Arts

Arts and culture

"Remember that Twilight Zone where you make your own Hell?" asks the narrator of "The Last Triangle," one of the most haunting stories in Jeffrey Ford's fifth collection, A Natural History of Hell. The character is a homeless drug addict, and the story answers his rhetorical question in ways that are both mundane and wildly weird. Ford is foremost a fantasist — his work has won or been nominated for numerous genre awards over the years — and his fiction has always teased the uncanny out of everyday existence, be it in this world or another.

Cleaning a freshly picked head of lettuce can be an act of mindfulness, your worries melting away as you wash and tear each leaf. And the payoff, along with the beautiful summer salad, is a feeling of virtuous accomplishment.

But if you're a busy working parent, the rip-and-release salad kit in a bag can take some hassle out of dinner prep.

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

Many chefs think of themselves as artists in the kitchen. Craig Thornton has taken it to another level: For the past five months, he's been serving up multi-course meals as part of a room-size installation at the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

To judge from our media coverage, you'd think that Mexico isn't so much a country as a problem. But if you look beyond the endless talk of drug wars and The Wall, you discover that Mexico has a booming culture.

The food processor is, for me, hugely disappointing. Before owning one, I used to see them looking all shiny and powerful in the department store, and I'd fantasize about never chopping a vegetable by hand again. I failed to consider that cookbook authors have particular ideas about how each ingredient should be prepped. The food processor, no matter how many blades it may come with, often doesn't cut it.

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

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

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

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

The kitchen is hopping and hot at L'Ami Jean restaurant in Paris, as chef Stéphane Jégo gets lunch underway. Jégo, who has been at this small Paris bistro for 14 years, is joined on this day by Mohammad El Khaldy, a chef from Damascus in Syria.

Is 'You Are Having A Good Time' Beautiful Or Grotesque? Yes

Jul 10, 2016

In "Night Report" — one of the standout stories in Amie Barrodale's debut collection, You Are Having a Good Time — a character named Ema is so moved by a novel about a woman with a married lover that she sends her own married lover a long, emotional, confessional text describing its contents. His phone then proceeds to break up her text.

Into tiny chunks.

Sent individually.

Over a long.

Time, piece by.

Piece.

When Ema wakes up the next morning, mortified, she discovers he has responded thusly: "Good times."

Journalist Gay Talese has never shied away from controversial topics. He took on the mafia in Honor Thy Father and dove deep into America's sex life in Thy Neighbor's Wife. But even Talese paused when he first heard about the Manor House Motel in Aurora Colo., back in 1980. Innkeeper Gerald Foos had outfitted his motel with a special platform which allowed him to spy on his guests — and he invited Talese to take a peek as well. Talese, a man of seemigly insatiable curiosity, did just that. But Foos demanded anonymity, so Talese decided not to write about the experience.

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

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami began making films in 1970 and continued working in his homeland after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He helped make Iranian filmmaking a major international force, despite leaving Iran only twice to make movies. Kiarostami died Monday in Paris, where he had gone for cancer treatment. He was 76 years old.

Summer is often a slower time for book releases, which can feel like a shame when school is finally out and the days stretch out ahead, waiting to be filled with reading for pleasure. Fear not: This summer delivers, with great new young adult stories for all interests and genres!

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

She's only eight years old, but Zin-Mi knows a lot about her homeland. It is, she says, "the land of the rising sun" and "the most beautiful country." Of course, North Korea is the only place Zin-Mi has ever seen, and the only place she's ever likely to see.

Floral Arrangements

Jul 8, 2016

Each of these answers contains the name of a flower or flowering plant. If we were to say, "British singer who recorded the albums "It's Not Me, It's You," and "Sheezus," you would reply, "Lily Allen."

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

Movie-Rap Mash Up

Jul 8, 2016

Contestants must mash up movie titles with the names of famous hip-hop and rap artists. For example, if we said, "Veteran cop Denzel Washington mentors Ethan Hawke about the album Three Feet High and Rising," you'd answer, "Training Day La Soul."

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

State the State

Jul 8, 2016

Contestants guess which U.S. state we're talking about based on a list of clues. Jell-O is the official snack of what state?

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

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

Queen Diva Of Quizzes

Jul 8, 2016

Queen diva Big Freedia's fierce and fabulous energy is contagious. Born and raised in New Orleans, this musical risk-taker and lightning-speed booty shaker was first introduced to bounce music (a call-and-response style subgenre of hip-hop) in the early '90s. She was immediately hooked and, as she tells Ophira Eisenberg, spent the following decades working nonstop to establish herself as an icon of the New Orleans music scene. Today she's on the cutting edge of the bounce movement, performing most nights of the week in clubs from New Orleans to L.A.

Stump Jonathan Coulton

Jul 8, 2016

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969, they wore spacesuits developed by a company well-known for making a piece of everyday clothing. Can Coulton guess what piece?

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

Did Ya Ever Notice?

Jul 8, 2016

We test how well you remember things that you've seen many, many times. How many dots are on a Domino's Pizza box — three or four?

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

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

A Neeeeeeew Game

Jul 8, 2016

Contestants channel their inner Rod Roddy and imagine that they have the greatest job in the world: Being the announcer on The Price is Right. The answer to every question is something that starts with or sounds like the word "new." If we said, "Your prize is someone who constantly inconveniences you!" You'd answer... "A nuuuuuuu-isance!"

Heard on Big Freedia: Queen Diva Of Quizzes

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Floral Arrangements

Jul 8, 2016

Each of these answers contains the name of a flower or flowering plant. If we were to say, "British singer who recorded the albums "It's Not Me, It's You," and "Sheezus," you would reply, "Lily Allen."

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

I have lived in eight countries and 10 cities. I have never lived anywhere for longer than six years. But the one constant in my life, my anchor in a changing world, my defense against perpetual culture shock, is my pot of daal.

Daal -- yellow, red, brown or black — is a staple across India. It is often described, inadequately, I think, as lentil soup. Except it's so much more.

Full disclosure, here at the start: I don't know Pokemon.

That's not technically true; here's a list of everything I knew about Pokemon before playing the new smartphone app, Pokemon GO (this knowledge absorbed solely through cultural osmosis, given the phenomenon's ubiquity).

1. Pikachu is a kind (species?) of Pokemon. It is an "electric-type" Pokemon. It is yellow. It has a cutesy voice. Said voice is profoundly annoying.

2. Squirtle is another kind of Pokemon, a "water-type" Pokemon. It, as one might imagine, squirts.

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

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