NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":


What Did The Monk Competition Ever Do For You?

Sep 22, 2012
Originally published on October 5, 2012 12:17 pm

Pianist Ethan Iverson launched a debate last month when he evoked "the dark side" of musical competition — specifically, of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, whose semifinals and finals take place this weekend in Washington, D.C. Iverson took issue with overemphasizing technical convention, and with the very nature of judging art, making the somewhat hyperbolic suggestion that Monk couldn't have competed in the contest named for him. (Iverson has since walked that comment back.) It inspired heavy discussion on social media and the jazz blogosphere (including A Blog Supreme), enough so that Iverson himself commented twice more.

One element was largely missing from that back-and-forth, though: the actual alumni of the Monk Competition. A few weighed in, notably past winners Eric "ELEW" Lewis (piano) and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), as well as last year's second-place finisher, pianist Joshua White. For the most part, though, the public conversation lacked the people with the most obvious insight into the subject. Surely, the competitors have important thoughts on the value of the competition to a jazz musician's career.

So I asked some of them. Here, five past contestants in the Monk Competition share their thoughts on the pros and cons of musical competition and how it can affect an artist's work and opportunity:

  • Eric Reed: semifinalist, 1988 piano competition
  • Tim Warfield: third place (tie), 1991 saxophone competition
  • Harold Summey: winner, 1992 drum competition
  • Ryan Keberle: semifinalist, 2003 trombone competition
  • Philip Dizack: semifinalist, 2007 trumpet competition

Judging Art

The group concurs with Iverson's thesis that getting judged for your art is problematic — to a degree. "I don't believe in judging arts," Warfield says. "When you get to a certain level in your technical process where it transcends mechanics and starts to become artistic, it's really a matter of personal preference. Judging based on that makes no sense."

"When everyone is making art, you can't really decide who's the 'winner,'" Dizack says. "It's completely subjective, and you have to understand that if you're going to be part of [the competition]."

Warfield and Dizack found judgment more futile than troublesome. Summey, however, sees potential for the latter. "I think jazz as sports is not a good thing," he says. "Individual musicians can ... be damaged by the experience. If you're winning, you get the idea, 'Okay, well, this is how I did it. I need to play everything perfectly.' Well, no. That's not how jazz and creative music works."

This gets to the heart of Iverson's "dark side." A competition, he suggests, likely prioritizes playing "correctly" — i.e., with technical proficiency and conventional jazz devices — over playing that evinces creativity and innovation. He implies that competition has a chilling effect on original thinking in music. "If any of [this year's semifinalists] are thinking outside the box, my sympathies," he wrote. "I sincerely hope that at least some of these semifinalists ... have bigger fish to fry than just playing jazz 'correctly.'"

As Warfield points out, however, every contestant is at a technical peak. Moreover, even Summey admits that emphasis on "correctness" was not his experience. "I didn't feel any pressure at all," he says. "Except to try to be as truthful as I could. To do my best at being creative within the framework of playing jazz." In fact, he found that contestants who were too beholden to convention were unlikely to succeed: Some were clearly regurgitating the recordings of songs they played. "That's not jazz," he says. "You've gotta listen to what has come before you, and you synthesize out of that a personal approach. It's not enough to just try to sound like Philly Joe Jones."

"That's absolutely the bottom line. It's important to be yourself," says Reed, who has also served as a judge and musical accompanist for the Monk Competition. "You've got to be individual; as difficult as it is to judge something like that, it will absolutely stick out, and you will get points for how original you are."

The Impact Of The Competition

As for whether it has a larger effect on the jazz world, Keberle expresses doubts. "Maybe there is not as much of an appreciation for creativity, or people thinking outside the box — but maybe not," he says. "You look at the people who are getting the most press at the moment, guys like Vijay Iyer — this guy is completely fresh, completely new. So I always tend to be a little skeptical when people start dragging the industry down."

Seeing many unfamiliar names among past winners, Iverson wonders, "Did any of these bright talents get discouraged and out of the game thanks to the post-competition blues?" He specifically notes that Summey, after his win, had few recordings and built his career back home in D.C. rather than going big-league. This is true, Summey acknowledges, but he also spent two years touring with Sonny Rollins and worked with "Fathead" Newman, James Moody and Wynton Marsalis, all of whom heard him because of the competition. He remained in Washington not because he lacked opportunity, but because he'd built a life there, working in the Navy band and as a teacher, and settling down with a wife and children.

All of the other former contestants speak of the Monk Competition as a valuable experience. Dizack and Keberle both made valuable contacts and heard performances that still resonate with them today. For Reed, it continued to be a presence in his life as a judge and accompanist. Warfield considers it an important point on his musical résumé. "In terms of how much significance it actually has? I don't know," he says. "But do I consider it something prestigious to say that I was a part of it and to say that I placed? Absolutely."

There may be a dark side to musical competition, as Iverson suggests — or at least a less-than-ideal side — but for these Monk Competition alumni, the positive takes precedence. Certainly, it's a plus for the audience, which gets to see 12 extraordinary drummers exhibit their craft onstage, and likely at least one future star in the making. And this, Warfield says, is the reason it's a net positive for the music, too.

"The arts in general are suffering," he says. "This competition gets attention every year, and I think it's very easy to say that the good outweighs the bad. Because the question is, what would we do if the Thelonious Monk Competition didn't exist?"

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit