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Category Archives: QUAZ

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Lee Ford-Faherty

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Lee Ford-Faherty is a Paralympian.

She’s not a Special Olympian.

She’s not a Para Olympian.

She’s a Paralympian, which means she’s one of the world’s great archers, as well as a woman who was paralyzed in her left leg as a result of a herniated disc. Did this stop her from belly dancing? No. Performing with fire? No. Shooting arrows? Hell no.

Her story is one of remarkable courage and perseverance. Her take-no-shit attitude resonates. Wanna question her credentials? Duck. Wanna mock her accomplishments? Duck twice.

Lee can be followed on Twitter here, and Facebook here.

Lee Ford-Faherty, you are a champion. And a Quaz.

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Lee, you’re gonna hate this question, which makes it a good Quaz starter: When I was younger we used to play the game, “Which sport could you compete in to make the Olympics?” And even though I was a good runner, I always picked archery. It just seemed like, with a year of nonstop practice, it could be mastered. You sit, you shoot—bingo. So … how dumb was I?

LEE FORD: Fairly dumb! A lot of compound archers try to make it to the Olympics by switching over a couple of months before trials and it’s just not enough time, even for high level pro shooters. It takes 10,000 hours to master something and that doesn’t just happen in one year. A female compound archer switched over last winter for the 2020 Games and I think she has a real shot. She’s being real about the amount of time you have to put in to make it to the top. And she was No. 11 in the US before switching, so that took a lot of courage. The fact that I made the Paralympic Team within three years of deciding to make it to the Games is just unheard of in terms of Olympic archery. And I didn’t know this at the time, but you needed to earn a slot for your country the year before, so it was a battle in 2011, two years after starting archery as a serious athlete, that I won the gold medal at the Para Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. That meant the USA had a slot. We went home for Thanksgiving, and a couple of weeks later I had the first of my now three spine fusions. Four months to the day after that, I got on a plane to go to trials and win that slot for myself. Which I did.

J.P.: On April 11, 2005, a herniated disc left you paralyzed in your left leg. It was the result of an old speed-skating injury. So … I’m riveted. What happened? When did the paralysis hit you? What were your emotions? Fears?

L.F.: Speed skating is not the right sport if you have EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). It’s a joint hypermobility disorder that meant I dislocated very easily. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve dislocated or sprained or severely subluxated my shoulders, my right elbow, my knees, my ankles. I remember doing these horrible exercises for speed skating off the track called “plyometrics” and I remember doing jumping jacks in the speed skating body position. It was horrible and my back went POP! all of a sudden. It resolved itself a few weeks  later when I had a bad fall on the track (I skated inline roller speed skating at the time) and when I got up off the floor, I could finally stand up straight again. So I think that injury followed me until the incident in April, 2005.

I was a very active and popular belly dancer in restaurants and parties in Atlanta, avidly practiced Wing Tzun Kung Fu in the EBMAS system, was a fire performer and was very trim and in shape but I had sciatica! What person in their 30s has sciatica?! Apparently a person with EDS who had a ticking time bomb in their spine just waiting for the perfect storm. Which turned out to be picking up my purse off my futon while a sneeze hit me. I thought I had been shot! But it was the disc rupturing, causing Cauda Equina Syndrome. The only recourse with that is surgery, it was agonizingly painful, but most people recover. I unfortunately develop tons of scar tissue internally from the EDS so I didn’t have the recovery that one would hope for. I was extremely scared for my life and independence with my daughter. I was a single mom then, her dad constantly looked for any excuse to claim I was “unfit” (he has yet to apologize for calling a Paralympian an unfit mother) so I was super afraid I would lose her. At the time, I didn’t know that I only had a 50/50 chance of walking again. The surgeon told my sister this but she kept that information from me for a few years. Which was smart, because my dumb, happy self never thought that I wouldn’t walk. I just assumed I would have to work really, really hard. Which I did. (Are you sensing a theme?)

J.P.: Um, just read an article that included this: “This is a woman who to this day includes performing with fire among her favorite activities” and that you love “belly dancing.” Um … please explain.

L.F.: So before I got hurt, I was very active. I still am, but I have a lot of limitations to work around now. I can only do so much activity before I’m in the wheelchair for the rest of the day. but belly dancing is what saved me. I was in great shape, my core was super strong, so that really helped my recovery. I still dabble in belly dancing but I can still do a lot of my fire performing since that’s mostly upper body stuff. I’ll breathe fire for you one of these days. I’m a Sagittarius in my moon and sun so archery and fire, it can’t be helped! 😉

J.P.: So save for some bow shooting as a kid, you were never into archery into 2008, when you went to an archery club. Why? What got you there? Why archery?

L.F.: My friend Stephanie really disliked the guy I was dating at the time she started taking me to her archery club. We had all done a fire performing routine earlier in the winter and she was not his biggest fan as to how he treated me. I wasn’t either, but I didn’t know what to do about it at the time. She said she wanted to get me out of the house, I had stopped almost all performances and just went to work and came home. I was in pain a lot of the time and even doing bit parts was really hard. So I went to archery, and I had shot a compound bow, instinctive or barebow, and they hand me an Olympic Recurve set-up bow which is very different. I asked them “what do I do with this?” and they said, “Point it that way and shoot.” I fell in love!

There is such grace and beauty with a well-executed Olympic shot, it’s just a marriage of strength and timing and form and mental game! I love it still and I love that I’ll be shooting until the day I die. I teach several archers in their 70s and Miss Jean, who I coached, shot a national record at the Senior Olympics before being afflicted by a stroke. She kept shooting! She passed a while ago but competed and won a gold from her wheelchair the summer before she passed! When I grow up, I’m going to be as tough as Miss Jean! And now I’m teaching Miss Helen, who at 77 is just taking up archery for the first time. She loves it and it’s amazing to see her passion and determination. So I have hope that my body will let me shoot until I leave this world. That’s how I want to go.

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J.P.: I know you’re from Georgia, I know you once competed in roller speed skating. I know you were first moved by the 1976 Olympics. But … how did this happen for you? Soup to nuts? Were you super athletic as a kid? Did you have an ah-ha sports moment? Were your folks jocks?

L.F.: I was always a dancer as a child! Formal ballet schooling, tap, jazz … I ate it up with a spoon. It gifted me with a ton of body awareness, or it at least really sharpened a natural skill. But I was not a sports person! Even with skating, I started lessons with my whole family as a dance skater. I got into speed skating as a bit of a rebellious thing, different from my brother or sister. But I learned so much from being on the speed team that it helped me when it came time to be on an archery team. You really can make it or break it depending on who your teammates are! I’ve had good ones and bad ones but you stick up for them cause they’re your teammates. My parents were not sports people, they were fabulous dancers. Especially my mother. She would dance with her friend Mary, she and her husband Bill were friends with my parents, and man … could those ladies cut a rug! Dance is very athletic, but it’s not jock-ish. The funny thing about my childhood is that I was the opposite of a jock: I was super sickly every winter, I would stop being able to eat. They would bribe me to drink water. It was the Crohn’s Disease but we didn’t know it at the time. There are pictures of me from a Christmas when was about 10. I was literally nothing but skin and bones. You see that picture and wonder how the hell I was even standing up. I saw that picture as an adult and apologized to my mom for putting her through all that worry. But when she passed away, she knew I was happy and healthy, so that helped me a lot during the grieving process.

Oh, and I was a city girl growing up. I grew up in Philadelphia. My dad would just take us to the woods all the time, we love nature. But work was in the city so it was always that struggle to find time to get out of town and breathe country air.

J.P.: I love questions like this, so I’ll ask—you’re ready to fire. What, specifically, is going through your mind? I mean this very literally. Your eyes are looking ahead. What’s the brain doing?

L.F.: My brain is literally doing nothing. I don’t aim, unless I have to aim off in the wind. The only thought in my head, so that I only have that one thought and nothing else, is “Back tension, LAN 2. back tension, LAN 2.” LAN 2 is a term we use to describe the middle of the back of your arm that is holding the string. It continues an angular movement that starts with the draw. But I don’t think about it, or anything else if I can help it. I can’t have a conversation while I’m shooting unless it’s between shots. And do you have any idea how hard it is to empty your mind? It’s really hard, but focusing on just one thought is what really helps me. Back tension, LAN 2.

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your sports career? Lowest?

L.F.: Greatest was winning the gold in Guadalajara! It actually was a shock. I was really in the zone but thought I was shooting like hell. I thought the scoreboard was wrong! I finished an end and put my bow down and told the coach that they needed to fix the board, it had me in first place before we started that last end. She said “Smile and wave, Lee, you just won!” I now know what it means to be flabbergasted.

Lowest moment was in Toronto at the 2015 Para Pan Am Games. I was ready to compete, felt like I could defend my title, when the mix up on my classification form meant that they wanted to reclassify me. It was horrible! I go through classification and the guy who was in charge tells me I should be on the Olympic team, not the Paralympic team. You’re disabled but not disabled enough. What the ever living f___? To be sent home, not being able to support my teammates, to not being able to compete, was a really shitty deal. I get that there are countries who game the classification system, but I don’t. My disability is real and it interferes with my ability to do archery and be competitive with able-bodied athletes. Shooting sitting down may be safer and better for my spine but it’s a lot harder to shoot when it comes to archery! But somehow sitting down levels the playing field and I have to compete able bodied? It makes no sense and World Archery and the IPC need to be a little bit more real when it comes to Para athletes. They’ve destroyed a lot of careers, including mine.

J.P.: Your bio says you love going to Burning Man. I’ve been toying with the idea—but I’m 45 and cruddy. Sell me. Why should I go? What do you love about it?

L.F.: Burning Man or even one of the regional events, I can’t say enough how amazing it is! Figuring out the logistics (no pay to play camp for me!), from getting there, getting all your stuff there, what to pack, what to wear! It’s dizzying in scope, especially when you go as a group with friends, or just meet people there. I camp with The Philadelphia Experiment, I found them the first year I went and they took me in as a displaced Philly girl and we made art and magic and music! Burning Man is held in one of the harshest environments on the planet and 60,000 of your closest friends just don’t survive the playa, they don’t just thrive on the playa, they party! There are amazing classes to take, art to see, music for dance and hooping and fire and chilling. I recommend two things for every human: Go to the Olympics/Paralympics and go to Burning Man. People bring their families, they have the Kids Village, if a child goes missing the entire Black Rock City shuts down and every person on the playa looks for that child. Burners aren’t just friends, they’re family. Go!

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J.P.: I hate to sound like a dick, but I don’t think most Americans view the Paralympics with the same heft of the Olympics. And I wonder—do you? Should we? Do you think people fully understand the Paralympics? What are folks missing?

L.F.: No, you don’t sound like a dick, it’s true. Americans for the most part don’t know what the Paralympics is until they meet a Paralympian. And becoming a Paralympian isn’t easy. It’s just as hard as the Olympics, and we’re starting from having to overcome a disability first, then we work on training and competing. I think Americans really need treat Paralympians with the same respect and honor, and officially we get that, but the average Joe on the street doesn’t know about us or confuses us with the Special Olympics. That gets annoying. No, I don’t get a medal for just showing up, I have to work my butt off and compete at the highest international level. When people introduce me as an Olympian or a Para Olympian, I say no, I’m a Paralympian, we’re better. The tattoos on my arm are about educating everyone who sees it about the Paralympics. They know the rings, but what are those swoosh things? Those are the Agitos (Ah-gee-tos) which symbolize the Paralympic Games. They are Latin shorthand for “I move” so the three Agitos say, “I move, I move, I move” and the Paralympics are “Spirit in Motion”! And then people get it about the Paralympics.

The problem is that we don’t get the TV coverage that the Olympians get. You want stories of guts and perseverance, just pull the first Paralympian you see and ask them what they overcome to be able to compete. Olympians haave nothing on us in terms of inspirational back stories. But I think networks think people will be uncomfortable watching physically disabled people compete. They’re dead wrong. Para sport can show how capable we really are! Channel 4 in Britain had the Paralympics on 24/7 just like the Olympics and it totally changed the way that the English view disabled people. Johnny Peacock is a huge star there now! (track and field) If we could get the same out of NBC then I think you would see some real interest and the viewing audience would love it. Watching wheelchair rugby, aka Murderball, is a blast! I didn’t miss a match by USA in London, because most of their games were when I wasn’t competing. It’s non-stop action and those guys are all quads in some way! They’re insane! It’s tons of fun to watch and wheelchair rugby is the only team that travels with its own welder to fix chairs and wheels. Fact!

So it’s not really America’s fault that they’re missing out, it’s the TV coverage we get. NBC dropped the ball on us over and over again. There’s an Olympic Channel but I don’t even get basic cable so I haven’t seen it. Can’t speak as to how the coverage is. I know some World Archery World Cup events have been on there, though.

J.P.: On December 14, 2011, you had your spine fused because of herniation and scar tissue around the nerve root as it exited the spinal cord. Throughout my life I’ve heard, “You never want your spine fused” at least 10,000 times. What did spinal fusion feel like? What was the impact?

L.F.: December 14, 2011 was just my first fusion. December 17, 2013 was the second fusion, also low back and December 23, 2015 was my neck from C4-C6.

Yeah, I’ve heard that saying and the caveat is that you don’t want your spine fused until you want it fused. I have a lot more stability now and I know that I’m not going to damage those areas of my spinal cord anymore. After the first one, until all the scar tissue grew back, it was great. I hurt like hell and my nerve damage was just insane at first, but after the healing process really had some time, I felt better. Then the scar tissue grew back. Turns out I’m internally keloid. After the second fusion I started having these weird spasms that would make my legs stop working and I would go down. Just straight to the floor. Someone can brush up against me, trigger a spasm, and I fall. It’s not as bad anymore but still happens on a regular basis. The neck fusion was the worst! I had to stop archery for the longest time after that one, I just couldn’t pick up my bow! Plus I can’t turn my head anymore, hard tissue fusion will do that, so it changed my whole sight picture when I shoot, when I aim my sight. But, hey, I shoot able bodied now! (sarcasm) I needed the surgeries, my spinal cord was compromised so they had to be done. I look at it this way, if it extends the number of steps I’ll be able to take before I have to use my wheelchair full time, then I’m all for it. I have EDS so someday I may need a chair full time but I’ll fight it tooth and nail. (FYI: no one is “wheelchair bound” – we’re not tied into it in some weird bondage thing. We are also not “confined” to a wheelchair. Being a wheelchair user isn’t confining, actually using my chair helps me go to places and do things that I normally wouldn’t be able to do. So we’re wheelchair users, doesn’t matter if full time or part time.)

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• Ford is such a simple, lovely last name. Then, when you married, you got Faherty. Which seems like Flaherty. Did this screw your world up in many ways?: Not really until it became time to change my passport and my entry name was changed with World Archery and the rest of the world. It was actually the first compromise of my marriage that I would be Ford-Faherty, I wanted to change to Faherty and John insisted that I stay Ford, said it was my athlete name, like a stage name and I should keep it. Its Ford on my uniform shirts, and Ford-Faherty everywhere else. I go by Lee cause no one can pronounce my Irish first name down South so I go and get an even moreIrish name like Faherty! We’ve both had our DNA done and Galway, Ireland is our genetic community so I am proud of Ford, and want to visit Faherty’s Pub in Galway.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ray Charles, boba, Jennifer Hudson, Brent Barry, Samsung TVs, Jeff Fabry, Firefox, “Return of the Jedi,” Dwight Howard, electric eels: Well I have to say that people always come first before things so Ray Charles, Jeff Fabry, Boba, Dwight Howard (ATL!), Jennifer Hudson, Brent Barry (looks like an ex, only shorter) Jedi, Samsung, electric eels. Eels freak me out, I tend to not take off my silver bracelet when I’m scuba diving so I get paranoid one is going to get me!

• Tell me three things about your daughter:1: Shelby is named after Steel Magnolias, since the movie reminds me of my diabetic mom, but she would return from the grave and haunt me if I named her granddaughter “Doris”. 2: She is great with animals and loves cows. Like actual cows. She’s debating to either be a food animal vet or a meat scientist. I’m still not sure what that is. 3: She’s the smartest person I know. She was able to re-teach me trigonometry in a way that I actually understood and could do.

• Who wins in a thumb fight between you and Barbra Streisand?: Me. I have burly hands from archery and I’m freakishly flexible. I could take on The Rock.

• How did your husband propose?: Over the phone. We were living long distance but he wanted to take care of me and Shelby. With the whole custody thing …

• Five reasons one should make Perry, Georgia his/her next vacation destination: 1: We have the Ag Center, as we call it, or as everyone knows it the Georgia National Fairgrounds. I describe it as the big thing on the side of Interstate 75 when you’re driving from Atlanta to Florida. Rodeos, SCA events, 2: The Georgia National Fair (seriously, even school is closed that week), 3: our downtown is historic with cute shopping. 4: We’re central to the state so there’s a lot to do in any general direction 5: we have an archery club with ridiculously low instruction fees and bow rental and you get to shoot archery with a Paralympian 😉

• You’re a public speaker. I will pay you $5 to work “Mr. T,” “eat the moth” and “fuck the world, I’m blingin’” into your next talk. You game?: I’m totally down. You haven’t heard my adult version of my motivational speech where I quote Betty White and tell them to “V up!”

• What do your husband’s shoes smell like?: My husband has absolutely no smell at all. It’s weird.

• Your dog Leo is adorable. What’s the worst thing he’s done?: He’s a service dog who is retired, he went deaf. The worst thing he’s done is poop on the carpet in the hallway cause he had to stay home along too long.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $200 million to spend the next 300 days as her private archery teacher. The only conditions are you have to shave your hair, officially change your name to “Celine Dion Ford II” and cover yourself in honey and dead crickets every morning on the job. You in?: I don’t have a good head to shave my hair off. I’d likely shoot her five days in and I don’t think I could claim it was an accident. At my level in the sport of archery, if I shot you, it’s on purpose.

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Shannon Perrine

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I am fascinated by local news, and have been for a long time.

Why? Because it’s so tightly focused, where every story is specifically generated to explain something that happened in a geographic region. It’s not about political leanings, sports leanings, energy or military or technology.

No, it’s about the place you call home—and only about the place you call home.

Save for a brief stint at The (Nashville) Tennessean and an even briefer stint at Newsday, I’ve never had that. And it seems both enriching and exasperating; rewarding yet punishing. You’re reporting on the people and institutions who then watch and hear the words you speak. They’re your subjects and your audience and, quite often, your critics. It can’t be easy.

Anyhow, that’s my way of introducing Shannon Perrine, today’s magical 346th Quaz Q&A. A Pittsburgh native, Shannon anchors the 5 pm, 5:30 pm and 7 pm newscasts on her hometown station of WTAE. She genuinely loves her city, and considers the job not merely a task, but a calling.

One can follow Shannon on Twitter here and Facebook here.

Shannon Perrine, you live in the 4-1-2, but you’re now the 3-4-6 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Shannon, you co-anchor the 5 pm weeknight newscast for Action News 4 in your hometown of Pittsburgh. And I wonder, in this age of social media, why we still need a weeknight newscast. I don’t mean that to sound belittling at all. I just mean, in this age of instant news at our fingertips, do people still plop down at 5 to watch? And why?

SHANNON PERRINE: More than in any other city, Pittsburghers do still plop down to watch the 5 o’clock news.

Here’s why: Wednesday morning at 2:20 reporter Katelyn Sykes and photographer Eric Hinnebusch went to cover a fire. It didn’t take long for them to realize a 4-year old was killed in the fire—along with two women. Then the news cavalry kicks in and supporting journalists from producers to assignments managers start getting more information. By 5 pm the traditional local newscast by WTAE provided the big headline: Four Year Old killed in fire. It also provided the detail that someone set that fire. Three innocent people murdered, thanks to a bar fight moments earlier. Context. That information is not easy to get. There are real people gathering it and writing it, people with experience and skill. The 5 pm news is where you find it.

The 5 o’clock evening news is special. In Pittsburgh at least, people seem to value it similarly to the way my parents and grandparents did. It’s not interactive. You get to sit down and watch what reporters and photographers have worked all day to present to you. The news you consume on Twitter or Facebook asks something of you: what do you think? Please share! Comment below!

The 5 o’clock news only asks two things of you: your attention for half an hour and your trust—that we have the ability to choose which stories to cover and how to cover them. Are the roads or transportation you use compromised? Is your local, county, state, federal government working on something you agree with? Is the criminal justice system a well-oiled machine? Who are the special people doing special things where you live? Who committed a serious crime, and where? A local newscast offers stories, hopefully in context, that reflect the best and worst of your town. That’s why we need the 5 pm evening news.

Oh, and the weather, that’s a big draw.

I put a lot of pressure on Paul Van Osdol, our investigative reporter. He elevates what we offer. Figuring out how CYS is broken and how ambulance response times could be better. Things that very well could impact you—that you can’t find anywhere else.

The reason people still listen to local radio stations when they drive to and from work is why Pittsburghers like local TV news. It’s presented by people you know. As lovely as digital, a la carte, social media news is, it feels like it’s born of algorithm, not of human effort.

Watch local news often, read the local paper, and listen to local radio and decide if those things are important to you.

We are all getting better at marrying what we do on the air with what we do on social media. But, for now—traditional tv news programming is our bread and butter and drives our workflow.

With the ol' cup in 2017

With the ol’ cup in 2017

J.P.: You grew up in Pittsburgh, and now you’re an anchor in Pittsburgh. So I ask—does that matter? Are you at any advantage over, say, someone from San Francisco or Denver anchoring the news in Pittsburgh? And why? Or why not?

S.P.: It does matter. There are anchors here in Pittsburgh who are not local and they are effective and well-received. The advantage I have is history. My boss once asked me to report on the herculean cleaning effort of the exterior of The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. It’s a large gothic revival building that was covered in black soot. I told the story of how my grandparents met when they were undergraduates—in that building—when it was still under construction. The smog in 1930s Pittsburgh required both Charles Perrine and Sara Digby to return to their dorms and change their shirts midday, every day. I know all about Pittsburgh soot—and efforts to get rid of it.

My friends’ parents lost their jobs in the 1980s when steel mills closed. The city’s efforts at rebirth impact me personally.

I caught a foul ball from Jay Bell at Three Rivers Stadium. And I was there for the very last game at the stadium and was live on the air as it was imploded.

I remember when Sid Bream broke our hearts. My father was ejected from the 1960 World Series because his grandmother was cussing at the umpire too much from their seats right behind home plate.

Without that perspective, I maybe would not have noticed that at the 2013 National League wild card game—that no one was buying nachos, or hot dogs, or beer (OK, maybe a couple fans had beer); not only were fans standing for the entire game, some stood on tiptoes. The Pirates had not seen the post-season in more than 20 years. Being local comes with a resonance of perspective and pure understanding of why this city exploded with elation when Johnny Cueto dropped that ball.

I do not think Pittsburgh is perfect. But, it is more important to me than any other city and I think that helps me in my job.

J.P.: I’ve always found the staffing of TV news to be sort of fascinating. What I mean is—I remember as a kid, the anchor teams were always white man, African-American woman and—if the woman is not African-American—either the sports or weather person would be. I also recall a parody song, “Smaller Boobs,” about how anchor women couldn’t have large breasts, and another one about all weathermen being bald. And I wonder, from your experience, how much goes into the makeup and look of the “news team”?

S.P.: I am not in charge of hiring. Thankfully. I am grateful to the managers who put our current team into place. We do have a bald meteorologist. The others have lots of hair.

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J.P.: You won an Emmy Award for coverage of the U.S. military’s brain research on injured servicemen and women suffering from traumatic brain injury. Soup to nuts, what did your reporting entail?

S.P.: You need to watch it. Both parts. Here are the links to part one and part two.

I started having conversations with different brain banks around the country initially about autism research (I had read that the Harvard brain bank lost most of its samples because of a power outage). That led me to learn that the U.S. military created its own brain bank specifically to study traumatic brain injury in service members. I also learned a lot about a local couple who could not take their young children to Chuck E. Cheese because they didn’t know when the husband, a war veteran, would erupt in a fit of anger. He has contemplated suicide. He has friends who have done more than just contemplate it. He was injured by an IED in Iraq serving in the Marines. His brother, also a Marine, died in a separate explosion. His brother would have been a great candidate to donate a brain specimen to the brain bank. The surviving brother and his parents said they would have gladly consented to donation to help in the research. But the military never asked his family to donate his brain upon his death. It was taboo to ask, too unseemly.  So, they were not getting the number of specimens they needed to do the research. Compounding the silliness of that, the military already has a legal system in place that grants servicemen and women the option of consenting to donating organs and tissue to research. They all sign those papers when they enlist.

We interviewed the director of the brain bank and the marine and his wife, along with a local congressman who tried to figure out a solution. We got video of scientists slicing brain matter for research. The center is slowly getting the specimens it needs to do real research.

J.P.: We live in the age of #fakenews. I’m not saying news is fake. I’m saying we’re often being told it’s fake. How has that impacted you? Impacted the business? And how do you feel about it?

S.P.: It has had an unintended benefit. I’m just doing my thing and people I encounter are supportive. At least to my face. The fake news hashtag is a reminder to journalists to check their work, confirm information, and get things right.

I’ve witnessed Facebook friends share an article only to realize it’s garbage from a garbage website and then they start looking deeper into where all their information is coming from. They checked themselves after they wrecked themselves.

News consumers are having to stop and think about who is writing what they’re reading or watching. I love that. Do that more please. It can empower viewers to take stock of their news sources. Be smarter than Facebook America.

With Andrew Stockey

With Andrew Stockey

J.P.: I know you attended Delaware, but how did this happen for you? Did you know you wanted to go into TV? When? And what was the big break?

S.P.: My mom had a friend whose child went to Delaware and she heard good things. I visited and I fell in love with all those bricks (remember the brick scandal—Books Not Bricks). I think I chose Delaware because it was far enough away from Pittsburgh to feel adventurous, but close enough if I needed my mom real bad. I was 17 when I started (September 11th birthday) and I didn’t know a soul there. I loved it. Truly. And who else was going to root on the Blue Hen cross country team?

I actually chose Delaware because of its music program. I did consider journalism as a high school student. But, I began freshman year at Delaware as a music major. I had to audition to get in. I sang. At some point I switched my major to communication. That did not pan out. And I declared English with a concentration in journalism as my major and political science as my minor. I still sing and my kids tell me to shut up. Fun fact: freshman year I sang and played guitar/keyboards in a band called Feedback. We had exactly one gig at Christiana Towers. The founding members of Feedback were much more talented than me.

My sophomore year at Delaware, my mother (I’m now seeing a trend) suggested I go check out the campus radio station. I did. There was no real news department there. We had a system where we read AP wire copy on the air. But, we didn’t actually report, write, or produce news. So, I found some dusty tape recorders and went out into the world to cover the stories that the Review covered (campus newspaper that Jeff Pearlman eventually helmed). I became news director at WVUD and assembled an earnest cadre of reporters doing real radio news. I remember the Unity rally when the KKK showed up and WVUD was live on the air as we rolled down street in a retro-fitted camper. That was a technical challenge. I interviewed Bill Clinton and Al Gore when they campaigned separately in Wilmington. And Jimmy Carter came to campus. The university president only wanted to allow questions from the newspaper, but I insisted on asking what I’m sure was a meaningful and impressive question.

During my junior year at Delaware I saw a job posting for a radio reporter at WILM Newsradio in Wilmington. I left my job at the Coffee Beanery and was a paid reporter. I found myself covering city hall, the courts, school board meetings, even a small airplane crash on I-95, and the big blizzard of 1993—while I was a student at Delaware. To this day, that job interview at WILM stands as the most difficult of my career.

After graduation in 1994 a full-time radio job in State College, Pa. required I cover Penn State football and interview Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky several times. And lots of borough council meetings.

I realized I wanted to work in television, because I could see myself using video to tell stories. That State College radio job also paid $11,000 a year in 1994. That’s like $12,000 in 2017 dollars. I liked radio work a lot. But I love TV.

Fast forward: TV jobs in State College/Johnstown Pa, then Harrisburg, then Pittsburgh. Not one big break, a 24-year series of micro-breaks. Now, I am the proud owner of three different kinds of makeup just for my eyebrows—and pretty often I talk my boss into letting me do a story I really want to do.

J.P.: What’s the biggest on-air screwup of your career? And what do you remember from it?

S.P.: I called James Earl RAY James Earl JONES on the air, and I didn’t even notice. It taught me to focus, every day, on every word that comes out of my mouth. It’s the first time I felt the gravity of all the power I had been handed—with simply an open mic and a live camera.

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J.P.: What was the must gut-wrenching experience of your career? And what do you remember from it?

S.P.: A man here in Pittsburgh decided to rape a toddler and leave her in the snow to die. She did die. There is evil in the world. On a continual basis, I am thrown by how many people will risk everything so they can view child pornography. There is a huge appetite for this stuff. I don’t think the world is properly freaking out about it.

J.P.: I’m gonna throw a slider your way. Your bio includes the sentence “Perrine is active in her church and is a volunteer Sunday school teacher.” With all the bad going on in the world, how do you maintain faith?

S.P.: Not a slider. I’m not skeered. I am a Christian. I am a journalist. I am very proud of my church lately. Like my city, it’s not perfect. I belong to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and when I say I am a Christian that means I try to emulate Jesus. I often fail. Often. It means I try to be inclusive, forgiving, compassionate, understanding, and loving. When I am successful at emulating Jesus, I feel better and I think the world around me benefits. The afterlife stuff is less important to me, because who knows what happens? Hoping for the best.

My father is a Presbyterian minister and he is a gifted preacher. He’s also a gifted pastor, but, his preaching is apropos to this question. He loved to deliver this one anecdote about a little boy who drops his ice cream cone on the sidewalk and tells his mother, “That’s not fair.” To which the mother replies, “Who ever said life was fair?” I hate that anecdote. It makes me uncomfortable. It forces us to remember that no one is guaranteed fairness. As Christians we are asked to seek righteousness—to me righteousness is pretty close to fairness and justice.  At the heart of journalism for me is fairness, or at least seeking fairness. The hunt for fairness helps me keep my faith. It also helps me spot others seeking fairness—and point it out on the air—when others are doing good and newsworthy things in their community. My own religion is about more than just not being a jerk. But not being a jerk is a major tenet.

J.P.: OK, so I found the attached clip on YouTube. I often ask myself this question, so I’ll ask you. Why are we reporting on stuff like this? What I mean is, who does it help? Benefit? Is it merely a matter of awareness? Of space to fill? Or are these stories necessary? 

S.P.: That clip was from the early days of getting stuff of the web fast, and it looks like that was a story we could have passed on. But, I hate making excuses for what we/I have covered in the past. I do have some say. Not a ton, but some. It’s a daily battle with some of the lesser offenses we see.

Stories I would include in my engineered Google Search include Brain Computer Interface and why insurance won’t pay for it. And the series about women pilots who served in WWII and were mistreated by the government recently. Fellow Delaware alumna Maggie Leffler wrote a novel about them called The Secrets of Flight—makes a great gift.

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• Five reasons one should make Pittsburgh his/her next vacation destination: 1. Randy Land and world class museums—The Mattress Factory is my favorite, there’s also a quirky bicycle museum that is free and is something to behold, along with all the Carnegie museums; 2. Outdoorsy stuff: kayaking, hiking, biking—it’s pretty, like, nine months of the year. There’s enough snow to ski close by; 3. Fancy food—New York chefs eschewing Manhattan for Lawrenceville … it’s just a hipster paradise. Beer, whiskey, locally sourced things, pretentious hamburgers. I love it. Smallman Galley is a chef incubator. They do not create tiny test tube baby chefs, they help fully grown chefs start their own businesses. I had a breakfast pizza there last weekend that also helped me grow closer to God. 4. Sports—Let’s face it if, you’re booking a flight to Pittsburgh, there’s some black and gold in your wardrobe already; 5. I actually don’t think you should just visit, I think most people would love living here (I’m talking to you, Jeff Bezos)

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Visa cards, Pizza Hut, John Stallworth, quarters, My Little Pony, the Stone Balloon, Suzanne Vega, John Stamos marrying a woman 24 years his junior, hunting elk, J. Cole, Diet 7-Up: John StallworthSuzanne VegaStone Balloon (I saw Eddie Murphy sing there. “Sing” may be too strong a word. He could have used some help from the famous Feedback band),  Visa cards, quarters, Diet 7-Up, The Stamos thing (I ask people 24 years younger than me if they’re flossing regularly and if they started their IRA yet—but who am I to judge? Love is love.), J.Cole, hunting elk (you can now do that in Pennsylvania—there’s a herd brought back from the brink of extinction and you can actually hunt them), My Little Pony (I’m against them on many levels, the plastic @#&^% are all over my house and the story line in the books is pedestrian).

• Tell us something unique about your uncle: Richard Stiller served in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War and insists he mostly served as a life guard at the officer’s club in Laos. But, he still can’t eat bananas. So, I’m not really sure.

• How did your husband propose?: He had my kids help. We were getting ready to go to a “celebrity” dance competition (I was pinch hitting for an anchor who fell ill and I am not skilled in dancing). The proposal made the night much, much better. Lynn Swann was one of the judges, he told me I was “brave” for competing. I told him he was brave for running for governor of Pennsylvania. My husband is also brave, and wonderful, and tall. He was a scholarship linebacker for Pitt back in the day. Pitt and Delaware recently played each other at Heinz Field. The Panthers were rude to the Blue Hens, not allowing them to get on the board at all. Rude.

• Do you think the Angels overpaid Justin Upton?: I don’t know who that is. Wait—$22 million, I change my answer to yes. There lies the difference between Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Yet another reason to visit. That’s just crazy pants.

• What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen?: Severed foot? Yeah, that.

• When you see this do you feel bad or do you sorta chuckle?: I feel so bad. If you’re on the air long enough, you’re going to do something you regret. I’m so sorry James Earl Jones.

• Why did you go to Delaware?: To become a successful singer. And aesthetics. And to cheer for the cross country team, obviously. (Jeff Pearlman was a college athlete. And so was famous author Maggie Leffler—who was also my roommate. Maggie was smart enough to settle in Pittsburgh and is a wonderful family practice doctor. I still stand in the cold and cheer for her when she goes for a jog.)

• Without Googling, name all the Hall and Oates songs you know: Sarah Smile (favorite), Kiss is on my list, Rich Girl, Rocking around the Christmas tree (unfortunate). [Jeff’s note: It was actually “Jingle Bell Rock”—dammit]

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Emmanuel Lewis? What’s the outcome?: Is that Webster? Umm me? That seems mean. Outcome: we become best friends and start a cooking blog or a T-shirt subscription service.

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Ryan Claringbole

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There are obvious Quazes, somewhat obvious Quazes and Quazes that materialize from nowhere.

An obvious Quaz is someone who is sorta famous. Michael Dukakis. John Oates. Tommy Shaw. Punky Brewster’s pal.

A somewhat obvious Quaz is someone with a weird job. A juggling marathoner. A phone sex operator. The guy who makes balloon animals at a diner.

And today’s Quaz, well … today’s Quaz sorta materialized from nowhere. Or, put different, I thought it’d be fascinating to host a librarian, and I found a perfect one via Twitter. His name is Ryan Claringbole, he works at the director of the Monona (Wisconsin) Public Library, he hates the perception that folks in his field spend most of their days saying, “Shhhhh!” He reads and reads and reads; doesn’t fear the rise of the eBook; would never host O.J. Simpson for an event.

Anyhow, he’s not selling anything. Not trying to sway your opinion. You can follow Ryan on Twitter here.

He’s a librarian. And he kicks ass …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Ryan, you’re the director of the Monona Public Library in Monona, Wisconsin, and I’m about to ask a question that might break your heart. But, well, do libraries still matter? What I mean is—five or six years ago, my kids were ALL about the library. Now they never want to go. They read almost everything online, on a Kindle. They research papers online. I mean, you know the drill. So, again, do libraries still matter? And are you at all worried about society turning away from them?

RYAN CLARINGBOLE: This is a question that is asked often, and I’m not really sure why. Libraries are still what they have always been about: access to information. Libraries are where early childhood literacy starts and is reinforced. It’s where people discover stories for the first time. Adults don’t just get their books at the library, but learn computer literacy, get help searching and applying for jobs, learn about local history, have access to digitization equipment, take a genealogy program, etc. Libraries are also moving more towards giving communities the opportunity to create content instead of consume it. Focus on writing workshops, video and photo editing equipment, video game design, and much, much more. You mentioned Kindle. One thing many people are still learning is that almost every single public library offers ebooks to be “checked out.” This especially can be helpful for the elderly community who has relied on libraries stocking large print books for many years, and can now check out books and change the font size to be as big as needed with the gadgets their kids got them. Oh and the library more often than not will help them use the device: set up their email,  notifications, and more.

Regarding if they matter, remember so many people can’t afford to purchase books, newspapers, movies, music, and, most importantly, Internet access. I can tell you that libraries’ Wi-Fi use is off the charts. Those individuals that don’t have access to these things at home need libraries more than ever as more and more services are only accessible online. They are also the second most trusted public institution in America, next to firefighters. You mentioned how your children no longer use the libraries. It’s possible they don’t know the programs that are offered right now, or maybe they really have nothing to do with the library, but when if they have children I have a feeling they’ll be back, and when they walk through those doors with their kids all of those memories will come back to them, and they will smile.

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J.P.: Along those lines—do you see libraries adjusting? Adapting? In the way Barnes & Noble now sells toys and electronics and such, so libraries need to re-think the way they approach things?

R.C.: Absolutely. Libraries have been adjusting throughout their existence. A few years ago, back when I was in grad school, I read the book Clerk’s Tale: Young Men and Moral Life in Nineteenth-Century America (it’s actually an interesting book, I promise). It was a nonfiction book about young men who grew up on farms and in smaller villages and moved to the big city to pursue the American dream and ended up working as clerks. There was a section in the book about public libraries. It was a place where these young clerks and others came to learn, but more importantly, came to talk to one another about philosophy, politics, history, whatever was on their mind. It was the place they would go to to hear people lecture on topics or do an author reading. What I’m getting at is it wasn’t a place of silence. It was nosy. It was a place for people to come and share ideas. Sometime in the mid 20th century libraries changed and became a place of silence. It was when the shushing librarian stereotype was born. In the late 20th century libraries started embracing technology more and provided PCs and dial-up service for their patrons to access the Internet. During this time they also helped people set up their first email accounts. Over the last few years libraries are providing different services like the content creation I mentioned above. I think the quiet libraries of the 1950s would be very surprised to see today’s libraries offering writing workshops and showing how a 3D printer works. Libraries are also changing in other ways. Look at the article that was recently printed about the Philadelphia Public Library and how staff are using NARCAN on those who overdosed in or near the library. The Ferguson Public Library was a safe haven for its community members during the protests in 2014. Libraries are always thinking how best to serve the community, and that will never stop.

J.P.: You write reviews for Library Journal, generally in the genres of true crime, memoir and graphic novels. And I wonder—do you feel guilty/bad/shitty when you dislike a book and have to slam it? I mean, as a librarian you surely have some ideas about the difficulties of writing. So how do you deal with bashing another’s work?

R.C.: I … guess bashing isn’t the word I’d use. I do Xpress reviews for Library Journal, which I still struggle with at times because I and other reviewers have to review the book in roughly 200 words. Any reviewer could be asked this question, but I also assume that those that create something—art, films, music, books, etc.—know that not everyone will like it. There are many reasons why a book would be loved by one person and not enjoyed by another. You’re right, I’d like to think I have some ideas how difficult writing is because I’ve tried it and am awful at it! Atrocious. I can’t even complete a draft, let alone produce something published. But that doesn’t mean everyone needs to love it. As far as Readers Advisory that librarians often do, we don’t go into a long soliloquy on how horrible a book is. We offer suggestions on books that either we read or heard about that we think is a good match for that particular reader. There are best selling authors that I do not enjoy, but I will still recommend their books to someone if I feel that person would enjoy it.

J.P.: Do you feel like there’s a general type of person who becomes a librarian? Are there common personality traits? Approaches to life? Does one need to be adept at saying, “Shhh” and “You owe 50 cents”?

R.C.: First, I have to quick take this opportunity to plead for the elimination of the shushing librarian stereotype. It happens about .02% as often as people think. The common trait that people who work in libraries share is wanting to help others. It’s a public service position, and one that is not known to pay that much or provide acclaim. But it’s an opportunity to help every type of person, any age, in multiple ways. It also will depend on if someone wants to work primarily with children with story times or programs, or with adults with classes, programs, or just making sure they are finding what they wanted. People who work in libraries care about the community that the library serves. I think many assume librarians are quiet, anti-social, and have as many cats as they do cardigans. Not so. Many different types of people with different interests. There are even librarians who don’t like to read, but that doesn’t matter because 1) they still know how to help those who are looking for something good to read and, more importantly, 2) libraries are much, much, much more than just books.

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J.P.: Back in the day you were a barista at Barriques in Madison. That’s a job that rivets me, because I can’t imagine truly caring whether someone gets soy milk or almond. What was the gig like? Is it fun? Awful? Patience-testing?

R.C.: Being a barista was a lot of fun. Barriques is a local business with many locations in the Madison area, so you get that community vibe. My coworkers were great, smart, and funny, and we sometimes got competitive on what’s the best number for pulling espresso shots (for the record, it’s 25). Does it test one’s patiences? Absolutely. It’s food service. I had been a waiter for 3-4 years prior to being a barista, and had learned how to be patient. People can be extremely picky about very unique things, and they feel that since they paid for the drink they can dictate every step of the process. Fair enough. But most of the time you get to know the regulars. You start making their drink before they even order. You ask them about their family, what they did over the weekend. It’s not for everyone, but neither is most jobs. It can be a lot of fun, and I do believe everyone should work a food service job at least once in their life for 6 months, and you can do a lot worse than working in a coffee shop.

J.P.: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen happen in a library? Details please …

R.C.: I’m struggling answering this question. Working in a library you will have every encounter with people you can think of, but it’s not necessarily strange. It’s what their life is like, and often they can’t either control the circumstances or themselves. I did have an interesting project in my career when I helped oversee six prisoners who helped the library move book furniture that was purchased from a Borders bookstore after it closed from one airplane hangar to another. The furniture was going to be used in an upcoming building project, and the airplane hangars was an inspired choice for storage, but needed to consolidate to one location instead of two. The city had a contract with the prison to help with projects, and I was chosen to help out, though my position at the time was working on digital services. The most surreal moment was driving a full van and telling them I will turn the van around if things don’t settle down after a rousing debate over who did the best work.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

R.C.: I had the wonderful opportunity, along with a colleague, to help provide a structured, safe setting for librarians to go through an intense year of professional development. It was an incredible experience watching a room full of people who are dedicated to helping their community discover their potential. It was an incredible experience. A close second was when I helped two women who were in their late 60s with some technology. Their children gave them Microsoft Surface tablets for Christmas, and they needed some help working through it. We scheduled one-on-ones (twos) every other week for one hour session to go through the tablet and it’s abilities step by step. At this time I was moving back to Wisconsin, and when I told them that I was leaving, they made me these amazing peanut butter marshmallow treats, and they told me how much I helped them.

The lowest was when I tried to put on a program that was important to me as it was one of my first programs. There was failure after failure on my part in terms of the prep, and when it finally was offered there were not very many people who attended. It was low since it was my first (but not last) big “failure” in my profession, but the next day I had opportunities to keep helping others and to learn from my coworkers.

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J.P.: How do you feel about the move toward digital everything? What I mean is—is reading reading? Or do you think it matters, the act of holding a book, turning pages, the texture, the paper, etc?

R.C.: The death of the codex is slightly exaggerated. Based on what I’ve read, the digital book phenomenon is starting to plateau, and physical books are slowly climbing back up again. People now have an option on the format they want to read, either physical book, digital book, audio book, or all of the above. There are some great things with digital. People can have dozens of books on one device, which helps for travels. They can increase the font to a size they prefer. But to address your other question, reading is indeed reading. Reading is even more than reading. Reading a paperback book in your hands? Reading. Reading on a Kindle? Reading. Listening to an audiobook in the car? Reading. Reading longform articles on your laptop? Reading. There are things I enjoy about reading a physical book. The smell, holding the pages, visibly seeing how much of the book is left, which somehow, when I’m over halfway through a book I read faster.

J.P.: Donald Trump is president, and it seems like we’re an increasingly dumb, incurious nation. We fall for bullshit disguised as “news.” We don’t believe in climate change, but we do believe in angels. We care more about the Dodgers than flooding in India. Ryan, what’s going on here?

R.C.: It can be frustrating. I get frustrated. But is it any different than other moments in history? Politics in the 1800s had pamphlets discussing opponents in the most vile ways possible. People were opening harming and killing other people more than they are now. I think people lean towards distractions. Sports are there for people to focus on something that is not truly important in their lives, but can be fun. Is that wrong? I’m not one to say. Every day I get nervous reading the news. I look at the country in a new way, but at the same time it’s a county that has always had a rather horrible history. We’ve accomplished great things while doing horrible things. We are continuing the process. However, this doesn’t make it ok. Disregarding facts for no reason is frustrating! This is why libraries are so important, though. It is access to information for everyone. Every. One.

J.P.: Tell me about the most important person in the history of your life, please.

R.C.: You won’t like this answer and probably most people, but most of my positive traits come from my friends, family, and others I’ve met. I love learning, and I don’t believe learning is just in lecture or books. It happens to me most through conversation with others.

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• “Ryan Claringbole” sounds like a middle reliever for the Padres. What’s the story of your last name?: I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t done much research into my name and heritage. I can tell you that Claringbole is an English name, and, I believe, there are less than 30 Claringbole in the United States.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mark Chmura, Corn Pops, Laura Hillenbrand, Kid Rock, Cam Newton, Rollie Fingers, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Stanley Kubrick, bowling, encyclopedias: Stanley Kubrick, encyclopedias (only if you count Wikipedia), Laura Hillenbrand, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Corn Pops, Cam Newton, bowling, Rollie Fingers, Kid Rock, Mark Chmura

• Three memories from your first date: Nervous. Palms sweaty. Clumsy as all hell.

• One question you would ask David Cassidy were he here right now: Hello, my name is Ryan. Who are you?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes. Very rough turbulence. Focused on a good memory.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Sheila E? What’s the result?: Her. No way in hell I’m hitting a woman.

• Five reasons one should make Monona his/her next vacation destination?: Wonderful community. Great small business. Beautiful parks and lake. Right next to Madison which is a fantastic small city. And, of course, visiting the library!

• What are three words you overuse?: Literally (but correctly), wonderful, what

Bill Cosby, O.J. Simpson and David Berkowitz all want to do signings at your library. You have to pick one. Who do you go with?: None of them. But if I have to pick, Bill Cosby. But nothing prevents me from inviting as many speakers and activists I can find talking about the importance on speaking out about sexual assault and supporting victims of sexual assault, making sure he’s on the opposite side of the building.

• Five all-time favorite books?: With the caveat that they are my all-time favorite right this moment, in no particular order: Catcher in the Rye, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Devil in the White City, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Between the World and Me. I will make a quick pitch to two books I finished recently. A Gentleman in Moscow is fantastic, and The Hate U Give is a book everyone should read.

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Cherie Johnson

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Twitter is a time suck. Twitter is oft-offensive. Twitter allows trolls to seize the day. Twitter gives racists and homophobes and assholes a voice.

And yet, Twitter comes with some pretty great perks.

First and foremost, it’s the world’s best people finder. And when I recently (and randomly) thought to myself, “I would love to have someone from ‘Punky Brewster,’ I went straight for the ol’ laptop and straight for the ol’ Twitter.

Where I found the kickass Cherie Johnson.

For those of you who recall the 1980s sitcom, Cherie played Punky’s best friend—named, well, “Cherie.” She was cute and precocious and sharp, and loved every moment of it. Unlike many of her peers, fortunately, Cherie emerged from the world of child acting to become an impressive (and sane) adult. She still acts, she’s an author, she runs a company that helps thespians with their careers. In short, she’s got her shit together.

Today, Cherie talks Punky, Gary Coleman, #metoo and the marginalization of African-American women in showbiz. You can follow her on Twitter here, on Instagram here and visit her website here.

Cherie Johnson, you’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Cherie, you’ve done a ton of acting over the years, but to me you’ll always, first and foremost, be Punky’s pal from “Punky Brewster.” And I guess I have two questions about that—A. How do you feel about being recognized/thought of from a 32-year-old show? B. Looking back, how do you feel about “Punky Brewster” What I mean is—do you love it? Do you see it as a life changer, or more like this little lark from childhood?

CHERIE JOHNSON: Punky to me at this point is surreal! An amazing gift life gave me that has extremely shaped my life journeys. I am appreciative that I did a good enough job at bringing a character to life that I’m still remembered. I am thankful.

J.P.: Obviously you’re well aware of the #metoo movement that’s swept up a lot of Hollywood. I was wondering if you ever experienced what you consider, in hindsight, to be inappropriate treatment from men in the business? And why do you think so much bad happened in Hollywood? Was it a matter of power dynamics?

C.J.: Yes, I have been sexual harrassed but I never played along or kept quiet. Those men knew exactly how I felt the moment it happened. Did it cause me not to get hired again? Sure. So much bad happens everywhere if people open their eyes. Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked in a real estate office while trying to study to take my real estate licences and the man whom was supposed to be my mentor crossed the line much worse than anyone in Hollywood had. It happens everywhere, but for whatever reason Hollywood is put on a pedestal. Power struggle with people’s reality vs. fiction of life. This world—every walk—is filled with sexual predators and those who enable them! That’s why rape statistics are so high. Sexual assault isn’t just a Hollywood issue. It’s a world issue.

Cherie and Punky back in the day.

Cherie and Punky back in the day.

J.P.: Totally random, but in 1985 you co-starred with Gary Coleman in the made-for-TV film, “Playing with Fire.” I was always fascinated by Coleman, in large part because he seemed to be the face of the bad that comes with young fame. Looking back, what do you remember about working with him? And how you explain his sad demise?

C.J.: Gary was one of the most amazing people I got to work with. He was sweet and overprotective; a wonderful big brother type. This whole bullying thing for some reason doesn’t apply to entertainers. Gary was a great person and was never treated fairly. Unfortunately, life circumstances took advantage.

J.P.: So I know your uncle, David Duclon, was the creator of “Silver Spoons” and a producer for a bunch of shows. But how, exactly, did showbiz get in your blood? Was there a moment when you thought, “Yes! I am made to do this?” Were you always passionate about acting?

C.J.: Watching Ricky Schroder at rehearsal of Silver Spoons, I looked at my Uncle and said, “I can do that you know”. LOL—I was 5-years old.

J.P.: So you’re the author of “Stupid Guys Diary,” a chronicling of your dates through the years. And it’s largely one disaster after another—oftentimes because some guy doesn’t know how to go about dating an actress. And I wonder—why is this? Like, why do you think men struggle dating a celebrity, as opposed to, say, a lawyer, a cop, a receptionist? What’s the problem?

C.J.: I think the issue is they never see the person. They see the characters they like. This world confuses reality and fiction and doesn’t know the difference. Common sense ain’t common.

J.P.: You run “The Real Hollywood,” a traveling workshop for aspiring actors, directors, producers. First, how did you come up with the idea? Why? And what, specifically, are you trying to show people? Teach people?

C.J.: When I started producing, I realized the mistakes actors make in auditions can be easily corrected. But casting directors and producers don’t tell or help actors. Also, people come to me often about being scammed out of thousands in the name of so-called acting/modeling schools. People forget acting is a business not just a craft so I teach the business.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest? 

C.J.: The greatest was producing my own film. The worst was when people only wanted to hire me to play the nice girl next door.

J.P.: You’re very outspoken on Twitter, Instagram, etc. when it comes to matters of social justice. And I wonder—do you at all worry about this? What I mean is, Trump voters watch films, too. Trump voters aspire to act. So is there any concern about alienating people you might need? Why or why not?

C.J.: Honestly, I could give a shit if Trump voters are turned off. They turn me off, too. I am a human first and not defined by my career. I have not been hired because of my social media truths and, truly, I dont give a shit. Those seem like jobs I didn’t ultimately need anyway. Here is the thing: I won’t even compromise Cherie to please anyone.

J.P.: You’ve been acting for several decades now, and it’s no secret Hollywood sees African-Americans—and, specifically, African-American women—in certain unflattering/limited/stigmatized lights. It just seems like women of color are marginalized and reduced to certain roles. Soooo … what do you tell young African-American actresses/aspiring actresses? Are there ways to rise above the stigma? To make yourself appealing when, traditionally, casting heads don’t a certain “type”? 

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C.J.: Just because an invitation is sent doesn’t mean you have to go to the party. Cherie Johnson does not audition for nannies, housekeepers, hoes or concubines. We stop accepting and they will stop offering the disrespect. I am not The Help! (The concept of the film pisses me off) and my acceptance doesn’t come from their award shows.
I started producing 17 years ago because I got tired of waiting for them to hire me. Create your own jobs.

J.P.: You spent a good number of years on “Family Matters,” and I wonder—how does a sitcom last that long? I mean, obviously it resonated with an audience—but how? And did you ever get tired of playing the same character for so long?

C.J.: I think sitcoms last when the cast enjoys and loves each other. Also, having relatable characters. I only was tired playing the same character after the show ended.

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• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No

• Best piece of advice you ever received?: Never let anyone steal your joy!

• Who wins in a MMA match between you and Sarah Palin?: I’d beat Sarah’s ass …

• Five all-time favorite books?: Peaches and Cream and Stupid Guys Diary by Cherie Johnson, Once Upon a Christmas by David Duclon, Come Inside by Deborah Lindsay Tillman, Love Struggles by Romeo J. Ballayan!

• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $5 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and work as her personal acting coach. However, you have to work 365-straight says, live on a diet of Coke Zero and baked potatoes and change your last name to Genesimmons. You in?: I don’t drink Coke Zero. Celine can kiss my ass!

• Five best actresses of your lifetime?: Cicely Tyson, Loretta Devine, Sally Field, Sandra Bullock and Angela Bassett.

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Finis Henderson III in “A Little Bit Strange”?: Amazing experience with an amazing cast! Michael Warren and Martin Lawrence were also on that set and Vanessa Bell Calloway. Dream come true for any young actor.

• Should the Washington Redskins change their name?: Yes

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Michael Sam, Jaimee Foxworth, George Gaynes, Mitch McConnell, Frenchy Fuqua, “Patti Cake$,” spiral notepads, chocolate-covered raisins, granola, Anaheim Ducks: George Gaynes, Jaimee Foxworth, spiral note pads, I’m allergic to chocolate and too lazy to google the other names … Pittsburgh Penguins!

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Diane Pizarro

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On the morning of January 13, Diane Pizarro was at her home in Kailua, speaking via phone with her brother, when this message flashed across her screen …
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What is one supposed to do?

How is one supposed to act?

You’re a mother. A daughter. A friend. A spouse. And you are suddenly informed that your life—and the lives of your loved ones—is about to end.

This is the subject of today’s Quaz.

Diane is my former former Tennessean colleague, as well as a product of The Review, the University of Delaware’s student newspaper. She lives in Kailua with her husband and children, and works as a real estate agent. You can visit her page here.

Serious Quaz, serious subject …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Diane, so you’re inside your home in Kailua when the missile alert is sent out. So: A. How did you learn of it? B. What was your initial response?

DIANE PIZARRO: I’m on the phone with my brother in LA. He’s talking but his voice suddenly goes dead and the alert starts blaring through my phone. I pull the phone away from my ear to look at the text, and see the emergency alert, BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER and the haunting words, THIS NOT A DRILL.

The message disappears, and my brother’s voice comes back on. He’s still talking. I interrupt him, my voice shaking and starting to crack. “Adam, oh my god I just got an alert on my phone about a nuclear attack.” I run down the hall to find my husband, Fernando. I’m shouting, “Fernando, what should we do?” But the alert hasn’t gone off on his phone yet, so he has no idea what I’m blathering about. I tell him about the alert, but it has disappeared from my screen already. Still nothing on his phone. He turns on the local TV station and it’s college basketball. Nothing. At this point I tell my brother I’m getting off the phone to figure out what’s going on. The TV finally flashes up the same alert message, giving us confirmation, but we still keep looking for more information. Meanwhile my brother is checking Twitter and sees many other people reporting the same. Then the siren near our house goes off. (We find out later very few, if any, other sirens went off, and most news reports stated there were no sirens, but the ones by our house did. I don’t recall if it was just the tsunami warning sound we are accustomed to hearing during monthly tests or the nuclear warning siren they just added in November, but any siren in my panicked state was further confirmation of our worst fears). Now we are running around closing windows. The alert finally comes across on Fernando’s phone.

Our 9-year-old daughter is repeatedly asking, “Mom, what? What is it?” I’m not sure if I should tell her, but she keeps asking, so I tell her we received an alert and we were taking precautions against a possible attack, but that we’re probably fine. She knows it’s not fine and she she starts crying. She knows exactly what it means because her class recently went through a drill at school. Meanwhile her 11-year-old sister is still asleep. I go in her room and wake her, tell her she needs to get up and we need to get away from the windows. I ask her to bring her pillow and come into the hall. I run to the fridge and grab a bottle of orange juice and plastic cups (not sure why I grab orange juice, it’s just the first thing I see in the fridge, but no one wants orange juice. I think I felt I had to DO something. We would later laugh about this). Then we just sit in the hall, and try to comfort the kids as best we can. I take to Facebook to post a message and also to see what others were posting. My husband is looking on Twitter for more information and confirmation. We sit and wait.

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J.P.: I hope this doesn’t sound obvious—but what was the fear like? How would you explain it? What are the emotions running through your mind? 

D.P.: I felt very helpless, not really knowing what to do. I mean really, we had no clue what to do, other than close windows. There’s no time, so they recommend sheltering in place.  I was thinking about our 15-year-old daughter who was already in the air on her way home from a school trip to San Francisco. What would she be coming home to, or could she even return home? Would they turn the plane around? And she didn’t even know what was going on. I know they recommend filling a bathtub with water, but we didn’t even think that. We were terribly unprepared. While the first few minutes after the alert were filled with fear and panic, an eerie calm came over as as we sat in the hall and waited. I remember thinking don’t look at the windows, don’t look at the light. Those few minutes as we sat there in the hall we really didn’t even know what to expect. Even after we got the alerts that it was a false alarm, it took us a while to peel ourselves up and shake it off. I think I was still shaking for a while after, and just felt discombobulated for most of the day.

J.P.: How did you find out it was a false alarm? And what did that feel like?

D.P.: Fernando saw a Tweet from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. That was the first confirmation. We kept searching for more confirmation, and I saw posts from a couple of friends on Facebook and eventually it became clear we were not in imminent danger. It was frustrating because authorities didn’t issue an official notification for 38 minutes, which seemed like forever. Then it was trying to find out what on earth happened. Local television finally started reporting that it was a mistake and then we could finally start going about our business. Like watching the Titans get destroyed by the Patriots. Oh, and when I picked up our 15-year-old at the airport, she was teasing me a little, like, “Oh, you believed it was real?” She had no idea the fear and panic we went through, but maybe that’s for the best. Those 10 minutes or so changed us a little bit.

J.P.: I’m sure you’re aware that, as all this was happening, Donald Trump was playing golf, and Tweeted about #fakenews unrelated to Hawaii. So … does that bother you? Or does it not really matter?

D.P.: I’ve stopped paying attention to anything he does. It’s pointless, and I’m not at all surprised by what he was doing or his reaction. The thing I’m focused on now is how can we get rid of him, and also get back Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

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With Fernando.

J.P.: You and I both attended the University of Delaware, both worked at The Tennessean. So, um, how the heck did you wind up in Hawaii?

D.P.: After having our first daughter in Nashville, we visited Fernando’s parents who had moved there out of the blue in 1996 from the U.S. mainland. We fell in love with it. How could you not? We were getting restless living in Middle Tennessee and Hawaii was completely different. Having his parents there was also a reason to move. Gannett, which owns The Tennessean where my husband and I worked, also owned the Honolulu Advertiser and we arranged to meet some of the editors in Honolulu. There were no positions available at that time, but when a city editor position opened up a few months later, Fernando applied for the position and we moved here three weeks after getting the job offer, in July 2004.

J.P.: My wife has often said, “I’d love to live in Hawaii.” But then I’ve heard two common negative replies: 1. You inevitably feel like you’re trapped; 2. People aren’t that warm toward non-natives. Any of that legit? And what is it like living there?

D.P.: Island fever! I’ve not felt that in the almost 14 years I’ve been here. I imagine some people can feel boxed in since you can’t drive anywhere but it’s not an issue for us. Everyone we’ve met has been extremely gracious, hospitable and friendly. It’s obvious my husband and I are not from here, but no one has ever made us feel unwanted or excluded. It’s all about how you engage with the people you meet and having an open mind and avoiding any preconceived notions. Aside from missile threats, I imagine living here is much like living on any coast of the United States: beautiful, expensive, full of wonderful ocean views and tropical settings.

J.P.: Like an increasing number of people, you’re an ex-journalist. Why? What happened? What caused you to leave the business?

D.P.: When we were talking with The Honolulu Advertiser, the only positions that were available for me would have involved working at night. With Fernando as city editor, we would have been on completely different schedules and we didn’t want that for our family. I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and I loved the time I spent with my children. When the children grew older and I started thinking about working again, so much had changed in journalism locally and nationally that I felt very removed and separate from my old career. I thought about what really interested me and real estate was where my interests were.

J.P.: What’s the journalism scene in Honolulu? Do you see good reporting being done? Are newspapers still important?

D.P.: Honolulu became a one-newspaper town in 2010 and that was definitely a loss. I think Honolulu Civil Beat, an online news site, does a good job of augmenting the one newspaper and the TV stations. There’s good journalism here but there’s room for more investigative work.

At the 2011 Pro Bowl

At the 2011 Pro Bowl

J.P.: You’re a realtor in Honolulu County. I’ve gotta think people are always itching to move there. So … what are the complications? Like, do people think they’re walking into something unrealistic? Paradise without problems? And what percentage of your business is locals v. people from off the mainland?

D.P.: It is very costly to live in Hawaii. With median single family home prices at $750,000, many people work multiple jobs to manage. Buyers coming in from the mainland can be unrealistic if they aren’t familiar with the market. Even $500,000 doesn’t go very far in most parts of the island. In Kailua for instance, the beach town where we live, $500,000 will only buy a 1-2 bedroom apartment with a $400-600 a month maintenance fee. Some of the newer subdivisions out west are more affordable, but with that comes traffic gridlock so people find themselves making tough choices regarding housing. In our little beach town, many single family homes have attached apartments added on that can be rented out to help with the mortgage. But be prepared to spend well over $1 million for something like that. Many of my clients are locals or transplants who have been here many years and are essentially considered locals, but I do also have a fair share of military and relocating civilian clients.

J.P.: One of your featured listings is a seven-bathroom, six-bedroom Honolulu home selling for $5.9 million. I wonder—are huge listings like that harder or easier than, say, your average $700,000 home? Do you have to approach them differently?

D.P.: The scale of Hawaii real estate is so much larger than on the Mainland. An “average home” here is a mansion almost anywhere else in the United States. I think about that with every transaction that I’m fortunate enough to have. Whether I’m working with a buyer or seller, the investment is very significant and I work very hard for all of my clients. Some properties have their own complexity because of specific issues with the lot or the infrastructure or legal issues. Some higher dollar transactions can go much more smoothly than those where the price point is lower, but it can also be just the opposite. The goal always is to have happy, satisfied clients. Much like the day in the life of a journalist, every day and every transaction is different. I love that and it gives me a great thrill to find the right house for a buyer, get offers on one of my listings, or learn about a home not yet on market, no matter the price point.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ted Spiker, Frank Sutherland, Kellogg’s Pops, New Jersey, Nerlens Noel, the elephant exhibit at a zoo, coconut pie, Punky Brewster, the number 34: New Jersey! (my first home in the U.S. after emigrating from London in 1981, and the setting for my high school years!!!); Frank Sutherland (hired me and also helped us get to Honolulu 11 years later); Ted Spiker (fun memories of late nights at the Review); the elephant exhibit at the zoo (where I first saw newly elected President Obama with his daughters before he took office, so whenever I see the elephant exhibit it reminds me of that day); Kellogg’s Pops (reminds me of college, eating them straight out of the box); coconut pie (haupia pie in Hawaii); the number 34 (prefer odd numbers); Punky Brewster (didn’t watch much TV at that time, was in college), Nerlens Noel (who?).

• Five reasons one should make Honolulu his/her next vacation destination?: Beautiful beaches; even more beautiful lush mountains; local cuisine, especially poke (raw fish, usually cubed and seasoned, and spicy ahi is da best); aloha spirit; the people. Once you let her in, Hawai’i stays in your soul.

• How did you meet your husband?: He came to The Tennessean for a conference we were hosting. He was working for the Clarksville (Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle newspaper at the time. We sat in some sessions and I remember he sat across from me at dinner. He got a job at The Tennessean about a year after that and we hit it off right away.

• What’s the greatest smell in the world?: The ocean.

• Last time you saw snow in person?: June 2015 when we visited a friend in Washington State and we took a trip to Mount Baker. The kids threw snowballs, slid down the hill and made snow angels. It was priceless.

• Three memories from working at The Review?: 1. Late, late nights hanging out with Ted Spiker, Mark Nardone, Corey Ullman, Jeff James, Bob Bicknell and many others I’ve lost touch with, takeout grilled cheese and french fries at the student center; 2. The April Fools edition. Awesome. Do they still do that? I doubt it. So politically incorrect; 3. My first editors were Mike Freeman and Chuck Arnold. When I first started on the Review, I was new to journalism completely clueless. I was typing a story and lost it two or three times. Mike Freeman was the editor-in-chief and he took the time to help retrieve the story. He was a inspiring newsroom leader, and I have since enjoyed following his success. I read a Quaz you did with him a while back and was happy to see it. I lost track of Chuck Arnold but I always thought he would end up in the music industry.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants to buy a $10 million home in Honolulu, and wants to use your services. However, she insists you shave your hair and only eat peaches and Chex Mix for two weeks. You in?: Nope. I don’t like Celine Dion and it would also hurt my reputation.

• Do you think the Brooklyn Nets were wise to trade for Jahlil Okafor?: Who and who? I only know my Tennessee Titans.

• What are three things you always carry?: Phone, driver’s license, credit card.

• What happens when we die?: -30-


Michal Kapral


Photo by Christine Spingola/Canada Running Series

A few weeks ago I was feeling down about the Quaz.

I’ve been doing this thing for nearly seven years, and the week-after-week-after-week grind had taken its toll. I actually spoke with the wife about retiring the series, and took that idea to Twitter and Facebook. People were supportive (Maybe just some time off?), but I was torn. On the one hand, I really wanna hit 1,000. On the other hand, it can be a burden.

Then—Michal Kapral.

He was suggested by a friend, and after I asked, “Michal who?” he sent me material that had me both entertained and dazzled. I mean, here’s a guy who has devoted much of his life to running marathons … while juggling. That is so friggin’ Quaz, I couldn’t possibly let it pass.

Anyhow, here I am. Renewed and re-energized and back on the march toward 1,000. And here, by no mere coincidence, is Michal Kapral, aka “The Joggler.” His story is insane. His exploits are insane. And behind it all is a genuinely good dude who, as a boy, picked up a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records and said, “I want that.”

One can follow Michal on Twitter here, and read his fascinating blog here.

Michal Kapral, take a break. You’re the 342nd Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Michal, you’re “The Joggler”—meaning you run marathons while juggling. Which is quirky/funky/awesome/weird. So, basic first question, how did this happen?

MICHAL KAPRAL: You know how sometimes in life, a series of small decisions and events lead to strange and unexpected consequences? That’s how I became “The Joggler.” Growing up, I was mostly healthy and normal, but also felt different from my friends because I was allergic to almost every food. I also had severe eczema, and asthma that sent me to the hospital several times. I think this feeling of being different pushed me try offbeat feats. I already felt like a bit of an oddball, so why not embrace it?

My sister Moira and I used to flip through the Guinness Book of World Records to find records we could break. When I was about 12, I had just taught myself how to juggle three tennis balls, and found a record for the “joggling” marathon. Running while juggling for 26.2 miles—I was captivated! I couldn’t believe that someone did this, and went to the park the next day to try out this hilarious-sounding sport. To my amazement, the juggling actually fit perfectly with the running stride. Flash forward 20 years, and I was then a semi-competitive marathon runner. I had won the Toronto Marathon in a PR of 2:30:40 and had dreams of representing Canada in the Olympics. But my marathon times remained stuck in that 2:30 range and my life got too busy to train like an elite marathoner. I was working two jobs and shuttling our first daughter Annika to and from daycare in a Baby Jogger. At some point when I was doing a long run pushing Annika in the running stroller, I thought about running my next marathon pushing her, and wondered if there was a Guinness World Record for running a marathon pushing a stroller. Turned out there was. It was 3:05. So in 2004, I set my first Guinness World Record with Annika: fastest marathon pushing a stroller, in 2:49.

I was raising money for SickKids, the hospital that took care of me when I had those asthma attacks as a kid, and when the people from the charity asked me what I would do the next year, I blurted out: “I’m going to run the marathon while juggling!” I hadn’t tried joggling in 20 years, and had just committed to running an entire marathon. But my childhood dream was alight and I was excited to chase it. I ordered a set of juggling balls and started training every morning at sunrise so no one would see me struggling. I dropped the balls left, right and center. I swore into the morning air. But I kept at it, and got a little better every day. After a few months, I could go a mile without a drop. My arms got strong. In 2005 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I set the record for fastest marathon joggling three objects, in 3:07. I saw kids point and cheer along the course who were the same age as me when I first read about this record, and felt there was something more to this than silliness. The juggling pattern mesmerized me. My arms, legs and brain were all working in perfect harmony. Making it across that finish line after more than three hours of running while juggling every step was one the hardest things I’ve ever done. Everything hurt, even my brain. But I had become “The Joggler.”

J.P.: You are in the Guinness Book of World Records for running a 2:50 marathon while juggling three objects. My PR is a 3:11—sans any objects. So what I wonder, as a running geek, is how you run so fast while not using your arms in a collaborative effort? Is arm usage somehow overrated in running?

M.K.: The cool thing about joggling is that the arm motion of running actually syncs up perfectly with the tosses in the three-ball cascade juggling pattern. After many years of practice, I can run while juggling at almost the same speed as I would just running. My marathon PR is 20 minutes faster than my joggling record, but I was probably in 2:35 or 2:40 marathon shape when I joggled the 2:50 record. The secret to efficient joggling is maintaining the same arm swing as when you’re running. This means you need to catch the ball, carry it in your hand as your arm swings back and then toss it as your arm swings forward. When it’s smooth, joggling is poetry in motion.

J.P.: Back in October you ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and tried to set a new world record for fastest marathon while juggling five objects. You came up short, but still blogged about the experience as a victorious one. Why?

M.K.: I had been thinking about trying a five-ball joggling marathon for 10 years. It’s such a daunting prospect because the difficulty level is off the charts. Also, most people don’t even realize how hard it is. When I was joggling the five-ball marathon, a woman saw me and said: “You should just juggle three balls. No one will know the difference.” She had a good point. A lot of people can’t distinguish the three-ball pattern from four or five. I raised money for SickKids again, but the five-ball marathon attempt was much more of a personal challenge than the three-ball records. It turned out to be even more challenging than I expected, and I had to bail on the juggling after a little over 10 miles. But I considered it a success because it was such an amazing experience. I got to reconnect with my joggling rival and friend Zach Warren, who acted as my spotter during the race, people donated nearly $2,000 to SickKids, I made it to 17km while juggling five balls, which is the furthest five-ball joggling distance officially documented, and Zach convinced me to finish the rest of the marathon without the juggling, which we did with a negative split (running the second half faster than the first) of nearly two hours. I also got to experience what it’s like to be in dead last place in a marathon. Humbling! The five-ball joggling pattern is a beautiful thing, but trying to do it in a busy marathon was a lofty goal. I don’t think I’ll try it again (although I’ve said that before about other records!).


Photo by Canada Running Series

J.P.: I’m pretty sure people are born fast and others are born less fast, and while the less fast can become fast, they might never run a 2:20 marathon. My question is—are people born jugglers? Like, could a non-juggler like myself devote years to the craft and become a star? Or does it take a special something?

M.K.: I never really thought about that. I think there is some natural talent involved in becoming an advanced juggler. Since I took up joggling, I’ve watched videos of a bunch of the world’s best jugglers and the things they can do will blow your mind. Much like running, a huge amount of juggling skill can be acquired through hours and hours of practice, but like elite runners, I bet the top-level jugglers have some natural ability baked in there. But I do think that with patience and practice, anyone can become a really good juggler. I practiced for many hours for about six months to learn the five-ball pattern. It certainly didn’t come naturally. Once you get comfortable with the three-ball cascade, practice becomes a lot more fun because you can learn tricks, and then move up to four balls, five balls, and other props like rings and clubs. The possibilities for tricks and routines are virtually infinite, which is really cool. It’s not just clowning around. Juggling is a sport, an art, a science, a skill and brain-builder. It’s definitely worth the effort that you put into it. It’s really a shame that juggling is associated with being geeky and clownish in our current society, because it has so many benefits.

J.P.: Off-putting question, but how much of this is about attention? We all have egos. We all like to be noticed. So does that need feed you at all? Do you thrive off the news appearances, cheering fans, etc?

M.K.: I think of my joggling as similar to being a professional athlete (but without most of the money). I don’t do it for the attention, but it’s fun to put your best out there for the world to see, and to entertain people in the process. I used to do 99 percent of my joggling training alone through Toronto’s park system, and I do it for the same reasons runners run. I enjoy it. Nowadays, my joggling commute from work in downtown Toronto to our home in east end is sort of performance art in its own right, since I run past so many people. How many other sports are there where you get random people cheering you on while you train? So I get a real kick out my training now, seeing kids point me out to their moms and dads, and hearing all kinds of hilarious comments from people on the street. When I’m racing, it’s a huge thrill to hear the cheers and see the look of shock on some people’s faces, and the media interviews are fun and exciting, but it’s also a ton of hard work for no money.

I’m just trying to be best at my sport, which happens to be quirky enough to garner a lot of attention. If a running brand sponsored me, they would get millions and millions of dollars’ worth of PR value every year. My least favorite comment is when people yell “Show-off!” near the end of a joggling marathon, when every fiber of my being is screaming in agony from the effort. That’s when I get envious of Olympic athletes or of NBA players or tennis stars. No one yells “Show-off!” at LeBron James when he sinks a three-pointer. The greatest thing is just doing your absolute best, whatever it is you do. I’m very lucky joggling is a fun challenge for me and also entertaining for other people. I was in the 2009 documentary, “Breaking and Entering,” that follows the lives of several world-record breakers. The movie has the great tagline: “Fame. Fortune. Usually neither.” The record-breakers in the film had all kinds of different motivations for doing what they do. Fame and fortune were not typically high on the list, which is good because if they were the driving factors, there would be a lot of very disappointed record-breakers out there.


Photo by Dianne Kapral

J.P.: Here’s the one that gets me—in 2012 you juggled the entire Trapline Marathon in Labrador—and won it with a 2:59. That’s beyond weird, because I imagine, for the other competitors, it must have been somewhat discouraging. What do you remember from the experience?

M.K.: Thinking of the Trapline Marathon in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador brings back so many great memories. It’s a beautiful point-to-point course along one rolling road in the wilderness of the Canadian north. It’s such a small race that the other runners didn’t care that a guy won it while juggling. I ran next to one guy for a few miles and then took off on my own for the rest. It was quite a surreal experience (one of many surreal joggling experiences) to be joggling all alone in such a remote area and winning a marathon. Serial marathoner Michael Wardian was supposed to run it that year but was injured. He cheered me on from a bike for part of the race. There was a moose on the course, and they served moose stew at race finish. I remember wondering if it was the same moose.

J.P.: In 2015 you were banned from running the New York City Marathon when your beanbags were prohibited for security reasons. What, exactly, happened? And how furious were you?

M.K.: I always ask for permission from the race director before joggling. It’s never been a problem before. I had signed up for the New York City Marathon assuming joggling would be allowed since it had a long tradition of permitting jogglers. Race founder Fred Lebow was a fan of joggling back in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the race instituted new security rules after the Boston Marathon bombings, which prohibited the use of “props” or “sporting equipment.” I sent the race a detailed email with my joggling resume and the specs on my 100-gram, millet-filled juggling beanbags, and they said sorry, the beanbags are not allowed because of security concerns. I tried to plead my case, but to no avail. I wasn’t angry, just super disappointed. With so many spectators, NYC is the perfect venue for joggling. Such a shame.

At least one other person joggled the race anyway, so they don’t even enforce it. The funny thing was the story ended up on the front page of the New York Times sports section on the day of the marathon with the awesome headline: “With Juggling Ban, Only Things Being Aired Are Grievances.” The article included some hilarious passages, like, “Reactions from the tightknit joggling community were swift and furious, with members expressing concern from as far as Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.” Incredibly, when I ran the race as a normal non-juggling runner, a ton of people still recognized me from the NYT piece, and because I was in a TV commercial for Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. I’ve never had so much attention for not joggling.


Photo by Christine Spingola/Canada Running Series

J.P.: I’m gonna throw a random one at you, based solely on your running experience. My son is 11, and his middle school has a running club that trains sixth, seventh and eighth graders for a marathon. A full marathon. I find this unwise and crazy, and we’re only letting Emmett train for a half. What says you?

M.K.: I’ve heard of kids that age running marathons and I don’t think it’s a good idea. That’s a lot of stress on growing bones. I’d stick to the half or 10K. My younger daughter Lauryn, who is 13, loves to run and goes five or six miles with me sometimes. I definitely wouldn’t want her to run a marathon at that age. What I think your son’s school really needs is a joggling club.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your sports career? Lowest?

M.K.: The greatest moment in my sports career was reclaiming the world record for the three-ball joggling marathon in 2007, finishing in 2:50:12 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and seeing my family at the finish line. I was so happy I literally jumped for joy at the finish line.

The lowest was probably the part of the five-ball joggling marathon attempt where the race video crew showed up after I had fallen apart and was trying to joggle with a torn muscle in my hand. At one point I was so done I lay down on my back – all captured on the live stream worldwide!

J.P.: It seems like there’s a fight for people to take joggling seriously. Like, you and your rivals clearly do. It’s not a joke, it’s a talent. And yet, from what I read there’s also a lot of snickering. Soooo … do you care? Do you get pissed when folks giggle, laugh, etc? Do you think folks misunderstand what you do?

M.K.: I don’t mind when people laugh or snicker. It’s a funny sport. As long as it makes people smile and laugh, that’s a good thing. But sure, lots of people don’t understand just how hard it is, and that we’re not just screwing around. It would be great if people recognized that it’s both difficult and funny. It’s a lot like stand-up comedy. It’ll never be serious, but it takes a lot of work to do it well.

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Photo by Trapline Marathon


• Rank in order (favorite to least): Spice Girls, Amy Grant, Vancouver, “Trading Places,” chocolate covered almonds, Nebraska, Howie Long, New Year’s Eve parties, rifles, little puppies, Tim Horton’s: “Trading Places,” Vancouver, chocolate covered almonds, New Year’s Eve parties, little puppies, Howie Long, Tim Horton’s, Nebraska, Spice Girls, rifles, Amy Grant

• You’re Canadian. From afar, what do you think of Donald Trump thus far?: What do you say? Trump’s election is greatest threat to democracy I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m sad and scared for my American neighbors, but still hopeful justice will be served to everyone who’s complicit in this mess. I happened to read Bill Browder’s “Red Notice” just before the U.S. election – a terrifying account of how deep the corruption runs in Putin’s regime. Every American should read it to get a sense of what you’re dealing with.

• Three things we need to know about your wife: 1. Apart from being smart, beautiful and great mom, Dianne is always up for adventure. We went backpacking in Ecuador for our honeymoon; 2. Dianne is a great runner, and ran her marathon PR of 3:24:17 in Chicago in 2014 at age 41; 3. Dianne hates, HATES being called “The Joggler’s wife,” even though she’s really the one who’s responsible for making me known as “The Joggler” by writing all the press releases and pitching my record attempts to media when I first started.

• I just read that Janet Jackson is back together with Jermaine Dupri. How you taking the news?: Tito, get me some tissue.

• Four all-time favorite jazz musicians?: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, but I prefer heavy metal.

• What are the three keys to successful juggling?: Get used to failure, stay calm, think of the whole pattern not the individual toss, learn in increments

 Best memory from your senior prom?: I went to an American school in Rome for my senior year, so senior prom at a Roman villa was all one big amazing memory.

• Ever thought you were about to die? If so, what do you recall?: Several times from anaphylaxis after accidentally eating peanuts or other food allergens. Every time, my first thought was just “Not now!” I almost died from a rare virus a few years ago, but that time I was totally unaware of my near-death. I passed out, crumpling to the bathroom floor, smashing my head and tearing open my arm on the way down. I woke up what felt like one second later to find my wife and two daughters screaming and crying in front of me. It turned out I was unconscious for more than a minute, with my eyes open. Turned out to be a virus that used to have a 75% fatality rate before anti-viral medications came along. Thanks to some great doctors and Canadian health care, I was back marathon training a couple of weeks later.

• In exactly 16 words, make an argument for cornbread: Cornbread has the perfect texture and flavor to complement butter and chili. I want some now!

• What do your feet smell like after a race?: Surprisingly not too bad. I don’t sweat much and wear very thin, breathable socks. My wife might have another opinion about this.

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Alan Schwarz

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Back when I was a young writer at Sports Illustrated, there was a certain pack mentality to up-and-coming national scribes.

It’s hard to explain, but the men and women from magazines and big newspapers often chatted in press boxes, dined on the road, exchanged war stories about this hotel, that PR director. It was the club I always wanted to join, and being included meant a great deal to an insecure 26-year-old Jeff Pearlman.

During those days, I would see Baseball America‘s Alan Schwarz fairly often, but I’m not sure I ever considered him “one of us.” I address this below, and chalk it up 100 percent to my insecurity. But Alan just seemed … different. Smarter—definitely. Better dressed—always. More knowledgable about the inner-workings of the game—almost certainly. Whatever the case, I don’t think I ever fully understood the man, or even tried to. I probably felt threatened. That’s the beast of juvenile insecurity.

Anyhow, it was misguided. And as I sit here at 45, I look at Alan’s work and marvel. His investigative digging on concussions for the New York Times is the stuff of groundbreaking legend, and his ADHD reporting (and book) is the sort of material we all strive for.

In short: A. He’s done this business well; B. I was an ass.

One can follow Alan on Twitter here, and visit his website here.

Alan Schwarz, you are the 341st Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Alan, I’m gonna start with a weird one. So the first sentence of your Wikipedia bio identifies you as a “Pulitzer Prize-nominated” New York Times reporter. And, having never sniffed a sniff of a sniff of a sniff of a Pulitzer, I wonder what the process/experience is like. I truly have no idea—do you find out you’re nominated, then try and figure out your odds of winning? Do people say, “Oh, it’s in the bag”? Do you think about it a lot? Is there speech planning involved? And, when you find out you didn’t win, is it crushing? Disappointing? No biggie?

ALAN SCHWARZ: Just to clarify, I don’t write or edit my Wikipedia page, which has some mistakes—not the least of which (at least as of now) is still saying I’m with the Times, more than a year after I left. The “Pulitzer Prize-nominated” description is correct but, yes, a little confusing.

From what I was told, “nominated” for a Pulitzer does not mean “submitted for consideration”—turns out anyone can send in their stuff for the committee to eyeball. It actually means you were one of the three official finalists from which the winner is then chosen. My concussion series was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer for Public Service (considered the most prestigious), so I was indeed nominated, something we found out through the grapevine a few weeks before the winners were decided. I spent several months being told I should—would—win, by people who really knew how it worked, and was pretty much an emotional wreck in the days leading up to the announcement. If you win, you’re immortal; this would have been the highest honor a sports reporter had ever received in the history of the field. Then, three days ahead of the official announcement, executive editor Bill Keller told me he knew that I had not won—the committee had chosen a Los Angeles Times series on political corruption in the small city of Bell, Calif. People had a hard time seeing how something that regionally specific qualified for writ-large Public Service, compared to our concussion work’s effects on national, even worldwide, children’s health. Keller said afterward, publicly, “I make it a practice not to second-guess the Pulitzer board—but on this one, I can’t help making an exception.”

That meant a lot to me, still does. I’ve always said, and meant it, that I would have rather finished second with the Times than won somewhere else. But I’ll admit that not a day goes by—literally—when I don’t wonder what could have been.

Alan (back row, red shirt) rocking it groovy in 1974.

Alan (back row, third from right) rocking the groovy glasses in 1974.

J.P.: You’re now known as one of the big guns when it comes to understanding the relationship between football and concussions. And it’s strange—because I knew you as the Baseball America guy for years … then one day, ‘Whoa, it’s Schwarz! And he’s the concussion guru.” So how did that first come about? When were you initially interested in the subject?

A.S.: Yes, I had been a baseball writer exclusively, for all 16 years of my career, when the concussion story pretty much fell in my lap. My first book, “The Numbers Game,” came out in 2004 and did very well. A year later, in the summer of 2005, my old editor at Inside Sports magazine, Ken Leiker, had become the communications guy (I think) for the World Wrestling Federation—and one of the wrestlers there, Chris Nowinski, who also happened to have played football at Harvard, had written a book on football concussions. Could I take a look at it and maybe give him some advice about publishing a first book? Sure, Ken, send it over. It blew me away. Not the text—that was fine—it was the footnotes, of all things. Everything was documented. All the assertions that the NFL had a concussion problem and was covering it up—sourced. All the studies about kids’ brain injuries—cited fastidiously. I knew nothing about concussions, but I sure knew what good, solid work was.

So I told Chris to come down from Boston to New York and I would introduce him to my agent and a few publisher friends, just as a professional courtesy. People had helped me when I was unknown, so pay it forward. Chris did come down, that summer of 2005, but no one thought his book was worth publishing (read: commercially viable). I said that was nuts—this was clearly in important matter that should be put in print if only as a public service. No one gave it the time of day. And that was it. Chris went back to his life, I went back to mine. I didn’t give it a second thought, honestly. But then, over a year later, in December 2006, Chris called me out of the blue. He said, “Alan, I might have some big news on my hands, and you’re the only one who ever took me seriously.” Andre Waters, the former Philadelphia Eagles safety, had killed himself a few weeks before and Chris was having the brain tissue examined for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the disease to that point seen almost exclusively in boxers. Chris asked me that, if Waters did have the pathology, what media outlet might be interested? Well, I thought of only two places. ESPN, and Bob Ley of “Outside the Lines” specifically, because Bob darned well knows news when he sees it and wouldn’t be bullied by the NFL. The other place was The New York Times. I didn’t work at the Times, but I was writing a ton of sports stories for them as a freelancer—columns on statistical analysis as well as features, two of which had been on the front page. The sports editor, Tom Jolly, was a fantastic guy whom I trusted. Waters sounded like a New York Times story. So again, I told Chris to come down and I’d set up a meeting with Tom. And again, he did. But this time, Tom recognized just how important this could be. Four of us were in the meeting at the old Times building: Chris, Tom, me and Jason Stallman, a young editor (now Sports Editor) who also keenly sensed what this story might become. Waters hadn’t been diagnosed with CTE yet; if the tests did come out positive, though, the Times would report the story. Great. Now, I honestly didn’t think the Times would have me handle the story. I was exclusively a baseball writer, and certainly not a hard-news guy. I thought that, if only for legal reasons for a story like that, they’d have a staff person like Lee Jenkins do it. As we walked out of Tom’s office I took him aside and told him, “Hey, I understand if you want a Times employee to do this. I get it.” But Tom, much to my surprise, said, “No, it’s your story, you do it.”

About a week later, the results came in on Waters—positive for CTE. He had the same brain disease as boxers. How many NFL players could also be affected? Furthermore, millions of children play tackle football every week—what about them? Could they be at risk, too? From the start, this was considered by the Times, and me, to be as much of a public-health story as an NFL one. I spent about a week reporting out the Waters/CTE story, speaking to all the principals, Dr. Bennet Omalu (the doctor who made the Waters diagnosis, and whose story was dramatized in the movie “Concussion”), the NFL doctors who said the findings were meaningless, etc. The Times put it on the front page, needless to say. It was a huge deal. Then, a few days later, Ted Johnson, the former Patriots linebacker and Super Bowl champion, called me to say he was having terrible post-concussion syndrome at 36, traced directly to Bill Belichick coercing him to play through a concussion. I wrote the Johnson story, it came out two days before the Super Bowl, and basically all hell broke loose. The Times hired me virtually overnight to dig into brain trauma in football wherever it led. It led to more than 130 stories, Congressional hearings, movies, threats, new laws protecting young athletes, a $1 billion settlement for retired players, and the NFL being exposed for not just having asbestos in its walls, but for shamelessly covering it up.

J.P.: All around me here in Southern California I see young kids signing up for tackle football. And I keep thinking—what the fuck? So I ask you—What the fuck? Is it crazy, in your eyes? Is it akin to handing Junior a pack of Camels? Or is there far more nuance to this debate?

A.S.: People don’t believe me—and most of your readers won’t, either—but I have never formed any opinion on whether kids “should” or “should not” play football. My job was to unearth information that people weren’t getting, and get it to them in a manner that they could absorb and understand. What they did with that information was their business. Neither publicly nor even privately have I ever written, said or even hinted that football should not be played at any level. I never even quoted anyone saying or even hinting that football should be banned. Not once. I’m still asked the question several times a week—whether it’s an interviewer, a stranger or even a friend. I just don’t do it. Not once in these 10 years. The N.F.L. could never, and never will, be able to say that Schwarz was politicking for any reform. This isn’t rhetorical gymnastics; it’s really how I think, my machete through the sagebrush.

You see, football, or “football” (in quotes), doesn’t exist. Or it doesn’t exist in the way that a tree or a building exists. It is a game that emerges from dozens of rules and factors and choices, all of which adults oversee. A parent whose kid wants to play football must consider many questions first. How old is he? What position does he want to play? Is the coach insane? Are the other teams’ coaches insane? Do they teach proper tackling techniques? Do the league’s referees enforce the rules or foster mayhem? What medical services (EMT, certified athletic trainer, MD, etc.) are at games in case something goes wrong? Is your kid the biggest on the field, or the smallest? Can he be trusted to tell an adult if he’s injured, concussion or otherwise? Is the league using some of the recent rule changes, such as no kickoffs/punts and a smaller field? Are the helmets relatively new and formally inspected/reconditioned every year? These are the questions to ask. Not the sport’s name.

J.P.: I didn’t realize that your career began—for a whopping five months—at The National, Frank Deford’s short-lived daily awesomeness. How did you get there? What was your experience? Could it have worked? And why didn’t it?

A.S.: I was their youngest full-time editorial employee—they hired me straight out of Penn in May 1990 as an Editorial Assistant, which is to say I answered phones and, when the 300-baud modems didn’t work on deadline, typed 100-words-per-minute dictation from seething writers. (Tom Keegan was delightful; Mike Lupica less so.) There’s no question that a family connection helped: My father’s cousin, Tim Lasker, was pretty senior on the business/tech side, and he made sure my resume and clips got considered by the right person. Frank was great—he encouraged me to write some short bits for the paper, and I eventually did several features, including a two-page take-out on September call-ups. (I still have Frank’s handwritten note of congratulations.)

As for its demise, from its conception the company set its sights incredibly high, having a ritzy Fifth Avenue address, hiring the most famous sportswriters for triple-their-salary contracts, buying the newest electronic typesetting terminals, renting cutting-edge telecommunications satellites, and what-not, sparing no expense. Those expenses and others wound up eating through their $100 million (I seem to recall) seed money in less than two years, sending the enterprise gasping to its June 1991 death. In retrospect they were probably doomed anyway; under everyone’s nose the World Wide Web and Netscape would break through in a few years, delivering national sports scores and news to homes for free. Unless the National had quickly 90-degreed its strategy (and so many such companies never did) it couldn’t have lasted as a print vehicle.

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J.P.: I’m gonna write something that you probably won’t like: Back when you were at Baseball America, I wasn’t the biggest Alan Schwarz fan. I’m just being honest here. It had nothing to do with your writing (which was great) or your talent (which was obvious). I just thought, sort of from afar, that you were this typical smug Ivy Leaguer who thought his shit didn’t stink (And, to be clear, I was a cocky Delaware grad who thought his shit didn’t stink). Soooo … I love when we all look back at ourselves and I wonder, who were you then? Were you smug? Was that a stupid misread by idiot me? Were you confident? Happy? Content?

A.S.: You’re right—I don’t like it. “How did I dislike thee, let you count the ways.” Even if it were just your (admitted above) Delaware-vs.-Penn inferiority complex, seems to me that was your problem, not mine—and a strange one, given how you had shot up to the apex of Sports Illustrated at 24 while I was working at 20,000-circ Baseball America. Imposter Syndrome, presumably? Now, it’s fair to say that I’m a pretty intellectual guy, and drew upon that in my features and columns. I quoted John Stuart Mill in a Marge Schott lede, and wrote about and conducted statistical analysis (very pre-Moneyball) as the mathematics major I was not ashamed to be. Perhaps that irked you while transcribing John Rocker or calling David Wells fat. I don’t know why it would. I’m certainly glad you didn’t share this back then. I liked you. I would have cared.

J.P.: In 2011 you jumped from sports to national at the Times, and you dove hard and heavy into Adderall abuse and ADHD (which led to your book, “ADHD Nation”). Your work has received a lot of praise and a lot of criticism, primarily from parents of kids with ADHD. I know what it is to be bashed for saying, oh, the Reds will come in fifth or Emmitt Smith was overrated. But how did you handle the backlash? It strikes me as pretty awful to endure.

A.S.: At the risk of inviting more, yes, the criticism really hurts—to me, the mean stuff feels more bad than the praise feels good, which is a precarious (and frankly unsustainable) mindset for a journalist doing controversial work. (I’m not ashamed to say it contributed to my walking away from the Times and hardcore journalism in the summer of 2016.) Intelligent dissent is fine. But you rarely get that. E-mail and Facebook and Twitter have become bile-delivery systems for people who don’t care what the truth is, a forum for them to baste themselves in their own gravy.

The reaction to my ADHD book has been as disheartening as it was predictable, from both sides of the argument. Those who decry child psychiatry or medications like Adderall in and of themselves say: “See! I told you ADHD was a pharma-constructed conspiracy to mind-control children!”—which neither the book nor I remotely suggest. People on the other side, who want to ignore the rampant misdiagnosis of ADHD nationally, say: “Schwarz is just a muckraking alarmist trying to sell books. He’s no doctor! What could he possibly know?” The ADHD factions have grown so polarized and unable to consider simple (if unpleasant) facts that they can’t learn anything, and it’s children who get hurt. Period. People use the book as a sword, not a mirror. This kill-the-messenger mentality didn’t come just from child psychiatry—and, looking back, not just the NFL and its “scientist” cronies, who spread lies about me and tried to get me fired. After Dave Duerson killed himself in 2011 by shooting himself in the chest, Sports Illustrated (!) sent me an e-mail saying they were about to publish an essay on how the New York Times (read, Schwarz) was exaggerating the issue of player brain damage and scaring players into suicide—and do I have any comment?

Not long before that, I got a phone call from someone with some power who accused me of taking bribes from the NFL because I wasn’t nailing them on what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it, and threatening to expose me. I was once asked by an NFL source, “Do you have a family?” It all just sucked. You can’t fight illogic with logic. You have to just hope the crazies don’t really try to hurt anything beyond your feelings. My good friend Randall Lane, now the head guy at Forbes, long ago shared with me a maxim: if you piss everyone off, you’ve done your job. I do get that. But, frankly, I don’t want to spend the rest of my days pissing people off. Some people take pleasure in it. Are empowered by it. Not me. I have a fantasy, one which would dispatch with all of this crap once and for all. Before I die, I’d love to have either the NFL or ADHD henchmen come to a room, under the lights, and debate me—on live television. Two hours. All the issues, all the studies, all the sorry-but-they’re-just-facts. Your four top people against me alone. I’ll bury them. But they don’t have the guts.

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J.P.: You’re a math lover. Your degree is actually in mathematics. My son, a sixth grader, loathes the subject. He finds it boring, repetitive, annoying. Is there a way to snap him out of this? Do some people just not like math—period? Do you think, perhaps, there are ways to teach math that would be more engrossing than standard methods?

A.S.: I honestly don’t know. My love for numbers and algebra and trigonometry and probability is something that is almost endocrine—there’s some spleen-like organ in my core secreting what has flowed through me since I could barely crawl. Explaining it is like asking some painter, “Why do you like blue?” Now that I think of it, maybe it’s because I’m actually somewhat color-blind—my colors have lain across a different spectrum, and I experience them as others might tint and hue. I see math in the weirdest places. Take rock lyrics and movie lines. When Renée Zellweger says “You had me at hello” to Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” I think of how choosing a mate the moment you meet is actually a strategy straight out of decision science, with roots stretching back to 18th century discussions of compound interest (which, to Renée’s delight, Tom had). Neil Sedaka singing “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” conjures up complicated division algorithms used by divorcing couples to split up assets. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” places me onto a Mobius strip, a piece of paper with only one side (huh?) and a key figure in topology. I’m writing a book now about how mathematics can be seen, and perhaps taught, through these well-known, accessible bits of popular culture. Math evangelists often try to sell the subject as more than numbers and rote computation, that it is beautiful. They mean well but I don’t think that’s going to work for people who just don’t buy it. But they probably like music and movies. Maybe we can have some fun with that.

J.P.: When did you know you wanted to write? Like, did you have the lightbulb ah-ha! moment? Did you write as a kid? School paper? Etc.?

A.S.: I never “wanted to write”—at least not in the way that many people, and presumably you, have felt and can tap into for either inspiration or self-loathing. My goal until I was 22 was to be a high school math teacher—and that’s what I had expected well into the spring of my senior year at Penn, when I was informed that public-school certification required grad school, which I dreaded. So I had to do something. Sports writing was a good option; I had written a great deal for the Penn student newspaper, and after getting my break from the National and Baseball America I became, quite accidentally, a so-called “journalist” (whatever that means). From the start, writing, at least in the way that I do it, became my form of teaching, just at a different blackboard. They are far more similar than people realize: in both, you have an audience looking at you to explain something cogently and compellingly, and your goal is to leave them a little more knowledgeable about it than when they showed up. You have to keep their attention—earn it, reward it, with every sentence.

More granularly, a nonfiction article greatly resembles a mathematical proof: You start out with some facts/givens, say A and B, and combine them into conclusion C; you take C and add fact D, creating conclusion E, take conclusions C and E and facts F and G to create conclusion H, and so on. Until you get to the point you’re trying to establish/prove. And you can’t skip a step—one mistake and the whole thing falls apart. The last Christmas-tree bulb doesn’t turn on. But if you do it right, the result works, beyond (intelligent) dispute, and can be downright beautiful. Seeing other similarities between writing and mathematics/physics—use of ratio, speed and angle—became how I executed articles. I’ll leave it with this. People say that writers are “creative.” But I don’t think writers, at least nonfiction writers, create a thing. Our job, as I view it, resembles that of a sculptor. A sculptor doesn’t create anything—he chips away and removes all the stuff that shouldn’t be there, to release what had been hidden inside that big block of marble. It was always there. But he or she saw it and made it viewable. As a journalist, your job is to see what matters, what works and what fits together, and take away everything else. What remains was there before you ever showed up.

J.P.: Kinda random, but you turn 50 next year. I turn 46 next year. We were once the next line of sports journalists—young, up-and-coming, etc. Then you blink and here we are, more than two decades removed. So A. How do you feel about aging as a journalist? And B. How do you feel about aging—period?

A.S.: Last part first—I’m totally in midlife crisis. Not as a husband or father, but as a guy with aggressively graying hair (though not on top, wink-wink) and some sneakily creaky joints. You hear about guys dropping dead of heart attacks at 56 or 62, and (my probability background notwithstanding) I know I could be one of them. It’s not like I’m going out and buying a Porsche. No. But I’m buying a Lego Porsche, and having a blast with it. Now, you also ask me about “aging as a journalist,” but I don’t consider myself a journalist anymore. (In some ways I never did.) This interview is more writing I’ve done in the last 17 months combined. And it reminded me of why I stopped. I’m seeking refuge in mathematics because journalism, at its core, deals primarily with the irreconcilable—politics, poverty, and, for me, football safety and child psychiatry. The arguments never end. There are no right answers; at best, there are only those less wrong. But math? There’s one right answer. You either get it or you don’t. No specious agendas. No disingenuous claptrap. That incontrovertibility is very seductive.

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• Five reasons one should make Scarsdale, N.Y. his/her next vacation destination: 1) The Bronx and Hutchinson river parkways connect you quickly and easily to places far more interesting; 2) The local wine store, Zachy’s, is world-renowned, so you can get hammered with class; 3) People who play platform tennis—both of them—can hit on courts where the game was invented; 4) Beatles fans can visit Scarsdale’s eerie John-and-Paul connection. Yoko Ono lived with her family in Scarsdale in the early 1950s while attending nearby Sarah Lawrence College; Linda McCartney (nee Eastman) graduated from Scarsdale High in the early 1960s. Few people know that bizarre coincidence; 5) See Nos. 1-4.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Walt Jocketty, Will Smith, Ford Fiesta, Scott Pruitt, Ralph Wiley, Agent Clarice Starling, “The Wedding Singer,” Fabolous, Mark St. John, glue guns: Will SmithGlue GunsWalt JockettyFord Fiesta, Ralph Wiley, The others I’ve never heard of, “The Wedding Singer.”

• How did you meet your wife?: Blind date—a quick drink in Manhattan on Sunday, September 9, 2001. We liked each other and made plans for dinner two days later, after she got back from working at, you guessed it, the World Financial Center. She was coming out of the subway when the second plane hit, ran for her life with everyone else, and didn’t get back to her apartment until about 8 p.m. I had left her a voicemail like, “Hey, it’s Alan. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of people to call, but if you get this, I’m hoping I can be somewhere on the list.” It’s kind of weird to call up someone you barely know to ask if they’re dead. She wasn’t. We rescheduled dinner for that Saturday, hit it off, and have been married now for 14 years.

• Three least favorite things about Donald Trump’s wardrobeThe cuff exposes his little tootsie-fingers; We’re probably paying for it; His tie isn’t nearly, nearly, nearly tight enough.

• The world needs to know: What was it like watching Tony Womack play the game of baseball?: I not only watched Womack play baseball, I watched him play in the minors with the Carolina Mudcats. He was a nice little player with well-rounded, average but perfectly entertaining second-base skills. He was the opposite of what we see today, where it’s anathema to actually put the ball in play and run.

• Three athletes who you thought would be superstars—and it didn’t quite work out: My days at Baseball America introduced me to so many phenoms who crashed and burned. I had the privilege of writing the first national profile of Brien Taylor, who would become the Yankees’ No. 1 pick bonus-baby in 1991 but got hurt and never made the majors. I distinctly recall, a few years later, officially rating Ruben Rivera the Yankees’ Top Prospect over a skinny shortstop named Derek Jeter. Most of all, there was a kid at my summer camp in the early 1980s named Darryl Tombacher who was the most ridiculous basketball player any of us could imagine. As if Pete Maravich’s twin brother had materialized in Orford, New Hampshire. If anyone out there knows what happened to Darryl Tombacher, I’d love to know.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Never. Mine is seeing a plane crash near me and running. More Ritchie Valens than Buddy Holly.

This is my all-time least-favorite song. Your thoughts?: I like only the Traffic and Blind Faith-era Steve Winwood, the John Barleycorn era. Still, you’re a year off on the worst song ever: “We Built This City” by Starship, which came out in 1985. Most horrifying about that song is that it was written by Bernie Taupin. Oy.

• In exactly 17 words, makes Bip Roberts’ Hall of Fame argument: Speedy second baseman for Padres and Reds hit a career .294, Major League Baseball’s first official BABIP.

• Best advice you ever received: From Sam Vaughan, a family friend and editing legend at Doubleday and Random House. “The people who write books,” he said, “are the people who write books.”

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Alexa Datt

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Alexa Datt has a great name.

I know that sounds dumb and somewhat obvious, but it’s true. As a guy who was called “Pearl-girl” throughout his youth, I’d pay good money for the simple pleasure of an “Alexa Datt”-esque identity.

The other thing Alexa Datt owns is charisma. Tons and tons of charisma. The host of “12:25 Live with Alexa,” which streams daily on, Facebook Live and Sports on Earth, is that rare combination of likable and informed. You watch her and see a person who knows her Major League shit, but doesn’t come off as unnecessarily serious or bubbly. She just has that … something that works.

Alexa also happens to be fascinating for myriad different reasons. She worked on America’s Most Wanted. She was the Mets’ in-stadium MC. She’s married to Peter Rosenberg. She prefers Cookie Monster to My Little Pony.

And now she’s the 340th Quaz Q&A.

One can follow Alexa on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Alexa Datt, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Alexa, I Google you to do a little background research and one of the first links I find is an article headlined, MEET ALEXA DATT ROSENBERG, THE NEW GORGEOUS NEW YORK METS INSIDER HOST. And I can honestly say I’ve never heard a male in this business ever described as “gorgeous” or “hot” or “sexy.” And I wonder whether this sorta thing pissed you off, if you’re resigned to it, if it doesn’t bother you at all…

ALEXA DATT: Haha. I was actually flattered and my family was pretty entertained. I’ve said hi to Eric Holden, the author of that article, a few times at Mets games and we’ve Tweeted back and forth. I would have taken issue with the article if the whole thing was about my looks because that’s not what I want to be known for. But Eric did his research and even gave my humble beginnings as a high school basketball sideline reporter a shout out in the article. I don’t like to take myself—or a lot of what’s on the Internet—too seriously, and if I felt like it was offensive I would have told the author.

By the way, I can tell you a bunch of male broadcasters who are “gorgeous” or “sexy.” Ask Chris Carlin—he knows what I’m talking about.

 J.P.: So you’re the host of “12:25 Live with Alexa,” which streams strictly online via Facebook Live. And it’s weird, in that not all that long ago this would have led to shrugs, quizzical glances, etc. So I wonder: A. How did you land the gig? B. Were you at all, I dunno, put off by the idea of an online show? C. Is it any different than hosting a TV program?

A.D.: Put off by an online show? This isn’t me and a webcam in my bedroom! Ha. Maybe 10 years ago people would be put off by online shows, but this is 2017. Online content is the new norm.

Our show, “12:25 Live with Alexa,” streams daily on, Facebook Live and Sports on Earth. is one of the biggest sports sites with a huge audience so I was excited about the opportunity. A lot of what I’ve done in my career has been online and it’s a great platform because the audience has a direct interaction with you. It lets you know your content is resonating with people, whether positive or negative, and that instant feedback is a really cool part of the job. You have more freedom with online content, too. Viewers are OK with guests joining the show via video chat and that opens up the guest list possibilities and the endless directions you can go. We’re similar to a TV show in our look and setup, just quicker paced with more content and a heavier focus on social media.

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J.P.: I’m really embarrassed to admit I didn’t know this, but admit I will: You’re married to Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97/ESPN fame. Um, that’s awesome. How’d it happen? Meet? First date? All that stuff.

A.D.: Haha. No, that’s a good thing! I’ve gotten to where I am in this business not because of who I’m married to or who my parents are (though they’re amazing people!) and I take a lot of pride in that. Of course I also take a lot of pride in his success, I’m #proudwife all the way. But I’m happy to know not everyone thinks of us as attached at the hip all the time because sometimes it seems that way.

Peter and I met at University of Maryland (go Terps!) after he graduated and was DJing at a local venue (Lupos) and I was a sophomore. I requested Nelly’s “Ride with Me” (don’t @ me, it’s a great party song) and we hit it off from there. After seven long and awesome years of ons and offs, and ups and downs, we realized we couldn’t live without each other and got married on the beach in Bayville in September, 2012. It’s funny being Mrs. Rosenberg because we’re both in the industry so people will see me and call out “Rosenberg’s Wife!” which is sweet and awkward at the same time. I love that people recognize his accomplishments, but at the same time I want to yell back “The name’s Alexa!” I usually smile and keep it moving. Sometimes my friends or co-workers will yell it for me, with a smile.

J.P.: From 2014-2017 you worked for the Mets as the in-stadium host/reporter. We live in California and attend a fair number of Dodgers games, and I always sorta feel pangs of sympathy for those in your old shoes. I mean, the Dodgers could be 17 games out, it’s September, the score is 200-3, Cubs, and the in-stadium host has to be peppy, up, enthusiastic. So, well, what was the gig like?

A.D.: It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. I got to be on the field during the World Series, and in the stands interviewing diehard Mets fans who waited their whole lives for those games. I remember my favorite fan, Gloria, a 90-year-old Mets season ticket holder, who sat in an aisle seat in the good section and I would go visit her every game. She never missed her Mets and baseball was her passion. It’s mine, too. I loved talking baseball with Gloria. Those relationships are what made the job special. Getting paid to watch baseball at the ballpark on a nightly basis is pretty special, too. How could you not be happy? If the team is struggling it’s definitely harder, searching for fans to talk to, waiting out extra innings on a chilly September night, but it’s still baseball, and you’re lucky enough to witness it all. I had the best crew of people I worked with, too, from the control room and my fellow hosts to the party patrol and the ballpark ushers, everyone was one big family. The entire experience was really special.

J.P.: You spent two years as a production assistant at America’s Most Wanted. That. Is. So. Random. What was the job like? What stands out? Fun or awful? Or both?

A.D.: Peter’s good friend Tom Morris hooked me up with this and it was my first real gig in broadcasting. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience. I got to meet John Walsh, the host of the show whose mission was to put every child predator behind bars. He was just as you would expect him to be—friendly, intense and very dedicated to his goals. I helped out on-set at the reenactments, where they acted out an unsolved crime, just like a movie shoot, in hopes of catching the criminal once the show aired. There was a bell in the newsroom that they rung every time a criminal was caught. It was a bizarre feeling because I admired the writers, hosts, and editors for using their journalism degree for something good, but the intensity wasn’t for me. I always knew I wanted to work in sports.

J.P.: How do you keep your interest during a 162-game season? I mean, I get 16 NFL games. I even get 82 NBA games. But one hundred and sixty two. Jesus. Are you still interested in, oh, Reds-Brewers? Do you really find Mike Trout and Bryce Harper interesting? Can you maintain the upbeat spirit from February thru October?

A.D.: I love baseball because there is action on a nightly basis. You don’t have to talk about one game for a week before you get to see the teams play again. Starting pitching changes every night and we still don’t know how the human arm works. Hitting a ball with a bat is the hardest thing to do in sports. Players’ hitting streaks, grand slams, no-hitters, dazzling catches and bat flips … two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded. Who’s up at the plate? Oh THAT guy? He’s got no chance, until he drives in the game-winner. The emotional swings are the most fun. Nothing is better than that.

I like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for their pure baseball skills and also because they came into the league a year apart so they will forever be compared to each other and that’s always fun. One’s more serious, one is more bizzare. One is a better hitter, one a better fielder. But who makes their team better overall? Where do they end up in five years? Which one will be in the Hall of Fame? These are the questions I love debating and that makes the season fly by.

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J.P.: I just had a pretty good podcast chat with Jemele Hill about women in sports media not really being helpful to women in sports media. She says it’s unfortunately common; that the limited spots for women to rise and thrive leads to an unhealthy level of competitiveness. Do you see it that way? Have you had more women in the business be helpful or dismissive? Or neither?

A.D.: I look up to Jemele a lot and when I met her she was genuine and supportive. I haven’t worked in the same atmosphere as her, though (i.e. hosting a successful national TV show), so even though I know it exists and know women who have dealt with it, I’ve been very fortunate to experience the opposite. I’ve been embraced and welcomed from the second I stepped foot in New York as a production assistant looking for an on-air gig. Michelle Yu at SNY helped me connect with my first on-air job, Katie Nolan is super cool, so is Michelle Beadle. I used to print scripts for Meredith Marakovits and now I run into her at games where she always treats me like an equal. Lauren Shehadi is available if I ever need to reach out, Sam Ryan walked me though an audition, and Tina Cervasio has always been supportive and warm. Brittany Ghiroli and Alyson Footer are two of my favorite people: helpful, smart, inclusive. I sound like I’m name dropping because I am. I think it’s important to shout out women who have been there for me. You come across haters in this business but the helpful and supportive women far outweigh the ones who aren’t. Younger women coming up should know there is a huge supportive community if they ever need it and to reach out to women they admire for advice anytime, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

J.P.: Alex Rodriguez is a broadcaster. Mark McGwire is a hitting coach. Barry Bonds was a hitting coach. How do you feel about guys who used PED holding jobs in baseball? And what do you think about PED guys entering the Hall?

A.D.: I grew up watching baseball in the 1990s and 2000s. And I grew up watching Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and Alex Rodriguez. I want to be able to take my (future) kids to Cooperstown one day and tell them about the season I watched Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs and how exciting that was for me. That was a huge part of my childhood and to exclude it is to leave out a part of baseball history that made me fall in love with the game. It’s the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is one of the most famous players we know. He should be in the Hall. But I understand the argument for keeping them out. These guys were forgiven for their mistakes and are still allowed to be a part of the game in some capacity, which is great. Sometimes you can’t have it all.

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J.P.: You did work for 120 Sports, so this might offend. But when it first came out I thought 120 Sports was onto something potentially big. And, just being honest, I think I was wrong. I never see it, never hear much about it. Not sure why, but it’s simply not on my radar. So … am I off? Is there genius of idea I’m missing?

A.D.: I co-hosted the 120 Sports morning show called “Morning Run” for a little less than a year in New York with a true professional and amazing human being, Michael Kim. The show dissolved and 120 Sports became Stadium and moved its New York operations back to its home base of Chicago. I think their concept of 24-hour sports editorial coverage is fresh and a great idea but it might be a little ahead of its time. I could see this being a bigger concept in the future. It’s worth checking out, they do good work and their coverage, which includes social media and sports opinions, is a great way to connect with their audience.

J.P.: I’ve never asked this before, but I think it’s a good one to address. You’re a young, attractive woman working in a tough field for young, attractive women. I’m sure you’ve had athletes say inappropriate things, or stare inappropriately, or whatever. And I ask, for other (and future) women in your shoes: What’s the best way to handle the situations?

A.D.: I’ve had players ask me out, pass me notes, slide into my DMs. I think most of them are either bored or are trying to get their latest mixtape to my husband :) I’ve only felt uncomfortable once and the best things to do in those cases is to tell someone you trust. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s all that matters. Not what was said or who said it, just that it happened and it crossed a line. Find someone in the business you trust, an authority figure like your boss or your mentor, and talk it through with them. I did and it helped a lot. A lot of times it can open a dialogue and everyone learns from the situation. But 99.9 percent of the athletes I know are protective like older brothers to me and would never put me in an uncomfortable situation. There is a trust built that I value and is an integral part of my job. Most of the inappropriate things said to me come from trolls online and I’m still figuring out how to deal with them. I’m ignoring them mostly but when I’m having a bad day and someone calls me “stupid” or “another dumb blonde host” or says “why does she look like that if she wants to be taken seriously” with children in their Twitter bios I want to start furiously typing a response. I don’t. I leave it alone and I end up just feeling bad for their kids.

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• “Datt” seems to lend itself to 1,001 childhood nicknames. What were some of yours: Datt girl, the Datt cave (what the kids called our basement), The Dattmobile (family car), What’s up with Datt (the SNL skit), Who Datt? (My brother’s bball team nickname), Datt’s What She Said (the name of my podcast)

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Counting Crows, Kris Kobach, your father in law, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., B-52s, Cookie Monster, Mike Easler, red potatoes, date nut bars, My Little Pony,Obinna Ekezie, Junebugs: father in law (this is for real), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (he’s a diehard Skins fan), Obinna Ekezie (Terp & Wiz Kid!), B-52s, Counting Crows, Cookie Monster, Mike Easler, red potatoes, date nut bars, My Little Pony, Junebugs, Kris Kobach

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No thankfully! But Geoff Schwartz told me on my podcast that he once stunk up an airplane bathroom so bad that everyone glared at him the whole flight and people mention it about once every six months on Twitter. That’s as close as I’ve been. You’re welcome, Geoff.

• Three nicest New York Met players from your time with the team?: Curtis Granderson, Curtis Granderson, Curtis Granderson. David Wright, Jacob Degrom and Wilmer Flores were super nice too.

• The world needs to know: What was it like being in the presence of Erik Goeddel?: Haha—he’s a nice guy from the little interaction I’ve had with him but never got the chance to know him really well. Heard all good things and his nickname is Goopy so he has to be a good guy.

• How did Peter propose to you?: On the Brooklyn Bridge at 11 am after tricking me into walking across it for a party at Grimaldi’s that didn’t exist. We had a party of two at Grimaldi’s after I said yes.

• Where would you have attended college had it not been Maryland?: Maybe Syracuse. I wanted to go to the best journalism school in the country but I was too scared I wouldn’t get into Newhouse so I never applied. (How’s that for a confession? Sorry, Dad)

• Why is ballpark-attending humanity so enamored by the free T-shirt-shot-thru-a-cannon?: Because people love free things shot directly at their face at 65 mph. It’s a time-honored tradition and only those who have been lucky enough to nab a t-shirt will ever truly understand it. I hope to be a part of it someday.

• Three things you always carry with you?: Cell phone, sugarfree gum, my dog Bear (he’s not in my purse, he’s 30 pounds, but we basically go everywhere together)

• What the hell ever happened to Chuck Cuningham? Guy was living with his folks, brother and sister—then vanished: I had to look this up because I had no idea what you were talking about. I want to take it literally and believe he took his basketball upstairs to his room to play the most epic game of slam ball ever and never came back down.

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Madam Violet

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If you’ve followed the Quaz through the years, you know my favorite subjects tend to be sports, politics, journalism and online sex workers.

Why sports? Because I’m a longtime fan-turned-observer.

Why politics? Because I’m a junkie.

Why journalism? It’s what I do?

And why online sex workers? Honestly—because of all the people I’ve had here, they’re routinely the most fascinating. Unlike jocks, they haven’t devoted their lives to singular (and oft-monotonous) endeavors. Unlike politicians, they have convictions. Unlike journalists, well, I’m a journalist. So I feel like I’ve heard a bunch of the ol’ stories.

I actually first reached out to Madam Violet, today’s magical 339th Quaz, a good while ago when I was searching for new subjects. It took a long while to get this done, but it was well worth the wait. As you can see the self-titled “femme fatale” is a producer of hypnotic videos and mp3s who lives in England, has an understanding boyfriend, loathes idiots and once had a complete stranger buy her a £1200 YSL clutch bag. And while I don’t actually know what that is—it sounds impressive.

One can follow Madam Violet on Twitter here and visit her website here.

Welcome to the 339th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you identify yourself as a “Femme Fatale” and “clinically qualified in hypnosis.” But what, exactly, do you do? Like, what is your job?

MADAM VIOLET: My job is … hard to label. Primarily I make erotic hypnosis videos and mp3s. I come up with ideas, write the scripts, I do my makeup, I arrange the set, I film, I edit, I upload. On top of that I manage my social media, advertising, promotion. This is not hard work as such, but a lot of work. The hard work, I would say are the relationships I have with my subs/slave/addicts. I am an introvert and people for me are often draining; submissive men, ironically more so than any other ‘type’ of person I have met. But then this part can be the most rewarding, professionally, emotionally and financially.

I guess you could say I am a ‘dominant woman exploring her sexuality and female power through visual arts, and the minds and bodies of willing men’. Or Hypnodomme, if you’re in the scene.

My job is constant. This is the only ‘job’ I’ve had that comes home with me. It is me, there is no escape. It has been adjustment and I am still finding the balance. Ultimately most men are here to get off. That makes them selfish and at times abhorrent, and not all subs are actually
submissive. For every genuine submissive that contacts me, I’ll get 10, 20, 30 time wasters/ misogynists in disguise/entitled mummy’s boys/loser fantasists.

My ‘job’ (vocation is a better word) is awesome though. I love what I do and I love even more how much scope there is for more.

J.P.: I was scanning through your Twitter feed, and you’re not completely averse to making political/ social statements. Here in America Michael Jordan, the basketball star, once explained his non-political mojo by saying, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” Do you at all worry about turning off potential customers by making your leanings public?

M.V.: Actually I don’t post very much politically at all. I think the first time was Brexit. In that instance I don’t care if someone is put off by my views. I have conviction and faith that I am not a moron, which is more than I can say for strangers on the Internet. So if my views offend you, I have to assume you are the moron. Being a ‘Domme’ means I get to be more of the real me than I ever could in a clinical or corporate setting. Unless you’re offering me something of value in my life I couldn’t give a shit what you think about me, or what you think in general. It is none of my business.

I do not care what a man ‘believes’ if he is simply buying my files. It is none of my business. But I would not want a man to serve me if he could not at least respect my opinion, I wouldn’t want his money either. Money is not the be all and end all. Being able to sleep at night because I’m not beholden to idiots is higher on my list.

In the UK (maybe it’s a bit different now with how shit things are) politics just isn’t a big deal, not like it is in America. It is not as extreme—I mean you guys debate thing like guns and abortion, the death penalty! All of our political parties are pretty much the same; really terrible and terribly boring/ moronic/cowardly.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? And I don’t mean the ol’ “I’ve always had a sway over men blah blah blah.” I mean, business-wise, what made you think, “Here’s a way I can make money?”

M.V.: Doing what I do is the culmination of lots of seemingly unconnected beliefs, daydreams, expectations and timing. When I was a kid I realized that if I could get 1 million people to give me a pound, I would be a millionaire. It always struck me how easy that sounded. I thought about it a lot. (this maybe came from watching the collection during Mass every Sunday, people just giving their money away for some ‘idea’.) That mentality has always stuck with me. I know that sounds like a bullshit cliche, but it its true, and I know this ‘free and easy’ mentality I have always had about money has driven my success.

Another cliche—I have known for a long time that men will do anything. If you give them the slightest hint (breasts) they may be in with a chance. In my experience men are easy to persuade, so why not persuade a rich man to give me one million in one go? So when my marriage ended the two beliefs kind of merged. I suddenly had this heartbreak, and then ‘fuck it’ mentality. I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going to use my wily, sexy ways to get me some bank, and have a shitload of fun doing it. Having been monogamous forever it seemed, I wanted sex, and I wanted money, and travel, and frivolity. I wasted a lot of time in a shit marriage so now it would be about me.

I typed ‘sugar daddy’ into the internet and found men seeking arrangements. That was the beginning. After a few online-only interactions I realised the obvious—I was not sugar baby material. I am not a baby for a start, and I will never call you ‘Daddy’ (gross). I will never pander to your whims or needs. I will point out, politely, every time you are wrong, I will never laugh at your shit jokes or stroke your ego and if you come anywhere near me with that tiny penis (barely visible over your hairy pillowy belly) I will punch you in the throat. But if you could just leave your money over there, far away from me, that would be marvellous!

This inherent attitude led me to financial domination. I was dabbling and still working on my vanilla therapy practice, making OK money on the side from financial submissives. Then I was told by a sub—I still remember his name—about femdom hypnosis, and the women who use hypnosis and mental conditioning to control men. That was when the light went on in my head, here was a way to combine my brain and my body, my intellect and my sexuality doing two things I truly love; hypnosis and messing around with male egos …

I believe things work out exactly as they are supposed to. The end of my marriage combining perfectly with the fact I don’t have issues with sex, or my sexuality, it is a huge part of life. I don’t have issues with money. Like it or not our society is based around it. I don’t have any issues with taking advantage of a man’s sexuality, it is what men have been doing to women for thousands of years. Men didn’t just take our property, we were the property (up until really recently, too. How quickly they forget…).

J.P.: How much of this business is based upon perception? What I mean is—you go to the bathroom, you have gas, you probably fidget and curse and stumble. You’re human. But is there a need to present a fantasy? Is that sort of the game?

M.V.: Of course there is the aspect of ‘fantasy,’ but how many people fart or pick their noses in front of their (newish) partners? I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years and there is still no evidence he shits. Either he has fairies that take his poo away in the night or he is ‘hiding’ this part of himself from me because it is not conducive to our relationship. Is it really deception to keep some things hidden, or is it not simply sensible?

I could probably make good money for farting on cam, or blowing my snotty nose. But no, that just feels wrong. ‘Madam Violet’ would never burp the alphabet. I might, though. I am human, a contradiction; I can be sophisticated and clumsy, I can be eloquent and sweary. It depends where I am, who I am with. I can control myself, show only one side of myself. We all do this in ‘real life’ every day.

Madam Violet —is ‘me’, just a ‘polished’ version of me. A part of me. A more calculated version of me. Still real, but more focussed, more exaggerated. I don’t go around IRL being all mysterious and sexy and staring into the eyes of men as I squeeze my tits together to get what I want (unless I am drunk). And we share the same morals and standards. For example I am not into the typical ‘homewrecking’ fetish, so don’t ever slag your wife off to me, you are lucky to have one.

I am a dominant, powerful, sexual woman who has a way with men and words is all real every day shit. Just toned down … a touch.

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J.P.: What’s your background in hypnosis? How does it work here? How much of it is fantasy v. reality?

M.V.: Firstly, hypnosis completely ‘works.’ It blows my mind how many people think it’s a load of rubbish. It shows how uneducated so many still are with regards to their own mind, their own power and that makes me sad!

I have a diploma in Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapy and Neural Linguistic Programming, I am also and EFT practitioner and Reiki Master, and I have a diploma in Reflexology and Pathology. I did a lot of fertility work, hypnotic gastric bands, self esteem and phobia/anxiety, pain management. I offered a holistic practice in which I genuinely wanted people to become the best of who they are; to just be happy, healthy, empowered.

I had a lot of very serious and complex cases. I know my clinical training and experience means I am very effective in the femdom arena. I combine ‘real’ hypnosis with femdom themes typically an induction, a deepener and then the femdom programming.

Through my clips and mp3s my subs and slaves achieve vey profound states of deep trance. Many feel and recognize actual change occurring personality wise, and more temporary effects—memory loss, time distortion and wonderful gooey, blissed out full body feeling of deep relaxation … they enjoy the loss of control, the feelings of being overpowered, used and manipulated. It is intimate and sensual and erotic, and powerful. To give up control, to have it taken, to wield it … it is an incredible experience for the sub and myself.

With hypnosis you can go anywhere— you can simply de-stress, you can find inner peace, feel pain or deep pleasure, you can even grow breast tissue using hypnosis. The limits are your imagination and your wiliness to go there.

J.P.: Why are men so much more into [fill in the blank with phone sex, strippers, hookers, etc] than women? I’ve gotta think you’ve pondered this one. Is it a gender flaw? A gender perk?

M.V.: I have pondered it and written about it many times. My conclusion is that men’s stupidity when it comes to their penis is an evolutionary device. An average man can kill a woman with his bare hands. You are bigger and stronger than us, unfairly so. But you have one little thing that dramatically levels the playing field, and it conveniently dangles between your legs. It means that ultimately (for the civilized) women rule men. Behind every powerful man … is a woman screaming at him to put the goddamn seat down when he’s finished. And you put up with it because you want sex. And so continues the human the race. Women are also far more sexually self-sufficient.

J.P.: Every profession comes with a crazy money story; that story you’ll be telling to friends for years. So … what’s yours? The craziest/weirdest, funkiest story from your career?

M.V.: My career is relatively new, but I guess it depends on who your audience is. My boyfriend is on a ‘normal’ salary so what I earn month to month still blows his mind. With some friends I have learned not to talk about it all. There is a kind of guilt there, they work ‘hard’ jobs and I’m perceived to do nothing much. In reality I work really hard, too—the difference is I love what I do so maybe it doesn’t appear like work to the outside.

I remember my first-ever gift card. It was for 30 pounds. At that point I had perspective so it was a massive rush. It felt like a lot of money. From a complete stranger. For no tangible reason. I could get that million way quicker than I thought. Yeah, you never forget your first. Ha.

I always forget that I took over £4,000 in about a month from my first finsub, and this was only a few weeks into my new ‘career’ and I still wasn’t showing my face. To a ‘vanilla’ person having a complete stranger send you a £50 Amazon gift card would be crazy, £4,000? People can’t handle that. It really polarises them.

One man I didn’t know contacted me for permission to cum, so I told him to buy a £1200 YSL clutch bag assuming he would slink off into the land of fake finsubs, but he bought it. Straight away. I told him he could cum, and I never heard from him again. Sweet! Sexy, simple, easy and it’s a story friends love because it’s so stupid. Imagine a woman paying a man she’s never met over a grand just for permission to cum. It’s hilarious! Men bring it all on themselves.

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J.P.: How has Twitter impacted your profession? And has social media made chatrooms obsolete?

M.V.: Oh, Twitter. Twitter takes up far too much of my time. I don’t get paid for Twitter, and yet I spend a disproportionate amount of time on there. It is something I am working on changing. I have never been a fan of social media. I have never had a Facebook account or Instagram, personally or for work until now. Twitter and I have a tolerate/hate kind of relationship.

I have a good interaction with my subs, though. My ‘likes’ to followers ratio is a good one. I like to talk to people when I know they are listening. If that makes me entitled or spoiled, so be it.

Twitter is a rabbit hole of noise and stress, I often have to mute conversations and people just because my tolerance for drama is really low. I have teeth marks in my phone and both sets off knuckles from all the times I have wanted to reply or comment on something I have seen on Twitter or Tumblr or YouTube. IRL I am always the one to say ‘woah, hang on a minute …’ yet online I keep my mouth shut.

Online is not an accurate reflection of real life; online is meaner and dumber. And bottom line—you just cannot argue with stupid. Unless you want to go insane. So I keep out of it all as much as I can, not because it is bad for business but because I value my sanity. Twitter has done wonders for my self control

I think real connections are rarer these days. Being connected globally and instantly is so good, but it is so bad, too. In my ideal world twitter does not exist.

J.P.: You have a boyfriend. You have, I’m guessing, parents, siblings, etc. How do they feel about your profession? Is it openly discussed? Do you share stories?

M.V.: My boyfriend thinks what I do is awesome. He is the type of man who loves the fact his girlfriend gets attention. He is not threatened by it, or by the money I make. He is proud of me. We see a lot of his parents and siblings—some know, some don’t. I honestly don’t know what they think as I do know that people rarely tell you what they really think. My job involves sex and money—two of the most divisive and controversial subjects. You link the two together and you’ve got a really touchy subject. We don’t really talk about it ever. They would never ask ‘How’s work going?’ like you would someone with a ‘normal’ job.

Stereotypically, English people are so uptight and secretive about their own sex life and their money, they just do not want to talk about those things. Sex is naughty, getting your tits out is downright rude, possibly slutty, and we may masturbate but we do not talk about it! For that reason his mum and dad do not know what I do. They think I am still a clinical hypnotherapist—which technically I am as I still have a handful of vanilla therapy clients ….

Then I have friends who knew me before Madam Violet. They think it’s mental but brilliant. They think it’s the perfect job for me. They’re proud of what I have a achieved, they love hearing my stories and it’s fun shocking them.

Generally I keep it to myself because people cannot help but judge, mostly negatively, and I do not want the drama, or the awkward silences and passive aggressive comments. I told my plumber once, and he said he thought it was brilliant. He didn’t have a problem with it all. In fact he said he used to ‘date a lass who got her tits out for work and I was totally cool with it. I only dated her a year though as obviously I couldn’t marry her …’

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Why Madam Violet?: Why not.

Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes repeatedly, only ever briefly, mere seconds. I always think of the book Survivor by James Herbert. Would I rather die, or be the only survivor yet be haunted by the demented disfigured remains of the other victims…? It is only ever a brief flash of thought though – just so happens to be every time there’s even mild turbulence.

Rank in order (favorite to least): Iced coffee, raccoons, McDonald’s, Joe Biden, “Love Actually,” Posh Spice, Clyde Drexler, Wolverhampton, Rubik’s Cube, Snoop Dogg: Iced coffee, McDonalds, Snoop Dogg, racoons, Posh Spice, Rubiks Cube, Wolverhampton (as in the UK…? I presume not!), “Love Actually” (ugh), Joe Biden (not 100% sure who he is, some kind of politician?), I had to look up who Clyde Drexler is, too…

One question you would ask Rebecca Lobo were she here right now? 
Who are you? Then after a quick Google search—what size are your feet? Maybe not, that’s quite rude.

Three memories from your first-ever date? 
We don’t really go on dates in England. We get drunk down the pub and then if we’re lucky we get a kebab and if he’s lucky a shag.

In exactly 17 words, make an argument for the music of MadonnaMadonna has done at least two really good songs that can, at times, be good to hear.

What’s the general take of America these days in England?: I don’t really talk about America with people who aren’t American, so I have no idea! Personally, because of moves/TV as a kid the U.S used to fill me with wonder and awe. Now I’m an adult it scares me. Some of your laws are crazy—guns?! Death penalty?! The president is an ego driven, hateful moron; a big joke. Sad! Buuuuut your TV shows are the best, lots of states have legalized weed and you can get alcoholic iced tea … soooooo ...goooooo USA!

What are the top three things men screw up when it comes to understanding women?: 1. They don’t try to understand women in the first place.
 2. Or thinking all women are the same and can be understood ‘collectively,’ like a type of breed. 3. Or thinking we are difficult to understand because fundamentally we are ‘different’ to you. Are we? Or are we different because you treat us that way?

Would you rather lick the entire floor of your nearest coffee shop or spend a week locked in a room with Donald Trump?
: Donald! I would never ever lick the floor, not even for a million, and I would pay to be in a room with that man for a week. Psychopaths are fascinating, plus I’d love to fuck with his head.

I don’t really get the appeal of Batman. You?: I don’t feel it, but I do get it.