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.

The three UCLA basketball players President Trump helped spring from China this week looked shamefaced when they told reporters in Los Angeles that they were guilty of shoplifting sunglasses in China. They added they were grateful to Trump for raising their case with President Xi Jinping.

A retired government employee reported for jury duty this week. He seemed conspicuously qualified: editor of the Harvard Law Review, University of Chicago professor, even a Nobel Prize winner.

But Barack Obama was dismissed from jury duty, with the thanks of the Cook County Circuit Court. He'll be sent a check for $17.20 for his time, which a spokeswoman says he will return.

That might make Obama the first Chicago politician to ever return money.

The ongoing wildfires in Northern California have reminded many Americans of the courage — the heroism — of the men and women who fight fires in forests and wilderness.

A new film called Only The Brave is based on the true story of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who battled, and ultimately lost their lives, in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire during late June of 2013. Hotshots are the elite crews that attack and try to contain wildfires with chainsaws, shovels and flames of their own (to create firebreaks).

The world Philip Pullman created is back—in his hands, and now ours.

The His Dark Materials trilogy, which was introduced more than 20 years ago with a book called The Golden Compass, is set in a world ruled by theocratic overlords collectively known as the Magisterium, and in which children often disappear into the hands of people called the Gobblers. However, human souls — especially those of children — take shape outside their bodies as daemons: talking animal spirits who give humans aid, comfort and companionship.

A congressional candidate in Florida drew a little ridicule this week.

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, one of the Republicans in the crowded field in Florida's 27th Congressional District, said in 2009 that she was taken aboard a spaceship when she was 7 years old.

She does not mean at Disney World.

"I went in," she says in a 2009 Spanish language interview that appeared on YouTube this week. "There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship, not like airplanes.

Does honoring someone really always honor them?

Chicago's landmark old Carbon and Carbide Building, designed by the Burnham Brothers in 1929, and clad in black and green stone and gold leaf, to look like a champagne bottle during Prohibition, is currently a Hard Rock Hotel.

But next year, the 40-story building will become The St. Jane Hotel, named in honor of Jane Addams.

Most of us would have to look up the name of J.D. Tippit. He was the Dallas police officer shot and killed in 1963, when he tried to apprehend the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Or Tim McCarthy, the Secret Service agent who took a bullet fired at President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Hugh Hefner made history, and then tripped over it. When I was growing up in Chicago, the formidable women who were my mother's friends considered Playboy a good place to work for a single woman. Women at the Playboy Club were well-paid, got chauffeured home in cabs, and customers — stars, politicians, even, it was rumored, spoiled Middle Eastern princes — were thrown out if they weren't gentlemen.

Hugh Hefner created Playboy at his kitchen table in Chicago. The magazine was blamed for (or credited with) setting off a cultural revolution in America, but within a few years Hefner was branded a male chauvinist. He was a proponent of free speech and a champion of civil rights who was decried as a merchant of smut.

Hefner died Wednesday at the age of 91, the magazine announced in a statement, writing that he "peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones."

When crisis strikes, leaders often call for sacrifice. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and in these days before Hurricane Irma churns ashore in Florida, we've seen innumerable Americans volunteer, sacrifice and even risk their lives to help others.

It might be too easy to contrast that generous spirit with the strict practices of major air carriers. But airlines make it pretty much irresistible.

Nathan Englander's latest novel, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, is set amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It winds together the stories of a prisoner, a guard, mothers, sons, spies, statesmen, traitors and lovers. Sometimes they're even the same person.

"I call this novel sort of like a turducken of a novel," Englander tells NPR. "It's like a political thriller that's wrapped up in a historical novel that's really a love story that ends up being an allegory."

Vijay Iyer is an acclaimed jazz pianist, MacArthur winner and Harvard professor of music. His new album, recorded with a six-person band, is called Far From Over. With the band, he says, he wanted to write with "different dance rhythms and dance impulses" in mind; the record also reflects Iyer's belief that jazz is "a category that keeps shifting."

Jerry Lewis could make people laugh with a sneeze. My mother remembered being in an old freight elevator with Jerry at the Chez Paree nightclub in Chicago as it rose slowly in silence to the show floor. Jerry Lewis sneezed. He didn't twist his lips or roll his eyes. Jerry just sneezed: and the waiters, janitors, and showgirls in the elevator erupted in laughter.

When Jerry Lewis died this week, at the age of 91, he was acclaimed as a clown, a genius, a humanitarian and egomaniac, all in the same breath.

Nazis don't always look like bad guys in funny helmets. The Nazis and other bigots in khaki slacks and bright polo shirts who marched in Charlottesville chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans I'd rather not repeat on a Saturday — or at all. But it's discouraging to feel that you have to explain, more than 70 years after Nazi Germany was defeated, why Nazis are still the menace that embody evil.

I am of that generation of Americans — Russians, too, I think — who grew up squatting under our school desks to practice how to survive a nuclear blast. "Duck and cover" was an actual jingle about Bert the Turtle, a cartoon character in a black and white civil defense film that was considered antique even by the time it was threaded up in our classroom. We'd squish ourselves below our desks, chortle, giggle, and wiggle our backsides.

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This week President Trump said of China's president Xi Jinping, "Well, he's a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We've gotten to know each other very well. A great leader ... I like being with him a lot. And he's a very special person."

For parents, the thought of a child being sick or hurt can be a heart-stopper. Fortunately, for those who do confront such realities, there are doctors like Kurt Newman.

Newman is president and CEO of Children's National Health System, known as Children's National, in Washington, D.C. He started there as a surgeon more than 30 years ago.

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I wait all week to say time for sports.

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

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A lot of politicians used to strive to sound at least a little like JFK or Ronald Reagan. Do they really now want to sound like Howard Stern?

A few politicians, on both sides of the aisle, have begun to season their speeches with words their parents probably told them not to use, and that we still can't on the air.

Not off-the-record comments, or bloopers muttered over an open mic, but deliberate statements delivered from podiums before cheering crowds, or uttered in interviews.

A Meditation On 'Evil'

Apr 8, 2017

I watched some of the wrenching, sickening images from the chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province of Syria this week that killed scores of people, many of them children, with our daughters. I'd reached for a remote control to roll past the pictures of innocent people, including so many children — foaming, writhing and gasping to breathe. But then I thought: No, this is our world. They should see some of this.

An artist is sitting on a chair in a Paris art museum over a dozen chicken eggs until they hatch. This is not an April Fools' joke.

"I will, broadly speaking, become a chicken," says Abraham Poincheval, a French performance artist who has recently also had himself encased inside a bear, where he ate worms and beetles, and then inside a limestone rock, where he thought, slept and slurped soup.

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There were plenty of disagreements at the Senate confirmation hearings for, of course, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina tried to get Committee consensus on at least one point.

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Twitter and other social media platforms often seem anti-social: mean, ugly avenues where people bash, blame and fulminate. But this week, just a couple of hours after the terrorist in front of the British Parliament killed four people and wounded scores of others from all over the world, the official U.K. Parliament Twitter account posted a short note of simple nobility:

It was a quiet message of defiance; an understated, eloquent way to say: We're still here. Business as usual. The show of democracy goes on.

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