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Wednesday
May272015

Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes

NOTE: This blog originally appeared in December 2011

One of de Waal’s netsuke

Ceramic artist and writer Edmund de Waal’s book The Hare with Amber Eyes is a little hard to describe.  It’s part family history, part art history, part social history, and part artistic musings; but whatever it is, it works.  While de Waal’s story is interesting, the book’s succeeds because he is a beautiful writer and an honest and humble narrator.  For a man who has spent most of his life working in porcelain, de Waal proves here that he is an artist of words as well as clay.

de Waal’s work as a ceramic artist

Friday
May222015

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.

 

Friday
May222015

Bob Edwards Weekend (May 23-24, 2015)

 

 

HOUR ONE:

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.

 

 

HOUR TWO:

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.

 

Thursday
May212015

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.

 

-Chad

 

Monday
May182015

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.