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October 2009


Thursday, October 1, 2009 

With Libya’s presence on it, the US wrapping up its presidency of it, and Iran increasingly coming under its scrutiny, the United Nations Security Council is once again at the center of things.  Bob talks about the Council with American University professor David Bosco, author of the new book Five to Rule Them All: the UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World. Then, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Bob talks with Oz historian John Fricke about the cast and history of this American classic.

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, many moons ago, Tom Goldstein was NPR Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg’s intern. Now he has his own, well-respected Supreme Court practice. He is the mastermind behind scotusblog, the go-to resource for any and all court-watchers.  Goldstein will tell us about the cases the High Court will hear when their session resumes October 5th.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from William O. Douglas. He was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1939 to 1975. As a boy, he hiked the Cascade Mountains near his home in Washington to strengthen legs weakened by polio. His prolific career on the bench was marked by controversy and two attempts to impeach him.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Last month, another new school year started for students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, New York.  The difference is now they have a brand new, state-of-the-art building in a vibrant neighborhood in Queens.  Bob was there for the ribbon cutting and to interview Tony Bennett and his wife about their work in founding and funding New York City’s newest public school.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank is required reading for many junior high and high school student, but most people fail to revisit the work in adulthood.  When writer and critic Francine Prose reread Anne Frank’s now-famous diary, she realized that it was the work of a great writer.  Her book Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife examines the prose and cultural effects of this young woman’s diary.  Then, when Rosanne Cash was 18-years-old, her father gave her a list of essential songs he felt she must hear.  Now, Johnny Cash’s daughter performs her takes of those tunes on a new CD titled “The List.”


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writer Nick Hornby has made a career of writing about the aging issues facing many contemporary men, in his best-selling novels High Fidelity and About A Boy.  His latest book, Juliet, Naked, tells the story of a music fan named Duncan, who discovers an unplugged version of one of his favorite albums.  In his effort to connect with the record’s now-washed-up creator, Duncan discovers that his girlfriend already has found him, and formed an unlikely friendship with the musician.  Then, Hafez Nazeri is the son of singer Shahram Nazeri, who has been named “Iran’s Pavarotti.”  In 2007 “The Passion of Rumi” featured the writing of the 13th-century Sufi poet — sung by Shahram, composed by Hafez, and inspired by Western and Iranian music.  This fall, Hafez will make history when he becomes the first Iranian headliner to perform at Carnegie Hall.  The young Nazeri will discuss his compositions and the power of music to “portray a 7,000 year cultural history.”


Thursday, October 8, 2009

As one reviewer put it, “If you think classical music is boring, you haven’t met Michael Tilson Thomas.”  Thomas is doing for classical music what Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts did in the 1950s and 60s.  Thomas is music director of the San Francisco Symphony and the host of the PBS program, Keeping Score.  The program was created in 2006 to make a general audience “more comfortable” with classical music not only through the music itself, but by giving life to the dead, white guys who created the music.  This October, three new episodes are scheduled—Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Charles Ives’s Holiday Symphony, and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.  Then, Bob talks with Dave Zirin, host of Edge of Sports Radio, about the MLB playoffs, the NFL season, and college football.

Friday, October 9, 2009 

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, Danish director Lone Scherfig is best known for her 2000 film Italian For Beginners, which won the Silver Berlin Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.  Her most recent film, An Education, is based on a memoir by English journalist Lynn Barber and adapted for screen by writer Nick Hornby.  This young English girl’s coming-of-age tale won the Audience Choice and Cinematography awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.   Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Martha Graham. In seven decades as a dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham created 181 ballets. A founder of modern dance, she is known for her collaborations with other leading artists, including composer Aaron Copland. Graham’s company trained dance greats such as Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp.


Monday, October 12, 2009


Today is Columbus Day and we celebrate by dipping into the archive to bring back two of Bob’s interviews.  First, James Reston explains how pivotal the year 1492 was in his book Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors.  Then, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and producer Ed Pettersen talks about their collection of songs that tell the history of America back to 1492. The 50-song set includes 50 different musicians including John Mellencamp, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Martha Wainwright, and Andrew Bird.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


For the past eight years, attorney and journalist Amy Bach has been investigating the systematic shoddiness in America’s court system. The resulting book, Ordinary Justice: How American Holds Court, is being described as the Silent Spring or Unsafe at Any Speed for the U.S. criminal justice system.  Then, a provision that would have given more freedom to doctors to talk with their patients about end-of-life planning sparked a firestorm about “death panels” and “rationing” care for the elderly. End-of-life care remains a rarely discussed topic even though almost everyone needs it. Karen Cantor is the director of “Last Rights,” a documentary that examines the choices available to people who are dying. The film follows four terminally ill patients as they confront illness and plan their final days.   


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Nanci Griffith has been performing and touring for more than two decades. Her classic tunes have been recorded by the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris, but Griffith has also released 19 of her own albums. Her latest, The Loving Kind, is her first studio record of new, original material since 2005.  And Griffith says it’s her most politically charged album to date.  She and Bob talk politics and music in Sirius XM’s performance studio.


Thursday, October 15, 2009 


Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s 1859 raid on the West Virginian town of Harpers Ferry.  Although the two day raid didn’t result in a slave revolt as Brown had hoped, it did act as a catalyst in moving up the Civil War.  Journalist Fergus Bordewich wrote about John Brown in the article “Day of Reckoning” for the October issue of Smithsonian Magazine.   Then, historian Carol Berkin tells the story of three wives of notable Civil War figures whose marriages gave them unique perspectives into “The War Between the States.”  History is usually about the people in the forefront, but in her book Civil War Wives, Berkin focuses on the lives of Julia Grant, Varina Howell Davis, and Angelina Grimke Weld, who experienced a very different war from their husbands. 


Friday, October 16, 2009 


David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, when photographer Julius Shulman passed away earlier this year, his obituary in the Los Angeles Times stated that, “his mission was to use his photography to build the reputation of architects who were bringing innovative design to the West.”  Director Eric Bricker’s new film Visual Acoustics, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, explores the life and work of the man who has been called the world’s greatest architectural photographer. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from critic, journalist, novelist and feminist Rebecca West.  She is known for her studies of the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremburg, for which President Harry Truman called her “the world’s best reporter.” In 1959, West was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire, the female equivalent of an honorary knighthood.


Monday, October 19, 2009 

Rafe Esquith teaches fifth grade at Hobart Elementary in Los Angeles, California.  He’s the only teacher to have been awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts and he returns to the show to discuss his new book, “Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World.” Then, Kurt Vonnegut is gone but not forgotten. His works are celebrated for their satirical humor and a startling creativity that experimented with traditional narratives. A new book collects some of Vonnegut’s previously unpublished short stories. It’s called, “Look at the Birdie.” Vonnegut’s longtime friend Sidney Offit wrote the forward, and he joins Bob to reminisce about Vonnegut’s early career and the heyday of magazine fiction, when works by the best writers appeared at newsstands and not just the bookstore. A writer himself, Offit is the author of fourteen books and serves as the curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009 

First, a report being released Tuesday by the Death Penalty Information Center concludes that states are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on the death penalty. Furthermore, a nationwide poll of police chiefs found that they “ranked the death penalty last among their priorities for crime-fighting, do not believe the death penalty deters murder, and rate it as the least efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.” Richard C. Dieter is Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center – he explains the report and how the death penalty diverts public funds away from more effective law enforcement programs. Then, in a collection encompassing more than two hundred original essays and more than a thousand pages, Greil Marcus offers a kaleidoscopic view of what “Made in America” means in his new book titled A New Literary History of America. Marcus is best known for his scholarly writing on music including the books Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, and Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (2005), a “biography” of a singular song.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

With everyone from the environmental movement to big business “going green,” oceanographer Sylvia Earle urges us to remember the blue. In her new book, The World is Blue, Earle describes the deteriorating health of our oceans and how their decline affects other animals – including humans. Earle is a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and she led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1990-1992. Then, Bob talks with Dave Zirin, host of Edge of Sports Radio, about the MLB playoffs, the NFL season, and college football.


Thursday, October 22, 2009 

On July 16, 1937, sixteen days after her plane disappeared over the South Pacific, the United States Navy officially ended the search for Amelia Earhart. However, a new expedition is planned to a remote island that could unearth DNA evidence proving the aviatrix perished there. The expedition is one element of an Earhart fever sweeping the nation this month: there’s a Hollywood biopic starring Hilary Swank; a Jean Paul Gautier collection featuring Amelia-inspired bomber jackets and trousers; and several new biographies. Bob talks with biographer Susan Wels about her contribution, Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It. Then, a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.


Friday, October 23, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Then, in the film “Killing Kasztner,” director Gaylen Ross attempts to learn the truth about Rezso Kasztner who was known during the Holocaust as “the Jewish Schindler” for rescuing 1,700 Hungarian Jews.  Eventually, however, Kasntner was assassinated in Israel, accused of collaborating with Adolph Eichmann, a senior SS officer during the war.  Kasztner’s granddaughter, Merav Michaeli, joins Ross to discuss the documentary and what they learned about her family secrets. Finally, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Bobby Doerr.  He was the second baseman for the Boston Red Sox from 1937 to 1951, played in nine All-Star Games and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Doerr now lives in Oregon on land he bought when he was a teenager.  That’s where we reached him by phone to reflect on the essay he recorded decades ago.


Monday, October 26, 2009 


The 2010 Census is slated to begin in just a few months. And 18 months ago, as required by law, the Census Bureau submitted to Congress the exact wording of each of the ten questions that would be included on the survey. But now Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced an amendment that would require an 11th question: Are you an American citizen?  Patricia Murphy writes “The Capitolist” column for Politics Daily and explains the controversy over the proposed 11th question. Then, 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. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2009 

Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, is a conceptual artist, spoken word artist, writer and musician whose work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Village Voice.  His video, “Rebirth of a Nation,” ran at the Lincoln Center Festival and the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.  Last year he traveled to Antarctica for a new, large-scale multimedia performance piece.  Miller discusses those projects, including his book titled Sound Unbound, and his most recent album, “The Secret Song,” which he describes as “meditation on hip-hop and electronic music’s relationship to philosophy, economics and the science of sound.”  Then, book critic Laura Miller shares her favorite new books for fall.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Veteran journalist and host of Public Radio International’s The Takeaway John Hockenberry talks with Bob about issues in the news. Then, beginning in 1967, Charles Kuralt headed out with a small crew to document unusual and overlooked stories from America’s back roads.  Logging more than a million miles and going through six motor homes, the resulting vignettes became On the Road, a 20-year-series now available on DVD for the first time.  Isadore (Izzy) Bleckman was Kuralt’s cameraman for more than 25 years, and he shares his stories from the road.


Thursday, October 29, 2009  

Any fan of Libby Gelman-Waxner’s monthly column, “If You Ask Me,” in Premiere magazine (1987-2007) could tell you all about Libby’s home life and her hilarious observations on Hollywood and films.  But many of those fans never knew that “Libby” was actually a pseudonym for screenwriter, playwright, and novelist Paul Rudnick, one of America’s greatest humorists.  Rudnick’s most recent book is a memoir about his work in the theater world, titled, I Shudder, And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey.  Then, folklorists Nancy Groce and Steve Winick from the American Folklife Center share ghost stories recorded in the United States over the decades and placed in the archive of folk culture at the Library of Congress. 


Friday, October 30, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, for three years, director Joe Berlinger gathered the footage for his new documentary Crude.  In the classic battle between the haves and the have-nots, Crude examines both sides of the legal case known as the “Amazon Chernobyl.”  30,000 residents of the jungles of Ecuador claimed that the American oil giant Chevron contaminated an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, resulting in high levels of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems.  Crude was an official selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Robbins Milbank. A Princeton graduate and son of a prominent New England family, Milbank worked as a logger in British Columbia for six years. He later moved into advertising, becoming a vice president at McCann-Erickson, and wrote docu-dramas for television.