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Bob Elsewhere

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 November 2009


Monday, November 2, 2009 

In 1913, Leo Frank, a Jewish factory supervisor from “up North,” was lynched for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, a child laborer who worked in Frank’s pencil factory. The case remains one of the most complex and compelling in American history. It’s a true murder mystery but framed by the South’s complicated history of bigotry, xenophobia and class prejudice. Ben Loeterman wrote and directed a new PBS documentary that reexamines the story. The People V. Leo Frank airs November 2 at 10PM. Then, Bob talks with the top-selling rock duo of all time, Daryl Hall & John Oates After more than 40 years of recording together, the Philadelphia musicians have enough songs to fill up a four-CD, 74-crack collection, 28 of them Top 40 hits. The new box set is called, “Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall and John Oates.”


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Becoming Human is a three-part special featured as part of PBS’s NOVA science television program.  The new series describes the latest research about how humans evolved and how we can better understand our human ancestors. Rick Potts is the Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program which opens in March 2010 at the National Museum of Natural History, and Graham Townsley is the producer and director of the PBS series.  Then, although Israeli singer-songwriter Yasmin Levy’s father passed away when she was an infant, his life’s work lives on through his daughter’s music.  Yitzhak Levy was a composer and musicologist who specialized in the preservation of Ladino Sephardic music.  Ladino is an ancient and endangered form of Spanish originally spoken by Spanish Jews in the middle ages, and today is spoken by fewer than 200,000 people.  Levy’s album “Mano Suave” is her first released in the U.S.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bob asks Susan Davis, lead reporter for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, about the results of Tuesday’s off-year elections in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Maine.  Then, Jonathan Lethem describes his new novel this way: “It’s set on the  Upper East Side of  Manhattan, it’s strongly influenced by  Saul Bellow, Philip K. Dick Charles G. Finney and  Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” and it concerns a circle of friends including a faded child-star actor, a cultural critic, a hack ghost-writer of autobiographies, and a city official.  And it’s long and strange.” Chronic City is Lethem’s seventh novel.  His previous novels include the best-sellers, Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn.


Thursday, November 5, 2009 

For nine years, Dr. Julie Holland worked the night shift in the emergency room at Bellevue, the legendary psychiatric hospital in New York City. As the attending physician, Holland was the one-woman front line in charge of assessing and treating some of the city’s most troubled citizens: a naked man found barking like a dog in Times Square, a schizophrenic who begged for an injection of club soda to quiet his voices, a subway conductor who couldn’t get over seeing a woman pushed into the path of his train. Weekends at Bellevue is the title of Dr. Holland’s new book about her life inside and outside of the hospital. Then, entertainment critic David Kipen tells Bob what’s new in theaters.


Friday, November 6, 2009 

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics.  Next, “The Men Who Stare At Goats” starring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey is out in theaters today.  The movie is based on the book written by British journalist Jon Ronson. It’s a wickedly funny tour of the hush-hush fringes of military intelligence — from experiments in mind control, to the ability to kill a goat by just staring at it. We replay Bob’s 2005 interview with Ronson about his book.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from General Lucius D. Clay.  During World War II, Gen. Clay was Director of Material for the Army and then Deputy Director for War Mobilization and Reconversion. After the war he was U.S. Military Governor of Germany. Clay ordered and organized the massive air-lift to feed people in Soviet-blockaded Berlin.


Monday, November 9, 2009

In her new book, The Year of the FloodMargaret Atwood has created a dystopian world that can be read as a commentary on religion, politics, science and the environment.  Atwood has authored 15 books of poetry but she’s best-known for her novels including The Handmaid’s TaleThe Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake.  Then, Peter Yarrow, one third of the iconic folk troupe, Peter, Paul & Mary, has turned from singing to picture books.  First, there was the illustrated version of the classic song “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and now he continues the idea with “Day is Done.” In addition to children’s books, Yarrow devotes lots of his time to a non-profit called Operation Respect.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009  

Before Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton, there was Helen Gahagan Douglas, a pioneer of American politics. Douglas was the first Democratic woman elected to Congress and she ran for the US Senate in 1950 against Richard Nixon. Nixon called her “pink right down to her underwear.” Douglas retaliated with the nickname “Tricky Dick” after Nixon’s vicious smear tactics assured her defeat.  Journalist Sally Denton has written the first biography of Douglas. It’s called The Pink Lady: The Many Lives Of Helen Gahagan Douglas. Then, writer Barbara Kingsolver is one of America’s most beloved and respected novelist.   She won the National Book Prize of South Africa in 1998 for The Poisonwood Bible and in 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Kingsolver the National Humanities Medal.  Her new book, The Lacuna, is Kingsolver’s first novel in 9 years. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2009 

We visit the Army’s billion-dollar National Training Center and meet some of the people who help prepare our troops for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Covering more than a thousand square miles of California’s Mojave Desert, Ft. Irwin and the NTC includes realistic mock villages populated by role playing Iraqi nationals and military wives who aim to give the soldiers a taste of what’s to come overseas.  We also witness a group of Army reservists training in a “trauma lane.”  Amid IED blasts and sniper fire, the untested medics have to deal with role players pretending to be the enemy, frightened villagers demanding their attention and actual amputees who act like they just lost their legs in the explosion. Their commander, Sergeant First Class Bertran Schultz, describes the action and gives a blow by blow account of what his men are getting right and wrong.


Thursday, November 12, 2009  

From the loveable bartender known to the world as “Woody Boyd” in the television series Cheers, to the off-color publisher of Hustler Magazine, Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson has proven to be a highly diverse actor for more than twenty years.  In his most recent film, Harrelson is teamed with actor Ben Foster as members of the Army’s Casualty Notification service – representatives of the military who must deliver the sad news of fallen soldiers to the families.  Harrelson, Foster and writer-director Oren Moverman discuss the film, “The Messenger,” and their experiences making movies. Then, the swing-klezmer-gypsy jazz band with the kitchen-sink approach, Squirrel Nut Zippers has just released their first live album.  “Lost At Sea” was recorded last year in Brooklyn’s Southpaw club, and features hits like Put a Lid On ItBlue Angel, and Hell.  Squirrel Nut Zippers is best known for their 1996 platinum album Hot.


Friday, November 13, 2009  

Tom Russell is a visual artist, an author and an accomplished musician.  He’s also a songwriter whose tunes have been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Guy Clark and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.  But Russell isn’t just an artist: he holds a masters degree in Criminology, he taught in Nigeria during a civil war, and while working as a cab driver in Queens, a chance encounter with Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead kick-started his return to the music business. Tom Russell joins Bob to discuss his experiences and to play some tunes from the new album Blood and Candle Smoke. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Mrs. John G. (Percy) Lee.  She served four terms as the national president of the League of Women Voters from 1950 to 1958. The daughter of the inventor of the Maxim gun silencer, Lee passed up college to marry at age 19 and raise a family.


Monday, November 16, 2009 

The Omid e Mehr Center in Iran is a rare and unique facility that helps girls from the country’s underclass recover after being discarded by their families and society. The Glass House is the title of a new documentary that follows the hidden lives of four girls. Bob talks with the Iranian woman who founded the center, Marjaneh Halati. Then, Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a film about a group of Liberian women, led by Leymah Gbowee, who banded together and used non-violent protest methods mixed with some of their own ideas (sex strike, for one) to get rid of Charles Taylor and sweep out most of the warlords in Liberia in 2003. Their efforts paved the way for the country’s first female head of state.  Bob talks with Gbowee and the film’s director, Abigail Disney (niece of Walt), about their film which won Best Documentary at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival


Tuesday, November 17, 2009  

Douglas Gayeton, a multimedia artist and champion of the Slow Food movement, combined his two passions in his new book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town.  With an introduction by Alice Waters, this illustrated memoir and lesson in regional cuisine, focuses on the small villages in Tuscany where the Slow Food Movement (a back-lash against fast food) is simply a way of life.  Then, Hal Holbrook is best-known for his iconic portrayal of Mark Twain. His first solo act as Twain was in 1954. More than fifty years later, he’s still at it and nobody can bring Mark Twain alive like he can. During his most recent Broadway run, Holbrook was 80-years-old, older than the character he was portraying. Now Holbrook stars in That Evening Sun, a Southern Gothic film about a man refusing to face the waning years of his life and his worth.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

As Americans get ready to go shopping for the holidays, the investigative journalism website is taking a closer look at conditions for workers in some of the factories that make the hot electronic gadgets this season. Bob talks with Managing Editor Thomas Mucha about the special series, “Silicon Sweatshops.” Then, perhaps no one in the history of American entertainment is more influential and tragic than Orson Welles, the young auteur who created shocking dramas on stage, on the air, and on screen. Welles struggled to live up to his early successes, and at the end of his life was seen as a caricature, lending his famous voice to TV commercials, and releasing few films in this country. Bob talks with Chris Welles Feder about her father – his devotion to his art, and his distance from his family. Welles Feder is the author of the new book, In My Father’s Shadow. Finally, Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis talks about Blues and Chaos, a collection of pieces written by legendary music critic Robert Palmer.  The articles, which appeared originally in Rolling Stone and the New York Times, were arranged thematically and edited by DeCurtis.


Thursday, November 19, 2009 

Werner Herzog’s film career began in the mid-60s and includes more than fifty films.  His newest is a drama titled Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. The film is a loose remake of a 1992 film, although besides the title, Herzog says the two share little in common. Still, the director of the original, Abel Ferrara, is not happy about the new version saying, “As far as remakes go, … I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up.”  Then, within the art world, American photographer Robert Bergman has long been known for his intimate, often surprising street portraiture.  As interested in his subjects’ psychological state as in their physical look, Bergman’s portraits reveal the strength and even power of ordinary people.  The National Gallery of Art will host Bergman’s first major solo exhibition in Robert Bergman: Portraits, 1986-1995 through January 10th, 2010.  


Friday, November 20, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics.  Next, a quick search in Amazon Books for “John F. Kennedy” produces almost 55,000 results.  One of the most recent – and potentially one of the more detailed – is titled Jack Kennedy: The Illustrated Life of a President featuring Intimate Photos, Personal Memorabilia, and History-making Documents.  It features a CD of JFK’s most famous speeches, replicas of his handwritten letters and medical exams, an agenda for his meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, and, of course, many photos.  Presidential scholar and author of the book Chuck Wills discusses his research and the numerous pieces of paper that, together, help define the late Kennedy. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Barry Bingham, Sr., He was the long-time owner, editor and publisher of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times. His family’s leadership of the newspapers as well as radio and TV properties in Kentucky led to numerous journalism awards including multiple Pulitzer Prizes.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Howard Zinn calls Linda Gordon one of the nation’s most talented historians. After writing about the history of birth control in America, the politics of family violence and the origins of welfare, Gordon has turned her attention to a solitary subject: Dorthea Lange. The greatest documentary photographer of her era, Lange’s photographs of the Great Depression have become some of the world’s most well-known images.  Gordon’s new book is called Dorthea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits.  Then, in the early 1990’s, Maryland artist Billy Pappas set out to draw the impossible. For the next eight years, Pappas worked to capture what is normally unseen in portraiture, each pore, each individual strand of hair. His obsession was matched only by his obsessive pursuit to show his opus to the acclaimed modern artist David Hockney. Julie Checkoway is the director of a film about Pappas. She talks with Bob about Waiting for Hockney which debuts on the Sundance Channel tonight at 9pm eastern.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009   

In Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America, journalist Kati Marton describes life in communist Hungary when her parents were accused of espionage and imprisoned for two years.  Marton searched archives of the Hungarian secret police to piece together their family history and their escape from the Eastern European country in the mid-1950s.  What Marton discovered were secret love affairs, and betrayals within the family and amongst friends.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009 

After winning the election on November 4, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama thanked David Plouffe in his acceptance speech, calling him “the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the … best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.”  Plouffe discusses the campaign and Obama’s journey to the White House as chronicled in his new book, The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory.  Then, Max Cleland came back from Vietnam missing three limbs and confined to a wheelchair. He thought his life was over until he started a career in public service. President Jimmy Carter appointed Cleland head of the Veterans Administration and, years later, he was elected to the United States Senate. After losing a particularly dirty re-election campaign, Cleland sank into a deep depression. The former Senator writes about his struggles in a new book titled Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove.


Thursday, November 26, 2009 

It’s Thanksgiving and Bob spends an hour with one of public radio’s favorite personalities. In the early 1970’s, Susan Stamberg was one of the first producers hired by the fledgling National Public Radio and later she became the first woman to anchor its nightly news program, All Things Considered. Bob talks with Stamberg about her experience as a radio pioneer, what she feels makes a great interview and the true story behind her mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving cranberry relish.


Friday, November 27, 2009

In 2005, Cormac McCarthy wrote the novel No Country for Old Men which was later adapted for film and won four Academy Awards.  In 2007, McCarthy wrote The Road, which received the Pulitzer Prize.  Now, Viggo Mortenson stars in the film adaptation of The Road, as a man caring for his young son in a cataclysmic barren land where no one can be trusted.  Bob talks to the director John Hillcoat about the making of the film. Next, Bob talks with Dave Zirin, host of Edge of Sports Radio, about the NFL season and college football.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Charles Henry Parrish. As a professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, Parrish was the first African-American to be appointed to the faculty of a southern university. In addition to his teaching, Parrish was a part-time public relations consultant for the Domestic Life Insurance Company.


Monday, November 30, 2009 

Today would have been Mark Twain’s 174th birthday. In honor, we’re bringing back Bob’s interview with Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life. Twain (whose real name was Samuel Clemens) is still the most-read author in American public schools, but until Powers’ book there hadn’t been too many studies of how Twain’s life influenced his work. Because of Twain’s celebrity, temperament, and success, Powers believes Mark Twain to be the country’s “first rock star.”  Late last week, conceptual artist Jeanne-Claude died. Today, we revisit Bob’s interview with Jeanne-Claude and her husband and creative partner, Christo.  Last November, they spoke to Bob about their exhibit Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over The River, a Work in Progress. The exhibition of more than 150 photographs, collages, drawings, and maps, will chronicle the artists’ process as they prepare to assemble and suspend massive panels of silvery fabric horizontally over the Arkansas River in Colorado.