How Do You Spell 'Precocious'?

Some of the most popular stories on the Web.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Oh, if you could only have heard what happened in the last minute in here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: That is for THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT's outtake.

BILL WOLFF, host:

Probably best you didn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Welcome back to the show. We are THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. And we're also always available online npr.org/bryantpark.

I see Caitlin, I see Ian, I see Matt. I feel like the lady on "Romper Room." I see Tricia.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: It is time for the most e-mailed, most blogged, most commented and most popular stories from the Web. We call it The Most.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: And, Ian, to prove a point, something - and when I used to do this for MSNBC, it was always my point, that the most often very interesting stories, sometimes but these are also often very serious stories that people want to share with one another…

CHILLAG: Yeah.

STEWART: …stories about our culture.

CHILLAG: Yeah. It's a way to get a handle on - just kind of what people are thinking about. And that's a way of getting into this story, which is the most e-mailed from the Washington Post.

Soldier suicides at record level. There was an internal Army study that has some pretty alarming numbers. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives -that's up 20 percent from 2006. And that's up six-fold since the war in Iraq began.

The Army's only been keeping numbers on this since 1980s, so you can't get kind of an idea of what went on in other protected conflicts. But, you know, this article says that a lot of this, the Army was just unprepared for the high number of suicides because they didn't know these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were going to go on as long as they did.

The Washington Post reporter talked to a soldier, Staff Sergeant Gladys Santos, who's an Army medic, who attempted suicide after three tours in Iraq. And Gladys said, they gave me an 800 number to call if I needed help. When I come to feeling overwhelmed, I don't care about the 800 number. I want a one-on-one talk with a trained psychiatrist who's either been to war or understands war.

And that gets to kind of the purpose of this study. You know, the Army's top personnel chief ordered it because the Army wants to learn how to deal with this problem a little better.

STEWART: We should keep our eye on that story…

CHILLAG: Yeah.

STEWART: …and find out more about it.

Okay, Ian. Great. Thanks for that most.

Tricia in the control room, our editor. Where is your most from?

TRICIA MCKINNEY: Mine is the most e-mailed at USA Today. And the headline grabbed me right away. Professor Colin, fractions should be scrapped. And anything that involves math and the banning thereof, I'm always interested in that because I'm really, really bad at math.

But actually, this is the story about an award-winning math professor named Dennis DeTurck. He's got a book coming out in which he's going to argue that we should just scrap the use of fractions, or I guess, the teaching of fractions, you know, at a high school level, to young students.

He says that there's no need to do it. We're in a digital age. We should be using the decimal system, decimal points and all of that. And so fractions have had their day. And that's - he said this before and he's caused a lot of controversy with making statements like that. And he's also going to talk about getting rid of some other things like long division and square roots and things like that.

WOLFF: Shoe laces because Velcro's better. Come on.

MCKINNEY: I see Bill has an opinion about this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: You know, I personally find fractions confusing. And I have a real world example. I used to work in the scene shop at my college. And I - one time, I ruined a very expensive pile of metal by cutting it the wrong length because I was supposed to cut like, five-feet three and - five-feet-five and three-eighth inches. And I cut it at five-feet-three and five-eighth inches, so I made it too short and I ruined - I don't even know how many hundreds of dollars worth of metal, you know?

STEWART: Tricia, Tricia, Tricia.

WOLFF: And you blame fractions?

MCKINNEY: I blame fractions for that. I really do.

WOLFF: But in the end, it worked out.

STEWART: You know what I like about The Most?

MCKINNEY: No, it didn't. They had…

WOLFF: No. You're happily married. You have a lovely daughter. I mean, it's okay.

MCKINNEY: Oh. Yes. And I have no career in scenery building so there you go.

WOLFF: Well, like I said, it worked out.

STEWART: (Unintelligible) The Most? The Most brings out your emotional baggage…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: …to NPR.

WOLFF: Exactly. Therapy.

MCKINNEY: But anyway, people who are, again - you know, there are mathematicians who say, you know what, don't scrap fractions. You're making it sound like, you know, these are actual basic arithmetic skills that people need to learn. So…

STEWART: All right. Caitlin, you're up next.

CAITLIN KENNEY: Okay. My story is medical marijuana vending machines take root - now, guess, where? It's the number one most e-mailed at the LA Times.

WOLFF: Hmm. Surprise, surprise.

STEWART: Yeah.

KENNEY: Patients suffering - who use marijuana for medical reasons can now get their pot at the Herbal Nutrition Center where a large machine will dole out the drug around the clock. There's at least three dispensaries in the city where you can get your drugs this way, but it is pretty secure.

There's a computerized machine that requires fingerprint identification and a prepaid card with a magnetic stripe. Once the card and the fingerprint are verified, a bright green envelope with pot drops down the slot.

STEWART: So it sounds like, college students who's, shall we say, are not feeling too much pain, can't just like, go up to the machine and try to…

KENNEY: No. They have to…

STEWART: …stick a $20 bill in it. And…

KENNEY: Yeah. You have to have your card. This doesn't mean people aren't objecting to it. Because, you know, people are still feeling it, still on the property. But, you know, technically, it is legal for medical purposes.

And the benefits of this machine, according to the inventor, are convenient access, lower prices, safety and amenity. And also, it cuts down on the number of workers in the store in the event of a raid. So there you go.

MATT MARTINEZ: There you go. Dude. Dude.

STEWART: Matt, Matt, Matt…

MATT MARTINEZ: May(ph), may, may...

STEWART: …our senior supervising producer, our fearless leader.

MARTINEZ: I sacrificed last night and stayed up and watched "American Idol." Well, I just want you to know.

WOLFF: One man's sacrifice is another man's indulgence, Matt.

MARTINEZ: It's true. Number one Google Trend is the word precocious.

WOLFF: Hmm.

MARTINEZ: Why is that the number one Google Trend? Well, last night they had this girl on "American Idol," her name is Julie DuBela, and she was indeed precocious. And that - here's a little bit of her performance last night.

(Soundbite of TV show, "American Idol")

Ms. JULIE DuBELA: (Singing) But I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty, red bandana. I was playing soft while Bobby sang the blues. Yeah.

(Soundbite of imitating DuBela's singing style)

Ms. DuBELA: (Singing) Windshield wipers slapping time, I was holding…

Mr. SIMON COWELL (Judge, "American Idol"): Oh, Julie.

Ms. DuBELA: Yeah.

Mr. COWELL: Have you ever been called precocious?

Ms. DuBELA: Precocious?

Mr. COWELL: Hmm.

Ms. DuBELA: What does that mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIMON: It means…

Mr. RANDY JACKSON (Judge, "American Idol"): That was (unintelligible).

MARTINEZ: There you are. And so it hit top of the charts on the Google Trends, precocious. And she actually was precocious. She was awful, just awful. And I just have one word for her, awful. And she didn't go through the Hollywood. I'm so happy about that. But she was on Google Trends earlier, she's fallen off. But precocious is still up there at number one.

McKINNEY: Hey, Matt, we have to say what precocious means.

MARTINEZ: Well, it's just a young person who is mature for their age, you know? And the way you say it can be taken as…

STEWART: In a pejorative sense.

MARTINEZ: In a pejorative sense.

STEWART: And that's how he meant it, I think.

MARTINEZ: Yes. And if - somebody who is not precocious, who is down to earth was on Tuesday's "American Idol," he is - when they're in Omaha, he's from Charlotte, Iowa. There's this guy named Leo Marlowe. Just the most adorable guy in the world comes in. He's the last guy to audition.

And I just wanted play it just because I thought it was awesome. It has nothing to do with The Most. It's my most favorite moment of the week.

(Soundbite of TV show, "American Idol")

Mr. COWELL: Okay.

Mr. JACKSON: Wow.

Mr. COWELL: And do people like you?

Mr. LEO MARLOWE: I think - well, my mom always said she raised a perfect homecoming queen - too bad it wasn't one of her daughters. So I felt…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: Wow. All right. All right.

Mr. COWELL: Okay. What are you going to sing?

Mr. MARLOWE: "A Song for You."

Ms. PAULA ABDUL (Judge, "American Idol"): I love that song.

Mr. MARLOWE: By Donny Hathaway.

Mr. COWELL: (unintelligible) know this one.

Mr. JACKSON: All right.

Mr. MARLOWE: You got it?

Mr. COWELL: Yeah.

Mr. MARLOWE: (Singing) I've been so many places in my life and time. I've sung a lot of songs. I've made some bad rhymes. I've acted out my life in stages with 10,000 people watching. But we're alone now and I'm singing this song to you.

Mr. COWELL: Very good.

Mr. MARLOWE: Thank you.

Mr. COWELL: Yeah, very good.

WOLFF: He's like a Latter-day Elliott Yamin.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, he is very good.

STEWART: Yeah. He kind of looks like a skinny pair of Perez Hilton.

MARTINEZ: Yes. Yes, that's a good way to…

STEWART: If you can imagine.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, that's a good way to describe him. Anyway, so that' my most from the Google.

STEWART: "American Idol" correspondent and senior supervising producer Matt Martinez.

MARTINEZ: I just - I do the hard work, so you don't have to.

WOLFF: So does precocious mean unable to imitate Janis Joplin? Is that (unintelligible)?

MARTINEZ: Yeah. That is also what it means.

WOLFF: I see.

STEWART: I have the final most.

MARTINEZ: Oh.

STEWART: The second to final most. This is in the Wall Street Journal. It's one of the most viewed, and the headline is "Chew This Over: Munchable Ice Sells Like Hot Cakes." You know, some people just really like to chew ice.

WOLFF: I'm looking at one right now.

MARTINEZ: Yes.

STEWART: Matt Martinez admitted to this. He's a big ice chewer.

WOLFF: He's from Phoenix. It's hot there.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. In Phoenix, you got to chew them. You know, when I was a kid I used to chew chunks of ice and I would occasionally choke on them. And my grandfather…

McKINNEY: That's not funny.

MARTINEZ: …would give me the Heimlich maneuver and, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: A week would pass, and they'd do it all over again, you know?

STEWART: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: I almost died five different times.

STEWART: Bad Sunday at the Martinez household.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

STEWART: This is for you then, Matt, because some fast-food places are selling it in cups and bags to-go, and ice machine makers are competing to make the best chewable ice, names like Chewblet, Nugget Ice, Pearl Ice and, in fact, they're calling the South now the Chew Belt.

MARTINEZ: The Chew Belt. I love it.

STEWART: Most viewed at the Wall Street Journal. We'll link up to all these stories on our blog, npr.org/bryantpark.

Thanks, everybody.

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