Arts

Arts and culture

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You don't hear the word jingle much in advertising anymore, but there was a time when the jingle was king. Once ad agencies came up with their concepts or slogans, they needed music to make their sell.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Now that the latest season of Game of Thrones has ended, fans may be feeling a little untethered — and some publishers would like to fill that gap with serialized books. As TV dramas get better and better, book publishers are hoping to convert binge TV watchers into binge readers.

The baristas have spoken, and Starbucks is listening: The company says it's loosening its dress code for in-store employees. Yes, the green aprons remain, but you may begin noticing more personal flair underneath.

A company announcement invites baristas "to shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance."

Novelists have always put their heroines through awful ordeals. But over time, these tribulations change. Where the 19th Century was filled with fictional women trapped in punishing marriages — think of Middlemarch or The Portrait of a Lady — today's heroines face trials that are bigger, more political, and more physically demanding. They fight in hunger games.

The Television Critics Association is ... okay, that's the easy part. It's an association of people who write about television, mostly as critics, although many function, either instead or in addition, as reporters. I'm in it, as is NPR's full-time TV critic Eric Deggans, as are a couple hundred other people. And twice a year — once in the summer and once in the winter — we gather in the L.A. area for what's referred to as either "press tour" or "TCA," so that we can hear about what's coming up on TV and get a chance to talk to the people who make it.

The Panopticon, the 2013 debut by Scottish author Jenni Fagan, dealt with the tribulations of adolescence against a highly charged backdrop, a home for juvenile offenders that turns out to be more insidious than it seems. Adolescence also plays into Fagan's follow-up, The Sunlight Pilgrims, but that's only part of the picture.

Helen Gurley Brown, the tiny, tough and influential editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, who transformed the staid family magazine and took circulation to giddy heights, did so by lubricating its pages with one word: sex.

Make that extra-marital sex.

Actor Michael K. Williams is known for playing morally ambiguous, sometimes violent characters. As Omar Little on The Wire, Williams was a fearless stick-up man who stole money from drug dealers. In Boardwalk Empire, he played Chalky White, a bootlegger in Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Now, in the new HBO series The Night Of, he's a powerful inmate in New York's notorious Rikers Island Prison.

The table is set for dinner. Small cooked crabs and shrimp are laid out on the thick wooden tabletop next to succulent figs, grapes, pears and types of produce you can't even name. There's a citrus with a long coiling peel draped around it, and an entire roast of some animal's leg that's been cut down the middle — so you can see the thick layer of fat running around the edge. Just for good measure, a red lobster and ornate goblet of wine stand on a pedestal above it.

You might not know Marni Nixon's name, but you've probably heard her. The singer dubbed the voices for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady — three of Hollywood's biggest movie musicals.

Nixon died Sunday at 86 from complications from breast cancer.

In April 1865, at the bloody, bitter end of the Civil War, Ebenezer Nelson Gilpin, a Union cavalryman, wrote in his diary, "Everything is chaos here. The suspense is almost unbearable."

"We are reduced to quarter rations and no coffee," he continued. "And nobody can soldier without coffee."

If war is hell, then for many soldiers throughout American history, it is coffee that has offered some small salvation. Hidden Kitchens looks at three American wars through the lens of coffee: the Civil War, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Producer Lawrence Grey loves horror movies. But he still shivers, remembering a 2 1/2 minute video that starts on a rainy Scandinavian night. A ordinary woman is getting ready for bed in her small apartment. She switches off the hall light and, in the darkness at the other end of the hall, she sees a shadow. A silhouette. Something almost human. But not quite.

Packing your child's lunch calls for a whole different level of preparation in Japan. There, moms often shape ordinary lunch ingredients like ham or rice into cute little pandas, Pokemon or even famous people's faces. It's called character bento, and there's considerable pressure to produce these cute food creations.

Tomomi Maruo has been teaching how to make character bentos, or "kyaraben" for short — at her home for the past 13 years.

America's favorite Amazon princess turns 75 this year — Wonder Woman first swung her golden lasso in All-Star Comics #8 in December 1941, and she's still fighting for freedom and the rights of women.

DC Entertainment is celebrating the Amazon's birthday with a series of events at this year's San Diego Comic-Con; a street corner in the downtown Gaslamp District has been turned into a tribute to Wonder Woman's home on Paradise Island, complete with artists painting giant portraits of her, and a replica of her famous invisible jet.

Jason Dessen, the protagonist of the new novel Dark Matter, is just a regular guy: He's 40, a devoted husband, a professor of physics at a small college, and a loving father to a teenage son.

But one day he's drugged and kidnapped and wakes up to find he's in a very different world. Not just a different world — a different life.

Blake Crouch joins NPR's Elise Hu to talk about the new book, and about why he loves imagining alternate realities.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

If you love your mom, you might not be too happy with a current exhibition at the Queens Museum in New York City. It's a video installation in which "your mama" jokes and other putdowns are projected onto the walls of a dark room, in a constant loop.

Gay Talese Stays Too Long At 'The Voyeur's Motel'

Jul 24, 2016

The penis, Gay Talese writes in Thy Neighbor's Wife, his 1981 book on the American sexual revolution, "knows no moral code."

"Often regarded as a weapon," he writes, it "is also a burden, the male curse. It has made some men restless roués, voyeurs, flashers, rapists." The penis is but "prey" to the omnipotent temptation of women, "the bevy of buttocks in tight jeans."

One such voyeur — victim, apparently, of the terrible and stern dictates of the penis — is Gerald Foos, the subject of Talese's new book.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Iraqi Dancer's Dreams Cut Short By Terrorism

Jul 23, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Since his debut novel, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers has finessed a line between fact and fiction. His latest, Heroes of the Frontier, is a novel about a dentist who, after a bad breakup, packs up and moves to Alaska with her two young children.

Alaska is "a working state" that's "not too precious about itself," Eggers tells NPR's Scott Simon. "It's still very raw and there's still so much of it that you can discover, and be alone."

Copyright 2016 KRTS-FM. To see more, visit KRTS-FM.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden flew four times on the space shuttle and was the first voice to be broadcast from Mars.

We've invited him to play a game called "You're not Charles in Charge — he is!" Click the audio link above to hear Bolden answer three questions about the remarkable career of actor and Republican National Convention speaker Scott Baio.

If you ask Mike Birbiglia, the principles of improv apply everywhere: "It changed the way I thought about everything," says the writer, director and actor. "[It] helps in parenting and being a good husband and being a good friend ... any collaborative job."

Best known for his stand-up comedy and roles in GIRLS and Orange Is the New Black, Birbiglia's latest project is Don't Think Twice, a movie that chronicles the ups and downs of a fictional, New York improv group called The Commune.

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest phenomena isn't just inside the convention center, it's all around. Yes, there are billboards and installations trumpeting things like Doctor Strange and Fear the Walking Dead. But the crowds of people here aren't looking up; they're mostly staring down at their phones, playing Pokémon Go.

John Evans, co-owner of California's Diesel, A Bookstore, recommends three vacation reads: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan and Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe and Tom DeSavia.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Born This Way is a reality show — not too different from The Real World, the groundbreaking show that helped define the genre and aired for more than 30 seasons on MTV. Both feature a cast of diverse young adults navigating the world around them. Both came from reality TV pioneer Jonathan Murray (who co-created The Real World with Mary-Ellis Bunim). The big difference: All the stars of Born This Way have Down syndrome.

Pages