Arts

Arts and culture

Can't Place The Place Name

Jul 31, 2014

Fame knows no geographic bounds in this game about celebrity-city name mashups. In what Florida city does the singer of "Nasty" hang out? That's "Janet Jacksonville."

Heard in Episode 323: Smitten With The Mitten State

Luke Song: Hat's Entertainment!

Jul 31, 2014

Millinery seems like a brilliant career choice, right? Everybody's got a head.

But for Luke Song, the owner of Mr. Song Millinery outside Detroit, it happened by accident. "I wanted to be an artist, but I went the route of biochemistry. A typical route," he told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg. He quit overnight and went to art school, but still never considered hat design, the chosen profession of his South Korean immigrant parents.

John U. Bacon, the author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, knows a thing or two about college sports. At their core, it's all about "the community," he told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg in their chat at the University of Michigan's Power Center in Ann Arbor.

"Bob Ufer, the old announcer here, had a great line. He said, 'Michigan football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day of obligation.'"

Lena Finkle is a 37-year-old, twice-divorced Russian immigrant and a self-described "toddler of relationship experience" — when a friend asks how many guys she's "been with" in her life, she can only hold up three fingers. Anya Ulinich's new graphic novel, Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel is her account, told in expressive dark-inked drawings and hand-printed all-caps dialogue, of her quest to find true love — and good sex — and resuscitate what she depicts as her freeze-dried heart.

The worst thing about making a post-Avengers Marvel movie is how far ahead of the game you are when you start. Your film will be marketed with brute force, treated as arguably the biggest opening of the summer, reviewed everywhere, and very likely to land among the most commercially successful films of the year, whether or not you do anything interesting with it.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

At some point in the past decade, the word "Brooklyn" became cultural shorthand for a certain type of young, nouveau riche hipster. The borough has a history that goes back centuries, and a huge, notably diverse population, but to many Americans, it's now mainly associated with fixed-gear-bike-riding arrivistes sipping artisanal espresso drinks while they work on their painfully autobiographical novels about escaping suburbia.

There's an 85-year-old building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles that has been a venue for the Dalai Lama, the LA Philharmonic and even scenes in Entourage and The West Wing. But extracurricular activities aside, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple is a house of worship. Recently refurbished, and given a preservation award by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the temple has a special place in the history of Hollywood.

It's a Wednesday afternoon in London and a bunch of kids are standing outside a West End theater, giddily unaware that their parents have just shelled out a lot of money for the experience they're about to have. A giant sign over their heads shows a silhouette of a girl standing on a swing, her hair flying behind her in the wind — it's a matinee performance of Matilda.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If it were real, it might be the worst natural disaster in recent memory - a tornado filled with man-eating sharks.

(SOUNDBITE FROM ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Look out, more sharks.

Tony Curtis used to say that he'd learned how to kiss a girl by watching Cary Grant at the movies. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he wasn't just sitting behind Grant at the theater — while also noting that he's hardly alone in taking instruction from films.

I personally was responsible for emotionally bullying at least two of my critic friends into attending the poolside screening of Sharknado 2 that took place at the hotel where press tour happened a couple of weeks ago. I make this confession because we must establish the basic understanding that I am merciless when it comes to attempting to con people into watching extraordinarily silly movies. In fact, I tried, when the first Sharknado was on, to goad the NPR morning news meeting into caring about it ("There's this movie tonight!

The first time I took one of the online Myers-Briggs inventories and it spit out that I was an introvert, one of my friends questioned the results. Specifically, he said, "Are you sure you weren't holding the test upside-down?"

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

For the average school kid, weighty, wonky topics like conservation, climate change and the circular economy might sound off-putting, if not downright dull. Yet Christiane Dorion has sold millions of children's books about these very concepts.

The trick? She never mentions them. "You can teach anything to children if you pitch it at the right level and use the right words," said the U.K.-based author.

Amy Bloom's new novel Lucky Us takes readers across America in the 1940s, that special decade of wartime dislocation and post-war disruption — with side-trips to England and Germany — in the company of a pair of half-sisters as endearing and comically annoying as any you'll find in contemporary fiction.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After the fact that it's a blatant and ridiculous fraud (in that it almost never gets anybody married), the first thing you might notice about The Bachelor(ette) franchise is its prim, Victorian attitudes about sex. For a show that encourages 14-person dates and the temporary negotiation of a lifestyle that could be best described as G-rated swinging, the whole shebang is awfully precious when it comes to the fact that sometimes, some of these people have sex with each other.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Most sports novels are about the aspiration to excel physically: to run faster, stretch out one's arms farther. The really cool thing about Ride Around Shining, a debut novel by Chris Leslie-Hynan, is that it doesn't stick to that familiar rule book. Even though it's set in the world of pro basketball, our narrator here is not the guy who aspires to be a great player; rather, he's the guy who aspires to be a great suck-up to the great player.

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I am not a trained reader of horror. Usually whenever I encounter horror stories, I'm left feeling dissatisfied with the quality of my unsettlement; I think "oh, that was gratuitous" or "eh, was that necessary?" With very few exceptions, I tend not to seek out horror.

Emily Carroll's Through the Woods is so thoroughly an exception that I have to revise my stance on the whole genre.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Rachel Howzell Hall is easing her big, laurel green Mercedes sedan through the streets of Los Angeles. A slim woman with big eyes, Hall says this Benz is her dream car, the thing she'd planned to buy for herself once she'd become a successful writer, probably around age 50.

But something happened to speed up her schedule.

"When I was 33 years old," Hall says, "I was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer. And I was pregnant. And it was terrifying."

Sandwich Monday: The Korean Steak Sandwich

Jul 28, 2014

Ever since we landed in San Francisco and refused to leave, we've heard people talking about the Korean steak sandwich at Rhea's Deli and Market. People say things like "It's amazing" and "Get away from me, I'm trying to eat" and "Did you just lick a drop of sauce off of my shirt? I'm calling the police."

Three recent college graduates are getting paid to take a road trip. The one catch? They have to drive a giant peanut while they do it.

The giant Nutmobile is part of a brand campaign by Planters, the snack food company, which has hired the grads as brand ambassadors to drive it around the country. After all, it takes teamwork to maneuver a 27-foot-long, yellow peanut in shopping mall parking lots. But if you think handling the vehicle sounds tough, there's more.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hercules may have slayed a lion and a nine-headed Hydra beast, but he was no match for Scarlett Johansson this weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LUCY")

For many writers, the migrant's journey is a storytellers' dream. The transition from one part of the world to another is filled with anticipation, conflict and inherent literary drama. While trains and planes become the mundane means of transportation for most travelers, those trips can herald life-changing transformations for a migrant remaking his or her life through that journey.

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Book News: The Clash Of The Comic(-)Cons

Jul 28, 2014

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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