Scott McClellan, a former spokesman for the Bush White House rocked the capital last week with a provocative memoir. He joins Terry Gross to talk about the book — titled What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception — about what prompted him to go public, and about the torrent of response from both sides of the partisan aisle. Also: Excerpts from some of the more contentious press conferences from McClellan’s days as White House press secretary. Listen Now
ALSO, Jenna Fischer is probably best known for her role on NBC’s comedy series The Office. She plays Pam, the receptionist — one of the show’s most recognizably real characters. If you’ve ever worked in a clerical position in an alienating office, you’ll relate to what Pam goes through. In this interview, Fischer tells Terry Gross about creating all those pained looks and knowing smiles — and about how her five years as an office temp helped to prepare her for the role.
Fisher also costarred in the film comedies Blades of Glory and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. And in the new film The Promotion, opening in select cities June 6, Fisher plays a Chicago nurse married to a supermarket assistant manager — who’s competing for a promotion to store manager at the chain’s newest property. Fischer tells Terry Gross that she went into the audition “trying to look like a struggling nurse from Chicago” — only to hear later that producers didn’t think she had enough Hollywood-style glamour. So she went in for a callback, tarted up in tan body makeup and false eyelashes (courtesy of the makeup and costume crew from Blades of Glory). She got the part, obviously — and meantime, she says, “The Office has given me a famous face, and I can compete.”Fischer talks to Fresh Air about her abortive career as a member of an all-girl singing group (which turned out to be a front for a high-priced call-girl ring), and about her very first screen role — in a sex-education film made especially for just-released mental-health patients.
ALSO, Anne d’Harnoncourt became the first woman to lead a major American museum when she was named the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1982. As director, she brought new prominence to the museum, spearheading the renovation of 20 of its galleries and a build-up of its modern art collection. D’Harnoncourt died June 1 at the age of 64. A museum spokesman told the Associated Press that her death was unexpected, but didn’t elaborate further. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller remembered d’Harnoncourt as “an enormous, indelible presence,” and wrote warmly of both her patrician bearing and her knack for museum-world diplomacy: “It was possible to spend an hour in her presence discussing major gifts without the director ever mentioning the word money.” Fresh Air remembers her with an excerpt from a 1987 interview.
When is a pre-emptive war justified? We’ll talk with MICHAEL DOYLE author of Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict. Doyle, who lives in Philadelphia, is a professor of International Affairs, Law, and Political Science at Columbia University in New York City. In his new book, he looks the criteria nations have most often used to justify first-strike wars, and how the Bush Doctrine expanded the conditions of when the US could launch a war. Doyle argues that 9/11 was a wake up call for the U.S. but that the Bush Doctrine went too far, and we should rethink when we launch a preemptive war. Listen to this show via Real Audio
Should the PA Turnpike be leased out? Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has proposed that we lease the heavily used toll road to a private contractor for 75 years. In exchange, the State would get a lump sum of 12.8 Billion dollars to use for road maintenance around the state. We’ll debate this with ROY KIENITZ the deputy chief of staff for the Governor and TIM CARSON the Vice Chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission who is opposed to the idea. Listen to this show via Real Audio
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Highly Recommended)
We all laugh. But why? If you look closely, you’ll find that humor has very little to do with it. In this episode, we explore the power of laughter to calm us, bond us to one another, or to spread… like a virus. Along the way, we tickle some rats, listen in on a baby’s first laugh, talk to a group of professional laughers, and travel to Tanzania to investigate an outbreak of contagious laughter… Aristotle thought that laughter is what separates us from the beasts, and that a baby does not have a SOUL, until the moment it laughs for the first time. Historian Barry Sanders, author of Sudden Glory, says that according to Aristotle, this moment of “human ensouling” is supposed to happen when a baby is 40 days old. We follow radio producer Amanda Aronczyk as she tests this theory on her newborn baby.
Then we go to Bowling Green State University in Ohio, to tickle rats with psychobiologist Dr. Jaak Panksepp. It’s his notion that laughter is found all across the animal kingdom. Boom, Aristotle! Then Dr. Robert Provine, author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, shows us chimps who seem to be laughing. Boom Boom!
We also get the giggles with a bit of archival tape from comedians Elaine May and Mike Nichols. And Tyler Stillman, a psychologist at Florida State University, eloquently delineates the awesomeness of laughter.
In this segment, we explore the rise and fall of a group of professional laughers hired to laugh for money on Fran Drescher’s show “The Nanny.” Then JoAnne Bachorowski, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, says that giggling girls have more power than you think. She studies the sound of laughter, and explains how we use laughter to manipulate other people, or, says Barry Sanders, to make ourselves feel safe.
We travel across the ocean and back to the year 1962, to a girl’s boarding school on the outskirts of a rural village in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where an epidemic of contagious laughter broke out. Producer Ellen Horne investigates and her search for an explanation brings us back to the idea that laughter is social mechanism that responds to more than comedy…communicates more than mere merriment. Special thanks to Christian Hempelmann for his work on this subject. You can read his paper on the the laughter epidemic here.
Wednesday June 4, 2008
Host David Dye welcomes up-and-coming folk singer Langhorne Slim to the World Cafe. Langhorne Slim recently released his self-titled album, drawing influence from such well-revered artists as Otis Redding and Bob Dylan. His songs range from gentle folk ballads to foot-stomping blues-rock. Slim’s soulful lyrics are supported by interesting and inventive instrumentation by his backing band, The War Eagles.
LANGHORNE SLIM: I Love You But Goodbye