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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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A flawed fling at 15 minutes of fame

By Barry Schrader.................................September 7, 2010

My attempt to “grab the brass ring” one more time this late in life did not bear fruit.
But let me explain.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago announced a nationwide competition this summer to find one person who could live in a glass cubicle at the museum for a month and share his or her experiences with the outside world through blogging, Facebook and other 21st Century means. The prize was $10,000 and fame as the star attraction at the museum.
To enter, I just had to produce a one-minute video, write a 500-word essay and fill out a comprehensive 10-page questionnaire.
This was just my cup of tea, I thought, and promptly began my quest for this “brass ring” which seemed like a slam dunk since I had been a science writer for 20 years of my journalistic career, had worked at two premier U.S. nuclear research laboratories, had made videos and did TV tapings during the course of my work. How could anyone top those credentials?
My paperwork was done in time, and the only thing left was making a video, something concise, creative and catchy. So I enlisted the aid of three DeKalb kids from the Perry family – Lori, Marie and Kenny – driving them and their mother Tammy to the museum for a daylong look at the exhibits. At the end, I used a video camera to tape a quick interview in front of the Burlington Zephyr.
Since I once was featured in a PBS documentary with a few others from the town of Livermore, Calif., regarding the saga of its lost time capsule, I figured this should be a piece of cake. It was two days before the deadline when I shot the video. But when I played it back at home, to my chagrin, our voices had been obliterated by background noise at the cavernous museum. It was totally incomprehensible. I called the three kids together, and we re-taped it in my living room, minus the museum backdrop. So I still had a chance.

The three Perry children featured in the museum video, on location in Chicago,
are from left Marie, Kenny and Lori.

So near but yet so far: Barry stands outside the glass cubicle he wanted to inhabit for a Month at the Museum

Then on Aug. 25, the museum announced there had been more than 1,500 entries submitted from every state and a couple foreign countries. That made me a little worried. And when the museum aired some of the best entries on its website, my heart sank. Those other videos had been produced by talented young people with a knack for wildly clever filmmaking, definitely not from my generation.
But there was a slim chance they would read my essay and review my resume. The deadline passed, but no phone call from the museum staff. Then the fateful e-mail arrived, saying they had picked the top 10 semifinalists and thanks to the rest of us for entering. It was a devastating blow. I was a bit upset to see that most all the finalists were 30-something and looked so vigorous and perky.
To assuage my bruised ego, I did a background check on the Museum of Science and Industry’s Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Rob Gallas, and I could only reach one conclusion: He was once a White Sox senior vice president, and somewhere in my full disclosure documents they must have learned I am a second-generation Cubs fan. So that’s the price one has to pay for being a loyal supporter of a team that always mumbles “next year will be our year.”
Well, if they run this “Man in the Museum” promotion again in 2011, I will list myself as a DeKalb County Liners fan; who could fault that? And that elusive brass ring is still hanging out there just waiting for me to return for another grab at it …

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115