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.

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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)

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.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOTING)

SIMON: Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators in downtown Istanbul during a second day of protests. The clashes were triggered by the government's plan to build a shopping mall in a downtown park. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for an immediate end to the protest. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Istanbul. Peter, thanks for being with us.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

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.

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.

Roger Ebert was a critic, not a blowtorch. He could be sharp if he thought a movie insulted the audience, but had a champ's disdain for a cheap shot.

Many critics ridiculed the film Deep Throat when it came out in 1973. Who couldn't mock its absurdities? Roger just wrote, "If you have to work this hard at sexual freedom, maybe it isn't worth the effort."

Roger Ebert was a Chicago newspaperman who typed with two fingers — it sounded like a machine gun, columnist Bob Greene remembered on Friday — who was from the age when reporters were fueled by ink and booze.

The gastric brooding frog may be coming back. Does that give us a lot to brood about, too?

This week scientists at the University of New South Wales' Lazarus Project announced they have reproduced the genome — that bit of biological material that carries our genetic structure — of a gastric brooding frog.

Snowquester fizzled.

Wednesday was more or less canceled this week in official Washington, D.C. An enormous winter storm bore down on the region, threatening ice, a foot of snow in the city (more in the suburbs), and wind and misery throughout the region.

Most of the federal government was closed. I know, I know. How could they tell? Local governments and schools, too. Flights were canceled, planes diverted, and throngs descended on grocery stores, picking the shelves clean of bread, milk and toilet tissue.

Van Cliburn thawed out the Cold War.

He went to Moscow in 1958 for the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. When he sat down to play, Russians saw a tall, 23-year-old Texan, rail thin and tousle-haired, with great, gangly fingers that grew evocative and eloquent when he played the music of the true Russian masters — Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Borodin.

Cliburn died Wednesday at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 78.

Abraham Lincoln's black stovepipe hat is an icon. It seemed to enhance his height, emphasize his dignity and, I suppose, keep his head warm.

There is a stovepipe hat at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., soiled and slightly brown with age. Lincoln is said to have given it to William Waller, a farmer and political supporter in Jackson County, Ill., and kept by his family for decades.

You might look for a player along the sidelines in the Super Bowl on Sunday named Alex Smith and wonder, as he might, if he'll be the next Wally Pipp or Ken Mattingly.

Pipp was the Yankee first baseman in 1925 who had a headache and was told to take two aspirin and sit out the game. A young player named Lou Gehrig took his place — and stayed at first base for 14 years, becoming one of baseball's most storied players.

Pipp wound up working in a screw factory. He was a good sport who told fans in later years, "I took the two most expensive aspirin in history."

The proudest moment of Hans Massaquoi's boyhood was when his babysitter sewed a swastika on his sweater. He was a 7-year-old boy in Hamburg who wanted to be part of the excitement of the times he saw. But when his mother got home, she snipped off the swastika.

He also wanted to join the Hitler Youth. "They had cool uniforms," Massaquoi wrote years later, "and they did exciting things — camping, parades, playing drums."

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a tourist attraction, not a papal conclave. And the people who cast votes for the Hall are sportswriters, not the College of Cardinals.

But there was something momentous this week when the Baseball Writers Association elected no one to the Hall of Fame. Not Roger Clemens, who won a record seven Cy Young Awards. Not Barry Bonds, who hit a record 762 home runs. Not Sammy Sosa, who hit 60 or more home runs in a season three times.

There was something momentous this week when the Baseball Writers Association elected no one to the Hall of Fame. Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon remarks on the rebuke, rare in a sport where bad behavior is routine.

Yesterday came and went, but I never finished Ulysses. I never took up skydiving. Come to think of it, I didn't even really finish cleaning up my closet before the "Mayan Apocalypse," which did not occur yesterday, Dec. 21.

I remember thinking,"Finally, I get a Friday off — but there's an apocalypse."

When news organizations, including ours, told of New York Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo buying boots for a barefoot man on the streets of Times Square one cold night last month, it seemed an irresistible holiday story: A kindly cop in a hard city helps a bedraggled man walking with blistered feet over some of the richest streets in the world.

The nameless, shoeless man became the best-known street person in America — just long enough to be recognized walking along the Upper West Side, where a New York Times reporter found him.

If satire had an Olympics, The Onion might have won a gold medal this week. The satirical news source announced that its Sexiest Man Alive for 2012 is Kim Jong Un, North Korea's Supreme Leader.

Gridlock is the term many use to describe what happens when legislation gets stalled in the U.S. Congress.

But gridlock suggests that people in Congress at least run into each other. I've had enough casual, personal conversations with representatives in both parties in recent years to begin to think a more critical problem might be that politicians of opposing parties are almost strangers to each other.

On Halloween night this week, millions of children tumbled into their neighborhoods dressed as Captain America, Spiderman, Batman, Bat Girl and Wonder Woman. But that night, true superheroes were at work in uniforms, not costumes.

They were firefighters, police officers, emergency workers and ordinary citizens in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and elsewhere who gave brave and extraordinary efforts to protect and rescue their families and neighbors. They risked their lives for strangers.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's already starting to rain over northern Ohio this past weekend as the outer whirls of Hurricane Sandy approached. Just a few days before the election, people in Reminderville, the village of about 3,000, were concerned about turnout.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Trick or treat.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Trick or treat.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hey, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hi.

Paddy Roy Bates, the self-proclaimed prince of Sealand, was almost 80 when I met him in the summer of 2000. He was silvery and straight-backed — very much the model of a modern major, which he was in the British Army during World War II, when he survived frostbite, malaria, snakebites and a German bomb that shattered his jaw so badly a surgeon told him no woman would ever love him. So he married a former beauty queen named Joan and made her the princess of Sealand.

Let me explain.

Nov. 6 is 32 days away, but for millions of Americans, there is no longer an Election Day.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia now have early voting, which is under way even now in eight states. Hundreds of thousands of votes have already been cast, most before this week's presidential debates or Friday's jobs report, and all ahead of the three future debates and any unforeseen October event that might test the mettle of a candidate.

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