Feb 18

I learn more, know less, forget just as much: Memories

I was in the sixth grade when we heard the helicopter land. My school was on what was then a quiet little country road intersection, with a new interstate about a three-wood off the front lawn. It was a K-12 school then, and it was a school and a community hub in many ways. The only other development there then was on the diagonal lot, where a church was waiting for the exurb to grow, and the extra parishioners to come with it.

I think we were at lunch, and we heard the big thump thump thumping sound. It was a helicopter and it was low. We were due a new principal that day. The place had enjoyed the same woman running the joint for years, she’d become a favorite. (I believe she’s retired and living down at the beach now. Good for her.) This was a WPA school built to look like a prison, or a brutalish battleship, and we got a new chief, one full of fight. Or something. (She’s now a deputy superintendent at the state level.) So we thought this new person must be making a grand arrival. Thump, thump, thump, thump. A little much, we thought. Thump, thump, thump.

Now, we lived out in the suburbs of a suburb. It was quiet and peaceful. Twenty minutes this way, you were in a proper metropolitan city. Just beyond our front yard was the county line and then a whole lot of country. The setup was pretty grand, but on those old county roads you’d see more accidents than sheriffs or police, and we all knew where the helicopter landing plots were for medical emergencies. But that day we’d learned that the church across from the school was one of those pre-determined spots, too.

That helicopter, you see, wasn’t for the new principal, but for the flying ambulance. Across the open field from the lunch room and downstairs beneath the gym, a boy was on the floor just about bleeding out. He’d been changing from his gym clothes when a classmate apparently spun him around and stabbed him with a great big kitchen knife. I can still see the image of it from the television news later that night. A big, ghastly thing of a butcher knife. Meant for pot roasts, not for a 16-year-old boy’s chest. The doctors, we later heard, suggested that the guy was actually. A flinch this way, a hair that way, an entirely different story. The argument had to do with a basketball goal, but there was some longstanding thing going on as well.

Which, heck of a first day for the new woman, right?

The 15-year-old attacker was charged with murder. I’m not sure what happened with him.

And then in my junior or senior year a guy came off the street and onto campus to settle some score with a classmate. I didn’t see it, but the story went that that particular student was also very lucky, as he managed to somehow fight off an armed attacker. The details were always a little murky on that one. But another story was perfectly clear. In a second floor classroom one day that same year some kid was fiddling with a gun in his pocket and it went off. Somehow the bullet came through his pants, didn’t hit him and lodged in the floor. I distinctly remember this because that year I had a class in the room directly below it that semester. This guy apparently sprinted from the classroom, out the nearest door and threw the gun in the bushes. The gun, we heard, was never found.

These are stupid stories. The last two may be full of hearsay, to be honest. The first was very true; I remember it well. I knew the guy’s sister. There were other stories, and we lost classmates to horrible accidents. I was in a math class and heard someone come over the public address system in obvious tears to tell us that a boy in my grade had died from a gunshot wound. We knew he’d been clinging, I’m sure they told us the prognosis wasn’t the best. But we were still stunned. I’d played soccer with him for a year or two. Nice guy, talented kid. And then class carried on and a few days later I went to the funeral home and I’m sure said something foolish to his parents. It seemed like every year there was at least one fatal car accident to hear about, and you’d hear those helicopters every so often.

Ours was, by and large, a good school, a signature piece in the district, but we thought we’d seen and heard a lot. I have a hard time putting myself in those classrooms today, thinking what must it be like to have some story like that coming out of Parkland, Florida flooding the news. I have an impossible time imagining that in my old school, as I remember it. And I looked today at the young men and women I work with daily, just a year or two or four removed from their own high schools, and I am hard pressed to imagine how they would react to what we’ve seen and heard in the last two days. How could anyone know?

And so now we come to it: How does that shape those people? What is to become of them?

Feb 18

A return to the books section

Today I’ll direct your attention to another part of the site. This area is devoted to my grandfather’s books. I never got to know the man, he died a few months after I was born. But he was one of those people that you only hear good things about. And, over the years, I’ve been given a few of his things. Including a lot of books. This is a lot of fun because, in his old text books, you see the man as a boy. If you click the link above you’ll see the books already uploaded to the site.

For the next few installments, I thought we might look at a few publications he had when he was a bit older, because the advertisements are always fun. And so here we have the November 1960 Reader’s Digest:

Click the cover and you’ll get four interesting pages out of that issue today. I figure there’s about a month’s worth of material we can check out. Also, check out the main section and you can see a classic literature book, some great science illustrations, some notes, newspaper clippings from his youth and more.

You remember the Manhattan gold heist in 2016. A guy just reached into an armored truck, grabbed a barrel and walked away. No one reacted. It was broad daylight, middle of the city and who he was and how it did it was a mystery, but for the ubiquitous security camera footage.

Well, that guy got caught and did a little time. And now he’s talking to the media, which makes it a story, which means we talked about it on the podcast. NBC correspondent Chris Pollone returned to the program to tell us all about it. It’s a great episode:

You can hear more episodes of the show and you can also subscribe to the syndicated versions on Google Play or Stitcher. And follow the show on Twitter: @BestStoryShow.

And some student work:

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Feb 18

All about shows

There are a lot of things I like about my little show. I hope there are things other people like too, but it is good that I like some things about it since I’m, you know, doing it. One of the things is that I can get students involved. Today’s guest is my third student in the last few weeks, which is great.

The other thing I like is that these shows, because I leave the topics up to the guests, vary widely. So here’s Dominick Jean, who is the news editor of the campus paper, and he’s talking about gerrymandering.

Another thing that I like is that when sorta semi-apologized for this topic I got to tell him he should never apologize for his interests. And then he gave me what was, I thought, a really nice conversation. So check that out.

Some other things students have done this week:

They did the sports show tonight, and the other two on Tuesday. They’re all works in progress, and they’re all coming along at varying speeds. There was to be a third show on Tuesday, but it was overcome by underwhelming events. These things will happen. Tomorrow another group of IUSTV students is in rehearsal for a new late night show. And on Sunday the station is producing a concert.

So let’s count: four studio shows a week (one isn’t included above because it is for air on Sunday), a twice-monthly campus government show, a brand new late night show, a new concert series in conjunction with the campus radio station. And that doesn’t include covering something like a dozen sports they’re covering on campus and around the conference. Student media, man, they are getting some stuff done.

I may just turn in that paragraph at the end of the year.

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Jan 18

Sometimes you dress up for news, I guess

You can take a tie off with one hand. It is an art and has, and demands, a certain flourish. And if you do this in front of a cat, she’s going to want to play with it. It is a cat’s way: chase the moving silk thing the hooman puts on some days. And if she plays with it, that’s fine, until she produces her claws. And then you have to do something else. So I dressed her.

We have the best dressed cat in town, I’m sure.

This afternoon I was joined on the show by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. We talked about some of his students work, which is impressive. You can hear about it right here:

You can also find other episodes of The Best Story I’ve Heard Today on its new host site, Podbean. All of the current run have been transferred there and now I have to see about getting this thing syndicated in a few different places. After that: advertising. (Maybe?)

We’ve talked, on that show, a few times about the Larry Nassar trial. Here’s a story worth reading, it offers its own masterclass on interviews in reporting:

I saw the confident Larry Nassar, buoyed by a reputation as a caring miracle-worker. I saw the charismatic doctor, a man with a legion of adoring supporters. I saw the smooth Nassar, a master manipulater (sic) who had convinced police and university officials that earlier complaints were misunderstandings — and went on molesting young girls.

At times in the about 30 minutes we were together, he came off almost arrogant. That was particularly true as he tried to convince me the “misunderstanding” was the result of the women’s ignorance of his sophisticated medical work. His demeanor didn’t come as a surprise. Nassar was revered in gymnastics and highly regarded internationally as a sports medicine physician.

But at other times, I picked up a different vibe. When we first met, Nassar essentially pleaded that we not write a story. He even indicated he could provide dirt on USA Gymnastics officials. As we talked, particularly when he wasn’t directing the conversation, Nassar came off as much more socially awkward. Faced with a question, he would stammer. His eyes fluttered. They’re the kind of nonverbal cues I look for during contentious interviews.

This young woman is pretty incredible:

And, as the Indy Star reported, it started with an email.

Some more tweets:

And some good news from Las Vegas:

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Jan 18

If you squint, the snow looks like sand

That’s what I’m telling myself. It reminds me of the sugar beaches of my youth. Sunburns and shade and hot feet and warm water and getting that sand everywhere. At least the snow doesn’t have that same persistence of sand. Indoors, anyway. At least it has the decency to melt inside. Otherwise? No way. This stuff has been on the ground for a week, tomorrow.

But if you squint, it could be sand. It has just the right amount of frost as a covering to sound like walking on sand in shoes. And those grassy bushes, those bushes that I run my hands through, you know, when the windchill isn’t six below as it was yesterday morning, or .5 degrees this morning …

Point five degrees? Point five degree? Why are we even bothering to consider the grammar, or even calculate this?

Those bushes, why if you keep your gaze low to the ground, you could almost convince yourself they are sea oats.

But then the wind blows, and you realize you’re a long way from the Gulf.

On today’s program I spoke with Jamie Zega. She’s a former editor-in-chief of the Pacemaker-winning Indiana Daily Student. Soon she’ll graduate and take her many talents and great potential to The Washington Post. But today, she’s talking about modern presidential language. This one, as the people say, is sorta NSFW. Give her a listen in the player below:

Did you listen yet? You should? She’s a very smart and thoughtful young reporter.

And, now, back to my pretending to hear sand beneath my feet.