Happy new week of shows. I hope all is well with everyone. I’ve been enjoying some busy family time with my sister and niece visiting in New York. That has meant two shows (including Hugh Jackman’s Back on Broadway), a visit to B.B. King’s music club, and a night at the ballet. Whew!
Even as I write about, and care about, the guests, I must admit it’s really Stephen’s own antics that excite me more. What will he do with the SuperPac? Will there be a WORD? Will a Republican presidential candidate do something mockable at a debate? (Okay–that last question is just too easy.) What won’t happen in the next four shows is another song. For the first time in a few weeks, The Report has no musical visitors scheduled. Well, no matter. We went out on a high note last Thursday, didn’t we?
On to the guests!
Monday, 11/14: Thomas Thwaites
Once upon a time, would-be inventors tinkered in garages and people knew how to make things. Not so much anymore. From flat screen TVs to iPods and iPads, the goods we own today tend to be sleek, highly engineered, and, for most of us, just a little mysterious in their construction. Even sneakers seem to have become little scientific marvels, practically meant to prevent our feet from touching the ground. In his new book The Toaster Projects: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch, Thomas Thwaites set out to demystify the technology behind some our most common consumer goods, and he began by taking apart a cheap toaster and trying to put it back together again. Only, it didn’t work out quite as planned. Kevin Kelly at Wired praised the book, saying that “The Toaster Project is so cool it is beyond words. It is art and science, history and future, all in one brilliant idea. Although a tiny project, it is mythic in scope. Once seen, never forgotten.”
The London-born Thwaites has an MA from the Royal College of Art, and he’s previously written on how plant genetics might help drug dealers develop narcotics almost undetected. He’s now at work on Unlikely Objects: Products of Superseded Science, for which he’s received a grant from the Wellcome Trust, and also helping to turnThe Toaster Project into a TV show for Britain’s Channel Four.
Visit Thomas Thwaites’s website, which has more info on him—but, ummm, is not really that nicely designed!
Read a Boston Globe article on Thwites’s project.
Read an interview with Thwaites.
Here’s an article from Britain’s Independent newspaper.
Follow Thomas on Twitter. (He mentions his upcoming TCR appearance and he’s nervous! I sympathize.)
Tuesday, 11/15: Elijah Wood
Frodo lives! (You have to be my age to know about that button, which was once so popular.) How excited must Stephen be about this guest? Elijah Wood played Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we all know how much our Mr. Colbert loves J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy. Now, the wide-blue-eyed, eternally youthful actor is returning to Middle Earth for a two-part adaptation of The Hobbit, currently filming in New Zealand. The first is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (set for 2013).
Wood has been raving about these upcoming and much-anticipated “prequel,” calling them “incredible” and hinting that they don’t quite follow the book to the letter. Indeed: The Hobbit, which takes place many decades before the The Lord of the Rings, focuses not on Frodo, but on Bilbo Baggins. By all rights, Frodo shouldn’t even appear in the film; it takes a little manipulation. Here is an explanation of how Jackson has worked him in the script. It does contain spoilers, so if you prefer to see the movie fresh, skip this article, which is based on what some NZ “spies” have managed to gather from hanging around the set.
While Wood is certain to talk about the Tolkien, he has something more immediate to discuss. Just a few days before he comes on the show, Woods’s latest film, Happy Feet Two—the follow-up to the hit animated feature about the dancing penguin–premieres. This time it’s in 3D, but doesn’t star dancer Savion Glover, who originally created the penguin’s tap-happy feet.
Wood’s acting career began when he was a boy, and at only 9 years old he make his mark in Barry Levinson’s film Avalon. Unlike many a child star, he has continued strong since then, working consistently in a variety of media. Wood has appeared in many movies–including Forever Young, Radio Flyer, and The Ice Storm–and TV series; done voice overs for animated films and shows; and even voiced characters in video games. He has several already-completed films in post-production right now, and upcoming in 2013, after Frodo is put to rest, a film called Maniac. Sounds like horror to me.
By the way, Wood apparently owns one of the two rings–yes, that ring–used in the Lord of the Ring films. Wouldn’t Stephen love to add that to his collection?
Want a sneak peak at The Hobbit? Director Peter Jackson has released some production clips. This article also contains a link to a tour of the set.
Wood speaks about The Hobbit in this video.
Are you a fan? Then this site is for you.
Wednesday, 11/16: Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews is back on the Report, and he’s very likely to discuss the exact same subject: America’s first Irish-American president and the man who created our country’s Camelot. Best known as the host of MSNBC’s Hardball, which began in 1997, Chris Matthews’ most recent project is more literary: a biography of Kennedy called Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. (Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)
As the informal title–with Jack substituting for John– suggests, Matthews is not as interested in enumerating Kennedy’s accomplishments as he is in illuminating what Kennedy was as a human being. To do this, he interviewed many of the people who knew Kennedy best, checked out original documents from his school days, and listened to oral histories. The book s getting loads of coverage, from publications as varied as Women’s Wear Daily to The Daily Beast, and Matthews is using the opportunity to discuss a host of other political issues as well. He’s clearly wrapped up in the lessons he’s learned by studying Kennedy’s experience.
Matthews has had an interesting life, having joined the Peace Corps, worked as a security guard on Capitol Hill, and done investigative reporting for Ralph Nader’s news service. He finally entered the political sphere more directly, rising to become a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. Later, he returned to journalism, reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle. His TV career took off after guest appearances on The McLaughlin Group; he quickly received offers to do regular commentary and, eventually, his own shows. Now he has two; in addition to Hardball, he hosts The Chris Matthews Show.
Chris Matthews has often hinted he’ll go into politics himself, but he’s not yet followed through. Read and watch some of the stories and videos I’ve linked to below, and you’ll see why he might have trouble winning. His combative tendencies, along with his habit of speaking out without thinking things through first, would undoubtedly torpedo any campaign.
He’s visited The Daily Show before (and been a “moment of Zen” too often to mention). Here is a fascinating and very contentious interview between him and Jon.
Visit MSNBC’s Hardball website.
As I said, Matthews has a tendency to speak off the cuff and get himself in trouble. Read about one instance, about a year ago, when he casually mentioned “forgetting” that Obama was black. (Very Stephen-like right? Stephen doesn’t see color, either!) Keep in mind that this comes from faux news, but I’ve seen articles elsewhere, too.
He and Andrew Sullivan went at it over Kennedy’s legacy on a recent Real Time with Bill Maher.
Thursday, 11/17: Susan Orlean
She’s followed orchid thieves, searched to find out why Saturday Night is so special, and written a collection of travel essays. For animal lovers like me, however, Susan Orleans’s latest is irresistible. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend tells the tale of a very special canine movie star—a dog whose success remains unmatched in the history of cinema. Rinty, a most beautiful German shepherd, was found in a bombed-out kennel by an American soldier in France during World War One. The newborn puppy won the soldier’s heart—as it happened, he was an orphan too—and he took the dog home. And so began a story of triumph, as Rin Tin Tin played the hero in hit film after hit film, ultimately becoming Hollywood’s most popular “actor.” The reviews have mostly been incredible (here’s one from The New York Times, which is a little less so, sadly) and I’m dying to read this book.
Since 1992, Orlean has written for The New Yorker, where many of her books originated as articles of appeared as excerpts. The Orchid Thief became a New York Times bestseller; later, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze accomplished the amazing feat of turning it into the film, Adaptation. She is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, as well.
Visit her website, which has reviews and links to some of her articles.
Read this New York Times article on Susan Orleans’ own menagerie.
What does Susan Orlean read? Find out in this article in The Atlantic Wire.
Here’s her New Yorker page.
She spoke to the LA Times about writing Rin Tin Tin.
And now let’s check in with our good friend, Jon Stewart!
Monday 11/14: Leymah Gbowee
This long-raging civil war in Liberia has shattered lives–particularly women’s lives. In her autobiography, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War, Leymeh Gbowee shows how she helped transform potential victimhood to into nation-changing political leadership. By organizing a mass protest of women–both Christian and Muslim–she and her compatriots successfully stared down some of the world’s most brutal warlords and politicians. One of their most successful tools? Refusing the men sex. In the process, she succeeded in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stated that “Mighty Be Our Powers reminds us that even in the worst of times, humanity’s best can shine through.”
At present, she also serves as Newsweek’s African correspondent.
Buy Mighty Be Our Powers at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Leymah Gbowee appeared on TCR two years ago.
Visit Leymah Gbowee’s website.
She is the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network.
Here’s a profile of her in the Guardian.
Watch a video of her on PBS, in conjunction with their five-part series, Women, War, and Peace
Tuesday, 11/15: Mark Kelly
He’s been a captain in the US Navy, a combatant in the Gulf War and an astronaut. But few moments could have been harder for Mark Kelly then that day when his wife, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head by a lunatic. Amazingly, she not only survived but has made remarkable strides in her recovery. (Sadly, as we know, six others weren’t as lucky, particularly one little girl.) Now, Kelly has a new book out about the ordeal, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, which is out this very day. (Available on both Amazon and BN.com.) It’s written together with Giffords and Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow.
Kelly’s has an astounding list of achievements and awards including (but not limited to): the Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal (with valor device and three bronze service stars); Navy Commendation Medal (with valor device and one bronze service star); Navy Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal (with one bronze service star); two Kuwait Liberation Medals (one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Kuwait itself); NASA Exceptional Service Medal; and NASA Space Flight Medal (with three bronze service stars).
Kelly and Giffords are appearing November 14th on ABC News to discuss the book and her recovery.
Stephen had a great segment on the shooting and how the pundits spun it. It refers to Mark Kelly’s appearance on his show as Stephen underwent a little NASA training.
Here’s what Kelly had to say about the tragedy shortly after it occurred.
Might Kelly follow Giffords down the political road?
Wednesday, 11/16: Diane Keaton
I might as well admit it now: even though Diane Keaton is a talented and luminously beautiful actress (where’s that portrait in her closet?), to me she will always be Annie Hall–the film that won her an Oscar®. And for those who feel that way, her new book should be a treat, because it explores the real-life family that Woody Allen depicted in that film. It’s called Then Again, and Keaton has said it isn’t just an autobiography but a biography of her mother–or rather, the two of them together. Keaton’s mother, Dorothy Hall, came of age in a time where women couldn’t always find an outlet for their talents, and it seems Dorothy desperately wanted one.
Although best-known for her many movies with ex-boyfriend Woody Allen (including Play It Again, Sam; Sleeper; and Manhattan), Diane Keaton also starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy; Warren Beatty’s Reds; the light comedy Baby Boom, and recently, Something’s Gotta Give. She has a couple of films up in the coming year, including One Big Happy Family with Steve Martin.
Buy the book at Amazon or BN.com.
Here’s an article on the book in New York’s Daily News, and another from Entertainment Weekly‘s Shelf Life.
Watch a video clip of her discussing her insecurities on CBS’s Morning News.
Diane Keaton’s a designing woman now too–literally, with a line at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Listen to her sing (from the film Radio Days).
Thursday, 11/17: Martin Scorsese
No Mean Streets or homicidal taxi drivers here! Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese is going 3D for the first time in an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Honor-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Yet, in some ways it’s the perfect story for movie-mad Scorsese, because the book itself, though huge, has very few words, instead allowing pictures to tell the story; it’s just meant for cinema. Plus, this wondrous tale about an orphaned boy who lives in a Paris train station includes the character of Georges Melies, the pioneering early filmmaker who brought a touch of magic to the screen.
Watch the trailer.
Visit the book’s website.
Buy the book at Amazon or BN.com.
Here’s an interview Jon Favreau did with Scorsese in which the famed director talks about “story” vs. “plot.”
PBS devoted an American Masters episode to Scorsese.
Martin Scorsese discussed making Hugo Cabret in The Hollywood Reporter.
And watch Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon!
That’s it, and I think it’s a pretty amazing week. Let me know who you’re most looking forward to, and perhaps, what subject you’re most hoping Stephen might tackle this week. Would you like a WORD? More SuperPac? Inquiring minds want to know –and so do I.