile media job that she loved. Bob and Daryn talk about starting over in mid-career. Daryn now runs a website devoted to inspirational, motivational stories—the kind that “make her heart go zing.” She included many of them in her book, What’s Possible! Then, singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy hasreleased an album for almost every year he's been recording -- 29 to be exact since his debut in 1973 withAquashow. But he's not a household name in the U.S., maybe because he was one of the first American artists to go independent -- and he's lived in France since 1989. Murphy talks about his life on the road and books: he's written five including a semi-autobiography, Cold and Electric, and the novel, Where the Men are Rich and the Women are Naked.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009: Bob talks with historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about the misconceptions and myths surrounding Abraham Lincoln. Gates is presenting Looking for Lincoln on PBS February 11. Then, you know "snark" when you hear it: It's biting, mean, condescension disguised as high-brow teasing. Maureen Dowd is very good at it, and so was Cicero. New Yorker film critic David Denby says it is "spreading like pinkeye through the media" and weakening the public discourse. Denby’s book, Snark, was published this month.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009: Washington Post Book World editor Rachel Shea talks with Bob about the Post’s recent decision to close down the print version of Book World. Then, In So Much Damn Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American GovernmentRobert Kaiser explains how things really work in Washington today—and why they largely don’t.  Finally, a conversation about the term "one-off" and the many uses of the word "funk" with our resident etymologist Michael Quinion of the


Thursday, February 12, 2009: Today, we present two interviews in celebration of Charles Darwin's bicentenary. First, professor of molecular biology Sean B. Carroll's latest book Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species recounts the journeys of pioneering naturalists, from Charles Darwin to Charles Walcott. Then, the full title of Charles Darwin's most famous book is, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin was raised by abolitionists and it's believed that his hatred of slavery helped shape his theory of evolution. Darwin's Sacred Cause is one of a slew of books being published this month on the occasion of Darwin's 200th birthday. Bob speaks with the book's author, science historian James Moore. Moore argues that Darwin's starting point for his thesis was not the natural world, but the diversification of humanity into races.


Friday, February 13, 2009David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Then, Bob talks to Alex Ellis about a youth outreach program he developed, called 'Tied to Greatness'. Then, to get you ready for the Oscars, we bring back Bob’s interview with the star and the director/screenwriter of the film Frozen RiverMelissa Leo is nominated for Best Actress andCourtney Hunt is nominated for Best Original Screenplay for their movie which follows two women whose need for fast cash drives them to smuggle illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence River.



Monday, February 16, 2009

When he began poking around America's workplaces as the labor correspondent for the New York Times,Steven Greenhousesays he was taken aback by what he found --- "squalid treatment, humbling indignities, relentless penny pinching." Greenhouse examines the decline in the status and treatment of American workers in his book, The Big Squeeze. It’s now out in paperback. Then, on August 7, 1974, a young Frenchman namedPhilippe Petitpulled off the "artistic crime of the century." After eight months of planning, Petit, aided by a band of co-conspirators, rigged a high wire between the tops of the two then unfinished Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Petit then spent nearly an hour dancing on the wire hundreds of feet above Manhattan. The police were waiting for him, and unsure of what crime Petit had committed, the NYPD charged him with "Man on Wire." That's the name of the Oscar-nominated documentary about Petit directed byJames Marsh.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chronicling the inside stories of the Bear Stearns deal, Lehman Brothers' collapse, the propping up of insurance giant AIG, and the $700 billion bailout, Frontline producerMichael Kirkexamines what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn't see, couldn't stop and haven't been able to fix. Kirk describes his investigation from Wall Street to Washington, to be featured inInside the Meltdown, airing February 17th on PBS. Then, writerAlison Weirhas made a career of writing detailed and highly readable biographies about some of England's most notable historical women. InMistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, Weir turns her attention to the little-known but fascinating life of Katherine Swynford.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brigadier General James P. Cullenwas one of forty generals on hand when, on his second day in office, President Barack Obama signed three executive orders that banned torture, closed Guantanamo Bay, and ended the CIA's use of secret prisons. Cullen discusses the history between the generals and President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and why he thinks that day "will be remembered as a turning point in the struggle with Al Qaeda." Then, journalistJoshua Hammerexamines how Protestants and Catholics are adjusting to a more peaceful climate, 10 years after the peace treaty in Northern Ireland. "Getting Past the Troubles" will appear in Smithsonian Magazine's March issue.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dan Baum arrived in New Orleans two days after Hurricane Katrina and has reported on the disaster and its aftermath ever since. In 2007, he returned for four months, filing daily dispatches from New Orleans for The New Yorker and he has written a book, just released, called Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans. Then, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal were horrified by the destruction Hurricane Katrina brought to New Orleans. The filmmakers flew to Louisiana a week after the storm hit, with an idea of focusing on National Guardsmen. Then they met Kimberly Roberts and her husband Scott who filmed the storm and its aftermath on a secondhand camcorder. Lessin and Deal incorporated that raw footage -- documenting a frustrating wait for help -- into their film,Trouble the Water. It has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature in this year’s Academy Awards.


Friday,February 20, 2009

David BroderofThe Washington Postjoins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Next, Bob talks with astronautsSandy Magnus and Mike Finckeas they orbit the Earth aboard the International Space Station. Magnus has been up there for four months now and is scheduled to return to Earth on the next Space Shuttle mission. Then, Bob talks with LA Times film criticKenneth Turanfor his picks in this year's Academy Awards.



Monday, February 23, 2009

Louis Ferrante fought his way up the mafia ranks, earning himself a spot in the Gambino clan. Then, as an inmate in federal prison, he experienced the thrill of a great piece of literature. Bob talks to Ferrante about his memoir, Unlocked: A Journey from Prison to Proust, and why he changed the names to "protect the innocent and conceal the guilty."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pennsylvania State University English professor Michael Berube decided to revisit many graduate school hopefuls' arch nemesis: the GRE. He wrote an article about his experience for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Next, pre-kindergarten classes are not required for children entering the nation's school system, but they can have a big influence on how children acclimate to a classroom setting. Sara Mead is the Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and she discusses Pre-K curriculum, how various Pre-K environments affect student performance in later years, and how Pre-K initiatives could be incorporated within school reform. And, finally, we remember the Alamo. It was 172 years ago today that the Siege of the Alamo began.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scientist Alan Boss is a researcher at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and one of the world's leading scholars on the formation of stars and planets. His latest book, The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets, details the strides contemporary science has made in locating life on other planets.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Black List: Volume 2 is the name of a documentary premiering today on HBO. The film features interviews with sixteen prominent African Americans about what it's like to be black in America. Film critic Elvis Mitchell serves as the interviewer, talking candidly with Laurence Fishburne, Angela Davis, Charley Pride, Maya Rudolph and 12 others. Mitchell joins Bob to talk about the film. Then, our resident folklorists Steve Winick and Ann Hoog from the Library of Congress come in to talk about songs, calls, and sounds that people use instead of words.

Friday, February 27, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Next, Simon Critchley is a professor of philosophy at The New School in New York. He looked at how more than 190 philosophers spent the latter portions of their lives and what their ends can teach us. The lessons are in his new book, The Book of Dead Philosophers.