Arts

Arts and culture

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has reviews of two very different new TV projects, IFC's "Documentary Now!" which premieres tonight, and AMC's "Fear The Walking Dead," which begins Sunday.

From Rosie, the Jetsons' robot maid, to Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg in The Terminator, popular culture has frequently conceived of robots as having a humanlike form, complete with "eyes" and mechanical limbs. But tech reporter John Markoff says that robots don't always have a physical presence.

"I have a very broad definition of what a robot is," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "A robot can be ... a machine that can walk around, or it can be software that is a personal assistant, something like Siri or Cortana or Google Now."

In a grassy Vermont field as a horse skitters in the distance, dancer Chatch Pregger is scaling a makeshift barn. He stretches his arms outward, holding an E for East in his hand. As the chicken feathers on his head flutter in the breeze, it's easy indeed to imagine him as a graceful weathervane rooster.

Scientific Rhyme-a-rific

Aug 20, 2015

Science is more fun with some wordplay. In this game, we satisfy the science nerds and the word nerds with some clues to rhyming pairs of words. The catch? One of the words is a tricky scientific term — get ready for some "friction fiction"!

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Sir Patrick Stewart

Aug 20, 2015

Growing up, Sir Patrick Stewart never dreamed of being a knight. "I just dreamed [that] there was some food for the next meal," he told Ophira Eisenberg on the Ask Me Another stage in Brooklyn. As a boy, Stewart's heroes were distinguished thespians — Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Alec Guinness and Sir John Clements. But recently, Stewart's friend Sir Ian McKellan pointed out to him, "You know, Patrick... those actors, those remote heroes, those gods we admired so much — it's now us!"

Totally False Eponyms

Aug 20, 2015

An eponym is something that is named for a person. In this game, we pretend that some everyday words could be etymologically traced to a famous namesake. What kind of fuel might be named for the bald star of The Fast and the Furious franchise?

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Aug 20, 2015

For his VIP game, Sir Patrick Stewart is quizzed on the meanings of Shakespearean insults.

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

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One Vowel At A Time

Aug 20, 2015

Can we buy some vowels, please? In this final round, each answer contains each of the five vowels-- a, e, i, o, u-- exactly once. You don't need no education to ace this one!

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

This Is Not App-ening

Aug 20, 2015

Who needs an app that tells you if it's dark outside? Apparently, somebody does: it is a real thing that exists (no, we can't believe it either). In this quiz, we'll find out about other apps that are too weird to be true, and some others that we made up just for fun.

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Spoiled It Through The Grapevine

Aug 20, 2015

Honey, honey, yeah! We've rewritten Heard It Through The Grapevine to be about famous film endings that you've probably heard about through the grapevine. No spoiler alerts necessary.

Heard in Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

This is one in a series of essays running this week and next about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters.

If television is so interesting right now, why do parts of it seem so old-fashioned?

Aliette de Bodard's first novel outside her Obsidian and Blood Aztec fantasy-mystery trilogy has a touch of Silly Fantasy Name problem, where florid compound words take over the page. Set in a Paris devastated by a war between factions of fallen angels, The House Of Shattered Wings is packed with sensuous description, and characters with names like Asmodeus, Samariel and Elphon.

To find a beginning can be a complicated thing for an author. Not as tough, usually, as finding an end, but it has its own challenges. The blank page, the first line, the headlong entry into a new world populated by nothing more than your imagination? It's intimidating.

In his new novel, The Automobile Club Of Egypt, the beloved, best-selling, award-winning Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany finds an interesting solution. He starts his book three times.

Former Saturday Night Live cast members Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader are making TV together again. Tonight their new show, Documentary Now!, which features fake documentaries satirizing some of the most famous nonfiction films, premiers on IFC.

To sell the faux-class and seriousness of what's about to unfold, it's presented as a golden anniversary show of the best documentary films hosted by none other than Oscar-winner Helen Mirren.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A few days into our essay series on the state of television in the summer of 2015, I sat down with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered to get a few of the basics down. We talked about the sheer volume of scripted shows, the struggles of networks to get attention for what's great, and all the ways you can get television into your eyes and ears.

Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus has a knack for developing works that make it to Broadway. She premiered Finding Neverland, Pippin and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., before bringing those productions to Manhattan. Now, Paulus has another potential hit on her hands: her musical adaptation of the 2007 indie film Waitress.

"Would like to have seen a photo of the completed hat."

That's what one commenter noted when we ran a story on Aug. 8: "He's Just Woven The World's Finest Panama Hat. But Who Will Buy It?"

Now, we did have a nice photo of the hat weaver himself, Simon Espinal, who lives in Pile, a village hidden in the hills of Ecuador's coastal lowlands.

And there is a close-up of the top portion of the hat, which gives a pretty good idea of what it looks like.

Though Larry Wilmore had always hoped to be a performer, his early career was as a comedy writer. He wrote for shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In Living Color, and he created The Bernie Mac Show. He moved in front of the camera as The Daily Show's "senior black correspondent" in 2006. So when Stephen Colbert ended The Colbert Report last year, Comedy Central tapped Wilmore to host the replacement show.

Hardly a day goes by without some new form of technological menace rearing its head, from the outfitting of drones with handguns to the hacking of cars' navigation systems. It's a fear — and fascination — that science fiction author Chuck Wendig cranks up to 11 in his new cyber-thriller, Zer0es.

This is one in a series of essays running this week and next about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters.

Everybody loves to talk about brands, right? What's more exciting than brands?

"Can you tell a story that doesn't begin, it's just suddenly happening?" asks a character in Adam Johnson's short story collection, Fortune Smiles. And you can, of course; the best stories stretch well beyond their first and last words. They're more than the opening scene; they invite the reader to imagine what came before and what will come after. They're alive and they're limitless.

Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. In recent years, we've been transfixed by Glass Gem Corn and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant.

The star of the film Grandma and the Netflix series Grace and Frankie married her partner of 42 years, Jane Wagner, in 2013. She spoke with Fresh Air about being more open about her sexuality.

"I've been out for ... 10 or 11 or 12 years or something. I mean, finally somebody printed it. ... [If asked about her sexuality during a 1989 interview with Terry Gross] I probably would have said something like, um ... 'yes, I am.' I couldn't have lied — it would have been too diminishing to lie."

After the Republicans held their lively first debate, you heard people saying what they always say nowadays — that our media-driven political discourse has become shallow and petty, even clownish. Hearing this, an innocent young person might believe that, not so long ago, America was a latter-day Athens in which political arguments were magnificent in their purity and eloquence.

This is one in a series of essays running this week and next about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters.

'Dark, Dark' Doings In A Slick Debut Thriller

Aug 18, 2015

I am slightly embarrassed to admit I had never before encountered the term "hen party" before reading Ruth Ware's suspenseful debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood. Like so many phrases that describe all-female gatherings, such as quilting bee or kaffeeklatsch, that hen business has a slight cluck of the patronizing to it. That one of the main characters here is nicknamed "Flopsy" doesn't help things along any.

New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford's ambitious debut novel, Everybody Rise, about a young social climber desperately trying to claw her way to the top of New York's Old Money society, takes its title from the last lines of Stephen Sondheim's bitter toast of a song, "The Ladies Who Lunch." But its inspiration (like that of Sophie McManus' The Unfortunates, another much buzzed first novel this summer) springs from Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.

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