Scott Simon

A lot of us have spent more time than ever in front of screens these past, oh, 22 months. And some us have had to cry for help occasionally.

Information technology workers may be today's seafarers over oceans of encoded information. Vital, but often anonymous voices. Essential, but often unseen.

We thought people might better appreciate those who defend our databases and keep our VPNs vibrant if we set their trials and triumphs to music. Like sailors with their sea shanties.

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It's 2050, and Count Ruggero Castelnuovo, a 70-year-old musician, and Constance, his American wife who's 40 years younger, decide to write something confiding and intimate for one another. Let's ask Edmund White to read from an early section of his new novel, "A Previous Life."

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(SOUNDBITE OF BBNO$ AND RICH BRIAN SONG, "EDAMAME")

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Don't try to sweet-talk Olly Alexander.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWEET TALKER")

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Carl Bernstein has written a colorful memoir, and it's not about Deep Throat, Richard Nixon, Watergate, or Supreme Court justices, but the kinds of people who used to be called "ink-strained wretches": Newspaper people. From the times he was 16, he worked as a copy-kid on the old Washington Star, where he fell in love — I think that's the word to use — with what he call the "glorious chaos" and "purposeful commotion" of the newsroom.

Terry Teachout once worked as a bank teller in Kansas City, and I think he used to enjoy dropping that fact into conversation with theater folks. It was a way to say, "I am a theater critic. But really, I'm the audience."

"I still think Jell-O salads are vegetables," Terry told me once as, in fact, we ate veggie burgers before a play.

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This is Cordae.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SINISTER")

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Alfredo Antonio Trujillo and his twin sister, Aylin Yolanda, were born just a few minutes apart, on different days, in different months, in different years.

Alfred Antonio was born at 11:45 pm, Dec. 31, 2021, at the Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, Calif. Fifteen minutes later, Aylin Yolanda was delivered just after the stroke of midnight, last Saturday morning, Jan. 1, 2022.

Their mother, Fatima Madrigal, told KABC in Los Angeles she feels doubly blessed.

"Everything is possible," she said. "And every child is a blessing."

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Merry Christmas. And nothing says Christmas like, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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In NPR's 50th anniversary year, one of the ways we celebrated was through stories - under the banner We Hold These Truths. How have Americans learned about democracy? Well, lots of our notions and beliefs first flickered before us at the movies.

SCOTT SIMON: We all start work on this show when it's still dark, and this Christmas morning I looked into the sky. I saw a trail, and heard a clatter of hooves, and a string of ho-ho-ho's. That sleigh in the sky should be approaching the west coast now. So I figured, why not try this number I have?

<SOUND OF PHONE DIGITS PRESSED>

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(SOUNDBITE OF HOUND DOG TAYLOR SONG, "GIVE ME BACK MY WIG")

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I saw a picture this week that arrested my attention.

It's a drawing in old, dark ink of woman with curly hair, in a loose gown with a baby balanced in her lap. He is also curly-haired, and the ringlets make his little head look almost like an aura of the sun. The child stands on two plump, tiny legs, and the mother tucks him against her right arm, steadying his bottom with her left hand.

The curly-haired woman smiles. Not as if she doesn't have a care in the world, but as if all she really cares about in this world is the child in her arms.

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George and Clarence, mean Mr. Potter, Zuzu and her petals - and never forget...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE")

KAROLYN GRIMES: (As Zuzu Bailey) Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

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And as the T-shirt says, and now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Bob Dole, who died last Sunday at age 98, is memorialized this morning in his hometown of Russell, Kan. But his death was also felt this week in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by those of us who covered the conflict there. As Bosnian politician Bakir Izetbegovic wrote, "He will remain in the lasting memory of all those [that] carry our homeland in their hearts."

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I've had açaí berries, being one of those Americans who longs to be healthier, especially if I can do it by plopping a few berries into a smoothie.

Açaí, which to me taste a little like dull blueberries, reportedly brim with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. They are said to promote energy, healthy digestion, and even a dewier complexion.

But how do açaí berries get from the tops of trees in Brazil's Amazon into the açaí bowls that sell in San Francisco, Austin and West Des Moines?

Many are picked by children.

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Author Jodi Picoult says she couldn't wrap her head around how she might tell the story of the pandemic — to both memorialize it and make sense of it.

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