Monday, August 3, 2015: Today we offer some inspiration as you try to squeeze in one more road trip this summer. Ever the Englishman, writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry traveled across the United States in a black London cab, visiting all 50 states to experience first-hand what makes America unique. Fry stopped in Georgia for Thanksgiving, marched in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, learned how to pick a banjo with hillbillies, and palled around with Ted Turner on his Montana ranch. Fry’s book is appropriately titled, Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All. Then, another long drive. After he left the White House, Harry Truman drove his car from Independence, Missouri to New York City and back again, stopping at motels and diners just like any other tourist. Matthew Algeo retraces the excursion in Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015: Over 100 years after his death, Frederick Law Olmsted is still America’s most famous and influential landscape architect. The designer of Central Park, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and many other notable projects, Olmsted was also a conservationist, fighting to preserve Niagara Falls and Yosemite for future generations. Biographer Justin Martin details his life in Genius of Place: the Life of Frederick Law Olmsted: Abolitionist, Conservationist, and Designer of Central Park.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015: From 1942 until 1949, Oak Ridge, Tennessee did not exist on any map. It was a secret city, built and operated by the United States Army as one of the sites of the Manhattan Project. And although at its peak 75,000 people lived there, most had no idea what they were working on until the day the bomb was dropped. There are still plenty of Manhattan Project alumni living in Oak Ridge, and Bob spoke with several of them during a visit. Colleen Black started working as a leak detector when she was just 18-years-old; Bill Wilcox, now the city’s historian, worked as chemist; and Richard Lord arrived 10 days after graduating with an electrical engineering degree.
Thursday, August 6, 2015: August 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima blast, the world’s first use of an atomic weapon in war. The A-bomb was the brainchild of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist whose postwar advocacy for a nuclear weapons ban brought him into conflict with the same military and government on whose behalf he had created the ultimate weapon. Bob speaks with Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, authors of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Friday, August 7, 2015: Capital punishment is a controversial topic. The death penalty is debated…death row inmates are sometimes granted clemency…sometimes, new evidence clears them completely. But there is another, quieter death penalty being served right now by roughly 50,000 American prisoners. They are inmates who have been sentenced to “life without parole” – who are destined to live the rest of their lives behind bars. They know that they won’t leave until they die. Bob talks with husband and wife filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond about their brand new documentary on the subject called Toe Tag Parole. Then, on this date in 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit pulled off the “artistic crime of the century.” After eight months of planning, Petit, aided by a band of co-conspirators, rigged a high wire between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center and then spent nearly an hour dancing between the two. The cops were waiting for him when he finally came off the wire. Unsure of what crime he had committed, the NYPD charged him with Man on Wire. That’s the name of the Academy Award-winning documentary about Petit directed by my other guest, James Marsh.