The late-Scorsese Pulitzer.

One of Gene Weingarten’s chatters Tuesday says what I was thinking yesterday:

Billings, Mont.: Thought your Bell in the Metro story was good and all, but your Great Zucchini story from two years ago was the best thing you’ve ever written. Was that story submitted for a Pulitzer?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: It was. And I was only recently reliably informed that it got real consideration, but was ultimately rejected because it was perceived as not serious enough.

I’m not surprised; the Pulitzers are like that. It strikes me that of the journalists I’ve known who’ve served on Pulitzer juries, they tended to be at either best-or-worst ends of the spectrum, so it figures they get a few wrong. The Great Zucchini story was a work of storytelling art. I urge you to read it; it’s that good. And while the Joshua Bell story that earned Weingarten the big P was great, it was something you could stand at the beginning of and see all the way to the end. When I told Alan what the story was, I said, “They got this virtuoso violinist, Joshua Bell, to be a subway busker in D.C. and watched how people reacted.” He replied, “And they ignored him, right?” He didn’t know anything about the story; he just guessed that if you put a virtuoso playing a Stradivarius in a busy Metro station at rush hour, he’s not going to draw a crowd. The telling of the story is wonderful, but there’s no real surprise.

But the Great Zucchini had a huge surprise halfway through. You thought it was about one thing (a story about a children’s party entertainer), and then it turned out to be another thing (the common roots of fear and humor). Let’s see, what did win that year?

Jim Sheeler of Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colo.
For his poignant story on a Marine major who helps the families of comrades killed in Iraq cope with their loss and honor their sacrifice.

See? Serious enough.

Oh, well. It may be like Paul Newman winning an Oscar for “The Color of Money” when he should have won for half a dozen better performances that preceded it, but it’s all good. (Bonus: I’ve linked to it before, but just in case you’re having a slow day at work and have some time to read it — Tears for Audrey, another Gene-sterpiece.)

Yesterday I mentioned writers who don’t get the web. I think Weingarten gets it. I don’t know another columnist who could pull off what he does every week with his live chat, and I think every single columnist should give it a try sometime. I’d love to know what the traffic is for that.

OK, then. Found this via Leo, and oh my, what was I saying about that word just a couple weeks ago?

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving (John) McCain’s intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.” McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.

Whoa! I know Mrs. McCain favors girly clothes and high heels. If that didn’t call for a shoe to be slipped off and applied, heel-first, to Mr. War Hero’s forehead, I don’t know what would.

You think this story is true? It’s getting a lot of blog attention, but then, we’re allowed to say “cunt” right out in the open, whereas a newspaper won’t even say “the c-word.” It’ll be “an insulting name related to her gender,” and most people will think, “Oh, well, once I told my wife to stop being such a little bitch during an argument; it could happen to anyone.”

I’m fortunate to live with a mellow soul. My dad was a grump, and he could curse, but he generally saved his profanity for inanimate objects, bad drivers, circumstances beyond his control and the like. I can’t imagine him using such a word on my mother, and to do so in front of witnesses? I like to think I’m as tolerant of human frailty as the next gal, but that one required an instant correction, as the dog trainers say. With a shoe.

This week has been seductively beautiful. I’ve been out and about on the bike every day; for once I’m caught up with my library accounts because hey, returning books is a good excuse to ride two miles. Next week, not so much, but oh well. I’m still looked on as something of an oddity around here, where driving half a block is not considered wasteful or slothful, only vigorous support of the local economy. One of my doctors is a cyclist, however, and at my last appointment we made small talk about the cost of being one in the Motor City. He’s been pulled over three times in the last year, he said; twice for running stop signs and once for resembling a person last seen stealing CDs from a car. While I teach Kate to obey stop signs on her bike, sooner or later she’s going to figure out that, for cyclists, a stop sign at a quiet intersection with no cars in sight can safely be ignored. You’re traveling slower, you have the advantage of eyes and ears, and you can’t hurt anyone but yourself. With all the piss-poor drivers I see on a daily basis, I guess it’s a credit to the low crime rate around here that police even bother to bug cyclists about such infractions. (And you should see my doctor, a white-haired soul in his late 50s who looks about as likely to break into cars as the Pope does. Please.)

OK, I’ve run dry. How about some bloggage making cruel fun of the pain of others? Here you go.

Ken Levine’s back with his “American Idol” recaps this season, and he correctly puts his finger on what was wrong with last night’s, which was nearly unwatchable:

While Syesha Mercado was screeching out some faux inspirational song that strung together every “I believe/Catch a shooting star/There’s time for every soul to fly/Reach within your heart/Strive to be the very best/Anything is Possible” bullshit cliché (and every one of those lyrics actually WAS in that song), Doug Davis, a young pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks took the mound and pitched the game of his life…knowing that in two days he will undergo surgery for thyroid cancer.

THAT’S inspirational. THAT’S real.

Disclaimer: I do not watch “American Idol” voluntarily. I watch it because my kid watches it, and while one day I will take her to see Iggy Pop, that day has not yet arrived.

This week’s theme was “songs of inspiration.” Every single one sucked, although the leadoff singer did have the advantage of menace:

Michael Johns sang “Dream On”. Most inspirational songs are not angrily shouted at you. Okay, okay, I’ll dream on. Don’t hurt me!

Three-day eventing isn’t for sissies. I watched an Olympic-caliber cross-country phase in Lexington a few years ago, and just being a spectator made my knees shake.

Someone actually makes a semi-amusing ad for special-event mass transit, and Catholics are outraged, so the ad is pulled. Someone make these pinheads direct traffic, then. The ad lives on, where else? On YouTube. Be subversive, and laugh at the Pope.

Me, I’m off for a bike ride.

Posted at 9:28 am in Current events, Media, Popculch |

47 responses to “The late-Scorsese Pulitzer.”

  1. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Hmmm: Some Catholics offended at depiction of pope as a bobblehead. Some Muslims offended at depiction of Muhammad in a cartoon.

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  2. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 11:57 am

    They say they’re not offended by the bobblehead so much as the fact the bobblehead is wearing the wrong vestments — apparently the Pope never wears that red cape, only white. Or something.

    And they wonder why people think priests are gay.

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  3. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    The complaint about incorrect vestments sounds like a lame cover to me. It has to be about the bobblehead. Just another example of overreaction to symbols. Reminds me of people who become apoplectic when The Flag isn’t properly saluted but don’t seem to mind that kids are hungry.

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  4. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    It only goes to show that deep inside many religious conservatives of the Christian persuasion is a tiny voice that, deep in the night, whispers, “You know, the Taliban had a point…”

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  5. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    ” . . . and I wish we would get as serious as they are.”

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  6. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    On another topic, appropriate to yesterday’s discussion, is this quote from Sam Zell: “Three guys in a garage create YouTube, and we’ve got 800 people in Chicago who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground!”

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  7. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I remember the guy who bought the Philadelphia Inquirer describing his own problems in that area — to get a regional/national ad contract, they had to send a salesman to Chicago (first class, as per his union contract, and yes, the ad sales people had a union), pay him or her OVERTIME, and bring him or her back the next day. No wonder those guys never felt hungry. They weren’t.

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  8. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    And we’re still trying to overcome the mentality of “ad taker” instead of “ad salesman.”

    Well, Nancy, it’s been most pleasant chatting with you, but I have yet another meeting to make. Later.

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  9. Jolene said on April 9, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    According to the WaPo, the explicit complaint about the bobblehead pope was the inaccuracy of his vestments (red shoes OK, but not red cape or skullcap), but the spokeswoman for the archdiocese is quoted saying,

    “”We think there’s a better way to encourage people to take Metro. This is the Holy Father, and I think a lot of people would not be comfortable with a bobblehead ad.”

    I blame the new archbishop, Donald Wuerl, a conservative from Pittsburgh who was appointed by Benedict XVI. The previous leader, Cardinal McCarrick, was a sophisticate with a sense of humor . . . as cardinals go.

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  10. Sue said on April 9, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    You folks are too hard on Catholics. Like any other religion, it has its share of humorless twits, and like all other religions, most of the humorless ones occupy higher positions. Do you honestly think most of the rank-and-file didn’t find it funny? If so, read the book “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” There’s a whole making-fun-of-Catholics industry out there, and the customers are: Catholics.
    And John McCain’s a jerk and his wife’s an idiot, assuming that story is true. And possibly even if it’s not.

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  11. Kirk said on April 9, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I know; I’m married to one. Don’t mean to be hard on Catholics; do mean to be hard on the humorless twits who run the church.

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  12. john c said on April 9, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Ditto to what Sue said about the humorless twits. And I would point out out that some Catholics complained about the ad and perhaps got it taken off. Meanwhile, some Muslim clerics call for artists to be murdered over offending images.
    For what it’s worth, this Catholic boy found the ad hilarious, but not because of the bobble-head. I liked the sung Latin dialogue.

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  13. Harl Delos said on April 9, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    It only goes to show that deep inside many religious conservatives of the Christian persuasion is a tiny voice that, deep in the night, whispers, “You know, the Taliban had a point…”

    Zing. I’ll give you a 93 on that one, Nance. Nice melody, and one can dance to it, even although I find wearing the band-aid is uncomfortable.

    You’ve heard that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, but what you may not have thought about is that after a while, you get to be really good at swinging that hammer.

    Fundamentalist Christians, like fundamentalist Muslims, may be ignorant compared to their non-fundamentalist brethern, but they have faith, and because it’s about the only tool in their toolbelt, they tends to develop a strong faith.

    When you experience personal turmoil – losing your spouse, losing your kid, losing your business or your job, losing your health, losing your home or your savings – there’s just no substitute for faith. It’s annoying to the rest of us to listen to those who make pronouncements based on what God would have said, if only God had known all the facts, but there’s no arguing the fact that in certain ways, fundamentalist religions serve people very well.

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  14. Harl Delos said on April 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    And John McCain’s a jerk and his wife’s an idiot, assuming that story is true. And possibly even if it’s not.

    With the possible exception of you, Sue, we’re all jerks some of the time, and we’re all idiots once in a while.

    Who was it that said, “A friend is someone who, when you’ve made an ass of yourself, doesn’t think it’s a permanent condition”?

    When my wife read the latest post to my blog, she told me I was too late; I was already Andy Rooney – but if it weren’t for my friends giving me a 2×4 up aside the head on a regular basis, I might be Dick Cheney. As William Bendix (in the role of Chester Riley) would say, “What a revoltin’ development!”.

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  15. Dexter said on April 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    A few years ago the local cops were sent to a seminar on how to be bike cops. Cop-bikes were purchased, and three cops were soon seen patrolling on two wheels, as that phenomenon spread nation-wide.
    I was about 100 feet from my house, cycling home after returning from a meeting a mile away.
    A police car hit the siren and turned on the lights…I was being pulled over. The cop was one of the bike-cops, in the car that evening.
    He told me I was setting bad example for “the kids.”
    He said he expected adults to set the standards for bicycling, but I was not doing that.
    He told me I had crossed the street twice in the middle of the block and had run SEVEN stop lights and signs.
    All this was true, and I began imagining a court date to answer to a ticket with nine separate violations.
    Alas, the cop was just bustin’ my balls.
    For a while, I was a good cyclist. Now, I am back to being what “Bicycling Magazine” called an “urban deer”. I criss-cross streets and run stop signs and ride on sidewalks at will. I am not afraid, and I am , as Joe Buck (Jon Voight) uttered in “Midnight Cowboy”, a truly dangerous person, I am.

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  16. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    We all have free will, and the roads are clogged beyond reason at 8:15 am one way and the opposite lanes at 4:25 pm. Rs and Ds are roughly at parity when voting takes place, but i know former Reagan voters who are excited about Obama (down to the yard sign) and Carter/Clinton voters who are grimly certain they will vote for McCain (bumper sticker already in place).

    Most of the passionate libertarians i know are also strongly religious in traditional terms, and many of my atheist friends are concerned about vulgarity in public discourse and sleaze in pop culture. And i know an opera singer who loves “American Idol” who is worried that no one wants to pay for subscription tickets to classical events, where she would never dream of dressing other than in formal black, and organists for churches who wear jeans with their choir robes and hope the praise team lets them do a duet someday on a Rick Wakeman takeoff for a prelude.

    The fact that large, general trends look inexorable & monolithic from a distance doesn’t mean that they aren’t made up of interesting, complex people who don’t have a clean script with their stops punched in the proper order on their bus ticket.

    And what might a conservative Christian think the Taliban were right about? Wishing Britney wore bloomers isn’t anywhere near wishing she wore a burkha, and long dress/hair bonnet conservatives in this country are on a whole ‘nother page than “the body of a woman is evil to display.” Wincing at the new New Kids On The Block is nowhere near wanting to steamroller every cd from polka to punk rock.

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  17. Sue said on April 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you for noting the exception, Harl. I will continue as always in uninterrupted perfection. It’s surprisingly easy most days.

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  18. Dorothy said on April 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Actually Donald Wuerl is a pretty cool guy. And not only because he’s from Pittsburgh.

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  19. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I’m thinking, specifically, of someone like…oh, Rod Dreher, who calls himself a “crunchy con,” which seems to mean that he’s politically conservative but likes Craftsman bungalows and artisanal cheese. Or something. He’s also capable of going completely apeshit over stuff like Bratz dolls, or that NYT story about the girl who chose a wedding dress cut to show off her lower-back tattoo. (“Slut,” he called that one.) He is also quite the “Islamofascism” alarmist.

    When these folks get together, they tend to feed on one another, until the room becomes a big daisy chain of intellectual buggery. The Crunchy Con blog, which ran a few years ago to promote his book of the same name, sank into self-parody in a matter of days. I started out thinking, “Well, at least they aren’t all greedheads like that Wall Street gang,” but within 48 hours the various contributors were issuing fatwas claiming people should marry between the ages of 18-20, never move from the city or town they were raised in, homeschool their children and so on. It really was amazing to watch.

    No one takes him apart better than Roy Edroso at Alicublog, and I leave that work to the master.

    I disagree that the “long dress/hair bonnet conservatives” are so different from the burkha crowd, Jeff. Both essentially believe that women’s bodies must be kept covered beyond the point of simple modesty — ask any girl what feels better on a hot summer day — and those crazy trains are in the same station, if you ask me.

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  20. Danny said on April 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    There are wackos in all walks of life, secular and religious. Nevertheless, taking my own faith seriously, I do believe a good bit of the derision heaped on those who claim to fall under the broad banner of “christiandom” is well deserved. But some of it is just a lazy reach for an easily acquired cultural meme.

    Jeff, I go to a Calvary Chapel affiliate. About 11 or 12 years ago, I was driving to an Easter sunrise service at my church and had the radio tuned to the live broadcast of a service from Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was barely awake and when I heard Pastor Chuck Smith say, ” And now, Mr. Rick Wakeman will come up and play, ‘Morning Has Broken’,” I thought I must have fallen asleep behind the wheel or something. What was Rick Wakeman of Yes (my favorite group) doing at church playing a Cat Stevens tune?!?

    But I wasn’t dreaming and I was jazzed to hear this. Pretty cool, huhn? Up until then, I hadn’t known Rick was Christian. And I also hadn’t known that he wrote and played that piano part. Years later, when I met him, I told him about how I was rubbing my eyes that morning in a moment of cognitive dissonance. He got a good laugh.

    Thank you for noting the exception, Harl. I will continue as always in uninterrupted perfection. It’s surprisingly easy most days.

    Sue, you crack me up!

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  21. Jolene said on April 9, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    No offense meant, Dorothy. Like you, I view being from Pittsburgh as an asset. I lived there more or less happily for eight years.

    I’d read that Wuerl was more conservative than McCarrick, but your note prompted me to do a little more reading. As you suggest, he also seems to be an interesting, intelligent, fair-minded person. McCarrick and Wuerl appear to differ more in personality than in politics, with McCarrick being more lighthearted, which still makes me think he’d have been less likely to object to the bobble-headed pontiff.

    But anyway . . . perhaps it’s the endless campaign, but I’m generally tired of indignation — religious, political, or otherwise. I can’t even imagine how many more mini-outrages we’ll have to live through before the election in the fall.

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  22. Donna in Mid MIchigan said on April 9, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Just came over still laughin my ass off from Bossy’s blog…..!!

    after student suicide today, I can’t tell you how a belly laugh at guacamole turned into tears, turned into laughing again.

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  23. Harl Delos said on April 9, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    a big daisy chain of intellectual buggery.
    those crazy trains are in the same station, if you ask me.

    Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
    Annie Savoy: You most certainly did.
    Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
    Annie Savoy: Yes you did.
    Crash Davis: I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.
    Annie Savoy: Oh fine.
    Crash Davis: You know why? Because they don’t – -they don’t happen very often.
    Annie Savoy: Right.
    Crash Davis: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!

    Nance, you’re on a streak. If you have any sense at all, you’ll start writing the Great American Novel, gulp coffee by the gallon, and not even think about sleep until you’ve committed 80,000 words to the hard drive.

    And no, I don’t particularly want to know if it’s that you’re getting laid, or that you’re not getting laid, or that you’re wearing women’s underwear. Sue finds it surprisingly easy to achieve perfection, but the rest of us have to respect the streak.

    Mom sometimes slipped out of church when the sermon started, and played the organ at other churches that started a half hour later, when the other churches needed someone; it was only a block or two to walk. She was exceptionally good, and the other churches kept offering her more and more money, trying to get her to be their regular organist.

    One Sunday afternoon, we got into a discussion about Finlandia. Under the name “Be Still My Soul”, it’s my favorite hymn, but it’s also the Finnish national anthem. She said there’s nothing special about composing hymns; it’s how you play them. The following Sunday, someone came up to her after church and said that was an exceptionally pretty postlude she had played; what was the name of it? Mom shuffled and shucked and jived and dissembled, never really answering the question, but the music was fresh in my mind – and when I thought about it, I recognized the melody. Three blind mice, see how they run.

    Mom had a wicked sense of humor. I asked her, a couple of weeks later, and she said that the pastor commented that her postlude was novel, adding that the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, and cheerful musicians as well, but that nobody else seemed to have caught on.

    Mom and I both loved Rick Wakeman, although my favorite was Catherine of Aragon, and hers was Anne Boleyn.

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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Ah, and “Journey To the Centre of the Earth” played by a campfire on a cassette deck whose D cells had to be swapped out between sides . . . didn’t know that about Wakeman, Danny, but the Lovely Wife and i did have “Roundabout” in the sequence played before our wedding started, segueing into “Pastoral/Fifa” from Handel’s “Messiah.”

    Hair bonnet conservatives come in multiple flavors, not all are “Rocky Ripple Stone the Whore” specialities. Some have, um, issues with the female body, but i just demur at over-Talibaning that viewpoint. But with Rod Dreher, it maddens me that someone who quotes Wendell Berry so often and usually so well can go off on the tangents he does — but, see my comment above.

    Berry, though, is without flaw; may his tribe increase.

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  25. brian stouder said on April 9, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Speaking of religion and morals and going too far (or not far enough) – here’s a little story, the meaning of which I am still pondering:

    My son’s class, along with the rest of the 6th grade, (46 students) and four teachers and two chaperones (including me), loaded onto a school bus and travelled about 50 miles to a YMCA camp, there to spend two days and one night doing camp-type things, including a couple of very interesting classes on reptiles and owls (and we just returned a few hours ago).

    A highlight on the schedule of events that I was particularly looking forward to was a 21/2 hour block of time at nightfall after the first day, all about the Under Ground Rail Road. I guess I was expecting a lecture of some sort, or maybe an interactive presentation…but I was mistaken!

    An hour before ‘showtime’, all of the teachers and chaperones were lead away, and briefed on what our roles would be, in the upcoming UGRR “experiential learning” event.

    We learned that all the students would be treated as slaves on a plantation, and that they would attempt to escape via the UGRR. The teachers and chaperones would each have particular roles, such as ‘conductors’, ‘abolitionists’, ‘guides’, ‘sheriff’, ‘bounty hunter’, and ‘nosey neighbor’. We learned that the Y camp directors would be the Slave Masters (described as ‘demanding but not cruel’), and they warned us that they (the directors/Slave Masters) would be shouting at the kids, calling them dumb, worthless, lazy (etc) – and that they would not be allowed to look the masters – nor any of the later characters – in the eye. They stressed that we really had to ‘stay in character’ if the chidren were going to ‘get’ the seriousness of the history they were experiencing.

    It was at THIS point that my stomache began to gurgle….one of those “how did I get into this?” moments…and I began to worry about what role I would get. I decided I would press for ‘conductor’, so as to avoid the really unpleasant alternatives (and anyway – they would need 3 conductors – one for each group – and only one of each of the other characters, so my odds would be good)

    To cut to the chase – I was taken aback by the level of shouting and verbal abuse. I use that term advisedly…no profanity was used, but the children were shouted at as a group, and could get individually singled out for shouting (and I do mean SHOUTING!), and ordered to lay face down on the ground (where they would remain for 5 minutes or so)

    I am sure that it could not be easy to play the role of Slave Master, and the unpleasantness of that part of it seems to be crucial to making all the things that follow more meaningful (there was a genuine sense of relief – amongst the children AND the adults – or at least me! – once the group is finally off of the ‘plantation’ and on the run.

    One ‘out’ we had to offer to the the children was that, if they stood close to us, that would be the signal to the master (or the bounty hunter, etc) not to single them out for more shouting. On the path, as we made good our escape, one girl approached me in tears. She said that she had been singled out, and called ‘stupid’, and ordered to the ground. And she added that what really upset her was that, when she was ordered to the ground, her friends laughed at her.

    I asked her to stay close to me, and shared with her that it all struck me as maybe a little overwrought, but that indeed – things were really much worse….and indeed, her feelings of loss of dignity, and sense of fairness and unfairness – were right at the root of what they wanted us to learn.

    We progressed down the very dark, twisty wilderness trail, and through contacts with the other characters – and the girl raced forward with her friends, and took it all in. After the “experience” part of it ended, the dozen kids I was ‘conducting’ and I made it to Canada, and then sat down for a 5 minute talk about what we had been through. Thanks to having recently read Bound for Canaan, I was able to gab with them in a somewhat-reasonably informed way – and I was struck by what the young folks were struck by.

    I was still reeling a bit from the sustained, loud and unpleasant shouting at the plantation – and they really were taken by the Bounty Hunter and by the abolitionist who offered us safe haven toward the end (and who has to kill the nosey neighbor, who comes over and discovers us hiding in her cabin).

    And the girl who cried earlier was back in high feather, and fully engaged in the discussion. Later, all the students and all the staff met in the dining hall for s’mores, and more extenisve discussion.

    I’m still pondering what I think of the experience. It seems to have broken through the noise and made an impression….but it sure does look like it could easily go wrong, in less skillful hands

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  26. sue said on April 9, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    I would have gone ballistic if this had happened to my child, Brian. If none of the parents who sent their children to this camp knew that this would happen, someone has some explaining to do. Purposely frightening and humiliating children in the name of education – especially without the permission of informed parents – is just stupid, even with the backup that you described. Sounds like someone went to a seminar and came back with a “great” idea. One of the reasons I am no longer Catholic is because in the ’60s frightening and humiliating elementary school students, singling them out and making sure everyone was too afraid to come to anyone else’s defense, was pretty standard practice in many Catholic schools and it wasn’t done in the name of education, either. I empathize with those children – I actually felt their fear as you described what happened, and I’m angry for them. I am guessing that once parents find out the extent of the “immersion” there will be complaints.

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  27. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Good. Lord.

    This sounds a lot like those exercises they do at some of the wackier Bible camps, the ones where “communists” or whatever break in to the dining hall, confiscate all the Bibles, etc.

    What a horrible idea.

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  28. alex said on April 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Sue pegged it with the “someone went to a seminar” — i’ve directed church, scout, archaeology, and environmental ed camps since 1981, and Brian describes a very well intentioned disaster in the making. All you need is one counselor to get overly invested in their role, and — hellllllloooooo, lawsuit.

    I’ve given depositions out of much milder circumstances. If they don’t send home a really complete description of what this immersion experience is gonna be, and give an unambiguous opt-out (and i’d recommend opt-in only), they’re gonna be talking to a lawyer if not this year, then in the next.

    Someone went to a seminar, overheard something that was probably a different sort of part of an entirely different kind of kids camp, and cooked up an idealistic “wouldn’t it be great if” scenario in their heads between toll plazas.

    The core idea — a moving around, well-defined role-based simulation — is great. The execution for a y’all come 6th grade overnight camp intended for outdoor ed needs some additional hands-on supervision. Which i suspect is coming. But the YWCA did adopt a controversial “by any means necessary” clause about combating racism in the early 90’s that may mean the YWCA supers won’t crack down on this, so it will end up being a cranky parent who’s right, but for the wrong reasons, coming down — i fear ending the whole environmental education initiative. That’s the real downside in the long run.

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  30. LA Mary said on April 9, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Didn’t McCain’s wife fund his political career? She’s from a wealthy family and her bucks got him into the senate.
    I think he’s batshit crazy. And awful.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 9, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I meant to ask, Brian — could it have been a YWCA, not YMCA camp? Not that it really matters, but there is an administrative mandate for aggressive anti-racism programming in all YWCA does, while YMCA is a bit more “stay healthy” focused.

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  32. brian stouder said on April 9, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I really am ‘conflicted’ on this (much as the suburban moms are, in the the wonderful Great Zuchinni article).

    The program clearly has its heart in the right place….history shouldn’t be relegated to cold print in books that no one will read…but Sue’s point is very well taken. I have no idea what releases we signed (Pam’s department, that), or what we officially consented to…and I recall wondering – as the ‘experiential learning’ event unfolded – what moms and dads would think of the stories and recollections of their young folks, around their dinner tables in the coming days.

    As I say – overall the UGRR presentation was quite good, and had much on offer, and the kids seemed much more taken with other elements of the presentation (specifically the bounty hunter) than I was by the plantation/slave master, judging by continued commentary the next day (today), and on the bus ride home – but, still, it left me wondering when I will be reading about it in the newspaper…!

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  33. joodyb said on April 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    what a terrible position to be in, brian! they SO are lucky nothing happened. what if one of those kids had been hurt? i am unclear as to the auspices – was it school-sanctioned? lots of things start out with good intentions. that doesn’t usually hold much water in court.

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  34. DanB said on April 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    A number of years ago, This American Life ran a segment about a man who played the role of a slaveowner in a UGRR simulation that Conner Prairie does, that sounds pretty similar to what you’ve described. The big difference seems to be that everyone involved know what they’re going to get into and that all the non-slave roles are played by staff.

    The focus of the interview though is precisely how playing that role affected the man, in ways that he really didn’t like.

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  35. Dexter said on April 10, 2008 at 12:54 am

    LAMary: Cindy McCain’s father was an old West Joe Kennedy, what with the booze and all….

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  36. basset said on April 10, 2008 at 12:54 am

    >>And now, Mr. Rick Wakeman will come up and play, ‘Morning Has Broken’

    you did know that was him on the Cat Stevens record, right? he was, I dunno, about nineteen or twenty at the time.

    saw him perform at a film festival in Nashville a couple summers ago – just RW and a piano in a mall multiplex theater. he was supposed to lecture on film scoring, ended up being an hour of hysterically funny stories with some piano acrobatics thrown in. most entertaining.

    and one of his sons is touring with Yes this summer, forget whether it’s Adam or Oliver but anyway one is in Ozzy’s band and the other’s taking dad’s place. actually they both are, RW played on Black Sabbath sessions years ago.

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  37. nancy said on April 10, 2008 at 1:06 am

    I used to sit in my room, staring at a candle, burning incense and listening to “Roundabout.” And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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  38. basset said on April 10, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I used to sit in my dorm room with one candle burning, listening to the Wakeman solo from “Yessongs” on headphones… and that’s all I need to say about that.

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  39. Harl Delos said on April 10, 2008 at 2:08 am

    The folks at WVUD-FM in Dayton used to have a feature every evening (called “Wax Museum” IIRC) where they would play an album straight through, uninterrupted. They started and ended each album with that k-sproing-SPRING riff from Roundabout, so that you knew when to start and stop the tape recorder.

    In that era, of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, I only ever experienced the last very often. I’d sit alone in my room, listening to Close To The Edge, but I stared at incense, and burned a candle. It didn’t matter; everyone already knew I was hopelessly square.

    Of all my regrets, the lack of a misspent youth comes close to the top of the list.

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  40. michaelj said on April 10, 2008 at 2:29 am

    There’s Raging Bull’

    It’s repugnant.

    Violence in movies is acceptable. Beating up women isn’t.

    If there was a word aside from f**ck in Raging Bull, well, yeah, guess I missed it and the wife beating was odious. Did I mention this monosyllabic asshole brutalizing his family wasn’t worth making any more than a few mimutes of a documentary? It’s just not a good movie. Auteur, auteur. I thought New York Stories was good.

    Gutdom, he made The Last Waltz so I know he’s got soul. Look how he get’s Ringo when the estimable drummer hits a fill.

    Goodfellas? That’s all how Shoeless Joe plays it, and thr women. The Departed? now there’s when the director made a director’s movie.

    I don’t know what you think about the great American novel, but I know, Nancy, ypu’ve given it some thought.

    I thought that was Look Homeward Angeland I know it’s Hucklebery Finn, and why doesn’t the Second Coming know this?doesn’t poll well? and it was his editor we should thank. It’s possible that jottings from Kurt Vonnegut about spoonfuls of syrup, with no editor, might fit the bill. Or bushwhacking a piano, or Easy Rawlins walking mean streets he knows by heart.

    I just read Cosmopolis. It’s not good (well, it’s good, but it’s kinda like Grand Street but not goof) and I cherish Don deLillo. This book seems like he’s trying to catch up to William Gibson, who didn’t invent the internet, but cyberspace, yeah he did. Invent that idea of cyberspace.

    Wipe a third time. We have al lof you infornation and if its unconstitutional, so what, your pretzeldent is protecting you against terriss. If the prezeldent does it it’s legal.

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  41. MarkH said on April 10, 2008 at 4:53 am

    A UNION? For ad salespeople? And, being paid “OVERTIME”? A opposed to, say, a bonus on a commission, plus the first class airfare and maybe a notch up in the hotel accomodations? I sold print advertising (not at a daily) for a number of years, and must have missed out on something. Or maybe I’m just clueless about how it’s done in Philadelphia; or maybe just clueless.

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  42. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 10, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Or third prize, a set of steak knives.

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  43. nancy said on April 10, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Mark, your skepticism made me wonder if I’d misremembered something about Philly, but no, I hadn’t. The story’s from Fortune:

    (New Inquirer owner Brian Tierney) was flummoxed upon learning that Knight Ridder didn’t send its union-represented salespeople to meet clients in Chicago because they had to be paid time and a half.

    Tierney says this was his response: “Guys, how bad is it if I ask you to leave your house for a night, fly out to Chicago, stay at the Hyatt, go to Morton’s, have steak with a client, a bottle of wine, maybe take them out to listen to some jazz on Rush Street, come back the next morning, get a big commission, and put in your expenses? Is that punishing?” He also laments that pressmen are paid time and a half when they go on vacation.

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  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 10, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Joe Hill, where have you gone?

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  45. john c said on April 10, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I agree the Y exercise seems like a disaster waiting to happen, though I can also see how it might – might – be helpful. Still. I’d be pissed if that were thrust on me and my kids.
    It did remind me of a story my brother-in-law once told me. He was getting his MBA at Kellogg, then and still one of the top business schools in the country. His class was doing business case studies and in one, the obvious answer was to lay off lots of people. A student dutifully said that, and the teacher stopped in his tracks and stared, asking the student to repeat it. He did, and the teacher proceeded to call that the stupidest answer he’d ever heard. How could that student possibly come up with that answer after reading the same case everyone else read. In fact, it was so stupid that he would like that student to get up and leave right now. As the student rose to leave, the teacher stopped the charade and said this: The answer was correct. Laying people off is the smart thing to do in that case. You all are the best and the brightest. You will probably never get fired. I thought you should get a sense of how it feels.

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  46. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 11:52 am

    you did know that was him on the Cat Stevens record, right? he was, I dunno, about nineteen or twenty at the time.

    saw him perform at a film festival in Nashville a couple summers ago – just RW and a piano in a mall multiplex theater. he was supposed to lecture on film scoring, ended up being an hour of hysterically funny stories with some piano acrobatics thrown in. most entertaining.

    and one of his sons is touring with Yes this summer, forget whether it’s Adam or Oliver but anyway one is in Ozzy’s band and the other’s taking dad’s place. actually they both are, RW played on Black Sabbath sessions years ago.

    Yeah, it’s Oliver with Yes and Adam has been touring with Ozzy since 2004. I think Rick played on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, IIRC.

    And you’re right about Rick’s sense of humor. Funny guy. On the 35th anniversary tour DVD he coments that they have the same group of guys and the same music with the only difference being that they each weigh individually what they used to weigh collectively. Steve is very thin to the point of fraility, but the rest of them have gained a few.

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  47. MarkH said on April 11, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Interesting that there was a union for the daily paper ad sales reps, at least in Philly. But the reference to time-and-a-half in the first graph is out of place considering Tierney’s acknowledgement lof “a big commission”. And that line about pressmen getting time-and-a-hal for vacations requires some further explaining, even if THEIR union rules are involved.

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