Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio earth summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Nobles' Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. He is completing a book on their last week together that will appear in time for Mother's Day 2015.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker.

What's behind the man who is below The Blue Room?

This week, conservators at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., revealed that underneath Pablo Picasso's noted 1901 painting The Blue Room is another painting of a mustachioed man in a jacket and bow tie, resting his face on his hand.

Experts have long suspected something more must be below, as there were brushstrokes that didn't match the composition of the nude, bluish woman. Now, advanced infrared technology has revealed the man with the mustache, who also wears three rings on his fingers.

The men and women who brought down Adolph Hitler's war machine cannot defeat mortality. As the dwindling number of veterans who served during D-Day are saluted on the 70th anniversary, we might consider how different our lives might have been if those soldiers and sailors had been turned back from the beaches.

We remember Lewis Katz, who once said, "Life is meant to have as much fun as you can conjure up." Katz made a fortune as a sports team owner and gave millions of it away.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Seoul, South Korea's making some changes to its urban landscape. The mayor's office says the women-friendly Seoul campaign will make the city more comfortable for women. They say a lot of urban design focused on men when they were the sole workers in a family and that's changed. So, they're installing pink painted parking spots reserved for women that are a bit wider and longer than the average spot and closer to elevators.

Eurovision: Love it, hate it, or have no idea what we're talking about? With tensions high in Ukraine, Russian performers are facing the music at the kitschy singing contest.

Portraits of world leaders painted by former President George W. Bush go on exhibit in Dallas on Saturday. He took up the hobby after he read Winston Churchill's essay, "Painting as Pastime."

Would Tennessee whiskey by any other name taste as sweet?

A debate in Tennessee simmers over a legal definition of what makes Tennessee whiskey "Tennessee."

The state legislature passed a bill last year saying whiskey can be labeled "Tennessee" only if it's made in the state from a mash that's 51-percent corn, trickles through maple charcoal, and is aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Sports are supposed to be separate from politics, but athletes and games can't always be kept separate from life and death.

Scores of people were killed in Ukraine this week, as the security forces of President Viktor Yanukovich opened fire on anti-government protesters in Kiev's Maidan, now called Independence Square.

While some 800 miles away, more than 40 Ukrainian athletes have been skiing, skating, working hard to win medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Girl Scout cookies are never that hard to sell, but this week, one 13-year-old San Franciscan may have outsmarted the competition altogether.

Shirley Temple really could be as effervescent as a jolt of ginger ale and as cheery as a maraschino cherry in the kid's cocktail that is still ordered by her name. When Shirley Temple Black, the name she used after her marriage to Charles Black, laughed — and she liked to laugh — tears came to her eyes.

She told us how once she'd been called to jury duty, and learned the case involved erotic bondage.

The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are certifiably the most expensive and allegedly staggeringly corrupt.

Upwards of $50 billion has been spent to turn a place that's been best known as a Black Sea beach resort, where rich Russians could warm themselves under palm trees during long Moscow winters, into a winter sports capital with ski slopes and bobsled runs.

Who knows who'll win the Super Bowl tomorrow, but history will be made before the coin toss.

Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. She is the first opera star to be asked, and it seems so utterly fitting, both for the first Super Bowl to be played within view of the towers of New York, and in the 200th anniversary year of the national anthem.

There's been a publicity circus trailing Dennis Rodman to North Korea to present a big, bouncing birthday present of a basketball game to Kim Jong Un. But did you see the score of the game?

The U.S. team of former NBA players lost the first half, 47 to 39, before the sides were combined.

Well, if you play a team sponsored by a ruthless leader who recently had his own uncle iced, losing is probably the smart move.

Quite a show has been going on in Trumbull, Conn.

Last week, the principal of Trumbull High School canceled a student production of Rent scheduled for next March.

Rent is Jonathan Larson's 1994 rock musical about a group of colorful young people living and loving in a colorful wreck of a brownstone on New York's Lower East Side, when struggling young artists could afford the rent there.

By the time he died this week, Nelson Mandela was considered one of the few — perhaps the only — giants on the world stage.

But the man who was prisoner 466/64 on Robben Island was a giant among heroes who offered their lives for freedom as valiantly as he did. In a way, the acclaim the world now heaps so justly on Nelson Mandela commemorates them, too.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now, another take on jazz hands...

(SOUNDBITE OF FINGER SNAPS, SLAPS)

SIMON: It may sound like Savion Glover tapping, or some kind of tin pan Buddy Rich, but this is digital music in the true sense. You're hearing the fingers and hands of Darren Drouin snapping and slapping out a percussive freestyle in a YouTube video that he uploaded this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF FINGER SNAPS, SLAPS)

Absolut, the Swedish vodka maker, is marketing a new drink — some purists will never deem it truly vodka — called Absolut Chicago.

They describe its taste as "rich and aromatic with intriguing herbal notes of rosemary and thyme in a harmonious blend," which sounds more like Simon and Garfunkel than Chicago.

No one can put all the flavors of one of the most diverse cities in the world into a bottle. Even if you could, as a devoted Chicagoan I feel compelled to point out that it's rarely "a harmonious blend." Just go to a City Council meeting.

Now and then there's a news story to remind us that few things are as simple as they may seem.

Donald Eugene Miller Jr. remained dead this week, even though he was feeling well enough to stand up in the Hancock County, Ohio, probate court and ask Judge Allan Davis to recognize what sounds pretty obvious: He's alive.

Mr. Miller, who is 61, disappeared from his home in Arcadia, Ohio, in 1986.

The shutdown of the U.S. government occurs in the weeks leading to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and it might be an inviting time to look at a book he published in 1956 while in the U.S. Senate: Profiles in Courage.

Kennedy profiled eight politicians of all stripes who crossed party lines or defied the sentiments of their constituents to do what they felt was right — at a cost to their careers. To cite a few chapters:

Washington, D.C., is famed for delays: in Congress, traffic, and now, tattoos.

The District of Columbia Health Department has proposed a 24-hour waiting period before anyone can be adorned with what the draft regulation calls "body art."

That language is inked inside a 66-page package of proposed provisions, most of which pertain to using fresh needles, safe inks and clean gloves. All of which may make you wonder: "Haven't they been doing that?"

I was in a grocery store one night this week when a sturdy young man approached with a smile.

"Do you remember me?" he asked. "Bini."

Bini — Erblin Mehmataj — was a bony-shouldered 9-year-old boy with a full, toothy grin who lived in an Albanian Muslim housing complex in Pristina, where we stayed to cover the war in Kosovo in 1999.

Elmore Leonard was a writer who hated — and I don't mean disliked; Elmore had a contempt for putting pretty clothes on hard, direct words, so I mean hated — literature, or at least what he believed a lot of people mean when they say liter-a-ture, as if it were a Members Only club.

Elmore Leonard wrote for a living, from the time in his 20s when he turned out ads for Detroit department stores and vacuum cleaners during the day, and wrote cowboy and crime stories for pulp magazines at night.

I hope we've heard the last of people saying, "This would never be a scandal in Europe." They usually mean "sex scandal," and by now I think Americans are entitled to boast that we've become as blase about politicians with their pants down — or, in the case of Anthony Weiner, pec-flexing with his shirt off — as Europeans like to think they are.

Anthony Soprano, a waste-management consultant from Essex County, N.J., died this week.

Tony Soprano was — according to reports that aired for six years on HBO — head of the DiMeo crime family, which allegedly ran illicit drugs, untaxed alcohol, illegal sports betting and other criminal enterprises from the back of an adult entertainment venue called the Bada Bing club on Route 17 in Lodi.

Mr. Soprano denied his involvement in organized crime. He said it was a "vicious stereotype" that slurs waste-removal professionals who promote a green, healthy environment.

Sometimes history gets revealed in small, nearly forgotten scraps.

The Allied invasion of Normandy took place this week in 1944. On the evening of June 5, the largest armada in history began to churn through heavy swells in the English Channel, and pink-cheeked young paratroops prepared to board airplanes that would fly through heavy gales to drop them in darkness on Occupied France.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOTING)

Does your local high school have a student newspaper? And in this day when a social media message saying, "Tonight's Green Design and Technology class homework sucks!" can instantly be sent to thousands, does it need to?

The New York Times reports this week that only 1 in 8 of New York's public high schools has a student newspaper — and many of those are published just a few times a year. A few more are online, which can leave out poorer schools.

Chris Hadfield went from feeling truly sublime to faintly ridiculous this week.

Mothers have eyes in the back of their heads. They may not show up on X-rays, but they're there.

Like a lot of youngsters, I used to get my mother to turn her head so I could search through her hair for the eyeballs she claimed to have back there, telling her, "No you don't! No you don't!" But when I'd scamper off to another part of the apartment and pick up an ashtray or fiddle with the window blinds, I'd hear my mother's voice ring out, "I can see you! I know what you're up to!"

People in Boston can speak for themselves. And do. Loudly, bluntly and often with humor that bites.

It's a city that speaks with both its own broad, homebrew, local accent — although no one really pahks thea cah in Havahd Yahd — and dialects from around the world. It is home to some of America's oldest founding families, and fathers, mothers and children who have just arrived from Jamaica, Ireland, Bangladesh and Ghana.

There are people in Boston who dress in pinstripes and tweeds, and tattoos and spiked hair. Sometimes, they are even the same person.

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