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Bob Elsewhere

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Bob On The Border

(all black and white photos by Michael Hyatt)

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in August of 2008.

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

Way back in January of 2006, Bob, our technical producer/recording engineer Geoffrey Redick and myself traveled to the southwest to gather tape for a documentary on illegal immigration and border issues.  On consecutive days, we rode first with Border Patrol Agent Gustavo Soto from Tucson down to Nogales, Arizona. The second day, we rode with Michael Hyatt and Dr. Bob Cairns, two Samaritan volunteers, towards Arivaca, Arizona.  We were able to witness an arrest each day, first from the Border Patrol’s perspective in downtown Nogales and then in the middle of the desert along with the volunteers who patrol the border area looking for illegal immigrants in need of water or in medical distress.  Bob looks on as Border Patrol agents process an illegal immigrant (photo by Chad Campbell)Even in early January, it warms up nicely in the afternoon and the terrain in the Sonoran Desert is extremely rugged.  No matter what time of year, it’s always a dangerous four-or-five day crossing on foot.  These ride alongs originally aired on XM back in March of 2006 and kick off a week of the documentaries we’ve produced since the show started on October 4, 2004.  This material has never been on our public radio weekend show.  My biggest regret on the trip was forgetting my camera for the first ride along with Border Patrol agent Soto to the border itself in Nogales, Arizona.  Directly across the 20-foot metal wall was the much larger Nogales, Mexico.  The sight of this wall essentially bisecting a city was very striking.  (Click here for some descriptions and photos.)  And then to drive a quarter of a mile along the border, away from downtown, to see the solid metal wall turn into chain link fencing, then to a few strands of barbed wire is something else entirely.  I did however take plenty of pictures the next day with Samaritan volunteers Dr. Bob Cairns and Michael Hyatt.  Hyatt is a volunteer driver and also a documentary photographer.  In the photo below, he captured this moment of Bob, me, Geoffrey and Dr. Cairns at a Humane Borders water station.  Hyatt helps maintain this and other sites that include three 55-gallon drums of water, marked by a bright blue flag atop a forty-foot pole (which appears to be coming out the top of my head).

Here’s Michael Hyatt’s photo of the unnamed migrant being taken into custody by the Border Patrol.  Before we arrived, the man suffered a gash on the top of his head.  It’s unclear how he was injured.  One agent said he fell while being chased. The man was examined by Samaritan volunteer Dr. Bob Cairns who suggested a few stitches were needed to close the wound. Pictured below are Bob, Geoffrey, Dr. Cairns, the migrant and a Border Patrol EMT.  The migrant’s 11 other traveling companions would soon join him on the idling Border Patrol bus waiting on the other side of Highway 286.

Michael Hyatt’s photos are featured in a book called “Migrant Artifacts: Magic and Loss in the Sonoran Desert.”  To see more of his photos, click here.

Click here for more amateur photos of our Samaritan ride along.

Click here for an interactive map from the Border Patrol.  We were in the Tucson sector which is the busiest in the country in terms of illegal immigrant apprehensions and drug seizures.  That sector covers 262 linear miles of border between Arizona and Mexico.



The Invisible--Children without Homes

That’s the title of a one-hour special running Wednesday, August 13th. It’s a documentary about the 1.3 million homeless children in America. There are many ways to become homeless—-loss of job, a medical emergency, foreclosure, domestic violence, bad luck, bad decisions, bad habits. Most homeless children are the victims of their parents’ circumstances.   Others are runaways, escapees from violence or sexual abuse in the home. Still others are throw-aways, kids who are thrown out of their homes because they’re gay or somehow don’t measure up to parents’ standards. Our program includes may heartbreaking stories and some amazing tales of what children have to do to survive on the street. Fortunately, we also have a couple of success stories—a pair of onetime homeless 12-year-olds who fell about as low as one can go, but who are now thriving as young adults.
The Invisible—-Children Without Homes was produced by Ariana Pekary, who worked on it for many, many hours of her personal time late at night and on weekends. I am in her debt—-and you will be too when you hear our program.
Evictions in Washington, DC, supervised by United States Marshalls, have a Charles Dickens quality to them.  Landlords give contracts to eviction companies that hire day laborers assembled on a corner just blocks from the U.S. Capitol dome.  Many of those day laborers, who are paid just $5 per eviction, are homeless—-homeless men about to make some other people homeless.   With the marshalls watching, the laborers empty the house or apartment of all possessions and set them down on the curb near the street, where strangers might decide something is worth taking. 

The Mirage of War: A Day in the Life of the Army's National Training Center

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in November of 2009.

By Chad Campbell, senior producer

The only reason I ever heard of the National Training Center was because a friend of mine from college took an unusual job with the Army to go to Afghanistan and help the military better understand and co-exist with the local population.  As I considered the production possibilities, Kristin told me that her Human Terrain Team was going to train at the NTC — in the middle of July — in the middle of the Mojave Desert. How could I refuse? I spent three memorable nights there along with my fellow producer Geoffrey Reddick, covering Kristin and her team’s training, but the more we saw of the NTC, it became obvious that we could get another hour of ear-popping programming. The people we met were that impressive and so was the place itself. So today we present “The Mirage of War: A Day in the Life of the Army’s National Training Center.”


It’s a patch of desert about the size of Rhode Island — between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The NTC prides itself on “training the force,” in the most realistic way possible. There are 13 mock villages, each with a local population of role players, fake marketplaces and replica mosques. Several thousand soldiers at a time deploy to Ft. Irwin for a 28-day training rotation — before they deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

On the morning of our first full day on the base, we went to the observation deck (nicknamed “Vulture’s Row”) above the main street of the mock village of Medina Wasl. That’s where we met Sergeant First Class Bertran Schultz. He was there to watch and take pictures of his troops, the medics of the 2-44th Engineers based in Denver. He agreed to let me stick a microphone in his face while the exercise unfolded. I think he was happy to be able to have some outlet for his frustration. Usually Sergeant Schultz would be down there helping his troops navigate the obstacles in their way.  But today, he was stuck in an observation role, standing next to me.


Click here to see the pictures I took around Medina Wasl.


Click here to see more of the photos taken by Sergeant First Class Bertran Schultz.


the IED blast from the second iteration of the Trauma Lane (photo by SFC Bertran Schultz)

We spoke with Brigadier General Dana Pittard, the commanding general of the National Training Center from August 2007 - March 2009 about the evolution of the NTC from 1940 through today. He filled in a lot of details and the broad strokes of the big picture. 

We also spoke to role players “in the box” — actual Iraqis “KJ” and “Naji” — and with Ashley, Amy and Jill, American civilians pretending to be Iraqi shopkeepers in our fake village’s pretend marketplace.

Of course there was the excellent play-by-play from Sergeant Schultz (yes, he’s heard all of the jokes) and the conversation afterwards with him and the unit’s Staff Sergeant Matthew Brown.

SSG Matthew Brown being carried out on a litter (photo by SFC Bertran Schultz)

There are dozens of people who made this program possible, but I’d like to especially thank Etric Smith, the public affairs officer at Ft. Irwin who expedited our trip to the National Training Center on short notice — drove us around the base AND put us up for a night in the Lyndon Marcus Jr. International Hotel in Medina Wasl.



Craig Havighurst and WSM

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in December 2010. For today’s rebroadcast, we re-aired only the tour of the station’s broadcast tower facilities, skipping over Craig Havighurst’s excellent discussion of WSM’s history.

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

This hour aired as part 3 of our series from Nashville in late 2010. We are re-running it because Craig Havighurst’s book Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City is now out in paperback.

Bob, Chad and WSM chief engineer Jason Cooper in front of the station’s historic broadcast tower in Brentwood, TNThe medium of radio broadcasting turned 90 years old in 2010. KDKA in Pittsburgh first broadcast election results to a few hundred listeners on November 2, 1920. Five years later, WSM went on the air in genteel Nashville, Tennessee - the “Athens of the South” - known for its churches and universities and its full-size and complete replica of the Parthenon. Soon after launching, the station started broadcasting the WSM Barn Dance on Saturday nights. That title was changed soon after to the Grand Ole Opry and it’s still going strong 85 years later. We begin with Craig Havighurst, who has written an exhaustive twin history of WSM and of the Opry. His 2007 book is called Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City. Earlier this year, Nashville’s flood forced WSM out of its riverside studios at the Opryland complex. Havighurst drove us down Interstate-65 south of town to see WSM’s historic 808 foot tall, diamond-shaped, Blaw-Knox manufactured broadcast tower and to introduce us to the station’s chief engineer, Jason Cooper. During Nashville’s May flood, Cooper was responsible for creating a temporary broadcast facility at the station’s transmitter building at the tower, eventually turning his own office into the on-air studio. WSM has been broadcasting from its cramped 78-year-old transmitter building for seven months now but Cooper expects to have the station’s studios in WSM’s permanent home back up and running today. After giving us a thorough tour of the transmitter building, Cooper walked us out to the base of the tower itself and a small brick structure where the signal is sent up the tower and out over the air. Inside that doghouse, there are no speakers, but somehow you can still hear what’s about to be broadcast. I stuck my microphone a little too close for Cooper’s comfort to the source of the audio, trying to capture the faint, ghostly sounds of Dolly Parton and Ricky Van Shelton singing Rockin’ Years through the coils of the WSM tower. As he knocked my arm away, Cooper said the equipment would have stopped my heart and gone right on transmitting, so thanks Jason for saving my life.  I think I’d like to give up recording and engineering now and stick to producing.

Here’s a slideshow of our visit with author Craig Havighurst and our tour of WSM’s historic tower.


Doing What They Want, Being What They Are 

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in November of 2009. Also, Hall and Oates were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

 - Andy Kubis, Producer

Despite being the best-selling pop duo of all-time, Daryl Hall and John Oates are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact so dismayed the effervescent, ever-present celebrity cook, Rachel Ray, that she started a petition on her website. And the fact so dismays me that I will be adding my name to the list.

“Best-selling pop duo of all-time” sounded at first to me like one of those manufactured monikers publicists come up with. How many other pop duos are they competing with really? So they out-sold Loggins and Messina — makes sense. But then I remembered the Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkle. Turns out Daryl Hall & John Oates have out-sold both. Maybe a bit surprising at first, but not once you listen to their new box set.

Do What You Want, Be What You Are spans 4 CDs, 74 tracks and covers 40 years and playing music together. The two met while students at Temple University (alma mater of our own Dan Bloom who also produced today’s piece), a now famous story that involves hiding in an elevator together after a fight broke out in the club their respective bands were playing at.  And it’s amazing that after 4 decades of touring, performing and recording together, there’s no drama. They get along, they share the spotlight, they still sound great together.

Of the 74 tracks in the set, 28 were Top 40 hits. Their first #1 hit was “Rich Girl” which is my personal favorite Daryl Hall & John Oates song.

I hope this box set gives Daryl Hall & John Oates the resurgence they deserve. Their music is much more than pop hits. It’s soulful, it’s fun, the melodies are well-written and both Hall & Oates are stellar performers. They also seem to have a good sense of humor. For proof, I offer Daryl Hall & John Oates performing their homage to former Fox News punching-bag, Alan Colmes:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Hall & Oates Pay Tribute to Alan Colmes
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Also, check out Daryl Hall’s new web-based music show, recorded live at his house and named appropriately, Live From Daryl’s House.