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September 2009

 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 

Books about childhood are generally of the self-help or memoir variety. But in The Philosophical Baby, psychologist Alison Gopnik writes about new scientific research and philosophical thinking that is helping answer the question, ‘What is it like to be a baby?’ Gopnik argues that babies are the research and development department of the human species.  Then, Nathan Rabin’s memoir begins, “I’ve wasted far too much time fantasizing about my funeral.”  Rabin is a head writer for The Onion’s AV Club.  But during his childhood, he was abandoned by his mother and placed in a mental hospital.  Rabin adapted to trauma with humor, and lives on to tell his stories in The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture.

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 

 In the first few days of Obama’s presidency, Sam Tanenhaus published an essay in The New Republic titled “Conservatism is Dead.”  The essay started a debate about the state of the GOP.  Drawing on 20 years of research, Tanenhaus has now followed up with a longer study of the conservative movement. In The Death of Conservatism Tanenhaus writes, “Today’s conservatives resemble the exhumed figures of Pompeii, trapped in postures of frozen flight, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology.” Tanenhaus is the editor of the Book Review and the Week in Review sections of the New York Times. Then, some credit Frederick “Toots” Hibbertwith inventing the word “reggae” and indeed, the Jamaican is the first to record the word in his 1968 release “Do the Reggay.”  Toots began performing with The Maytals in the mid-1960s and in 2006, his collaboration with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and others earned a Grammy for Best Reggae Album.  Toots joins Bob in studio to talk about his life and the genre of music he helped create.

 

Thursday, September 3, 2009 

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Richard Russo’s latest book, That Old Cape Magic, begins and ends with a wedding.  It’s during the year in-between that Griffin, the main character, disrupts the respectable life he built over the years.  Russo’s story is about a man confronting middle-age, along with his past, present, and possibly even his future, as Griffin realizes that all he’s work towards in his life isn’t what he wants at all.   Next, a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.  Then, to kick off the new school year, producer Ariana Pekary attended Washington DC’s Trapeze School New York.  We end the show with this audio post card of her high-flying experience.  

 

Friday, September 4, 2009 

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) funded four arts program.  One of those, the Federal Writer’s Project, employed thousands of writers and started the careers of some of America’s most famous authors like Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, Richard Writer, Saul Bellow, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Bob talks with writer David Bradley about a new documentary that tells the story of the Federal Writer’s Project.  “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” premiers on the Smithsonian Channel over Labor Day Weekend. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from James Carey.  Called “Labor’s Boy Wonder,” Carey was still in his 20s when he was elected national secretary of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. By age 40, Carey founded and became the first president of the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers

 

Monday, September 7, 2009

It’s Labor Day and what better day to bring back Bob’s interview with our favorite Studs Terkel. In spring of 2005 Bob traveled to Chicago and the home of Terkel to reminisce about his career as a writer, broadcaster, oral historian and story teller. Terkel’s 1973 book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do is considered the quintessential book about working in America.

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 

James Wood is a literary critic and staff writer for The New Yorker and a professor of English and American literature at Harvard University.  In his book How Fiction Works, Wood examines the alchemy of fiction, questioning why some literary devices work, while others fall out of fashion.  In 2008, the magazine Intelligent Lifenamed Wood as one of the world’s top 30 critics.  Then, Zee Avi is a Malaysian singer-songwriter, guitarist and ukulele player. She was discovered after posting a video of herself on YouTube. She is currently on her first-ever US tour. Avi will play some songs for Bob in Sirius XM’s performance studio.

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 

 Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court did something it hadn’t done in 50 years – it ordered a stay of execution and court hearing for an inmate to attempt to prove his innocence.  Since 1991, Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia, convicted of shooting an off-duty cop.  Even though seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have come forward to say they either were mistaken or deliberately lied, no court has let them testify with this information.  Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project joins Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights to talk about the case and what it portends for other wrongful convictions throughout the country.  Then, Peter Mulvey plays songs from his new CD titled “Letters from a Flying Machine,” a collection of original songs, plus spoken word recordings of four of the many letters Peter has written to his nieces and nephews.  Mulvey kicks off his concert tour on September 9th,  and will cover the whole distance on a bicycle rigged to accommodate his guitar and all his gear.  

 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

WNYC’s Radiolab kicks off its sixth season with five new episodes on topics ranging from the afterlife to parasites. Hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad talk about where the idea for Radiolab came from, what they try to do with each new show, and how they’d like to see it grow.  Radiolab’s sixth season starts on Friday, September 11th.  Next, Bob talks with Sirius XM’s Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin about the start of the NFL season.  Then, writer Roger Williams reads his essay “Last Fan Standing,” written for the September issue of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Last Page” column.  

 

Friday, September 11, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, 10 years after his first album, Nashville favorite Paul Burch continues to write honky tonk music that even the most staid of Yankees can’t help but enjoy.  His latest album “Still Your Man” showcases new music from this musician who counts Marianne Faithful and Chet Atkins among his fans. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Julien Bryan. Documentary film-maker Julien Bryan made educational movies exploring cultures as diverse as the nomadic tribes in Saudi Arabia and the mountain families of Appalachia. His films were translated into 40 languages and shown around the world.

 Monday, September 7, 2009

It’s Labor Day and what better day to bring back Bob’s interview with our favorite Studs Terkel. In spring of 2005 Bob traveled to Chicago and the home of Terkel to reminisce about his career as a writer, broadcaster, oral historian and story teller. Terkel’s 1973 book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do is considered the quintessential book about working in America.

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 

James Wood is a literary critic and staff writer for The New Yorker and a professor of English and American literature at Harvard University.  In his book How Fiction Works, Wood examines the alchemy of fiction, questioning why some literary devices work, while others fall out of fashion.  In 2008, the magazine Intelligent Lifenamed Wood as one of the world’s top 30 critics.  Then, Zee Avi is a Malaysian singer-songwriter, guitarist and ukulele player. She was discovered after posting a video of herself on YouTube. She is currently on her first-ever US tour. Avi will play some songs for Bob in Sirius XM’s performance studio.

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court did something it hadn’t done in 50 years – it ordered a stay of execution and court hearing for an inmate to attempt to prove his innocence.  Since 1991, Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia, convicted of shooting an off-duty cop.  Even though seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have come forward to say they either were mistaken or deliberately lied, no court has let them testify with this information.  Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project joins Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights to talk about the case and what it portends for other wrongful convictions throughout the country.  Then, Peter Mulvey plays songs from his new CD titled “Letters from a Flying Machine,” a collection of original songs, plus spoken word recordings of four of the many letters Peter has written to his nieces and nephews.  Mulvey kicks off his concert tour on September 9th,  and will cover the whole distance on a bicycle rigged to accommodate his guitar and all his gear.  

Thursday, September 10, 2009

WNYC’s Radiolab kicks off its sixth season with five new episodes on topics ranging from the afterlife to parasites.  Hosts Robert Krulwich andJad Abumrad talk about where the idea for Radiolab came from, what they try to do with each new show, and how they’d like to see it grow.  Radiolab’s sixth season starts on Friday, September 11th.  Next, Bob talks with Sirius XM’s Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin about the start of the NFL season.  Then, writer Roger Williams reads his essay “Last Fan Standing,” written for the September issue of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Last Page” column. 

 Friday, September 11, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, 10 years after his first album, Nashville favorite Paul Burch continues to write honky tonk music that even the most staid of Yankees can’t help but enjoy.  His latest album “Still Your Man” showcases new music from this musician who counts Marianne Faithful and Chet Atkins among his fans. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Julien Bryan. Documentary film-maker Julien Bryan made educational movies exploring cultures as diverse as the nomadic tribes in Saudi Arabia and the mountain families of Appalachia. His films were translated into 40 languages and shown around the world.

Monday, September 14, 2009:

In her new book, Bethany Moreton shows how a Christian service ethos helped create a giant multi-national company in the middle of what was once one of the most economically depressed areas in the US – the Ozarks.  Not a biography of Wal-Mart as much as a study of the roots of the service economy, the book is titled To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Then, “Coal Country” is a documentary film about the environmentally disastrous process of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia.   And while the mining industry’s views are also included in the film, mining companies have sent protesters to disrupt every public screening.   Executive producer Mari-Lynn Evans discusses her film and the reaction to it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009:  

Over five generations, the Bacardi family built a rum distillery that became a worldwide brand.  The family’s history runs as a parallel to 150 years of Cuban history. The Bacardi clan has held fast to its Cuban identity, even in exile from the country for whose freedom they once fought. In a new book, NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten offers a microcosmic look at Cuba through the life and times of the Bacardi rum dynasty. It’s called Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. Then, Reid Genauer formed his band Assembly of Dust while he was in the MBA program at Cornell. The band’s new album, “Some Assembly Required” uses a huge number of guest musicians including Richie Havens, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas and Phish’s Mike Gordon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009:   

Are we an educated society? What does it mean to be smart?  What is unique about education in a democracy? Why do so many fail in school? Why do we send all children to school in the first place? These are some of the questions Mike Rose takes on in his tidy, new book simply titled, Why School? Drawing on forty years of teaching and research, Rose presents a case for reclaiming education for everyone.  Then, as a city councilman, Cory Booker moved into a tent pitched in front of one of Newark’s most notorious housing projects, Brick Towers.  He was trying to draw attention to an open-air drug market thriving there.  Booker is now the Mayor of Newark and his name pops up on all the “rising political star” lists.  He’s also the subject of a new five-part documentary series on the Sundance Channel called Brick City, produced by Oscar-award winner Forest Whitaker. Bob talks with the Mayor about trying to reinvent a city saddled with a 50+ year history of violence, corruption and poverty —— and now with movie cameras on him nearly round the clock.

Thursday, September 17, 2009:


Best known for his role as the Sicilian Vizzini in film The Princess Bride, Wallace Shawn has a duel career as both a character actor and a well-respected playwright.  For years, Shawn has also been penning essays for himself and close friends on topics from war, politics, and of course, theater.  Collected and published for the first time, Shawn’s book is simply called Essays. Then, a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.

Friday, September 18, 2009:  

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, Director Jane Campion’s new film Bright Star tells the story of the final three years of English Romantic poet John Keats’ life.  Keats had a secret love affair with his neighbor Fanny Brawne which, in keeping with the Romantic Age’s sensibilities, ended tragically.  Campion directed 1993’s The Piano, winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay, and she was the second woman in Oscar history to secure a nomination for Best Director.  Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Will Thomas.  He was born in Kansas City and worked as a newspaper writer, editor and prizefighter. Thomas eventually settled in Vermont with his wife and three children. His book, “The Seeking,” details the family’s integration to the all-white community of Westford.

 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bob first talked with Jill McCorkle at the beginning of her career. Now, they re-unite to discuss “Going Away Shoes,” her ninth book. It’s a collection of short stories that McCorkle describes as a litter she was nursing. The characters confront unhappy marriages, looming adulthood, and therapy – but McCorkle manages to inject a lot of humor into those dark subjects. McCorkle will talk about the state of American short fiction, and her own balance between the story and the novel.  Then, Chris Smither is a musician with a reputation for storytelling, weaving catchy melodies and intricate lyrics together. Smither mixes the blues with folk to create his recognizable style, and it’s one that has influenced other artists, like Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris. Smither’s latest album is called Time Stands Still, and it includes his own songs and covers from Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. Bob talks with Smither about his long musical career and his new gig – short story writing.

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 

Americans built the bomb, walked on the moon, decoded the human genome, and created the internet.  Yet only half of American adults know the earth orbits the sun once per year.  What happened to scientific literacy in America and who is to blame for its decline?  Journalist Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum examine these questions in their book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.  Then, writer Mitch Horowitz, editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin Press, is a well-known  scholar and expert on the occult.  His new book Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation explains how the esoteric movement spread throughout America and what its impact is on our nation today.

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 

 

Bruce Springsteen turns 60-years-old today and we’re marking the day by speaking with cultural critic Lou Masur about the first milestone of The Boss’s career.  Masur’s new book, Runway Dream, is about Born to Run, the album Springsteen called “my shot at the title. A 24 year-old kid aimin’ at the greatest rock ‘n roll record ever.” Then, Bob speaks with Sirius XM Symphony Hall host Martin Goldsmith about legendary pianist Glenn Gould.  Best known for his recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Gould would have turned 77 this week.

 

Thursday, September 24, 2009 

Coming on the heels of his epic film The War, documentary king Ken Burns returns to the U.S. for his latest series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.  This documentary charts the history and current status of our national parks, and Bob talks with Burns and writer and co-producer Dayton Duncan about their 6 year project. Then, Bob talks with Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin about college football, the NFL, and baseball’s postseason races.

 

Friday, September 25, 2009 

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, fashion designer and icon Coco Chanel changed not only how women of the early 20th century dressed, but also how they saw themselves.  Her clothes emphasized a woman’s natural figure over restricting corsets and bustles, and nearly a 100 years later her fashion house still dominates today’s runway shows.  French director Anne Fontaine’s new biopic Coco Before Chanel focuses on the fashion designer’s rise from poverty to social and commercial heights. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with executive director Dan Gediman about the essay from Julia Adams. Television and film actress Julia Adams’ career has spanned more than 50 years. In addition to her role in “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” Adams co-starred with movie icons John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston and many others. More recently, she has appeared on TV shows “Lost” and “Cold Case.”

 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eva Bjorling is the Trade Minister for Sweden, and since Sweden currently holds the presidency of the European Union, Bjorling is shaping discussion of trade policy for all of Europe.    She and Bob discuss global warming, protectionism, swine flu and the effects of the U.S. economic meltdown on the world economy.  Then, Juan Gabriel Vasquez was educated in Colombia, his home country, and in Paris at the Sorbonne.  The 36-year old writer has been translated in nine languages and now for the first time published in the United States.  The Informers is a novel set in Vasquez’s native country and tells the story of a man who publicly betrays his son and how the family secrets, long buried in the blacklists of World War II, come to light. 

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 

Mike Fay is an explorer and conservationist who specializes in long journeys. In 1999, he hiked 2,000 miles across the Congo River Basin to take an ecological census of the area. His latest journey was through the magnificent Redwood forests of the Pacific coast. Along the trek, Fay met loggers, environmentalists and ecologists who are developing “enlightened forestry.” Photographer Michael Nichols accompanied Fay on the journey and their work is being showcased in October’s edition of National Geographic Magazine. The journey is also being featured on the National Geographic TV channel’s “Explorer” program. “Climbing Redwood Giants” has its debut today at 10 PM eastern. Then, trying to describe Isabella Rossellini’s newest project,  Green Porno, can get awkward. It’s a series of very odd, short films about the sex lives of animals.  Rossellini, dressed in elaborate animal costumes, describes and acts out the “love making” process of each animal. The shorts became an internet phenomenon, receiving over 1.3 million views. Now there’s a companion book. 

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009  

Journalist Allison Hoover-Bartlett became friends with both a rare book dealer and the thief who stole from him as she investigated the eccentric book thief, John Charles Gilkey.  Her book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession ties all of their stories together, and offers a glimpse into the exclusive world of book collectors. Then, a look at the world of film with our resident entertainment critic David Kipen.