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November 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The documentary Marathon Boy tells the story of Budhia Singh, a four-year-old boy whose life has been described as “a Bollywood movie scripted by Dickens.” Singh was born next to a railroad track in India, beaten by his alcoholic father, and sold at age three to a street hawker.   He should have ended up a street beggar, but instead, Singh was rescued from the slums by a man who is training the boy to be India’s greatest runner.  Bob talks to director Gemma Atwal about his film.  Marathon Boy premiers November 3rd on HBO. Then, Jeff Sharlet is best known for his 2009 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. His newest book is also about religion but he casts a wider net, exploring the variety of belief systems in this country. Sweet Heaven When I Die is a collection of 13 essays ranging in subject from America’s largest Mind, Body, Spirit Expo to legendary banjo player Dock Boggs. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On October 31st the 7 billionth person was born. Robert Walker from The Population Institute joins Bob to talk about how population growth is changing and challenging our world. Then, journalist Bill Vlasic is the Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times and author of Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America’s Big Three Auto Makers – GM, Ford, and Chrysler.  In this new book, Vlasic chronicles the back office drama that began in 2005 and culminated with the automaker bailout of 2008.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Illustrator Chris Van Allsburg is a three time Caldecott winner and the creator of a number of classic children’s books, including Jumanji, The Polar Express, and The Z Was Zapped.  In 1984, Van Allsburg drew The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a series of illustrations that hint at stories.  Now 14 notable writers – Sherman Alexie, Jules Fieffer, Gregory Maguire among them—have written short stories to go with each illustration in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about politics and other news.  Next, for 30 years, Barb Hawkins lived confined in her parents’ home, a prisoner of undiagnosed schizophrenia.  Not until her sister gained guardianship did Barb get diagnosed for the mental disease which affects more than three million Americans, yet is treatable and still widely misunderstood.  Margaret Hawkins discusses her memoir, After Schizophrenia: The Story of My Sister’s Reawakening After 30 Years.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Erin Blakemore.  When Blakemore joined the local roller derby league, she was an inhibited and buttoned-up woman, but full-contact skating gave her confidence and strength. She heard a similar story from her fellow skaters, who meet four times a week to beat each other up, and build each other up.


Monday, November 7, 2011

On November 18, 1978, 909 people killed themselves in a jungle in Guyana. A new book titledA Thousand Lives: the Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown tells the story of five of those who willingly followed pastor Jim Jones to South America and to their own demise. Author Julia Scheeres joins Bob to discuss the tragedy.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lawrence Lessig is the Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Professor Lessig’s newest book is titled Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It.  Then, Rita Dove is one of the greatest living American poets. She is a former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.  Most recently she edited The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Dove joins Bob to talk about what she feels is the most important poetry of the previous hundred years.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First, a conversation with reporter Marc Ambinder about Pakistan. He’s co-authored the December cover story in The Atlantic, titled “The Ally from Hell.” Then, when world-renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal inherited a collection of 264 Japanese wood and ivory carvings called netsuke, he decided to find more about his family’s past and how they came to own such a priceless collection.  His memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance is the story of de Waal’s ancestors, the Ephrussis, one of Vienna’s most powerful and wealthy dynasties.  The family and their fortune were almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, and the netsuke is all the remains of their once-fabulous wealth.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dominic Fredianelli signed up for the National Guard after graduating high school, not so much out of a sense of patriotism, but because it seemed like the best opportunity around: one weekend of training a month, a $20,000 signing bonus, and much-needed college tuition support. Soon, 10 of Dominic’s friends also joined up. Heather Courtney’s new film Where Soldiers Come From follows the effect one National Guard Unit’s Deployment has on this group of lifelong friends and the town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that they leave behind.  The documentary premiers tonight at 9 p.m on the PBS program POV.  Then, Jan Scruggs is the Founder and President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.  He’ll discuss the significance of the memorial, a book about it, Dreams Unfulfilled: Stories of the Men and Women on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the future “Education Center at the Wall.” Finally, Linda Schwartz is the commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Veterans Affairs and is leading the effort in that state to collect photos of all their Vietnam veterans to include in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center in Washington, DC.  She’s a Vietnam veteran herself and will discuss the value of matching a face with a name, and of preserving their stories.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the looming budget battles and how they will shape the coming political year.  Next, Werner Herzog’s latest documentary concerns a death penalty case in a small Texas town that explores themes familiar from his previous films: death, violence and time. Although the details of the triple homicide are grisly, Herzog focuses the film more on the effect the crime had on the families of the victims, the families of the killers, and the killers themselves.  Into the Abyss opens today in New York City. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Major Peter Godfrin.  He has served in the Army for 14 years, including tours of duty in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. In honor of Veterans’ Day, Godfrin writes about the sacrifices of members of the military throughout American history, and he remembers one of the soldiers in his command who died in Iraq in 2004.


Monday, November 14, 2011

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands all the way to refineries in Oklahoma then along the Gulf of Mexico.  The proposed pipeline is very controversial, and this week the State Department’s inspector general announced that he will conduct a specialinvestigation “to determine to what extent the department and all other parties involved complied with federal laws and regulations” relating to the pipeline permit process. Steven Mufson has been reporting on the TransCanada pipeline for the Washington Post, and he brings us up to date on its history and controversy.  Then, Dr. Richard Muller is a prominent physicist who had been skeptical about human’s role in global warming.  Now, as the founder and director of Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, Dr. Muller recently published a report that shows the earth is indeed warming.  The study was funded in large part by the Charles Koch Foundation – the Koch brothers are oil tycoons and deniers of global warming.  Dr. Muller joins Bob to discuss the report, how the findings compared with their expectations, and the value of skepticism in science.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writer and literary critic Umberto Eco is most famous for his international best-seller In the Name of the Rose.  His most recent novel, The Prague Cemetery, is a literary whodunit that was recently criticized by both the Vatican backed newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and the Chief Rabbi of Rome.  Set in Europe in 1897, the story follows secret agent Captain Simone Simonini as he investigates an assassination and political intrigue.  Then, Bob talks new books for winter’s cold days with senior book critic Laura Miller.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bob talks with Chris ThileNoam Pikelny and Chris Eldridge, members of the bluegrass group The Punch Brothers. They discuss their musical philosophy, their nicknames, how the band formed and how it got its name. The group just finished recording their latest CD for release next year, but Thile and Pikelny also have brand new side projects out now. Banjoist Pikelny’s solo debut is called Beat the Devil and Carry a Railwhile Thile appears on Yo-Yo Ma’s CD The Goat Rodeo Sessions.


Thursday, November 17, 2011:

There are always new ways to read and interpret the classics, even ones that are 2700 years old. Several years ago, Stephen Mitchell translated the first stanza of The Iliad for fun and then stuck his handiwork in a drawer. He came back to it later, and now he’s the translator of a new version of Homer’s epic poem that tells the story of a few weeks in the final year of the Trojan War.  Next, American foreign policy is crafted with constant tension between State Department diplomats and Defense Department hawks. Stephen Glain addresses this tension in his new book, State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire. He examines how and why America has become a more militaristic nation, and how “the military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower forewarned has set the country on a path of financial ruin.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, former investigative journalist Mark Feldstein’s book Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture examines the relationship between muckraking journalist Jack Anderson and the Washington political world in the 1960s and ‘70s.  FBI head J. Edgar Hoover once called Anderson “a flea-ridden dog” who was “lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures.” Poisoning the Press is now out in paperback.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Jocelyn Fong.  The United States is a nation of immigrants, and no holiday acknowledges that cultural history more than Thanksgiving. For Jocelyn Fong, Thanksgiving meant gathering at her Chinese grandmother’s house with all of her cousins, and piling her plate high with rice — topped with gravy. Fong says her family is an “American blend of a Chinese past and a multicultural future.”


Monday, November 21, 2011

Guantanamo has become perhaps the most notorious prison in the world, but its use in the global war on terror is only the most recent chapter in what has been a long, complicated and strange history.  Harvard historian Jonathan Hansen tells the story of the American naval base on the southeastern coast of Cuba in his new book, Guantánamo: An American History. Then, English director Simon Curtis’s new film My Week With Marilyn brings together an all-star cast led by Michelle Williams as the iconic actress Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier.  Based on Colin Clark’s 1996 memoir, the movie shows the on-set tension between Monroe, who wanted to be considered a serious actress and an aging Olivier, who was trying to revive his screen career during the production of the 1957 film The Prince and The Showgirl.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the night of November 26, 2008, a terrorist attack in Mumbai left 166 dead. The attackers belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group associated with Pakistan’s secretive intelligence agency, the ISI. But the man who had been planning the attack for two years was an American citizen, David Coleman Headley. PBS FRONTLINE and ProPublica reporter Sebastian Rotella investigates Headley’s mysterious rise from heroin dealer and U.S. government informant to terrorist plotter. The episode airs tonight on PBS. Then, reporter and former editor of The New York Times Michael Cannell tells the wild but true tale of the race track rivalry between driver Phil Hill and his teammate, the German count Wolfgang von Trips. Cannell’s book is The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The album Note of Hope has taken Nora Guthrie 12 years, one divorce, one re-marriage and two grandkids to complete. It’s another collaboration of words from her father Woody Guthrie, set to music by other musicians. The new album features performances by Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, Lou Reed and Pete Seeger.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Steve Roberts has written a book about immigration at a time when it’s a hot topic in Washington. But From Every End of This Earth is not about politics or policy; it’s a collection of thirteen stories from thirteen families about the new lives they made in America.  Then, 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 filmmakerAlexandra 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 is titled Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, KFC is as an iconic American company, but Colonel Sanders generates more revenue from the Chinese than Americans.  And because of their collective buying power, the chicken-eating decisions those Chinese consumers make influences the menu at the KFC on Main Street, USA.  Karl Gerth is an Oxford historian who studies the implications of Chinese consumerism.  His book, China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation, examined the connections between nationalism and consumerism in China in the first half of the twentieth century. His newest book explains why we should all care about the everyday choices made by ordinary Chinese. It’s called As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers are Transforming Everything.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, we hear the essay of Korinthia Klein.  She is a lifelong musician who knows the power of the perfect song. When Klein was young, her grandfather was her biggest fan, but he always requested one song she didn’t know — “Amazing Grace.” When her grandfather was dying, and medication could not ease his pain, Klein played “Amazing Grace” for him, and saw the comfort her music brought.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Gerry Hadden was aspiring to become a Buddhist monk when he got an offer to become the NPR correspondent for Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.  In his memoir, Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti, Hadden takes you through his own ghost-filled life as he reports on a region in turmoil. Hadden is now the Europe correspondent for Public Radio International’s “The World.”  Then, the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is said to be one of the happiest places on earth and one that has been isolated from industrialization until relatively recently. In fact, Bhutan measures its success in Gross National Happiness rather than in GNP.  Radio journalist Lisa Napoli moved to Bhutan to help start a radio station, Kuzoo FM. She writes about it all in her book, Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sent to Federal prison after pleading guilty of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion in 2006. He joins Bob in studio to discuss the weakness of lobby laws, his domain name, and the details of his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on the rational model of judgment and decision making. He has just written Thinking, Fast and Slow and he talks with Bob about the two systems that drive the way we think: the fast, emotional system and the slower, logical system. Then, American conceptual artist Mel Bochner becomes the first living artist to show in the National Gallery of Art’s Tower Gallery with the new show In the Tower: Mel Bochner. One of the last remaining important American conceptualists, Bochner’s work examines the political and social consequences of language.