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Bob Elsewhere

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May 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Diana Henriques has written the definitive book on Bernie Madoff, based on unprecedented access and interviews with more than one hundred people at all levels of the crime. The Wizard of Lives: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust is out this week.  Then, May 1st is a little-known federal holiday, Loyalty Day. Made official in 1958, the original purpose was for Americans to reaffirm their loyalty to the United States. But loyalty oaths have a problematic history in this country, starting with the Revolutionary War. George Washington was for them, so was Joe McCarthy who believed you were not patriotic enough unless you took one. Loyalty is a tricky virtue, the foundation for love and family, but also the cause of much misery and betrayal, especially when loyalties collide. Pulitzer Prize winning Wall Street Journal columnist Eric Felten offers mediation on the subject in his new book, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011:   

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama declared, “We will kill Osama Bin Laden.”  President Obama made good on that promise and announced Sunday night that “Osama Bin Laden is dead.” Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about what this means for the Obama administration, how this will affect our foreign policy with Afghanistan and what’s next for Al Qaeda. Then, few sculptors can claim the renown and success that Richard Serra has achieved in his forty year career.  But a new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City titled Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective focuses on Serra’s skills on paper, a segment of his work often overlooked by the public.  This is the first retrospective of Serra’s drawings and shows the varied abilities of this visionary artist. 


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jessica Goodell was one of two women in the Marine Corps’ first official Mortuary Affairs unit in Iraq.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was mentioned at the end of her two-week training in 2004, but she and members of that unit suffered multiple mental and physical breakdowns after they tried to repress their experiences. Goodell describes it all in Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

This is the unlikely life of Stanley Ann Dunham, who was born in Wichita, Kansas, yet married a man from Kenya and ultimately raised a future President of the United States. New York Times reporter Janny Scott interviewed nearly 200 people to complete A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother. Bob chats with Scott about the President’s mother – the progressive, if unorganized, woman who didn’t live to see her son’s political success. Rachel Lloyd became a prostitute when she was just thirteen-years old. Her single mom was an alcoholic and with no adult paying attention, Lloyd was an easy target for a pimp who brought her into “the life.”  Several years later, Lloyd got out, earned her GED, then bachelors and masters degrees, and is now the head of GEMS, an organization she formed in 1998 to help girls like her. Lloyd has written a new book, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Caroline Kennedy is best-known as the only daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but she is also a well respected author and book editor. In a new poetry collection titled She Walks in Beauty, Kennedy focused on poems that celebrate and honor womanhood. Next, our resident folklorists Steve Winick and Nancy Groce share songs and stories all about water. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Suzanne Biemiller. These days, we have lots of ways to keep in touch with loved ones far away. Most of them involve quick notes and status updates. Biemiller says there’s no substitute for the sound of a familiar voice over the telephone. She began calling her mother regularly when she went away to college, and they still talk on the phone all the time, even though they now live in the same city.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the UK it was published as Alex’s Adventures in Numberland. The US version has a cleverly improved title, Here’s Looking at Euclid. Whatever the title, Alex Bellos has managed to write a best-selling book all about math. Bellos traveled around the world interviewing people whose lives are connected to math. Bellos’ ambition is to prove to a wider audience — starting with Bob — that “the world of math is a remarkable place.” His book is now out in paperback.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tim Green is a former NFL player, a lawyer, and a sports analyst for television and radio. He’s the author of several books, including thrillers for adults and kids. His latest book is titled Best of the Best, and it’s about a Little League star trying to make it to the World Series during his parents’ divorce. Bob talks with Green about writing for young people, coaching Little League, and issues in professional sports. Then, Johnny Appleseed lives as an icon in American folklore, a happy farmer who skipped across the country spreading apple trees and good health. But the real man behind the myth was John Chapman, a strange loner, failed entrepreneur, and nutty religious mystic. Howard Means writes about Chapman in his new book, Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Noah Webster was an educator (he helped found Amherst College), a newspaperman (he was editor of New York’s first daily), a lawyer, an author, and a statesman.  He counted George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton among his friends. In The Forgotten Founding Father, writer Joshua Kendall chronicles the life of the man best known for his 1828 publication, An American Dictionary of the English Language, what later became the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Then, filmmaker Bill Morrison works within a genre called “found footage filmmaking.” His latest film is an homage to the coal mining history of North East England. The Miners’ Hymns is a 52-minute wordless documentary that combines archival footage alongside modern images of a community that was ultimately destroyed by mining.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stiff, Spook and Bonk were the titles of Mary Roach’s previous books, all exploring some strange sides of science (cadavers, the afterlife and sex research respectively). For her latest book, Roach takes readers to the final frontier, or at least the road astronauts take to get there. In Packing for Mars, Roach investigates space simulations and all their weirdness. Roach’s book is now out in paperback. Then, Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled for its final mission this week. And to celebrate the occasion, we bring back Bob’s 2008 visit to the Kennedy Space Center where he witnessed the November 14th launch of the Endeavour and learned about the past, present and future of NASA. Bob also speaks with public radio reporter and NASA expert Pat Duggins about his book Final Countdown which chronicles the history of the Space Shuttle program.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news. Next, we remember playwright, screenwriter, and director Arthur Laurents, who died May 5th at the age of 93. We pay tribute by sharing Bob’s 2009 interview with Laurents about his life and career.  Among his notable accomplishments were directing newcomer Barbra Streisand in I Can Get It for You Wholesale and directing La Cage aux Folles, Broadway’s first openly gay musical.  Laurents also wrote the books for West Side Story and Gypsy, which remain two of Broadway’s most legendary musicals. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Scott Shakelford. For fans of science fiction, stories that take place beyond the stars, with a cast of droids and aliens, are so compelling that they sometimes intrude into real life. For instance, we’ve all seen photographs of people dressed as storm troopers outside of movie theaters. Shakelford says his real-life connections to science fiction go beyond dress-up. He and his father share a devotion to the genre, and he says that has strengthened their relationship over the years.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Jonathan Fox is the founder of Playback Theater, an improvisational experience in which members of the audience tell personal stories, and witness performers act out those stories on the spot. Playback troupes often visit community organizations and schools, where the performances act as drama therapy, helping audience members deal with difficult moments in their lives. Human rights groups, organizations that help the homeless, and disaster recovery groups have all hosted Playback performances. Playback Theater began in 1975, and now there are troupes all over the world, including the United States, Germany, Australia, Britain, Japan, and Brazil.  Then we’ll hear part of a performance of a Playback Theater company in Memphis. That city struggles with racial and economic segregation, and on a recent evening, Playback visited a community center that seeks to build bridges between different groups. We’ll hear from audience members and performers about the ways Playback helps a troubled community heal.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mike Sacks’ book Your Wildest Dreams Within Reason is a collection of short, unique humor pieces he originally wrote for publications like The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. It’s a hodgepodge of comic treats – fake Craigslist ads, tweets from a groom during his wedding,  Anne Frank’s rejection letter from a book agent, and lots of lists: Reasons You’re Still Single includes “Hug amusement-park mascots” and “Have a ferret on your shoulder, and you’re at the mall.” And from Icebreakers to Avoid:  “Sit back, relax, and allow me to explain the importance of composting.”  Sacks also works on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair. Then, Upside-Down Town is the latest release from singer-songwriter Greg Trooper.  His sound is a mix of soul, folk and roots-rock, reflecting what Trooper says is the “holy musical trinity,” Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In desperate situations, fear can give us the adrenaline we need for survival, or drive us to total terror and impede our ability to think clearly. Science writer Jeff Wise, columnist for Popular Mechanics, examines how and why we respond to fear in his book Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, now out in paperback. Wise returns to talk about how fear influences political decisions and drives social norms as terrorism becomes more and more prevalent in our world.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Film and stage legend Julie Andrews is one of the English-speaking world’s most beloved entertainers.  First gaining critical and popular success as Eliza Doolittle in the 1956 Broadway production of My Fair Lady, Andrews went on to star in Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Victor Victoria and many others films and Broadway productions.  In recent years, Andrews has become a prolific children’s book author, often partnering with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.  Their most recent book is The Very Fairy Princess Takes the Stage.  Then, the hit HBO program True Blood was based on a wildly popular series of novels by author Charlaine Harris. She joins Bob to discuss the “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series, its devoted readers and her new book Dead Reckoning.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news. Next, English writer Andrea Levy won the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Small Island, which was later made into a PBS Masterpiece series in 2009.  Her most recent book, The Long Song, is told by Miss July, a former slave who lived in Jamaica through the Baptist War and end of slavery.  The Long Song was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2010 and is now out in paperback. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Michele Weldon.  She has three sons who have many fathers. After Weldon’s ex-husband disappeared from the family, she says teachers and coaches stepped into the void, becoming father figures. Those relationships have helped guide her sons through adolescence, and have shown them that they are worthy of being loved.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Nobody likes to be annoyed but we all seem to enjoy thinking about what annoys us.  All animals get annoyed; even gnats have the nerve. And while annoyance is one of the most widely experienced of all human emotions, it’s also one of the least studied. In their new book Annoying, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca and Science Friday’s Flora Lichtman explore the science of what bugs us, starting with fingernails on a chalkboard.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Words are like Lego blocks. You can use them to build whatever you want, from a stark, utilitarian structure to a silly convoluted mess. John Pollack celebrates the silly side in his latest book, The Pun Also Rises. Pollack has been punning all of his life, and in 1995, he won the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships. In the book, Pollack says that puns have been around since the dawn of written language, and the word play is an instrumental part of human history.  Then, Co-founded by saxophonist Ori Kaplan, the group Balkan Beat Box fuses innumerable influences into a hard-hitting maelstrom of party music. Kaplan and lead singer/rapper Tomer Yosef join Bob to discuss the band’s ethos, their many side projects and the album “Blue Eyed Black Boy.” Balkan Beat Box is touring the United States and Europe through Summer 2011.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In the new issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, writer Matt Taibbi minces no words: “Goldman Sachs should stand trial.”  In “The People vs. Goldman Sachs,” Taibbi synthesizes a recent 650-page report about the Wall Street giant, which was conducted by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.  Bob talks to Taibbi about how Goldman Sachs defrauded their clients, misled Congress about the fraud under testimony, made off with $12.4 billion in federal bailout dollars – and has avoided going to court for any of it. Then, Bob talks with Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne and Cyril Neville about the music they make as part of the Louisiana super group Voice of the Wetlands All Stars. We’ll also get an update on the health of the protective Wetlands south of New Orleans a year after the Gulf oil spill.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Writer Justin Cronin’s 2010 book The Passage (the first in a trilogy) took vampire fiction to a literary high with his story of a deadly virus and the young 6 year old Amy who carried the secret to save the world.  Named one of the best novels of the year by Time, The Washington Post, Esquire, NPR, and many others, The Passage is now out in paperback.  Next, Michael Tucker first filmed Gunner Palace in Baghdad between 2003 and 2004.  His new documentary follows five of those characters home.  Tucker says How to Fold a Flag is “a poetic evocation of the everyday reality of those who fought as seen against the fantasies of those who sent them away so proudly.”


Friday, May 27, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news.  Next, The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade is a collection of never-before-seen writings and artwork by the late great comedian.  In the book, Sally Wade chronicles the last ten years of their life together.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Ron Woolley.  He honors the memory of his father’s death by stacking rocks on the seashore. Woolley and his father did not see eye-to-eye about everything, including religion. But after he helped scatter his father’s ashes at sea, Woolley says the ocean became special for him, and the rocks he stacks have become his father’s gravestone.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Bob talks with filmmaker Jonathan Fein, who visited Ground Zero, the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial to explore the power and poignancy of objects retrieved from and left at those sites.  His documentary is called  Objects and Memory. Then, Bach’s Cello Suites are one of the most recognizable pieces of music ever composed. The melodies are ubiquitous in movies, television, commercials — and they have been played at major world events: the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 memorial services, Ted Kennedy’s memorial service. But the Cello Suites were almost never heard.  For decades after Bach died, the music was lost, discovered accidentally and then popularized by the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals. Eric Siblin tells the story in a book called  The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Melissa Fay Greene was last on this program to talk about a middle-class Ethiopian widow whose home became a refuge for hundreds of AIDS-orphaned children whose story she told in There Is No Me Without You. In the years since the book, Greene and her husband adopted four children from Ethiopia. Those kids joined another son adopted from Bulgaria as well as Greene’s four other children by birth. When the number of children hit nine, Greene turned her reporter’s eye to events at home and has now written,  No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. She titled the book after one of the dumbest things she says she ever said to her children.