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Bluff The Listener

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Paula Poundstone, Luke Burbank and Alonzo Bodden. And here again is your host, a man who swears the microphone adds 10 pounds, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL Me Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi. You are on WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

CHRISTIAN NEAL HERMAN: Hi, this is Christian Neal Herman from Minneapolis, Minn.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Minneapolis, my former home for at least a little while?

HERMAN: Oh. They're doing well. Spring has sprung.

SAGAL: Yes.

HERMAN: Well, our version of spring has sprung.

SAGAL: I know. And it's over. Sorry. You just had it. You just had spring. Sorry you wasted it with us. Are you a native of - you don't like one, a native of Minnesota.

HERMAN: No (laughter). No, I'm not - got here by way of Georgia and Texas.

SAGAL: Oh, really. And how are you dealing with the winters?

HERMAN: We've embraced it. My husband and I - we go ice skating. We tried to play some hockey games. We've dove in feet first.

SAGAL: I don't think you're a real Minnesotan unless you go ice fishing, but...

HERMAN: We did that once. Yeah, not my thing.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Welcome to the show. You, Christian, are going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what's Christian's topic?

KURTIS: Happy birthday, NPR.

SAGAL: This week, we are celebrating 50 years of NPR. Congratulations to us. We're old enough to be in the cover of AARP magazine. Now, NPR has profiled lots of fascinating people in those 50 years. And our panelists are going to tell you each about one of them. However, only one really was on NPR. Pick the panelist telling the true story from the NPR archive. You'll win our prize - 50 more years of journalism and the WAIT WAIT-er of your choice on your voice mail. You ready to play?

HERMAN: Absolutely.

SAGAL: All right, Christian, here we go. First up, let's hear from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: NPR doesn't usually do stories about weight-loss fads. But this method gave them NPR-ish pause. Morbidly obese at 352 pounds and suffering heart disease, Oscar Goodman started to think. I couldn't even make myself get out of bed and stop mindlessly staring at the television, Goodman told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep. One day I turn the TV off and just lie there thinking - just thinking. Why in touch typing does the letter J get to be under what is, on average, the most dexterous finger of the human hand? Why did PE classes ever have kids choose the players for their teams? Were chickens ever wild? At a point, I found myself in a pool of sweat. I looked at the clock, and over two hours had passed. I started thinking for at least a couple of hours a day. I mean intense, deliberate thinking. Goodman lost five pounds in the first week and has shed over 100 pounds in the years since.

SAGAL: A man tells Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition about his thinking diet. Your next blast from the past comes from Alonzo Bodden.

ALONZO BODDEN: Most parents tell their kids, don't talk back. But what if your child could talk backwards? Randee Mia Berman is able to talk or even sing backwards. Her parents say she's been doing it since she was 5. When she appeared on All Things Considered in 2002, She told Noah Adams and Melissa Block that she doesn't really try to do it. It just happens in her head instantly. She can take a phrase or song and repeat it backwards three ways, reversing words, syllables or even pronouncing each letter backward, resulting in what sounds like a new language. How does one use this talent? She says it's great at parties. And she doesn't mind showing off her gift and hopes someone will have a way for her to use it or to connect her with someone else who possesses the same talent. We can only imagine trying to follow that conversation.

SAGAL: A woman who can talk backwards talked forwards to Melissa Block and Noah Adams on All Things Considered. And finally, your last story from NPR's attic comes from Luke Burbank.

LUKE BURBANK: You could hear the suspicion in Lulu Garcia-Navarro's voice as 13-year-old Scott McCulloch was ushered into the studio during Weekend Edition back in 2017. His claim - he could locate Pokemon Go characters without using a smartphone. The augmented reality game was all the rage at the time, but most people needed to look through their phones to see where a Charmander or Bulbasaur might be hiding, but not Scott. Each Pokemon actually has a smell to it, he explained, diving into the corner of the studio and tackling a Pikachu, which he said smelled like almonds. A stunned Garcia-Navarro watched through her iPhone as McCulloch proceeded to capture a Squirtle - onions, he said - a Raichu, vaguely bacon-like, and even an Arbok, which he said smelled like his brother Jeff's socks. The segment actually received extremely low ratings since radio is a visual medium but has since gone viral on various Pokemon subreddits, where it's described as epically LOL-worthy.

SAGAL: All right then. Once upon a time, NPR, the nation's premier radio journalism outfit, broadcast one of these stories. Was it from Paula Poundstone, a man telling Steve Inskeep about how he managed to lose a lot of weight just by thinking seriously; from Alonzo Bodden, a woman who appeared on All Things Considered to talk backwards; or from Luke, an interview that Lulu Garcia-Navarro did with a kid who could find Pokemon Go virtual animals - creatures, monsters? - by the sense of smell. Which of these is the real story from NPR archives?

HERMAN: Well, sometimes, when my 2-year-old talks, I don't know if he's talking backwards. He can be hard to understand.

(LAUGHTER)

HERMAN: So I'm going to say the middle one, the talking backwards one.

SAGAL: So you are going to choose Alonzo's story of the woman who claimed and presumably demonstrated that she could speak backwards. Well, OK. To bring you the correct answer, well, of course, here is the tape of the NPR segment in question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

NOAH ADAMS, BYLINE: Let's try something from "The Wizard Of Oz" that you may have in your mind that you could...

RANDEE MIA BERMAN: OK.

ADAMS: ...(Unintelligible) for us.

BERMAN: Sure.

ADAMS: See if we can recognize it.

BERMAN: (Singing backwards).

SAGAL: Now, of course, that was Noah Adams and Melissa Block talking to the woman who could speak backwards. But we owe you this when they reversed it. Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: I think we are going to be able to play that tape forward.

BERMAN: (Singing) Somewhere over the rainbow...

ADAMS: (Singing) Over the rainbow - of course, of course.

BERMAN: (Singing) ...Way up...

BURBANK: Well, I know what tape will haunt my night-scape.

SAGAL: So there you are, Christian. You got it right. That was the segment. And that's why we love NPR. You've earned a point for Alonzo. You have won our prize, the voice of your choice on your voicemail, speaking backwards, forwards. We don't care. We'll do anything. Congratulations, Christian.

HERMAN: Thank you.

SAGAL: Talk to you soon - bye, bye.

HERMAN: Bye, bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.