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The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

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The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.

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Listeners Bash Barbershop Comment On Work Ethic

Dec 16, 2011

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for BackTalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the Tell Me More blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. We also update you on some of the stories we've been covering. Ammad Omar is here with me once again. He's an editor here at TELL ME MORE. Welcome back, Ammad.

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: What do you have?

OMAR: Well, we've got a law and order theme today in our Backtalk. We've got a few news updates and some listener feedback as well, of course. But first of all, the letters continue to pour in about the interview you did with parents of Robert Champion, Jr. He's the Florida A&M University drum major who died after an alleged hazing incident.

We recently spoke with his parents, Robert and Pamela. Here's some of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)

PAMELA CHAMPION: We're speaking out because we want to, in my son's name, to be able to put a stop to it, to end all the hazing. Now that the door has been opened and we can see all the things that are behind that door, I think it needs to be cleaned out and stopped.

OMAR: Tracy Evans in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania writes in. She says: Condolences go out to Robert's parents for the death of their son. I have a niece who plans to attend band in college. She's 16 and I find it a very scary thing that things like this can and do happen. Yes, I know, some say this is a good way to encourage teamsmanship and inspire loyalty. I can't imagine why people feel that way.

MARTIN: Thank you, Tracy. And thank you to everyone who wrote in. And, you know, we've got some developing news on that case as well. On Monday, three students of FAMU were arrested for allegedly beating a freshman band member in another hazing incident prior to Mr. Champion's death. The alleged victim says she plans to file a lawsuit.

And just yesterday, hundreds of FAMU students met with Florida governor Rick Scott. Scott had called for the school's president James Ammons to step down and the students had marched to the governor's mansion in support of Ammons. Ammad, what else do you have for us?

OMAR: Well, next up, in New Orleans, a police officer has been convicted for lying about incidents following a deadly shooting that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. Officer Ronald Mitchell fatally shot 45-year-old Danny Brumfield from the passenger's seat of a patrol car in September, 2005. He was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury.

Prosecutors say Mitchell lied when he said he left his patrol car after the shooting and checked for Brumfield's pulse. Mitchell was acquitted on lying about the shooting itself, but he's facing a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

MARTIN: And we should mention that Mitchell's partner was acquitted of charges in connection with the same shooting at trial. What else, Ammad?

OMAR: Well, up in Ohio a few weeks ago, the beauty shop ladies had a lot to say about a third-grader who was placed in foster care for being too obese. The boy weighed over 200 pounds and county workers said his mother hadn't done enough to deal with his weight. Well, on Wednesday a judge ruled the boy can leave foster care, he'll live with his uncle until February.

His mother will get unrestricted visitation rights during that time and the boy will also spend the week with her for Christmas. The boy has lost several pounds during his stay in foster care. That's according to the Associated Press.

MARTIN: And of course we wish the best to that young man and his family for the holidays. Ammad, I understand that there was a lot of reaction to last week's barbershop.

OMAR: There was, as usual, Michel. One of our panelists is in some hot water with a listener for some comments he made last week. You and the guys were talking about Newt Gingrich's statements that a lot of the young people, especially poor young people, don't know too much about hard work. Gingrich has been suggesting that school children should help out with janitorial work at schools to teach them that work ethic.

Now, that stance was defended by one our panelists, Rueben Navarrette. Here's a clip of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF BARBERSHOP CLIP)

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: We're having that conversation. I have the way to say that we do have a problem with our work ethic across the board, all colors. I was on a radio show yesterday defending this and somebody said, well, do you really want 13-year-olds cleaning toilets and things? And I said forget 13-year-olds. I can't get 19, 20, 22-year-olds to hold a job at Starbucks because they find it too taxing.

OMAR: Well, Ellen Cain from Omaha, Nebraska wrote in. She took exception to those comments. She says: Tell me, good sir, why do you look down on someone who works at Starbucks? I'm a former Starbucks employee and it is, in fact, a taxing job. Memorizing standard drinks is a tough but doable job. Now memorize the names, faces, drink specifications and details about a couple thousand people.

I would invite you, good sir, to work at a lunch rush at a busy counter service job before you knock how difficult it is.

MARTIN: Well, Ellen, you don't have to tell me. I am well known here for my appreciation for your work. So...

OMAR: That's right.

MARTIN: That's it.

OMAR: Well, we've got one last update, Michel. A couple of weeks ago we spoke with Cindy McCain and Reuters correspondent Jonny Hogg about the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Well, the results are in and they say Joseph Kabila has been reelected president but the U.S. State Department says the results are "seriously flawed". That's something Kabila denies. And we'll keep you posted on any developments there.

MARTIN: Thank you, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522 or visit us online at npr.org/tellmemore. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for tellmemorenpr.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Just ahead, this week President Obama acknowledge the official end to the Iraq war, but some critics, including Senator John McCain, asked if true victory was achieved.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Perhaps this outcome should not have been a surprise. It's what the president has consistently promised to do and that decision makes good political sense for this president. But such decisions should not be determined by domestic politics.

MARTIN: The Barbershop guys weigh in on the end of the war, the latest Republican presidential debate, and the controversial reality show "All-American Muslim." That's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.