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Bob Elsewhere

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October 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bach’s music is ubiquitous, from commercials to ring tones, and it still sells out concert venues worldwide.  Paul Elie reexamines the life of one of the greatest composers of all time in his book Reinventing Bach, which is now available in paperback.  Then, American historian Harlow Giles Ungertakes a fresh look at our nation’s sixth president in his biography John Quincy Adams.  Raised by John and Abigail Adams to be a great leader, Quincy Adams’ career spanned the administrations of George Washington to Abraham Lincoln.   His book has just been released in paperback. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

 The Cold War is over and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is little threat of an all-out, mutually destructive nuclear war.  But investigative journalist Eric Schlosser points out in his new book that most of those weapons are still out there…and many of them are still on hair-trigger alert.  InCommand and Control, he writes that school children no longer practice to “duck and cover” — even as the danger of an accidental war or accidental nuclear detonations may have increased. Drawing on thousands of pages of recently declassified government documents and on interviews with scores of military personnel and nuclear scientists, Schlosser writes about our illusion of safety when it comes to today’s nuclear weapons.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Year after year, American students rank in the bottom third in international rankings of math and science scores. In reading, the U.S. doesn’t even make the top ten, trailing Canada and Estonia among others.  In her new book, investigative journalist, Amanda Ripley, follows the lives of three American exchange students who spent a year studying in countries that consistently receive the highest marks to find out why children in Finland, Poland, and South Korea do so well.  Her new book is titled The Smartest Kids in the World.  Then, the end of World War II brought a flood of optimism and dreams of great aspiration, both for the country as a whole and for many individuals. This is the back drop of Mark Helprin’s novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow.  It’s a complicated love story that pairs a former paratrooper with an heiress in Manhattan.  It’s now out in paperback. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

On the ninth anniversary of our program, we begin with Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, who joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, young adult author Jack Gantos follows up his Newbery Medal and Scott O’Dell Award winning novel Dead End in Norvelt with a sequel, From Norvelt to Nowhere.  Gantos talks with Bob about these two almost-but-not-quite true books, as well as his own surprisingly true tales from his unusual past.  Finally, Bob marks our special day by delivering his own essay for the ongoing series ‘This I Believe.’


Monday, October 7, 2013

The indie rock band Okkervil River has been a critical darling since the late 1990s. The group formed in Austin, Texas but the founding members first met at a New Hampshire boarding school years before. The parents of bandleader Will Sheff taught at Kimball Union Academy and despite his subsequent success and cross-country touring, Sheff’s thoughts often returned to his childhood spent in tiny Meriden, New Hampshire. The songs on Okkervil River’s latest album are autobiographical and set in that specific place during the year 1986.  Bob talks with Sheff about his hometown, his songwriting process, the band’s unusual name and Okkervil River’s brand new CD titledThe Silver Gymnasium.  Then, Paul Schomer of Radio Crowd Fund is back again to share some new music, this time from up-and-coming band Olin & The Moon. Their new CD is being produced by indie music star Ryan Adams.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, British writer and activist Siobhan Dowd worked out all of the plot details for what she hoped would be her final book for young people.  Tragically, she passed away in 2007 before she was able to write it.  Award-winning writer Patrick Ness accepted the difficult charge to write the book in her stead, and his finished book, A Monster Calls, won the Carnegie Medal and the Greenaway Medal, Britain’s highest awards for children’s literature.  Candlewick Press has released A Monster Calls in a new edition for adult.  Then, Michael Chabon won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.  Now, the celebrated writer turns his attention to San Francisco’s bay area, centering his bookTelegraph Avenue around a vinyl record store.  It’s now out in paperback.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bob welcomes back famed author Margaret Atwood to discuss MaddAddam, the conclusion to the trilogy of novels which started with Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Booker prize.  Then, Ashley Monroe is one of the three members of the band “Pistol Annies,” along with Miranda Lambert and Angeleena Presley.  Her new solo album is Like a Rose.   That title track was created when Monroe used the phrase “But look at me, I came out like a rose” after telling Guy Clark, who co-wrote the song, her life story.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Today marks two noted anniversaries.  First, the 40th anniversary of the day Spiro Agnew agreed to resign as Richard Nixon’s vice president. Bob speaks with Jules Witcover about his book Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Nixon & Agnew.  Then, today also marks the 200th anniversary of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s birth.  Bob talks with writer and SiriusXM’s Met Opera Radio commentator William Berger about Verdi’s life and legacy.  Berger is the author of Verdi With a Vengeance: An Energetic Guide to the Life and Complete Works of the King of Opera.


Friday, October 11, 2013:

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy joins Bob to discuss the evolution of affirmation action and more from his latest book For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action and the Law.  Finally, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.


Monday, October 14, 2013

On this day in 1962, what became known in the United States as the Cuban missile crisis began.  We mark this anniversary with Bob’s interview with Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who spent years carefully researching the Cuban missile crisis, unearthing new material for an hour-by-hour account of the Cold War’s apex.  Dobbs’ book is titled One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.  Then, professor James Blight’s film The Armageddon Letters is a transmedia storytelling project about the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Blight is an expert on those 13 tense October days in 1962 when nuclear war nearly broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bob is visited by two Washington Post reporters, Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher to talk about the life and complexities of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. They co-authored the book Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas.  Then, Bob’s conversation with Robert McCrum, author of Wodehouse: A Life, a biography of British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, who created many memorable literary characters, including Jeeves and Wooster.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

 Scottish folk icon Donovan began his music career creating hits for other people. He was one of the few artists to collaborate with the Beatles, contributing to Yellow Submarine and A Day in the Life. But from 1966 to 1969, Donovan had a string of eleven Top 40 hits including Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man, This Is A Mountain, and Riki Tiki Tavi. Now he’s back on the scene with a new album titled Shadows to Blue. Donovan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.  Then, writer Dean King’s book Unbound a True Story of War, Love and Survival follows the story of 30 Chinese women who joined Mao Tse-tung’s Red Army in their 4,000 mile trek across mainland China.  These women fled their homes in search of a better life, and remarkably, all survived the grueling journey. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

“Oriental” became a derogatory classification for people when cultural studies scholar Edward Said educated us on its divisive implications. Bob talks to his daughter Najla Said about her relationship with the unconventional thinker and her memoir Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused In An Arab-American Family.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, the story of a small town in Alabama that made big, defiant music. Muscle Shoals has drawn in musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Jimmy Cliff, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, producing hits such as “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and “Freebird.”  Freddy Camlier is the director of the new documentary film, Muscle Shoals.  Finally, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Kenneth M. Pollack is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  He began his career as a Persian Gulf analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency and has served twice on the staff of the National Security Council including as Director for Persian Gulf Affairs.  Pollack is the author of 8 books on the political, military and economic affairs of the Middle East. The newest is titled Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb and American Strategy.  Pollack joins Bob to discuss his book and the latest on Syria.  Then, in her new book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim FundamentalismKarima Bennounespotlights Muslim women and men who are challenging religious extremism in their own countries through artistic expression, journalism, grassroots organizing and public protest.  Bennoune is a professor of international law at the University of California–Davis.  She grew up in Algeria and the United States. This book was inspired by Bennoune’s father who faced death threats throughout the 1990s when he was an outspoken professor at the University of Algiers.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

After 9/11, a small group of officials were tasked with using the financial powers of the United States government to find and dismantle illegal financial supply chains used by terrorists.  Author Juan Zarate explores one of the least-examined strategies in the war on terror with his new book Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare.  Then, the irreverent and talented Robbie Fulks is always worth a listen, whether in conversation, on stage, or on a record. Bob last spoke with Robbie on the occasion of his live CD Revenge! and since then he’s released two full length discs, Let’s Kill Saturday Night, with such feel-good anthems as “She Must Think I Like Poetry” and “God Isn’t Real,” and his latest, titled “Gone Away Backward.” Robbie takes a pit stop from touring to discuss his career, songwriting process and his latest album for Bloodshot Records.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sheri Fink holds an MD and PhD in neuroscience, and she has reported on health, medicine and science from every continent except Antarctica. Five Days at Memorial is her new book chronicling the events at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  The hospital was situated three feet below sea level   — one of New Orleans’s lowest points – and when the storm hit; at least two thousand people were at Memorial. Two hundred and forty of those were patients, six hundred were workers and the rest were taking refuge. The scene quickly became chaotic and Fink reports that several doctors and nurses were faced with making an unthinkable decision: deliberately injecting some ill patients with drugs to hasten their deaths, resulting in at least 18 fatalities.  Then, Bob talks once again with Paul Schomer who runs the new music discovery blog This time he shares the music of two new acts – The Seattle band Dark Horses and Austin-based orchestral pop band Mother Falcon.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Feminist film critic Molly Haskell wrote a memoir about her sixty year old brother, Chevey Haskell, who came out as transgendered and now lives as Ellen Hampton. Bob talks to Haskell about her brother and her book My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation. Then, while initially reluctant to take the spotlight, British singer Laura Mvula is currently touring the United States and winning fans with aplomb. Rolling Stone described her album “Sing to the Moon” as combining “jazzy melodics, pop balladry, orchestral flourishes and pleading gospel to astonishing effect.” Bob speaks with Mvula about her musical family, overcoming stage fright and sharing her music with a growing global audience.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, Ray Suarez is a chief correspondent for PBSNewsHour. His new book, Latino Americans, is a comprehensive look at Latino American history spanning 500 years from the very first Latino right up to today’s immigration issues.  Finally, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Miss Anne In Harlem: The White Women Of The Black Renaissance is the latest work from Northwestern University scholar Carla Kaplan. Kaplan joins Bob to discuss her book on these unconventional women and her interest in cultural studies.  Then, Gary Lightbody is the lead singer of Snow Patrol and Peter Buck is a founding member of REM, but together they are two members of the Indy super-band, Tired Pony.  The Ghost of the Mountain is the follow-up release to 2010’s The Place We Are From.  The album was recorded in just nine days, and woven throughout the songs is a narrative of two characters dealing with an unforgiveable act that has changed both their lives.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bridget Jones is back.  In Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, readers learn that the star of two best-selling books and two hit movies is now a mother of two and—gasp—a widow. Author Helen Fielding joins Bob to discuss her most famous creation, and what’s next for her character Bridget.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 A few states have imposed targeted regulations on abortion providers. These so-called TRAP laws discourage medical professionals from providing abortions and make it difficult for clinics to remain open. Bob discusses these laws and the anti-abortion rights movement with Elizabeth Nash, State Issues Manager at the Guttmacher Institute.  Then, during his three decades in the music business, Warren Haynes has earned the reputation of a top class guitarist and songwriter. He was already renowned for his solo work and stints with David Allen Coe and The Allman Brothers Band, then when the surviving members of The Grateful Dead decided to go back on tour in 2004, they asked Haynes to be their lead guitarist. Now, his band Gov’t Mule is releasing their 16th album called “Shout!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mary Louise Kelly has spent the last two decades as a producer, host and correspondent for NPR and the BBC.  In 2004, she launched NPR’s intelligence beat, which covered wars and terrorism.  Now she has drawn on all of that real-world knowledge to write her own spy thriller titled Anonymous Sources.  Then, over 20 years ago, Scholastic introduced young readers to a new series called Goosebumps.  These creepy stories soon became one of the best-selling children’s series of all times, with over 300 million books sold.  Often called the “Stephen King of children’s literature,” author R.L. Stine talks with Bob about the trick of scaring kids and about him writing Red Rain, his latest novel for adults, which is now available in paperback.