Bluff The Listener Our panelists tell us three stories of civic improvement, only one of which is true.
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Bluff The Listener

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Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Our panelists tell us three stories of civic improvement, only one of which is true.


From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! the NPR news quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Tom Bodett, Faith Salie and Peter Grosz. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

SAGAL: Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: Thank you. 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're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

FARZANEH KESHMIRI: Hi, this is Farzaneh from Kannapolis, North Carolina.

SAGAL: You said Farzaneh?

KESHMIRI: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: That's a beautiful name. What kind of name is it?

KESHMIRI: Thank you. It's an Iranian name.

SAGAL: And you're calling from where?

KESHMIRI: Kannapolis, North Carolina.

SAGAL: Kannapolis?


SAGAL: I've never heard of Kannapolis, North Carolina. What's there?

KESHMIRI: It's a little bit north of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Cannon Mills used to be here, where the towels and the sheets were made.

SAGAL: I see. That's why you call it Kannapolis.

KESHMIRI: That's right, except a K.

SAGAL: The great metropolis of Kannapolis.

KESHMIRI: Kannapolis, yes.

SAGAL: Kannapolis.

KESHMIRI: Yes, that's it.

KASELL: Not Kannapolis, Kannapolis.

SAGAL: Kannapolis?



SAGAL: Kannapolis.

KASELL: I'm a Tar Heel.

SAGAL: I understand that. Well, welcome to our show, Farzaneh.

KESHMIRI: Thank you.

SAGAL: You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is her topic?

KASELL: You know what would make the Washington Monument really great? A slide.


SAGAL: In these lean times, more and more people are turning to our free public spaces for recreation, only to discover that they've all gone to hell along with everything else. But this week, we heard a story about a novel and successful attempt to make a public space even more inviting to the public. Each of our panelists are going to tell you a story about a civic improvement. Guess which one is real; you'll win our prize. Ready to go?

KESHMIRI: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: All right, first, let's hear from Tom Bodett.

TOM BODETT: Smokey Bear had it right. Only you, with $100 million of your tax dollars, can prevent forest fires. Citing the current wildfires raging in the West and in a whip-like government response to the 1988 fire in Yellowstone National Park, which destroyed one-third of the forest there, Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi has attached an earmark to a routine spending bill calling for the installation of a thousand-square-mile, automatic sprinkler system in America's national treasure. We have sprinklers in our schools and businesses; why not in our precious parks, said national park spokesman Jamie Rios, not pausing for a reporter to offer 100 million reasons why not.


BODETT: The Yellowstone River has all the water we need, and tapping into the dozens of natural geysers will keep the system charged. Rios claims the hundreds of miles of plastic pipe gurgling hot water every hour or so will be a comfort rather than a nuisance for jumpy visitors. It's like having a million tiny Old Faithfuls. Asked what would happen to the plastic pipe if there was a fire, Rios replied: There won't be. And if there is, there won't.


BODETT: Listen, would the government spend this kind of money on something that didn't work?


SAGAL: A sprinkler system to help fight fires at Yellowstone. Your next story of an improvement to a public good comes from Peter Grosz.

PETER GROSZ: Life in China can be hard. There's pollution, an authoritarian regime watching your every move. They only have two HBOs. Sometimes the only solace from your troubles is a relaxing afternoon in the park.

Well, not anymore. Visitors to Yantai Park in Shandong Province must now pay for the privilege of just sitting there and watching the world go by. Each of the park's benches has been fitted with a coin-operated timer that must be fed like a parking meter. But if you try and sit too long without ponying up, dozens of short, sharp spikes shoot out of the bench, right into your keister.


GROSZ: Just when you thought the Chinese government couldn't get any more repressive, they are literally going medieval on people's asses.


GROSZ: But the government isn't just acting out of pure malice. Parks in China suffer from chronic overcrowding on the weekends, when millions of people flee the congested cities. Said one official: We have to make sure the facilities are shared out evenly, and this seems like a fair way to do it. It turns out in China, the character for fair is the same character for cruel and unusual punishment.


SAGAL: A public park in China where little spikes pop up if you sit too long on the bench, to make sure that everybody gets a chance. Your last story of a public improvement comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: When visitors to Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro's Tijuca Forest National Park behold the art deco icon, its grandeur often makes them feel intoxicated. Now, they can get good and drunk. That's right. In order to raise monies needed to repair damage caused by a 2008 electrical storm that singed Jesus' eyebrows, the Brazilian Wilderness Trust is opening a cafe bar inside the Redeemer's head.


SALIE: Construction has already begun behind Jesus' eyes, through which bar patrons will be able to survey the Port of Rio while sipping their caipirinhas. So if you can't know the mind of God, at least you can tipple in it.


SAGAL: So here are your choices. From Tom Bodett, a new sprinkler system set up at Yellowstone to stop those wildfires. From Peter Grosz, a park in China where little spikes pop up in benches to keep people from sitting on them too long, so everybody gets a chance. Or from Faith Salie, a cafe in the head of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, looming over Rio de Janeiro. Which of these is a real story of a nifty improvement to a public space?

KESHMIRI: Oh, boy. I'll go with Tom's story, number one.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the sprinkler system at Yellowstone?


SAGAL: Okay because you know, those fires are awfully...

KESHMIRI: With all the fires, right.

SAGAL: All right. Well, we actually spoke to someone who was involved with the real story to tell you the truth about it.

FABIAN BRUNSING: It's a regular park bench and there are like, metal spikes...


BRUNSING: ...coming out of the seating area. And you insert in some money, the spikes retract, and then you can sit on it.

SAGAL: That was Fabian Brunsing - a German artist, of course, who designed...


SAGAL: ...the park bench that inspired the ones in China. We have ways of making you stand.


SAGAL: So as is obvious by now, Peter had the true story. You did not win, but you earned a point for Tom for his very convincing and, I think, practical story of a sprinkler system in Yellowstone National Park. So thank you so much for playing.

KESHMIRI: All right. Thank you.

SAGAL: It was great to have you.

BODETT: Thank you.

SAGAL: Bye-bye. Thanks.

KESHMIRI: Bye-bye.

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