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Bob Elsewhere

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Bob Edwards Weekend (May 16-17, 2015)



It’s hard to believe, but Jim Henson died 25 years ago. Today, we look back at the life of the 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.



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 is now available in paperback.

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.



Jim Henson's "Tale of Sand"

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in February 2012. Muppets creator Jim Henson died 25 years ago, May 16, 1990.

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

More than 40 years ago, Jim Henson began writing a screenplay. When he showed it to production companies, they all agreed it was great, that he was a genius AND that there was no way to make it into a movie. Henson moved on, creating the Muppets, The Muppet Show and working on Sesame Street, but he continued to tweak his dark, desert story. It never was filmed and the script sat in a vault in the Henson family archive after Henson’s untimely death in 1990. Now, thanks to a partnership with Archaia, Tale of Sand is finally available — as a graphic novel. Stephen Christy is the editor-in-chief for the publishing company. He’s a life-long fan of Henson’s work and speaks eloquently about Henson’s legacy and abundant creativity. In our interview, Christy mentions the journal that Henson kept, just to get ideas out of his head. Click here for a sample of Jim Henson’s “Red Book.”  Christy also says Henson’s Oscar-nominated short film Time Piece was a big inspiration for many of the choices made by artist Ramon Perez as he transformed Henson’s screenplay. Here is that trippy video from 1965, which stars Jim Henson and features music, sound effects and VERY little dialogue.

“Time Piece - Jim Henson” - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.



 And here’s another sample of Ramon Perez’s art from Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand.





The Art Instinct

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in May of 2009. Denis Dutton died in 2010 of cancer at the age of 66.

America’s “Most Wanted Painting” = George Washington, a hippo and some water.


In 1993, a worldwide poll was conducted to determine the artistic preferences of people in different countries. Participants were asked all kinds of questions to figure out what they liked to see in a painting and what they didn’t. Turns out that Americans like landscapes, the color blue, historical figures, clean-cut children and water. The poll was created by two Russian artists living in the United States, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. The two extrapolated the data from their polls and then used it to create a series of paintings for every country in the study – the “most-wanted” and “least-wanted” paintings. What you see above is the America’s Most Wanted painting. Today’s guest, Denis Dutton, writes about the “Painting By Numbers” project in the first chapter of his book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution. Dutton notes: “To consider the survey seriously and then turn to Komar and Melamid’s painted results is to realize you’ve been conned. It is as though the Nation Institute had been persuaded by two clever chefs to commission an expensive poll to determine America’s most-wanted food. The chefs study the resulting statistical preferences — a highly varied list that is nevertheless topped by ice cream, pizza, hamburgers, and chocolate — and then come up with America’s most-wanted food: hamburger-flavored ice cream with chocolate-coated pizza nuggets. Just because people like George Washington, African game, and children in their pictures, it doesn’t follow that they want them all in the same one. It would be wrong, however, to write off the People’s Choice project as worthless, for it did reveal one stunning fact. People in very different cultures around the world gravitate toward the same general type of pictorial representation: a landscape with trees and open areas, water, human figures, and animals.” Dutton is a philosopher of art and his book debunks a century of art criticism and scholarship. He makes the argument that human tastes in the arts are not determined by local culture or social constructs but are instead inborn and universal. Dutton is also the co-founder of Arts & Letters Daily which is a great website that you should bookmark right now.

You can see more “most wanted” and “least wanted” paintings from Komar and Melamid’s study here.

For a sample video of Hong the elephant painting a self-portrait, click here.





Chuck Close: Interview

NOTE: This blog entry is from August 2010

Even if artist Chuck Close wasn’t preternaturally talented, his story is remarkable. In 1988, a spinal artery collapse left Close paralyzed from the neck down and hospitalized for months. After months of physical therapy and a whole lot of teeth gritting, Close eventually gained partial mobility in his arms and legs, allowing him to stand and write, although with difficulty. Knowing that painting would be even harder, Close told his friend Christopher Finch that if he had to, he would spit paint at a canvas just to keep on creating. Happily, it never did come to that, and for the past 20 years Close has managed to continue to paint and create his iconic portraits.  You can see Close’s work in museums and galleries all over the world, or, if you happen to be in Washington DC anytime before September 26th, you can see Chuck Close Prints: Process & Collaboration. You can also visit to see more of Close’s works. Here are link to purchase Christopher Finch’s books about his friend. Chuck Close: Work and Chuck Close: Life.





Lost in Shangri-La with Mitchell Zuckoff

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in July 2011

While doing research on World War Two, Mitchell Zuckoff stumbled upon a far more interesting story - one that was widely reported in the summer of 1945 but has since been largely forgotten. In May of that year, a plane carrying 24 US servicemen and women on a sightseeing tour above New Guinea crashed atop a mountain in the middle of a dense rain forest. 21 of the passengers died but two men and one woman survived the crash and the jungle and the native people - stone age cannibals who had likely never encountered a foreigner and had no concept of the outside world. Zuckoff is now a professor of journalism at Boston University and was once an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. He used those skills to write a book called Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and The Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II. Remarkably, ahead of the rescue mission, a filmmaker parachuted into the valley along with US troops and recorded the native tribes, the survivors and the daring escape. Here is some of the archival footage filmed by Alexander Cann.

Click here for lots more multimedia goodies related to the survivors, the rescuers and the book Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff.