I have a crush. On a man I would not be able to identify, even if he were selling aquarium filters door-to-door. Which he wouldn't be, by the way. Because he's wonderful.
You may know him. His name is Noah Adams, and our acquaintance has spanned seven apartments, eight relationships, two Hondas, four jobs, and six beige suits. In a perpetually changing universe, his sweet, unerring "I'm Noah Adams" has been one of only a handful of fixed stars. No matter who I might be having dinner with, I always drive there with Noah.
I feel the same way about Robert Siegel, Bob Edwards, and Linda Wertheimer, by the way. In an age of fractured and dispersed families, the people at NPR have long played the role of surrogate, faceless, disembodied parents. They wake me every morning, drive me to and from wherever I'm going, then gently imply what my opinions should be around the dinner table.
And, as is perhaps inevitable with virtual families, I've assigned all sorts of personal qualities to all my NPR friends and lovers. Given them hairstyles and tics and birthmarks. I've ascribed ethnicities and magazine subscriptions and favorite foods to them. (I feel quite strongly that Steve Inskeep is a chili dog guy, for instance, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt where Ann Taylor shops for her blouses.) And I have noticed the same phenomenon in my friends. If any man at a cocktail party learns that I hang around the U.S. Supreme Court for a living, the odds are approximately 3-1 that he'll promptly choke on a mushroom cap while sighing, "What does Nina Totenberg look like? I've had a crush on her since college. ..."
So at the risk of further eroding the special magic of those NPR voices, Slate has prepared the following quiz. We like to think of it less as debunking than as fond and respectful familiarizing. Like finally meeting that girl you've been IM-ing with from the AOL singles room. However, a confrontation with the faces of NPR should probably come with a surgeon general's warning. My friend Robert recently warned me that Terry Gross would never sound quite the same after seeing her picture; and soon after, a member of Slate's art department working on this story described an "uneasiness" she's developed listening to Fresh Air ... "almost as if that woman in the picture is some medium channeling Terry Gross' voice."
1) Which of the following handsome devils is Corey Flintoff?
2) Who do you think is Terry Gross?
3) Who is Bob Edwards?
4) Which one is Korva Coleman?
TODAY IN SLATE
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The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented
Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada
You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney
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An All-Female Mission to Mars
As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.