Arts

Author Interviews
4:02 am
Sun January 20, 2013

Presidents Use Bully Pulpit To Shape American Language In 'Words'

Bloomsbury

Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 6:05 am

The office of the president offers a lot of responsibilities and privileges. Your actions drive the world's most powerful military, billions of dollars worth of domestic policy and, perhaps most importantly, the way the country speaks.

That's what linguist and writer Paul Dickson contends in his new book, Words From the White House. It's a look back through history at the words and phrases popularized by our presidents — including the ones they don't get credit for anymore.

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Monkey See
10:13 pm
Sat January 19, 2013

Our Royalty: Bangs Aren't All Michelle Obama And Kate Middleton Have In Common

First lady Michelle Obama waves after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 10:28 am

Ask yourself this question: How weird would it be if you changed your hair and it was on the news?

No, seriously. Pull back from everything you know about celebrity and pretend it's about you. You change your hair. You decide, "Hey, you know what? It's been long for a while; what if I went a little shorter?" And so you go a little shorter. And then it is on the news.

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Sunday Puzzle
10:03 pm
Sat January 19, 2013

What's In A Name?

NPR Graphic

Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 9:25 am

On-air challenge: You will be given the first names of two famous people, past or present. The first person's last name, when you drop the initial letter, becomes the second person's last name. For example, given "Harold" and "Kingsley," the answer would be "Harold Ramis" and "Kingsley Amis."

Last week's challenge: Think of two familiar, unhyphenated, eight-letter words that contain the letters A, B, C, D, E and F, plus two others, in any order. What words are these?

Answer: feedback; boldface

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Author Interviews
3:02 pm
Sat January 19, 2013

'All We Know': Three Remarkable But Forgotten Lives

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:25 pm

The scene is Paris in the 1920s. The stars are three women: Esther Murphy, a product of New York high society who wrote madly but could never finish a book; Mercedes de Acosta, an insatiable collector and writer infatuated with Greta Garbo; and Madge Garland, a self-made Australian fashion editor at British Vogue. All three were lesbians.

Their histories burst onto the literary scene this summer in the biography All We Know: Three Lives by Wesleyan University professor Lisa Cohen.

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Monkey See
4:03 am
Sat January 19, 2013

A Memorized Poem 'Lives With You Forever,' So Pick Carefully

John Keats' poetry lends itself to memorization particularly well. Fortunately, you can learn his texts by heart without having to adopt his moody pose.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 3:39 pm

Take just a moment to estimate how many songs you know by heart. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

Now, how many poems do you have memorized?

For most modern readers, even poetry fans, that number's pretty low. But Poetry By Heart, a new competition in the U.K., is seeking to bring the art of poetry memorization to a new generation.

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The Salt
3:53 am
Sat January 19, 2013

Inaugural Balls Where Food Isn't An Afterthought

Guests arrive for the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball in Washington back in 2005 to celebrate President Bush's second term.
J. David Ake AP

Like everyone else in Washington, D.C., right now, we're gearing up for the long inaugural weekend, bracing ourselves for various events and balls around town that can be thrilling, patriotic, touristy and traffic-jamming, all at the same time.

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Author Interviews
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

After 30 Years, Neil Jordan Returns To 'The Past'

Courtesy Soft Skull Press

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

Neil Jordan is best known as a filmmaker — he directed The Crying Game, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire and the Showtime series The Borgias — but he began his career as a writer. His first novel, The Past, was published in Ireland in 1980 to great acclaim.

The novel follows an enigmatic protagonist on his search for his family's secrets in a Cornish seaside town. Jordan joins NPR's Scott Simon to talk about The Past, which has been reissued in the United States by Soft Skull Press.

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Poetry
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

U.K. Asks Students To Learn Poetry 'By Heart,' Not By Rote

Emily Musette Hays performs in the 2012 Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. The U.S. competition served as a model for the U.K.'s Poetry By Heart contest.
James Kegley The Poetry Foundation

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

When the Internet offers a superabundance of material to read, watch, listen to and play, it's easy to skim over text and half-listen to broadcasts. But the British government is inviting schoolchildren to put down their cellphones, turn off their news feeds and spend a long time lingering over a poem — so long that they learn it by heart.

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Books
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

'Art Of Betrayal': A History Of MI6 That Reads Like A Spy Novel

Pegasus Books

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

For an organization that's supposed to be "secret," the British Secret Service, MI6, is awfully famous. MI6 agents turned novelists include Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and John LeCarre, and their books — together with the film franchise starring Fleming's James Bond — have made the intelligence organization a global brand.

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Author Interviews
3:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

Former Sox Manager Reflects On Turbulent Tenure

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 5:13 am

Terry Francona probably never has to buy his own drink in Boston. He's the manager who helped steer the Red Sox to the World Series in 2004 and then again in 2007, turning the franchise from a kind of national sob story into a sleek, rich and successful sports enterprise.

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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
4:44 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

Melinda Gates Plays Not My Job

Courtesy Melinda Gates

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 10:19 am

Back in the early 1990s, Melinda French was a rising star at a software company when the boss asked her out on a date. This was complicated because he was her boss, and frankly, he was kind of a nerd. But they fell in love and got married, and decided to raise a family, retire from the business, and in their spare time give away more money to charity than anyone else in the history of the world.

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Monkey See
12:45 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

I've Heard That Somewhere: 'Glee' Covers 'Baby Got Back,' And It Sounds ... Familiar

The cast of Glee, which is in its fourth season on Fox.
Kwaku Alston Fox

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Theater
11:03 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Dementia Takes The Stage In 'The Other Place'

In the Broadway play The Other Place actress Laurie Metcalf ("Jackie" on the TV show "Roseanne") plays a scientist suffering from the dementia she studies. Playwright Sharr White discusses the play and the challenge of presenting complicated science on a theater stage.

Movies
10:32 am
Fri January 18, 2013

'Mama': A Good Old-Fashioned Horror Movie

Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and her sister, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), are near-feral orphans in the horror thriller Mama.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 11:29 am

I was weaned on horror movies and love them inordinately, but the genre has gone to the dogs — and to the muscle-bound werewolves, hormonal vampires, flesh-eating zombies, machete-wielding psychos, etc. It's also depressing how most modern horror pictures have unhappy nihilist endings in which everyone dies and the demons pop back up, unvanquished — partly because studios think happy endings are too soft, but mostly because they need their monsters for so-called franchises.

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Opinion
9:10 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong, Tragic Hero? Not Exactly

Lance Armstrong admits to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The first part of the interview aired Thursday night.
Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 9:44 am

Annalisa Quinn is a freelance writer for NPR Books.

Lance Armstrong, in the interview Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey in which he admitted to doping, understood the role that storytelling played in his fall: "You win the Tour de France seven times, you have a happy marriage, you have children. It's just this mythic, perfect story. And it wasn't true."

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Monkey See
8:58 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Globes, Oscars, And Who Are You Calling A Snub?

NPR
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Author Interviews
8:49 am
Fri January 18, 2013

The Inquisition: A Model For Modern Interrogators

An illustration shows heretics being tortured and nailed to wooden posts during the first Inquisition.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 11:41 am

This interview was originally broadcast on Jan. 23, 2012.

The individuals who participated in the first Inquisition 800 years ago kept detailed records of their activities. Vast archival collections at the Vatican, in France and in Spain contain accounts of torture victims' cries, descriptions of funeral pyres and even meticulous financial records about the price of torture equipment.

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From The NPR Bookshelves
7:53 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Brush Up For The Inauguration With Books By And About The Obamas

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk in the Inaugural Parade on Jan. 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C.
Ron Sachs-Pool Getty Images

As the nation gears up for the second inauguration of President Obama, NPR Books dove into the archives to find some of our favorite interviews with biographers of the first family. Here, you'll find profiles of the president's mother and father, an exploration of Michelle Obama's ancestral roots, and a portrait of the president and first lady's relationship. You'll also find books written by the Obamas themselves.

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Arts & Life
1:41 am
Fri January 18, 2013

In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?

At Tyler Perry's live performances, his gospel-tinged references aren't meant for everyone in the audience.
Jason Merritt Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:11 am

On a recent episode of Saturday Night Live when the comedian Louis C.K. played host, one skit parodied his eponymous show on F/X. It riffed on the theme song and the discursive style of his comedy.

But here's the thing: Fewer than 2 million people watch Louie. About 7 million watch Saturday Night Live. That means even optimistically, at least two-thirds of the audience is missing the joke.

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Movie Reviews
4:06 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'LUV': An Ex-Con Hero With Feet Of Clay

In LUV, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) spends a single day tagging along with his ex-convict uncle, Vincent (Common) — long enough for a lifetime's worth of lessons.
Indomina Releasing

Few films trying to capture a child's experience of an adult world manage to nail the details. In real life, kids aren't typically the precocious sorts espousing wisdom beyond their years — kids fidget, they ask questions, they get scared. They act like kids.

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Movie Reviews
3:11 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Arnold's Lackadaisical 'Last Stand'

Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) faces off with vicious drug smugglers in The Last Stand.
Merrick Morton Lionsgate

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 4:06 pm

He has repeated the catchphrase over and over again, though he really had to say it only once: No one ever doubted for a minute that Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn't be back.

How you feel about the hit-or-miss neo-spaghetti-Western The Last Stand may depend on how much you really missed Schwarzenegger while he was taking time off from acting to serve two terms as governor of California.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Broken City,' Broken Movie: An Undernourished Noir

In a corrupt New York, private detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) tries to straighten out the city as he straightens out his own life.
Barry Wetcher Twentieth Century Fox

As an investigation into American municipal corruption, Broken City is, well, damaged. But as an opportunity for hard-boiled types to trade threats, blows and caustic banter, this modern-day noir works reasonably well.

The story begins in a New York housing project, where scruffy undercover cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) has just dispatched a felon. The victim had it coming, it seems, but that doesn't mean the shooting is strictly legit.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Hors Satan': A Singularly Devilish Vision

David Dewaele) turns to nature for solace and spiritual comfort." href="/post/hors-satan-singularly-devilish-vision" class="noexit lightbox">
In Bruno Dumont's Hors Satan, the unnamed Guy (David Dewaele) turns to nature for solace and spiritual comfort.
New Yorker Films

Bruno Dumont just wasn't made for these cinematic times. Rather than cajole and flatter his viewers, the French filmmaker intentionally alienates and mystifies them. Like his five previous movies, the new Hors Satan is stark, strange and uncompromisingly personal. It's also vivid and unforgettable.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Mama' Knows Best — But She's The Worst

When Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) welcome his orphaned nieces (Isabelle Nelisse, left, and Megan Charpentier) into their home, they also inadvertently welcome one particularly malevolent spirit.
Universal Pictures

If the movies have taught us anything, it's that when you're lost in the wilderness, an abandoned cabin in the woods may not be the life-sustaining shelter it seems.

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The Two-Way
12:09 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Dear Abby' Dies; Pauline Phillips Was Adviser To Millions

Pauline Phillips — Dear Abby — in 2001.
Fred Prouser Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 12:52 pm

Pauline Phillips, known to millions of advice-seekers around the world as the original "Dear Abby," has died. She was 94.

The company that syndicates Dear Abby says on its website that she "died Wednesday ... in Minneapolis after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease."

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Books
12:04 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Rereading The Classics: Lessons Learned The Second Time Around

When Kevin Smokler reread books he was assigned in high school, he saw them in a brand new light.
Zitona/Flickr

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 12:24 pm

Writer Kevin Smokler spent a good majority of 2012 rereading the books he was assigned back in his high school English classes. He called up some of his former teachers and put together a list of books to revisit.

He looks back at his 15-year-old self and sees a "pretentious," somewhat "idiotic" teenager who was able to pass his classes, but who really missed the themes at the heart of most of the books.

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Book Reviews
11:00 am
Thu January 17, 2013

How A 'Madwoman' Upended A Literary Boys Club

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 11:05 am

This week, the National Book Critics Circle announced that two feminist literary scholars, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, would be the recipients of its 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Ask Me Another
10:10 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Leverage Your A-Game

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 8:05 am

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Finally, it's what we've all been waiting for. Let's bring back the winners to play our Ask Me One More in final round. From Where in the World is Ronald McDonald, Reuben Hampton.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: From Celebrity Grammograms, Andy Kravis.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: For the Birds: Chris D'Orso.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir: Len Schiff.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All Movies are the Same: Luke Green.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right, Will, take us out.

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Ask Me Another
10:10 am
Thu January 17, 2013

All Movies Are The Same

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 8:05 am

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Moving on, here are our next two contestants: Luke Green and Jordan Shavarebi.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Luke, what is your favorite movie?

LUKE GREEN: Oh god, that's such a hard question. Probably "Die Hard."

EISENBERG: "Die Hard." Oh, I like your style.

(APPLAUSE)

GREEN: Or "Die Harder."

EISENBERG: Or "Die Harder." Oh, I don't like your style. Stick with "Die Hard."

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Okay, good. Jordan, what's your favorite movie?

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Ask Me Another
10:10 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Sir, Yes, Sir!

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 8:05 am

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Let's get back to the puzzle mania with our next two contestants. Please welcome Danny Fox and Len Schiff.

(APPLAUSE)

LEN SCHIFF: Hello.

EISENBERG: Hello. Len, you're a lyricist that writes musicals.

SCHIFF: I am that, yes.

EISENBERG: What is your favorite musical?

SCHIFF: Oh, "Sweeney Todd."

EISENBERG: "Sweeney Todd" is a good answer. That is a good answer.

SCHIFF: Sundon Park.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

SCHIFF: It was even a clue last year.

(LAUGHTER)

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