Arts

Arts and culture

Let's say you're not a millionaire but you're still interested in buying affordable art from the comfort of your living room. Where do you find something that is between craft-oriented websites like Etsy and high-end auction houses like Sotheby's? Now, new companies — like Paddle8, Ocula, Artline, Saatchi Art, Artsy, Amazon Art — are trying to fill the gap.

I've read a staggering number of excellent books recently, and it has done things to my head. I'm not sure the human brain was meant to read so many brilliant books in such short order — even less sure that swinging my reading-pendulum from Hannu Rajaniemi's collected science fiction stories to Naomi Novik's sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel is at all wise. By all rights I should have tumbled into Uprooted feeling disoriented and confused, dissonant and harsh in my criticism — but no. Uprooted has leapt forward to claim the title of Best Book I've Read Yet This Year.

It's the 1950s in Kenya, and young Vikram Lall is a third-generation Indian boy coming of age during a time of great political unrest, as a group of fighters known as the Mau-Mau try to break free of British rule.

The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is his story, told by the adult Vikram, who's living in exile, decades after his African childhood. He's reflecting on his life — a life in which friends were murdered and few could be trusted.

What if the devastating drought in the western U.S. doesn't end? A few years ago, the science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi started exploring what could happen.

Two climbers died May 16 as they attempted a wing suit flight in Yosemite National Park. Dean Potter and Graham Hunt were BASE jumping, a sport that involves parachuting from a fixed structure.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There is something unique about the protagonist of Sarai Walker's new novel: She's fat, a word many try to avoid using to describe a person. But not Walker.

Editor's note: A version of this story was originally published in May 2012.

If there's one grilling tip to remember this Memorial Day weekend, it should be this: Flame is bad.

"Flame does nasty things to food," food historian and science guy Alton Brown tells NPR's Scott Simon.

The Fireworks Of 'Illusionarium' Never Quite Feel Real

May 23, 2015

Reading Heather Dixon's Illusionarium feels like riding a particularly rough roller coaster, and the first few hills are doozies. Dixon barely establishes the book's fantasy world — a hastily sketched British-derived steampunk setting, with the requisite airships and an alternate version of London called Arthurise — before she upends it.

This week, the Brooklyn Museum is wrapping up its mid-career retrospective of artist Kehinde Wiley — which means 14 years of work and something like 60 paintings.

It's been drawing a diverse and large crowd, partly because Wiley's work has been featured on the TV show Empire, and partly because he is a well-known and, in some ways, controversial figure in the art world. Wiley takes contemporary figures — oftentimes young black men and women — and places them in old European art traditions: Oil paintings, portraits, stained glass and even bronze sculpture.

Much of Brad Bird's Disney sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland is terrific fun, but it's one of the strangest family movies I've seen: Bird's not just making a case for hope, he's making a furious, near-hysterical case against anti-hope.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This week's taping presented us with a few conundrums: Host Linda Holmes had already begun her vacation, while I know jack-all about the seven accumulated seasons of Mad Men, whose finale we were duty-bound to discuss. Our solution involved a pair of our most beloved guest panelists — Gene Demby and, from a studio in L.A., Barrie Hardymon — and a brief interregnum in poor Linda's vacation. (I stayed home and ate snacks.)

What Are The Secrets of Centenarians?

May 22, 2015

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Fountain Of Youth

About Dan Buettner's TED Talk

To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner studies the world's "Blue Zones," communities whose elders live longer than anyone else on the planet.

About Dan Buettner

Can Aging Be Cured?

May 22, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Fountain Of Youth

About Aubrey de Grey's TED Talk

Cambridge researcher Aubrey de Grey argues that aging is merely a disease — and a curable one at that.

About Aubrey de Grey

Every once in a while, NPR's go-to books guru Nancy Pearl sends Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep a tall stack of books. They're generally "under-the-radar" reads — titles she thinks deserve more attention than they've been getting.

"I just think that it's so important that readers learn about books that haven't been heavily promoted – what we would call mid-list books," Pearl says.

Here are some of her fiction picks, to kick off your summer reading list:

For generations of Americans, Detroit was the place where people made things: powerful cars, amazing architecture, beautiful music. But now Detroit is entering a new chapter. After months of often tense and difficult negotiations, Detroit is now formally out of bankruptcy. Millions of dollars of contributions from private foundations and corporations helped the city preserve its acclaimed art collection. A new generation of artists and entrepreneurs, doers and makers is calling Detroit home. So we'd like to ask, what's next? What will drive Detroit's future now?

Cary Fowler is an easygoing, soft-spoken Tennessee native who travels the world with an urgent message: The human race may starve to death. If that threat becomes likely, however, people can turn to the biological archive that director Sandy McLeod's documentary calls The Seeds of Time.

The adolescent girl at the heart of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's haunting When Marnie Was There has the cropped dark hair, wide eyes and square-peg awkwardness that will be familiar to fans of Studio Ghibli animated movies. Unlike the feisty, willful sprites of Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and many other Ghibli treasures though, Anna is a cowed, sensitive soul with artistic leanings. At school she's friendless and bullied.

The first scene of Aloft is one of the more haunting movie openings in recent years. It's a bitter cold day in northern Canada; against a barren snowscape, a single mother named Nana (Jennifer Connolly) and her two young sons hitch rides in vans from morose men toward an increasingly remote location. With little dialogue, we discover they are on their way to visit a faith healer named The Architect, who performs rituals for a cult of believers in an igloo-like structure built from twigs.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Rob Burnett started working with David Letterman as an intern in 1985 and never left, even when the talk-show host moved from NBC to CBS. During the course of his 29-year tenure, Burnett evolved from intern to head writer to executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman, a position he held through last night's final show.

Another sequel, another chance for Hollywood to hurl metal hither and yon and make with the flashy summer blockbuster blow-'em-ups. Yawn, right?

A new batch of 6,500 words are now available to Scrabble players, after publishing house Collins updated its widely used Official Scrabble Words list Thursday. The list includes tech jargon and slang, such as pwn, twerk and shizzle.

Also added: aji (the pepper), coqui (the frog) and the more old-fashioned ixnay and zowee. (See a longer list at the bottom of this post.)

It's just 15 miles south of Rome, but it looks more like ancient Jerusalem.

Welcome to the vast backlot at Cinecittà, the sprawling movie metropolis where the original Ben-Hur was filmed, and a remake is currently in production.

When the final episode came, after weeks of accolades and tributes to his genius, David Letterman made sure he punctured the emotion of the moment with a little old-fashioned, self-deprecating sarcasm.

Kirsty Logan is no stranger to secrets. The Glasgow-based author's award-winning short-story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, beautifully brought together myth, magic, and the muted fantasy of the everyday. It also dealt with curious topics like circuses and worldwide floods — two things that resurface in her captivating debut novel, The Gracekeepers.

An artist has just converted a legendary piece of 19th-century art into an utter ruin. And two Smithsonian institutions — the Freer and Sackler galleries of Asian art — have given their blessings.

The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery is an actual dining room from London, decorated by James McNeill Whistler in 1876. Its blue-green walls are covered with golden designs and painted peacocks. Gilded shelves hold priceless Asian ceramics. It's an expensive, lavish cocoon, rich in beauty with a dab of menace.

When a Broadway musical feels as effortlessly right as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's did to audiences in 1956, it's easy to imagine that it simply sprang to life that way. Not My Fair Lady. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, is filled to bursting with some of the best-known songs in Broadway history — "The Rain In Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "On the Street Where You Live" — but it turns out the show originally had other tunes that almost nobody knows.

You can't miss it as you drive down I-85. The Peachoid, as it's called, is a massive peach-shape water tower near the North Carolina border.

When maintenance crews sandblasted the paint off the water tower recently, people were furious.

Just ask Claire Huminski, with the city of Gaffney.

Pages