Jacques Barzun, one of the most influential historians, educators and thinkers of the 20th century, died Thursday, just one month shy of his 105th birthday. Barzun seemed to have a limitless capacity to understand and translate complex ideas — about the evolution of Western culture, what it means to be free, and even the value of American baseball. He shared his observations in numerous books and magazine articles and at Columbia University, where he held forth for half a century.
David Mitchell's epic philosophical novel Cloud Atlas was widely considered unfilmable — even by its author — when it came out in 2004. That's because the book's ornate structure, with stories nested inside stories across five centuries, seemed too complicated to be taken in quickly in a movie. But those complications were what attracted The Matrix's Andy and Lana (nee Larry) Wachowski, and Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer to the project. Turning complexity into cineplexity is kind of what they do.
A young mother sets sail from Ireland after the potato famine to meet her husband in Canada; two gold prospectors seek their fortune in the frozen Yukon; a slave poisons his master and the master's wife escapes with him.
We've been looking at how technology has totally changed what it means to watch television or a movie. One of the biggest changes has been in demand — people want a baseball game — on their smartphone, wherever they are, right now. They want to pull up a video and stream it — on their laptop or phone, immediately, with no wait.
For 50 years, Spanish-speaking TV viewers have tuned into the weekly variety show Sábado Gigante.Host Don Francisco commands a festive live audience in Miami, with celebrity interviews, musical performances, goofy sidekicks and scantily clad dancers. The three-hour show is broadcast throughout the Americas.
First I need to talk about the book, because it's not as if Cloud Atlas the movie came from nowhere — and if you think it's only the movie you want to know about, I think you need a context for what's onscreen.
Author David Mitchell writes exquisite pastiches, and Cloud Atlas is in the form of six distinct and enthralling novellas set in six different eras with six different literary styles.
It's Halloween — or it will be soon — and that means BOO! We talk about the scariest of holidays (if you don't count Valentine's Day). Not scary at all: with Trey on vacation, we're joined by the charming Tanya Ballard Brown, who kicks off with a delightful tale of a clothes-wearing friend of hers. We get the update on what Stephen's kids are doing this year (the World's Saddest Banana is retiring!) and I once again make the case for my favorite dog photograph of all time.
Food appears so often and takes on so much importance in Jami Attenberg's novel The Middlesteins, that while reading it I sometimes felt like I was on a kind of literary cruise ship. But excess isn't presented here wantonly; instead, it's laid out and explored with sympathy, thought and depth. Early on, the parents of the main character think, "Food was made of love, and was what made love, and they could never deny themselves a bite of anything they desired." And so the novel takes off from the evocative starting point known as appetite.
Tom Wolfe wrote his new novel, Back to Blood, entirely by hand. But the author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire of the Vanities also says that wasn't entirely by choice — he'd rather have used a typewriter.
"Unfortunately, you can't keep typewriters going today — you have to take the ribbons back to be re-inked," Wolfe tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "There's a horrible search to try to find missing parts."
Now, it's time to open up the pages of the Washington Post Magazine. That's something we do just about every week for interesting stories about the way we live now. The Post's Fall Dining Guide is out this week and that means food critic Tom Sietsema has been going all over town, eating and drinking up a storm, trying to narrow down his list of favorite restaurants.
Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 2:42 pm
By now you've likely heard that in the pages of Superman #13, on stands today, Clark Kent quits his once-beloved great metropolitan newspaper.
Disillusioned by his employer's increasing predilection for glitzy infotainment over hard-hitting news, Clark takes a principled stand and abandons print journalism for the web, a medium blissfully free of petty, frivolous, celebrity-driven content OH WAIT
Hallucinations can be terrifying, enlightening, amusing or just plain strange. They're thought to be at the root of fairy tales, religious experiences and some kinds of art. Neurologist Oliver Sacks has been mapping the oddities of the human brain for decades, and his latest book, Hallucinations, is a thoughtful and compassionate look at the phantoms our brains can produce — which he calls "an essential part of the human condition." In this chapter, Sacks examines auditory hallucinations.
A Fandango poll says that The Avengers is leading the pack for Halloween costume choice, and then goes on to explain that most of the top picks across the board are action heroes. Which does make some sense, as dressing up like a rom-com heroine would make it hard for people to tell who you are. [The Hollywood Reporter]
It took cojones for Tom Wolfe to write about Miami for his latest novel, Back to Blood. In the "Republic of Fluba" where Florida, Cuba and the rest of Latin America are shaken and mezclado, truth trumps fiction each day of every year. This is the city where, a few months ago, a man ate another man's face on a downtown causeway in broad daylight. Police shot and killed the wannabe zombie.
While sitting on a couch and gazing at a 50-inch TV remains a popular pastime in America, smaller screens have also edged their way into our lives. Phones, tablets and video game devices crowd pockets and coffee tables, offering access to what used to be called "TV," at any time of the day.
Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 6:30 am
As the father of two rambunctious boys (ages 4 and 7), Halloween is a holy day at my house. Kids have forced me to shed the cynicism that I associated with this holiday, and I've fully embraced the celebration. Just don't ask me to wear a costume.
The governments of Cambodia and the United States are locked in a legal battle with the auction house Sotheby's over a thousand-year-old statue. The two governments say the statue was looted from a temple of the ancient Khmer empire. Sotheby's says this can't be proved, and a court in New York will decide on the matter soon.
The case could affect how collectors and museums acquire artifacts, and how governments recover lost national treasures.
Have you ever seen a rerun episode that made you want to watch more of a show — even a whole season? With so many TV channels and so many shows to keep up with, it's possible that some of them could completely pass you by.
But there are also many ways to watch a show, even if it's no longer on the air. Take the medical drama House, which ended its run on FOX in May.
Meet a man with a powerful addiction — to running. Caleb Daniloff says he believes the sport saved him from addictions that were far worse, and he's written a new book, called Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time, about his experiences.
Daniloff has run some familiar marathons — New York and Boston — but he's also been to a place not famous for outdoor running: Moscow.
In what may come as a pleasant surprise to people who fear the Facebook generation has given up on reading — or, at least, reading anything longer than 140 characters — a new report from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals the prominent role of books, libraries and technology in the lives of young readers, ages 16 to 29. Kathryn Zickuhr, the study's main author, joins NPR's David Greene to discuss the results.
In January, Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman to win Sundance's best directing award for her second feature-length film, Middle of Nowhere. The film is about a young black woman named Ruby, who puts her life and dreams of going to medical school on hold while her husband is in prison.
Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 2:25 pm
Celebrity couples always get our attention: Kim & Kanye, Brangelina, Gosling & Totenberg. The Grilled Cheese Doughnut is just such a pairing: Two titans together as one. We'll call it Gronut.
Take a glazed doughnut, slice it open, flip both halves around so they're cut-side out, slap on some cheese, and grill it in butter. We think Ohio's Tom & Chee Restaurant did it first, and we're guessing they did a better job than we did.
Ian: Ew. I think the proper pronunciation here is "grilled cheese DO NOT."
Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 6:44 am
Sheila Heti is the author of How Should a Person Be?
My father gave me The Dice Man when I was 13 years old. It's a novel narrated in the voice of Luke Rhinehart, a jaded psychoanalyst, whose home and professional life have become so boring that he decides, one night, to rule his life by the whim of a die. Starting out, he thinks: if the die turns up a one, I'll cheat on my wife. The die turns up a one.