Donald Pizer was a professor of American Literature and I took two courses from him in college. About half way through the first course I began to notice how sharp and precise he was. He was patient, organized and thorough, and eventually it dawned on me that I was learning much more than what critics thought of Stephen Crane, I was learning how to think, how to approach the world. I think about him all the time and the relentless, careful way he pulled each issue out the pile and examined it.
3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?
Whenever I travel I see products or gadgets which we don't have here at home and I see opportunities to bring products or gadgets we do have to other countries. I think I might enjoy the import/export business. Though I imagine the red tape would prove challenging, I would very much enjoy adapting to the ways and learning the nuances of business in other countries.
4. Tell me about a public or private moment when you thought to yourself, "This is what Elvis felt like every day.”
I’ve been stuffed with cheeseburgers, but not barbiturates. I have never had groupies or an entourage. But I can remember the first time I was hired to rewrite a script and how eager I was to remake it the way I thought it should be, to have the flow and the tone I felt would transform it into a special movie. That is the way I imagine the early Elvis felt: he heard things his way and wanted to let everyone know.
5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
This really qualifies as non-news: “Bar Rescue.” As soon as I got my graduate degree I became a bartender and worked at all sorts of different places across the country. We could have used that show a couple of times. The host is a nasty bully. It’s very enjoyable to watch the drunken owner or the skirt chasing manager try to pretend everything is okay. I don't expect this to stay a pleasure for long, though.
6. What’s the best present you ever received?
A teacher in college gave me a copy of Kipling's "Kim." It wasn't a matter of which book she gave me, it was the fact that she knew who I was and thought about it. I was caught completely off guard, thought I was anonymous until then.
7. What’s the best present you ever gave?
Saddaharu Oh, the Japanese baseball home run champion, wrote an autobiography with the help of David Falkner (Saddaharu Oh! A Zen Way of Baseball). I gave it to a friend who was having a difficult time with his teenage son who played baseball. But the book is about much more than baseball. It’s about determination, concentration, making the effort to improve a part of every moment of every day.
8. What advice do you remember your mother or father giving you? Did you take it?
My parents gave up giving me advice out of frustration. Moderation in all things, you can't fight city hall, never wear brown shoes with a blue suit... I had to figure it all out my own way.
9. Who would be on the perfect "Red Eye" panel?
P.J. O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley are two of the funniest people in the country.
10. What books are on your summer reading list?
I’m taking my time with Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens and in between doses of that I’m reading an Ian Rankin thriller and a Peter Robinson Inspector Banks novel.
11. What would you like tomorrow's headline to say?
I take it you mean other than: “Middle Man by David Rich hits the bestseller list.” I would settle for this: ‘Economy Booming, Jobless Rate Hits Bottom.’ Being unemployed is terrible and the ripples from mass unemployment spread into many aspects of life. If the headline said, ‘Peace in Middle East’ I would know it was a lie.
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to be more vocal about your political beliefs.
I’m moving in the other direction – toward holding back. I like to let people speak their minds. They often make assumptions about what I think and lately I don't correct them. A lot of interesting stuff comes to light that way.
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