What's Ahead in 2008 On this last day of 2007, rather than look back at the year that was, All Things Considered is getting a jump on events to come in 2008. There are the biggies of course: the U.S. presidential election in the fall and the summer Olympics in Beijing. But there are a host of other milestones and commemorations to note.
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What's Ahead in 2008

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What's Ahead in 2008

What's Ahead in 2008

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I'm Melissa Block with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News, on this last day of 2007.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Though we're not really in a mood to reflect on the year that's ending right now.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Instead, we're going to get a jump on some events to come in 2008. There are the biggies, of course - the presidential election in the fall, the summer Olympics in Beijing.

The tiny Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu has been voted in as an Olympic member for the first time, which means it is possible that we'll be hearing this anthem, if there's a gold medalist to be found among Tuvalu's total population of 12,000.

(Soundbite of Tuvalu's national anthem)

BLOCK: Also to come in 2008, Pope Benedict will visit the U.S. for six days in April. 2008 will mark the final days for both the Yankee and Shea Stadiums. The Yankees and Mets will move to new ballparks in 2009. Come this February 7th, it will be the year of the rat in the Chinese calendar. Those born under this sign are said to be ambitious, charming, cunning, also stubborn and aggressive. And there are a host of other milestones and commemorations to note.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: 2008 is designated by the United Nations as the International Year of the Potato, to focus attention on how the spud can help alleviate world hunger and poverty. Well, that brings a big hurrah from potato fans Meredith and Tom Hughes. They are co-founders of The Potato Museum, which boasts some 1,300 potato-related items.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MEREDITH HUGHES (Co-Founder, The Potato Museum): Well, it apparently is the world's largest collection on the history and social influence of the potato. And it contains artifacts and artwork and flat art and advertising; tools, games, songs, photographs, a huge postcard collection, books.

Mr. TOM HUGHES (Co-Founder, The Potato Museum): Collected from all over the world. People have contributed - helped us discover all these things. In 2008, we're hoping to establish a permanent home for all of these.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Yeah. We should say you run The Potato Museum, but The Potato Museum doesn't have a bricks and mortar place to call its own.

Ms. HUGHES: That's right. We're in talks with people in Italy, Estonia, Ireland, Peru and also the state of Wisconsin about establishing a permanent home for our collection.

BLOCK: Well, Meredith, what would you say is your favorite item out of all the things you've collected over the years? What's your favorite?

Ms. HUGHES: Well, we have a marvelous package of cigarettes, spud cigarettes, which is quite unique.

BLOCK: Spud cigarette.

Ms. HUGHES: Although, we are both non-smokers totally.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Is there anything potatoey in them?

Ms. HUGHES: No, nothing at all. It's just a name. Somehow the name stuck. We also have one of the prototypes on early, early, early Mr. Potato Head before Mr. Potato Head was named that.

Mr. HUGHES: I like all of the digging tools and implements that the hardworking people in Peru - foot ploughs they call them - and they do all the work with one plough.

BLOCK: What should we know about the greatness of the potato?

Mr. HUGHES: Well, the potato is really the most efficient form of converting land water into nutritious food. It's the most versatile and valuable plant on Earth.

Ms. HUGHES: It only has about 100 calories. It's got no fat. Has - it's a good source of potassium, vitamin C and it's almost a perfect food like the egg.

BLOCK: So you would say that the International Year of the Potato coming up here in 2008, this is an idea whose time has come.

Mr. HUGHES: You know, when we honor the potato we honor ourselves. And the potato is one of the solutions for us - for this burgeoning population we have, and trying to also preserve our environment at the same time.

BLOCK: Well, Meredith and Tom Hughes, curators of The Potato Museum, I hope you have a great 2008. It's the International Year of the Potato.

Mr. HUGHES: Thank you.

Ms. HUGHES: We'll salute you with spud liquor.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Potato lovers aren't the only ones looking forward to 2008. It's looking like a banner year for stargazers too. Among the highlights, there will be a total solar eclipse on August 1st, but it won't be visible from the United States, so what to do?

Mr. KELLY BEATTY (Executive Editor, Sky and Telescope Magazine): You have your choice. You can take a Trans-Siberian railroad, an icebreaker off the Arctic Coast, or I'm going on a plane that will fly over the ways of Greenland to see it in mid-air.

BLOCK: Well, that's Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky and Telescope magazine. And Kelly, a chartered plane - a lot of trouble for an eclipse that's going to last, what, a couple of minutes?

Mr. BEATTY: You know, eclipse chasers are a really crazy, hardy lot and will go to the ends of the Earth to see the sun completely hidden by the moon. These trips are going to be very expensive, but there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people, who'll be taking part.

BLOCK: For people who don't want to go to those lengths, there will be a lunar eclipse in February.

Mr. BEATTY: That's right. This will be a primetime event for everyone in North America. So contact your local meteorologist and make sure the weather is clear on the night of February 20th. It will be the last total lunar eclipse until late in 2010, so you really want to catch this one if you can. Totality, when the moon is completely hidden by Earth shadow, is from 10 to 10:52 Eastern Time. You can make the correction for your time zone.

BLOCK: At the beginning of the year, people can also enjoy Venus and Jupiter together.

Mr. BEATTY: Oh, this is going to be beautiful. On the morning of February 1st, before dawn, in the east, there will be two brilliant planets - Venus and Jupiter - together. They'll look like a brilliant double star, and this is where the listeners can test their acuity here. You hold your arm out with your pinkie and that pinkie at arm's length will just cover the two of them. So they'll be that close together.

BLOCK: Depends on how big your pinkie is.

Mr. BEATTY: It's all relative, Melissa.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Can you see them with the naked eye? I mean, you wouldn't need a telescope to really get a good look?

Mr. BEATTY: No. This is a breathtaking, eyeball astronomy event, as we call it. If you've got binoculars, it will look great. If you've got a telescope, it will be interesting because Jupiter, although much bigger a planet, is farther away and will look dimmer but bigger than Venus, which will be brilliantly white because it's got clouds in its atmosphere that reflect all that sunlight.

BLOCK: Anything else in the sky that we should be looking for in 2008, Kelly?

Mr. BEATTY: There's one coming up pretty closely, just a few nights from now. On the morning of January 4th, there's meteor shower called the Quadrantids. One of the top three that we count each year - kind of a lesser-known shower among the general public - but if you get up very late at night, you could see from the dark location a meteor a minute from this shower, which is quite a few. If you've got a dark sky, you'll be really in for a treat.

BLOCK: Okay. Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, with some things to look forward to in the sky in 2008.

Kelly, thanks a lot.

Mr. BEATTY: A pleasure, Melissa.

(Soundbite of song "Would You Like to Swing on a Star")

Mr. BILL COSBY (Singer; Actor): (Singing) Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeans home in a jar?

BLOCK: Scientists can predict an eclipse down to the minute, but predicting what colors will be in or out next year is tougher. That doesn't keep folks from trying. Among them, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. Each year about this time, Ms. Eiseman and her colleagues compare notes for the coming year and name what they think will be the next cut color. And Ms. Eiseman, tell us, first of all, what the hot color was for 2007 before we talk about 2008.

Ms. LEATRICE EISEMAN (Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute): For 2007, the hot color was chili pepper red.

BLOCK: Okay. And moving on to 2008, what do you predict?

Ms. EISEMAN: Well, we think it's going to really go in the direction of the opposite side of the color wheel, which often happens from year to year. You know, color is chosen because it really depicts what's going on in the world around us, not because we put all the little pantone chips up on the wall and throw, you know, darts at them.

BLOCK: Uh-huh.

Ms. EISEMAN: So the color for next year is called blue iris. It has the calming influence of blue and yet an undertone of purple, which adds a little magic and a little mystery. After all, we are going into a year where there is some mystery - major election happening, lots of things happening in the world around us that show complexity. So we felt it was important to choose a color that shared that same idea.

BLOCK: Blue iris. Is this a very deep blue with purple merging into it?

Ms. EISEMAN: Beautiful blue. And even for people who don't particularly like blue - although I must say they are in the minority - this has an excitement in it because of that undertone of purple. So if you want to try blue and you haven't tried it yet, it's going to be a lot of it out there. It's going to be in fashion. We've seen a lot of them coming down the runways even now. I do think that we're going to see a great deal in home furnishings - in ceramics, in glassware, in objects for the tabletop, in textiles so that it might be mixed with other colors, certainly. And it really is a great color to bring into your environment.

BLOCK: Okay. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of "Color: Messages & Meaning." Ms. Iceman, have a very happy blue iris New Year.

Ms. EISEMAN: And the same colorful New Year to you.

(Soundbite of song "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Old Abe Lincoln came out of the wilderness, came out of the wilderness, came out of the wilderness. Old Abe Lincoln came out of the wilderness many long years ago.

BLOCK: Finally, 2008 will usher in a multi-year celebration of our 16th president. Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, but why not? The official bicentennial festivities are kicking off a year early with events at the Lincoln birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12th. If the thought of a two-year party sounds exhausting to you, imagine what it's like for one of the country's preeminent Lincoln impersonators.

Fritz Klein has been playing Mr. Lincoln since our nation's bicentennial and his schedule is filing up fast in the three states that consider honest Abe a native son.

Mr. FRITZ KLEIN (Abraham Lincoln Impersonator): Lincoln was born in Kentucky and lived there for the first seven years of his life. And in the fall of his eighth year, they moved to Indiana and then he remained there for 14 years. And then for another 30 years before he left for Washington, he lived in Illinois, coming to Illinois at the age of 21. Illinois claims him as the land of Lincoln, but everyone wants a piece of the pie so to speak.

BLOCK: When you started doing this, impersonating Abraham Lincoln, many, many decades ago how did you come up with the voice?

Mr. KLEIN: You know, it's a balance between what we know of history and the public expectation, and the voice is one of them. I did some work for History Channel recently and they wanted me to tone down the nasal quality…

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KLEIN: …which I can do, but Lincoln's nasal quality was described one time as almost like the blatting sound of a trumpet.

BLOCK: Does impersonating Abraham Lincoln ever get boring for you?

Mr. KLEIN: You know something? There are points at which what is known is seems like we've reached the ceiling, but then somebody will discover something new and off we go again. So the American fascination with Lincoln seems only to be increasing, and that's true of me as well.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Klein, good to talk with you. And I wonder if you would do us a favor. Would you take us out with a reading in the voice of Abraham Lincoln? The - something from the "Second Inaugural Address" from 1865, just a month or so before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Mr. KLEIN: I would be happy to.

(Reading) With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: The conclusion of Abraham Lincoln's "Second Inaugural Address" from 1865, delivered by Lincoln impersonator Fritz Klein of Springfield, Illinois, where he is gearing up for the Lincoln bicentennial celebration - one of the many things to look forward to in 2008.

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