Monday, May 11, 2015: Bob talks to This American Life host and producer Ira Glass. A long time ago, Ira made Bob pretend to be a wizard for a radio play he wrote. And before that, Ira worked with Bob as an intern at Morning Edition. Despite forays into television, film and podcasts … Glass swear his core business is still radio. This American Life is one of the most popular public radio programs ever.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015: Famed director John Waters—the man behind Hairspray, Pecker, and many other films—made a cardboard sign that read “I’m Not Psycho” and hitchhiked from Baltimore to San Francisco. His book Carsick is his account of what happened during his unforgettable and unconventional “vacation.” It comes out in paperback today. Then, the story of another famous road trip. Peter Carlson isn’t sure which anecdote it was that turned him into a self-described Khrushchev-in-America buff. It could have been the one about the irascible Soviet leader throwing a fit because he wasn’t allowed to go to Disneyland. Or it could have been Khrushchev’s suspicion that Camp David was really a leper colony. Or it could have been Khrushchev arguing with Nixon over which kind of animal dung smelled the worst. But Carlson synthesized the stories into K Blows Top, a book about Nikita Khrushchev’s great American road trip he undertook in the summer of 1959.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015: In May of 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and women boarded a plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a mysterious valley on the island of New Guinea. It was supposed to be a pleasure tour but it became something entirely different when the plane crashed killing all but three. Badly injured and unequipped for the jungle, the survivors set out to try to find help and instead found a primitive tribe who had never seen a white person. Mitchell Zuckoff tells this true story of survival, adventure and rescue in his book Lost in Shangri-La. Then, Bob talks with Rhett Miller, the founder and lead singer of the Old 97’s, about the band’s two decades together and about the music from their latest album. Their latest CD is titled Most Messed Up.
Thursday, May 14, 2015: American artist Chuck Close is a master of highly detailed, larger-than-life portraits that bring out his subjects’ intellectual depth. Writer and personal friend Christopher Finch also joins Bob. Finch’s biography Chuck Close: Life takes readers through Close’s art student days in Seattle to his professional success with critics and the public alike. In 1988, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse, leaving him wheelchair bound but still painting. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Close with the National Medal of Arts. Then, Bob talks with philosopher Denis Dutton who says evolution explains why we have become a species obsessed with artistic expression. In his book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution, Dutton debunks a century of art criticism and scholarship by arguing that human tastes in the arts are not determined by local culture or social constructs but are instead inborn and universal.
Friday, May 15, 2015: It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but Jim Henson died 25 years ago. Today, we look back at the life of this visionary artist. In his biography, writer Brian Jay Jones tells Henson’s personal story, revealing the man behind the Muppets. The book by Jones is titled simply Jim Henson: The Biography. Then Bob talks with Stephen Christy about one of Henson’s lesser known works. Tale of Sand is a Jim Henson-written screenplay that was eventually released as a graphic novel. Christy was the editor of the project.