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Bob Elsewhere

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July 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met as teenagers in Los Angeles in 1950, forming a songwriting team that churned out hits for early rhythm & blues artists—and later for Elvis Presley, The Drifters, The Coasters, Peggy Lee and many more. Their partnership even extends to a joint autobiography titled,Hound Dog.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

For the past 30 years, travel guru Rick Steves has advocated for thoughtful and informed traveling in his PBS tv series, his radio show, and of course his best selling travel guide books. His new book,Travel As a Political Act,is aboutwhy we travel and how being a good traveler creates positive ties with the citizens of other nations.Then,a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.

Friday, July 3, 2009

David Broder ofThe Washington Postjoins Bob to talk politics. Next,Bob talks to Arthur Cash– he’s the biographer of John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty. John Wilkes was one of the most colorful figures in English political history - considered the father of the British free press, defender of civil liberties, champion of American independence, and hero to the founding fathers of the United States. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from director Maximilian Hodder. He worked in the movie industries of Eastern Europe. While serving in the Polish Army during World War II, he was captured by the Soviets but managed to escape and went on to join the Royal Air Force. Hodder came to the United States in 1949 to work in Hollywood.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Michela Wrongis a writer and expert on modern African affairs. Her bookIn the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtzwon the PEN James Stern Silver Pen Award, and paints a vivid picture of Congolese president Mobutu Sese Seko’s corruption. Her most recent book isIt’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower, about John Githongo, Kenya’s anti-corruption czar who was ousted from his country by the very administration that appointed him. Wrong writes about Africa from an African perspective, giving Westerners an important insight into this conflicted land. Then, afterMelody Gardotwas seriously injured in a bike accident at age nineteen, she took up music therapy as a way to rebuild her cognitive skills. Though permanently disabled, her therapy resulted in critical acclaim as a jazz and blues artist. Now on her fourth album,My One and Only Thrill, Gardot describes how she writes and performs despite the physical pain she endures daily.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bob talks with environmental scientistJames Lovelockabout his latest bookThe Vanishing Face of Gaia. Lovelock argues that it’s already far too late to stop global warming, and that we should be committing our resources to surviving in the new hotter world to come instead of trying to stop it. Then, Rock journalist and memoiristJancee Dunnexplores the dichotomy of being a grown, successful professional, who, when she gets around her parents, immediately reverts back to her teenage self.Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had To Askasks if we ever really grow up, and chronicles Dunn’s attempt to come to grips with getting older.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The harmonies ofDavid Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nashhave earned the musicians a trusty following since they joined forces back in 1969. Their friendship has endured decades and solo recordings. Now they’re going back to the early days by releasing a collection of previously unheard demos. The trio discussesCrosby, Stills & Nash Demosand reminisces their forty year history.Then, Sirius XM Symphony Hall hostMartin Goldsmithjoins Bob to honor heavyweight classical composer Gustav Mahler’s 149thbirthday this week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The upheaval in Honduras has been complicated for many: the ousted president Manuel Zelaya, the Organization of American States, and – even though he doesn’t want to “intervene” – President Barack Obama. Honduran protesters have been fatally shot by the military and the leftist president is living in exile, but the forces behind the coup insist they have maintained the rule of law in accordance with their constitution. Christopher Sabatini is the Senior Director of Policy at the Americas Society. He’ll discuss the recent events and what’s at stake for the political stability and sovereignty of these countries. Then, one night in 2001, aspiring actor Charlie Todd was out with his friends at a Greenwich Village bar when they decided to pretend that Charlie was the famous but rarely recognized musician Ben Folds. After an evening of signing autographs and getting free drinks, Todd realized New York City was the ultimate stage for his craft and from there dreamed up his group Improv Everywhere. Now 8 years old, Improv Everywhere continues to live up to their mission statement: “we cause scenes.” Founder Charlie Todd and fellow agent Alex Scordellis recount their finest missions in Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places with Improv Everywhere.

Friday, July 10, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, the Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings chronicled the 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, giving only supporting mention of the epic 12-hour, three-night concert show-casing prominent African-American musicians of the day. Now, director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, who edited When We Were Kings, has released 35-year old footage of this concert, featuring Celia Cruz, James Brown, BB King, and Bill Withers, among other artists. Soul Power documents this concert and the effects of this mile-stone event.Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Jackie Robinson. In 1947, Robinson pioneered the integration of American professional athletics by becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball. During his 10 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he played on six World Series teams and was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1949.


Monday, July 13, 2009

years ago, 11 year old Norman Ollestad was on his way to a skiing event when the small plane carrying him, his father, and his father’s girlfriend crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains; he was the only survivor. In his new memoir, Crazy for the Storm, Ollestad relives the terrifying descent he made alone down the 8,693 foot peak, and recounts the special, but sometimes painful relationship he had with his father who pushed him into extreme sports and may have taught him the necessary skills to survive this horrific ordeal. Then, Bob talks to public radio host Ira Glass about his award-winning radio and television show “This American Life.”


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ward Just covered the Vietnam War for the Washington Post before leaving journalism to write fiction. Exiles in the Gardenis his 16thnovel. It tells the story of Washington newspaper photographer Alec Malone, son of an influential Senator, who turns down an opportunity to take pictures of the Vietnam War. Now, at age 70, he wonders if he did the right thing. Then, as an avid stamp collector, President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the power stamps have to communicate ideas. FDR transformed stamps during his presidency, and used them to help promote his New Deal. Curator Cheryl Ganz gives Bob a tour of The National Postal Museum, and explains how stamps changed during the Great Depression in the exhibit, “Delivering Hope: FDR & Stamps of the Great Depression.” It runs through June of 2010.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On July 15th, 1979, President Jimmy Carter addressed the country on live television. It is now remembered as the “malaise” speech though the President never said the word. What President Carterdidsay was that the country’s dependence of foreign oil “threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation.” He also said it was an act of patriotism to conserve energy, to turn down the thermostat, to carpool. Historian Kevin Mattson’s new book, ‘What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?’ argues that the speech should have changed the country. Instead, it led to Carter’s downfall and the rise of conservatism. Then, Bob and satirist Andy Borowitz discuss headlines, humor and Borowitz’s newest book titled Who Moved My Soap? The CEO’s Guide to Surviving Prison: The Bernie Madoff Edition. Later this year, a movie based on Borowitz’s original screenplay, Dinner for Schmucks,will be produced starring Steve Carell.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Michael McDonald was a Doobie Brother and touring member of the band Steely Dan, but the blue-eyed soul singer is best known for his solo hits like “I Keep Forgetting”and the mysteriously-titled, “Yah Mo B There.” McDonald recently appeared on the season finale of the television show30 Rockperforming a benefit parody tune titled “He Needs a Kidney.” Then, a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.


Friday, July 17, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, wordsmith Michael Quinion returns to the show, this time to discuss his most recent book,Why Is Q Always Followed By U?: Word-Perfect Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Language. Quinion will discuss how “cloud nine” actually started out as “cloud seven;” who the first person was to “have their thunder stolen;” why ranchers coined “come hell or high water;” and other odd-ball clichés. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978). She spent many years in Polynesia studying native cultures there. She also worked as an associate curator at the American Museum of Natural History, professor at Columbia University, and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The death of Walter Cronkite last week does not mark the end of an era, but his retirement did. Until Cronkite left the anchorman’s chair, the CBS Evening News had no theme song, no special video effects, graphics were Spartan. The staff called it a program, not a show—the emphasis was on the news—not its presentation. Bob remembers the man who set the standard for honest, straight-forward broadcast reporting. Then, today is the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing. Bob talks with the fourth man to walk on the moon, Alan Bean. Bean is also a painter and the author of Painting Apollo.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thavisouk Phrasavath was a young boy living with his parents and 8 siblings in Laos when his father, a member of the Royal Army of Laos, joined a secret army formed by the CIA. When the U.S. pulled out of Loas, and left the country to the Pathet Lao, Phrasavath’s father was declared an enemy of the state and disappeared. Cinematographer turned director Ellen Kuras met Phrasavath 23 years ago, and together they made a documentary of Phrasavath’s experiences, calling it The Betrayal (Nerakhoon). It received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary in 2008 and airs today on PBS. Then, we remember Frank McCourt by revisiting Bob’s 2005 conversation with the author of Angela’s Ashes,’Tis and Teacher Man.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First, as lawmakers try to come up with a viable health care plan, we’ll hear from people advocating lesser-known ideas that have picked up traction nationally. As a national health care plan moves though Congress, we’ll consider some of the plans being debated. Jacob Hacker believes people should have the right to a government-run, government-chartered insurance company. Without that government-run company, Hacker argues, there’s not enough pressure on the insurance companies to really drive down costs and improve quality. Hacker is a professor at Yale University at the author of two books on health care reform. Then, for millions of women, the books they read (and re-read) as young girls helped them become the women they are today. Lizzie Skurnick writes the column “Fine Lines” for, and blogs about books on her website Old Hag. Her book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading explores why the books of so many women’s youth continue to inspire, inform, and mold them well into adulthood.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First, as part of our series on health care reform, Bob speaks with David Riemer, the director of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee. Riemer has spent much of his career working on health care reform and he is arguing for Congress to model a national health care plan after the state employee model used in Wisconsin. Then, Matthew Aid has been studying the United States government’s most secret agency for the past 20 years. The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency is the culmination of his research. The book traces the agency from its creation in 1945 to its unprecedented involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Friday, July 24, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, Then, actor Stacy Keach is one of those rare professionals who is equally at home in every role he accepts: he is a well-respected film and TV actor, a popular audio book narrator, and an award-winning theater actor. Classically trained at the Yale School of Drama and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Keach recently played President Richard Nixon in the 2008-2009 touring company of Frost/Nixon, and is currently wowing audiences and critics with his interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Keach uses his own physicality and wit to exude Lear’s exuberance and insanity, which is especially impressive considering Keach suffered a minor stroke just 4 months ago. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from James A. Michener. He wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tales of the South Pacific, during his naval service in World War II after winning a transfer from a desk job in Washington to the Pacific theater. Michener’s literary career spanned 50 years and 40 books.



Monday, July 27, 2009

Rob Shapirois an economist who has contributed his ideas and expertise to a wide range of policy issues. Legislation was recently introduced in the House based on Shapiro’s proposal to use community colleges as technology training grounds for the U.S. workforce. Shapiro is also the current Chair of the Climate Task Force. Then,Andy BichlbaumandMike Bonannohave made a career out of humiliating greedy corporations and corrupt government agencies that they feel dishonor human life. Their exploits are documented in a new film called “The Yes Men Fix the World.” The film has won standing ovations and audience awards at festivals across the country. It reaches a wider audience when it premieres today on HBO. 



Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town,Nick Redingtells the story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland, focusing on the small Iowa town of Oelwein. Then, most agree thatJay Farrarhelped invent the alt-country sound with his former band Uncle Tupelo. After splitting with long-time songwriting partner, Jeff Tweedy, Farrar formed a new band called Son Volt.American Central Dustis the new album which is being described as “earthy,” “powerfully grounded,” and “sturdy.”



Wednesday, July 29, 2009



African politicians have been rolling out the red carpet for Chinese developers. That’s because China is now Africa’s second largest business partner, with trade at more than $100 billion a year. ForChina Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa, writerSerge Micheland photographerPaolo Woodsfollow poor Chinese workers as they emigrate to what they think are better opportunities in Africa. And in areas like the rainforest of Congo, they watch poor local workers endure racism. Michel and Woods discuss the Chinese empire builders, and the vulnerable citizens who are actually doing the building.

Over the years, high school shop class has been a place of refuge for some, and an hour off from math and English class for all who attend. But in many schools, shop class is now a thing of the past, replaced by classes aimed to turn students into “knowledge workers.” Philosopher and bike mechanicMatthew Crawfordargues in his bookShop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Workthat the detailed work of craftsmanship teaches us to use our brains and our hands, and allows us to accomplish something truly useful.



Thursday, July 30, 2009


Wendell Potterwas an executive with the insurance company Cigna for almost 20 years. He is now speaking out against the industry. Last month, Potter testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about what he sees as an industry corrupted by Wall Street greed and investor expectations. Potter had said, “You don’t think about people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you’re going to meet Wall Street’s expectations.”



Friday, July 31, 2009

David Broderof The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, most people would have foundJulie Klam’schildhood enviable; her mother would repeatedly take her out of school to spend the day shopping at Bloomingdale’s and having lavish lunches. But Julie would soon learn that her glamorous life growing up in New York’s wealthy Westchester County did little to prepare her for the real world. In her memoir,Please Excuse my Daughter, Klam records her successes and failures making it on her own with humor, wit, and self-effacing grace. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing seriesThis I Believe, Bob talks with executive directorDan Gedimanabout the essay fromEleanor Roosevelt. She was the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was active in Democratic politics and helped shape her husband’s New Deal programs while he was president. Considered one of the most active and influential First Ladies in U.S. history, she advocated for racial equality, women’s rights and world peace.