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The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (May 25-29, 2015)


Monday, May 25, 2015: On this date in 2006, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy for their roles in the spectacular rise and fall of energy giant Enron. Bob talks with Alex Gibney, writer and director of “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.” This documentary features revealing insider accounts and rare audio and video tapes from inside the bankrupt energy company. Gibney is joined by Fortune magazine writer Bethany McLean, who did extensive reporting on the Enron story. Of course today is also Memorial Day.  Bob talks to Jan Scruggs, the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He conceived the idea of building a memorial dedicated to all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam….and took $2,800 of his own money and launched the effort.  The memorial, known as The Vietnam Wall, was dedicated on November 13, 1982.  And we close the program with some appropriate music from the soldier-musicians of The US Air Force Brass Quintet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015:  Bob talks with novelist, biographer, poet and literary critic Jay Parini.  He’s the author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America. And if you need still more titles for your list, Promised Land includes 100 other books we should all read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015: Bob talks with David Anderegg about his book titled Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.  Anderegg is a clinical child psychologist and explores the stereotyping of nerds and how it affects everyone at an early age. Then, Science magazine writer Sam Kean turned his life-long fascination with the periodic table into a best-selling book titled The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.  Kean’s book recounts tales about the list of elements that range from the educational to the down-right weird. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015: Compassion, kindness, selflessness – none make logical sense biologically. And yet, examples of biological altruism are found throughout the animal kingdom.   Darwin never successfully explained the kindness gene, but a relatively unknown, eccentric scientist named George Price did.  Oren Harman is a professor of the history of science at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv and the author of a new book, The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness. 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.

Friday, May 29, 2015: Scholar, literary critic and best-selling writer Stephen Greenblatt is the author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. It examines the ancient Roman document that inspired the Renaissance.   As one of the founders of New Historicism and one of the most important scholars of our age, Greenblatt is also the author of, among other works, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.  Then, the 1980s conjure happy nostalgia for some, while others remember it as a low point in American history. For the good and the bad, author David Sirota claims that the decade of Ronald Reagan and Bill Cosby has an outsized influence on our national perspective today. His book is titled Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now – Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything.



Bob Edwards Weekend (May 23-24, 2015)




With graduation season winding down, Bob looks at commencement speeches that have become subjects in their own right.  First, Bob talks with best-selling writer George Saunders about his book, Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness.  It’s an expanded version of the address Saunders gave in 2013 at Syracuse University.

Then, Bob talks with Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr., son of the famous historian, about his 2012 commencement speech.  McCullough expanded it into a new book called You Are Not Special: … and Other Encouragements.

We conclude our look at notable commencement addresses with audio of writer David Foster Wallace’s 2005 speech at Kenyon College, which has been called the best commencement address ever.  It might have been all but forgotten, but after Wallace took his own life in 2008, the text surfaced on the internet. It was later published as a book, called This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.




Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, celebrated writer Michael Chabon turns his attention to San Francisco’s Bay Area.  His seventh novel Telegraph Avenue centers around a vinyl record store on the border between Berkeley and Oakland. 

Actor John C. Reilly discusses his career on stage and screen and some of his more memorable roles. Reilly’s work includes serious films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia – silly ones like Walk Hard and Talladega Nights – and an Oscar nomination for the musical Chicago.



Shoot an Iraqi

NOTE: This blog entry was written in February 2009

In his youth, Wafaa Bilal’s art was controversial in his home country of Iraq where his work was often censored for offending those in power. Bilal was born and raised in Najaf where he lost family members to Saddam Hussein’s oppresive regime. He survived Iraq’s long, bloody war with Iran, then as a university student, was expected to fight in Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait during the first Gulf War in 1991. Bilal declined and after the American victory and as Saddam cracked down on the Shia and Kurdish uprisings, Bilal left his family and fled for the Kuwaiti border. He snuck across, was arrested and spent two years in a Saudi Arabian refugee camp. In that tent city in the middle of the desert, Bilal continued making art to maintain his sanity. He slowly built a studio made of mud bricks and sealed the walls with trash bags so the sandstorms wouldn’t ruin his oil paintings. Bilal got out after two years and wound up here in the United States - where some found his art offensive and he was censored by those in power.

Bilal is best known for “Domestic Tension” - a dynamic art installation in a Chicago gallery where he lived for 31 days while online visitors could shoot at him all day and all night with a remote controlled paintball gun. He says he came up with the idea after his brother and father died during the current war in Iraq. Bilal sensed a great disengagement among American citizens about this war being fought on their behalf on the other side of the world, where American soldiers were being killed along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. So he locked himself in the gallery to illustrate the intersection of conflict zones and comfort zones — to bring the war into our homes. During that month in the art gallery, online visitors fired more than 60,000 yellow paintballs at Bilal, hitting him a few hundred times. There was also a chat room interface where Bilal could talk with those shooting at him and with those trying to protect him.

Click here for Wafaa Bilal’s website.

Click here to see videos of “The Paintball Project.” (Day 2) (Day 30)

Wafaa Bilal has written a book about the experience called Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun.





Will Sheff of Okkervil River

NOTE: This blog entry is from October 2013

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

All credit for this guest’s appearance goes to Phil Harrell, my former colleague first at NPR, then at XM with Bob. For years Phil has been telling me about Okkervil River and the band’s leader Will Sheff and what a great guest he would be with Bob given our open format. I finally took the advice and booked Sheff to discuss his career and the music from the band’s new CD The Silver Gymnasium. The songs on the album are all inspired by the people and places of tiny Meriden, New Hampshire of the mid 1980s. That’s where Sheff grew up on the campus of Kimball Union Academy, the college prep school where both his parents taught.

NPR Music prepared this interactive link to Sheff’s world, based on the map created by Sheff’s friend and frequent artistic collaborator William Schaff.



The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (May 18-22, 2015)


Monday, May 18, 2015: 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 CD titled The Silver Gymnasium. Then, Buzzy Martin is a musician and guitar teacher who gave lessons in an unusual place to some very unorthodox students. Martin took the position of Guitar Teacher at San Quentin State Prison in California and wrote an account of his experiences changing lives through music. His book is titled Don’t Shoot, I’m the Guitar Man.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015:  During the 2008 presidential campaign, Bill Ayers was dubbed a “domestic terrorist” and his relationship with candidate Barack Obama was extensively studied under the right-wing talk show microscope.  In his memoir, the co-founder of the Weather Underground presents himself as an activist committed to social justice and education. His book is titled Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident. Then, in their book, Merchants of Doubt, historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway tell the story of how for more than four decades, a small group of pro-industry, politically-connected scientists carried out effective campaigns to mislead the public.  Our guests argue that ideology and corporate interests, helped by a lazy media, have clouded public understanding of some of the most critical issues of our time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015: When writer and Classics teacher Tom Payne noticed that his students were more interested in the current celebrity scandal then in Homer’s epic poetry, he started weaving in millennia old themes of Fame and Celebrity into his lectures.  Are our celebrities today akin to the deity of ancient times?  Payne examines the similarities in his book Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About our Cult of Celebrity.  Then, Bob talks with author Jake Halpern about his book Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction.  Halpern traveled the country to try and understand our addiction to fame and celebrities.

Thursday, May 21, 2015: When Barack Obama was campaigning for president, he pledged to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and to follow the rule of law in fighting terror groups. That was in 2008. Today, there are still prisoners at Gitmo, and covert drone air strikes, in which the U.S. military and the CIA act as judge, jury, and executioner, are at an all-time high. Daniel Klaidman, a reporter for Newsweek, examines Obama’s foreign policy decisions in the book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency.   Then, when the brother of Wafaa Bilal was killed at a U.S. checkpoint in 2005, the artist channeled the experience into a performance piece.  For a month, Bilal lived alone in a prison cell-sized room in the line of fire of a remote-controlled paintball gun. A camera connected him to internet where people could watch him - and shoot at him - 24 hours a day.  The piece was titled “Domestic Tension” and The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time.”  In 1992, Bilal came to the US where he became a professor, artist and now author. His book is called Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun

Friday, May 22, 2015: Garry Wills has written about Jack Ruby and John Wayne; Saint Augustine, Saint Paul and Jesus; James Madison and Abraham Lincoln. Now he writes about himself. His autobiography is titled Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer. The author, historian, classicist, theologian and journalist marks his 81st birthday today.