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June 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The number of African American baseball players in the major leagues has plummeted by two thirds since its peak in 1975.  And while it’s increasingly difficult to find black players on the field, the opposite holds true for Latinos. They are playing the game in record numbers and represent a full quarter of big-league rosters. Sports historian Rob Ruck examines why blacks, who led the fight to integrate baseball, have now largely left the game. His new book is titled Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game. Then, comedian and writer Paul Reiser’s knack for detailing the funny side of day-to-day life made bestsellers of his first two books Couplehood and Babyhood.  Now back with  Familyhood, Reiser applies his wit to raising a family and watching kids grow up.  Reiser is an Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor and the star of the TV series Mad About You.

 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Last Mountain is a new documentary featuring Robert Kennedy, Jr. and other community activists who are dedicated to stopping coal corporations from the destructive practice known as Mountain Top Removal.  Bob talks to Kennedy and the filmmakers, Clara Bingham and Bill Haney, about the continued health and environmental challenges of mining coal. Then, we revisit Bob’s 2007 conversation with producer Jack Wright, who compiled a two-disc set of mining songs called “Music of Coal.”

 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the upcoming Presidential election from a historical viewpoint. Next, Bob talks with funny man Harry Shearer about his deadly serious documentary titled The Big Uneasy. It tells the story of the 2005 flooding of New Orleans, the unnatural disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. The focus is on three scientists who tried to warn of the danger or investigate the aftermath of the flooding and the many obstacles they faced. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of David Lintvedt.   As a young man, Lintvedt had dreams of adventure in far off lands. But then he became a father, and found himself raising his daughter alone. He says his life is full of adventures, but they’re based on ordinary life — and much more rewarding than any he dreamed of in his childhood. 

 

Monday, June 6, 2011

“Not all pioneers went west,” writes historian David McCullough. For his newest book, this two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize focuses his attention on the Americans who headed across the Atlantic to Paris. McCullough tells the stories of the ambitious men and women who lived, studied and worked in Paris between 1830 and 1900 and had serious influence on American literature, medicine, art, architecture, and history. Some of the characters are well known — James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Harriet Beecher Stowe. McCullough’s book is titled The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.  Then, after 36 years, veteran newsmanJim Lehrer retired Friday as the anchor of PBS NewsHour.  We bring back Bob’s 2005 conversation with Lehrerand his former co-host Robert MacNeil.  MacNeil began the nightly news report in 1975 with Lehrer as the Washington correspondent. It evolved into the NewsHour with both men hosting until MacNeil retired in 1995. 

 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In May of 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and women boarded a plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a mysterious valley on the island of New Guinea. It was supposed to be a pleasure tour but it became something entirely different when the plane crashed killing all but three. Badly injured and unequipped for the jungle, the survivors set out to try to find help and instead found a primitive tribe who had never seen a white person. Mitchell Zuckoff tells this true story of survival, adventure and rescue in his new book Lost in Shangri-La. Then, Bob talks with 20-year-old multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Sarah Jarosz. She signed a recording contract as a senior in high school and her first album earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental. Jarosz left Texas to study music at The New England Conservatory in Boston and has just released her second album called Follow Me Down.

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

John Prendergast is a human rights activist.  Publically, he’s co-founder of the Enough Project and Strategic Advisor to Not On Our Watch, the advocacy group founded by George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Brad Pitt.  Not so publically, he’s Big Brother to Michael Mattocks, the inner city youth who grew up on the streets of Washington, D.C.  Prendergast and Mattocks join Bob in studio to discuss the evolution of their twenty-five year friendship as told in Unlikely Brothers: Our Story of Adventure, Loss, and Redemption.

 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roy Blount, Jr. is back with more funny stories derived from his love of words. Alphabetter Juice is the sequel to his 2008 book Alphabet Juice. Then, Bob talks with Ricky McKinnieJoey Williams and founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama  Jimmy Carter about the group’s career and brand new CD of country gospel songs. Take the High Road features guest appearances by The Oak Ridge Boys, Hank Williams Jr., Vince Gill and Willie Nelson.

 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news. Next, each week on this program, we feature an essay from the vast archives of This I Believe. Even after more than two years, we’ve heard just a small fraction of the tens of thousands of essays that exist. Now, a few more are appearing in the new book This I Believe: On Fatherhood. Bob talks with the organization’s Executive Director Dan Gediman about the new collection.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Johnnie Barmore.  She is a therapist at an orphanage in Cincinnati and her biggest challenge is getting abused children to trust her enough to talk. Barmore’s favorite method is to take them fishing. It reminds her of the countless hours she spent with her father on the banks of a pond or a river, playing while he fished, and letting the comfort of their connection grow.

 

Monday, June 13, 2011  

Patricia McArdle is a retired Foreign Service Officer who in 2004 was assigned with the British Army in the Northern province of Balkh in Afghanistan.  In Farishta, she draws on that experience to write a fictional account of the only female diplomat at a NATO outpost in northern Afghanistan.  McArdle describes her experience and shares her thoughts about the future of that war-torn nation.  Then, filmmaker Taggart Siegel made the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John and now he shares another glimpse into the friction between agriculture and modern life.  The documentary, Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?, dissects the potential “Colony Collapse Disorder,” and what that could mean for our plants and crops.  Siegel talks about why bees are disappearing in mass numbers with no clear explanation: the queen is there, the honey is there, but the bees are gone.

 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 American jazz icon Gerald Wilson started his professional music career in 1939, playing trumpet for the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra.  Since then, over the course of his seven decade career, Wilson has had great success as a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator, writing music for and playing with jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Bobby Darin, and Ray Charles, to name just a few. Gerald Wilson releases a new CD today called Legacy, which also features the work of his son and grandson.

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 

 Best-selling writer Ann Patchett takes her remarkable imagination and gift for storytelling into the heart of the Amazon with her new novel State of Wonder.  Here, Patchett tells the story of Marina Singh, a 42 year old doctor who travels the jungles of Brazil to investigate the suspicious death of a colleague.  The author of Bel CantoThe Magician’s Assistant and others, Patchett is the recipient of the PEN/Faulker, the Orange Prize, and a number of other writing awards.  Then, when Debbie Reynolds was just 20 years old, she starred opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner in the 1952 hit musical Singin’ in the Rain.  That success propelled Reynolds into starring roles in a number of popular musicals, most famously inThe Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), which earned Reynolds’ an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.   This month, Reynolds is auctioning off her Hollywood memorabilia collection—including Charlie Chaplin’s bowler and Marilyn Monroe’s subway dress from The Seven Year Itch – at The Paley Center in Los Angeles.

 

Thursday, June 16, 2011 

Dean Faulkner Wells is the only niece of William Faulkner, the last Faulkner in her generation and the only living member of the family who grew up at Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi. She called him “Pappy.” Now 75-years-old, Wells has recently written a book, Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi. Then, we’ll hear an audio tour of the home where William Faulkner lived in Oxford, Mississippi. Rowan Oak was built in the mid-1800s, but Faulkner made extensive renovations during the 40 years that he lived there. We’ll hear description’s of Faulkner’s office, bedroom, and kitchen – which was his favorite room in the house.

 

Friday, June 17, 2011 

Roméo Dallaire was the leader of the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. During his mission he witnessed the horrible reality of children being used as soldiers. The experience led General Dallaire to leave the military and form the Child Soldiers Initiative. He has now written a book on the topic titled, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.    Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Corey Harbaugh.  Every parent knows the day is coming. The day your child asks whether Santa Claus is real. When Corey Harbaugh’s eight-year-old son asked him that question, Harbaugh recognized it as a momentous occasion.

 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Employment Policy Research Network is a web site where academics from about 40 universities post research, op-eds and blogs about all things employment related: wages, collective bargaining, unemployment, immigration. Their mission is economic justice based on sound research and good-faith negotiations. Two researchers involved in this experiment of ideas, Tom Kochan and David Lewin, join Bob to talk about their work.

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Every day, an average of 18 U.S. veterans commit suicide. That’s one of the grizzly facts highlighted in a two-part series published by Stars and Stripes, America’s military newspaper. Megan McCloskey focuses on Army Specialist Brushaun Anderson who succumbed to harsh treatment by his commanders. Bill Murphy, Jr. focuses on infantryman Jacob Andrews who was denied treatment for his combat-related health problems. They’ll discuss these two stories and how the military’s suicide prevention program has failed. Then, Science magazine writer Sam Kean turned his life-long fascination with the periodic table into a best-selling book titled The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Kean’s book recounts tales about the periodic table that range from the educational to the down-right weird. The Disappearing Spoon is now out in paperback.

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our favorite ex-con Louis Ferrante is back with a new book called Mob Rules: What the Mafia Can Teach the Legitimate Businessman. He shares nuggets of advice good for the boardroom and the backroom such as, “never bad mouth the boss” and “the importance of networking: it’s good to go to a funeral as long as it’s not yours.” Ferrante served eight and a half years in prison for refusing to incriminate his associates in the Gambino family, since then he’s gone straight and now lectures groups of at-risk teens across the country. Then, Ruthie Foster is an up and coming vocalist from central Texas who blends influences from Southern blues, rock, gospel, country and jazz. Her breakthrough CD from 2009 was called The Truth According to Ruthie Foster and her latest project is a DVD and CD called Ruthie Foster Live at Antone’s.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

John Merrow is the Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and President of Learning Matters, Inc.  He joins Bob in studio to discuss public school reform and his most recent book, The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership. Then, easing into retirement is difficult and emotional for many people, and apparently it was no easier for “Flora,” an elephant ending her 16-year career in the circus. Filmmakers Cristina Colissimo and Lisa Leeman discuss their documentary, One Lucky Elephant, what they call “a ten thousand pound love story” between the mammal and her trainer.

 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news. Next, Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed is back, this time to discuss his new documentary called Just Like Us. He brought fellow stand-ups on a historic tour of the Middle East, with shows in Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The film is not just about the comedy, but gives a real sense of the people and the places prior to the revolutions which swept through the region.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Susan Cordell.  She grew up in a small town, left as soon as she could, and vowed never to return. But after her mother died, and she returned for the funeral, Cordell found the memories of her childhood pulling her back to that small hometown again and again. 

 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beginning in 1999, Jeanne Woodford became the Warden of San Quentin State Prison in California where she oversaw four executions.  In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to be the Director of the California Department of Corrections.  And this year, Woodford was named the new executive director of Death Penalty Focus, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the nation dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment.  Woodford discusses this new position and her commitment to public safety.  Then, Bob goes inside the world of ESPN with co-author James Miller. He’s written a history and a behind-the-scenes look at everyone’s favorite cable sports network called Those Guys Have All the Fun. The ESPN story is told through interviews with more than 500 people, including founders, current and former anchors, athletes and fans.

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Perestroika is a film that provides a rare account of the collapse of the Soviet Union as experienced by five people who lived it.  The documentary, woven from home movies and Soviet propaganda films from the era, has its national broadcast premier on Tuesday, June 28th on the PBS program POV. Robin Hessman is the director, producer and cinematographer.  Then, Bob talks with satirist and parodist Weird Al Yankovic about his new album Alpocalypse (that’s not a typo) and his career poking fun at music’s biggest stars and their hits.

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Over 100 years after his death, Frederick Law Olmsted is still America’s most famous and influential landscape architect.  The designer of Central Park, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and many other notable projects, Olmsted was also a conservationist, fighting to preserve Niagara Falls and Yosemite for future generations.  Biographer Justin Martin details his life in Genius of Place: the Life of Frederick Law Olmsted: Abolitionist, Conservationist, and Designer of Central Park.

 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Each year about one million people renounce the birth of their country and swear allegiance to the United States of America.  A few years ago, one of those new American citizens was filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi’s Dutch-born husband, Michiel Vos.   “I can’t be a foreigner in my own family,” Pelosi recalls her husband saying. His story inspired Pelosi to travel the country attending naturalization ceremonies and hearing the stories of brand-new Americans. Her film, “Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip” premiers July 4th on HBO. Then, filmmaker Cindy Meehl discusses the new documentary “Buck,” the story of a real life “horse whisperer.” Cowboy Buck Brannaman travels the country “helping horses with people problems.”  Meehl will discuss the horseman, his background, and his infectious life philosophies.