Pat Schneider stands tall in my heart


Pat  Schneider.  Photo by Michelle Stocker

This hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I don’t give a damn if it’s a hackneyed cliché. It’s what I feel. She was 65. I love Steve Elbow’s tribute to Pat Schneider, one of the my favorite journalists ever. To me she epitomized what The Capital Times stood for – “looking out for the little guy” as editor Dave Zweifel always used to say and write.

I’m not gonna go into much detail because Elbow does magnificent justice to Pat. I’ll only say personally that she had a sweet, affable disposition beneath that tough-broad exterior. I recall being delighted when I found myself without a companion to go to review an American Players Theater play – always an important event in Madison culture.

And Pat had the chutzpah to ask me if I could go with her. Although I was actually involved with the woman who would become my wife at the time, I love the fact that this fearless professional woman was out there enough to “lean in” to do that. We had a great time at the play, and remained good friends through my 20 years at the newspaper.

My other quick thought has to do with much larger matters, which Pat found herself facing in her last days. Once, a few heady people in the Cap Times newsroom were debating the existence of God — of course, always a mystery to wrangle with. Pat overheard and leaned in at one point and said, “You know what they say. There are no atheists in a foxhole.”

I always thought that was such a wonderful thought, even if unoriginal. It evokes one of the greatest crises of modernism and existential reality — the first world war. It was also the perfect rejoinder to another person’s too-glib line: “My sister says God has a plan for me. Well, I tell her I have a plan for God.”

As for Pat, she chose her battles fearlessly and often, when she felt it was necessary to get the truth  — and to fight for the little guy, the dispossessed and forsaken. And I’m sure when she came to the end, she hardly felt like she was cowering in a foxhole.

What a woman!  As for me I tend to gravitate to Norman Mailer’s large picture which embraces reincarnation. So I offer Pat this old Irish sentiment which I coincidentally . used in a very different context tonight:

“May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back. And may the Lord always hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

You know what else? I believe battling Pat Schneider finally found her foxhole, and in that moment, had nothing to fear.

Here’s Steve superb remembrance of Pat. If you care about great journalists and their invaluable work, take a few moments here:


Thanks to Steve Hackbarth for this sad but precious news.

Rapper Rob Dz learns, rekindles a dream, and pays it forward, as Madison wins a national award

Rob Michelle

Hip-Hop artist and historian Rob Dz accepts a 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from first lady Michelle Obama on June 1 on behalf of the Madison Public Library, for his own career advancement and educational work in a library outreach program in music production and promotion.

“The library is so much more than just books, baby!”

That’s the take away of Rob Franklin, a.k. a. Rob Dz, a Madison-based hip-hop artist and historian, and one of my favorite Wisconsin artists.

How much more is the library? The Madison Public Library has transformed this talented man’s financially-strapped career.

“All my dreams of sharing my gifts to the world were fading.” he recalls. Rob was at crossroads, maybe the kind where the devil lurked, grinning right in his face, as the “Crossroads” myth went for bluesman Robert Johnson.

Rob no longer had the finances to make any recordings of his art. But he didn’t have to sell his soul to the devil to get what his dreams requested.

The Madison Library was attuned to his talents and his value to the community. They stepped into the path of uncertainty and darkness and set him up in the library’s Bubbler program and Media Lab services. This provided him access to and instruction in their full production facilities, for visual and graphic design, sound engineering, photoshop and other production services.

The upshot was that Rob dug in and learned how to use these tools, and brought his career back to life. His production work for himself and other financially and socially disenfranchised young people led to a great honor. On June 1, Rob Dz accepted a 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. First lady Michelle Obama, a strong proponent of youth literacy, presented the award to Rob, on the library’s behalf.

What a trip! And for sure it was a journey to learn, create and teach in the light of creative life. Rob explains his trip in a video in the story I have linked here.

Bering among this year’s award recipients was a thrill for Rob, and here is First Lady Michelle Obama’s awards speech and presentations.

The Library’s Bubbler program has replenished Rob Dz and, he hopes, will help transform his career. And once he learned this and got back up to speed in terms of DIY technical creativity and career advancement, he realized it was time to “pay it forward” with his knowledge. “I was able to teach not only production, but personal branding and development classes as well,” he explains

I take personal pleasure in this for several reasons. I was aware of Rob’s talents and knowledge when I covered the arts for The Capital Times in Madison for nearly 20 years. I also had a sense of how is talents translated into education. So I hired him as a guest lecturer for the cultural journalism class that I taught at Edgewood College in Madison in 2007-8.
He presented a concise, but incisive and lively history of hip-hop to my aspiring journalists, and it was one of the most rewarding classes I’ve ever presented.

Next he popped up as a member of the Chicago Yestet, a vibrant and socially and politically conscious jazz band led by trombonist and composer Joel Adams, a former Madison musician now based in Chicago. A highlight of their debut album was the brilliantly droll Rob Dz commentary on George W. Bush titled “The Decider.” Then came several thought-provoking and empowering songs on the band’s latest album Just Say Yes, including Rob’s lyrics ingeniously updating Lennon and McCartney’s “The  Long and Winding Road.” Here’s the adaptation, performed at Chicago’s Green Mill jazz club.

The greatest part of Rob’s library project was the chance he had to teach kids at risk at the city’s juvenile detention center.

“These are kids who have had some pretty harsh lives,” he explains. “To be able to give joy to some of those kids’ lives has probably given me more satisfaction than any recording I’ve done for my self. To be able to pay it forward and let other people express themselves is awe-inspiring. The library is so much more than books, baby!”

Rob’s long and winding road led to the library door. Kudos and high fives to Rob Dz and the Madison Library!