Arts and culture

I Just Play One On Television

Oct 14, 2016

In this final round, Puzzle Guru Art Chung asks the final contestants to identify the occupations of famous TV characters. For example, "Tony Soprano, from The Sopranos," would be "mob boss."

Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down

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Tower is an animated documentary that tells the story of a massacre that happened 50 years ago and was a historic first: A man with no record of violence shot at people at random for no logical reason.

It was Aug. 1, 1966, in the middle of a 100-degree day at the University of Texas at Austin. The shots came from the clock tower at the center of the campus. A woman eight months pregnant was the first to fall, soon to be followed by her boyfriend and a boy delivering newspapers on his bicycle. It's not the usual subject for a cartoon.

The regular Pop Culture Happy Hour team is gearing up for our west coast tour, which kicks off Monday, October 17 in Seattle, continues on October 19 in Portland (the only date with tickets still available), October 21 in San Francisco with Mallory Ortberg, and October 23 in Los Angeles with Kumail Nanjiani.

Teen pregnancy is often discussed in political rather than personal terms, says novelist Brit Bennett.

"We think often about teen pregnancies — or even think about abortion ... in this very politicized way," she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. Bennett thinks people don't necessarily ask themselves: What would I do if I were in this situation?

So in her debut novel, The Mothers, she tells the story of Nadia Turner, a 17-year-old high schooler who becomes pregnant after dating the son of a local pastor.

Actress Taraji P. Henson has played a lot of characters in her 20-year career, but it only took one role to make her famous: Cookie Lyon, the matriarch of an ambitious, dysfunctional family on the hit TV show Empire.

Now Henson has a new memoir out called Around the Way Girl. Don't know what an "around the way girl" is? Henson explains: "Around the way is like saying from the neighborhood, like from the hood." Henson still proudly calls herself an around the way girl; she says the fame and the money haven't changed her.

Check it, bro: What if Will Hunting and Jason Bourne were actually the same person?

That's the bar-napkin arithmetic behind The Accountant, an overplotted and amoral but admirably weird action drama that has, to its credit, escaped the hallways of a major studio with its rough edges intact.

If Astroboy creator Osamu Tezuka is the father of anime, its great-uncle is Edo-period artist Katsushika Hokusai. He's best known for The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the most-reproduced Japanese artwork ever, but his styles and subjects were impressively diverse. Among his most talented proteges was his daughter, known variously as O'Ei, Oi, or — in the English title of a new animated film — Miss Hokusai.

On July 15th, 1974, Christine Chubbuck, a field reporter for a small news station in Sarasota, Florida, requested and received a rare on-camera appearance during a live broadcast. She read a couple of stories, including a report about a shooting the previous day at a local restaurant, but the footage queued up for segment jammed, leaving Chubbuck to move on to the next page in the stack.

Amid the current clamor for strong women characters, the films of Kelly Reichardt can seem regressive if you're not paying close attention. From her terrific debut feature River of Grass through Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy, Reichardt has given us incomplete, quietly suffering women who feel their way into change. Her M.O. is to allow their unexpressed longings to hang quietly in the air so we can feel them too, and watch what happens when they try to act on them.

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When Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature this morning, he joined a lineage that includes Harold Pinter, Thomas Mann and Toni Morrison. NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at how Dylan fits into this group.

Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher had an idea for a show about two lesbian comics who get married and perform together. In other words, their real life.

"I Love Lucy, except we're both ... Lucy Loves Lucy," they joke to NPR's Ari Shapiro. "Also we're both Desi at the same time. It's a little bit of both." The pitch worked. Their show is called Take My Wife, and it's out now on the NBC-owned streaming channel Seeso.

In the heady political maelstrom of the late 1960s, Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo released one of the most controversial and acclaimed films of modern cinema. The Battle of Algiers was a big-screen recreation of the bloody mid 1950s Algerian uprising against French rule. The film was made on a shoestring budget with non-actors recruited from the streets of Algiers. It told the story of an insurrection against colonialism from the rare vantage point of the colonized. That shift in perspective was provocative enough to lead France to ban the film on political grounds.

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Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature. The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer-songwriter. What's more, he's also the first American to have won the prize in more than two decades. Not since novelist Toni Morrison won in 1993 has an American claimed the prize.

The Humor In 'Crosstalk' Gets Lost In The Hubbub

Oct 13, 2016

I love Connie Willis' writing. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorite books, a comfort read to which I often return; sharp, confident, deliciously funny, it seamlessly wove a comedy of manners into a science fictional premise that's delighted me for years. If I were asked to describe hallmarks of Willis' work, I'd name her pacing, character work, ear for dialogue and wonderful sense of humor.

Crosstalk, unfortunately, is not a great showcase for any of those things.

Black lives matter — not only black deaths. But you wouldn't know it from paging through major publishers' catalogs. The publishing industry, despite all those solemn, virtuous panels on diversity, has thus far shown little interest in ordinary black lives. Black lives, families and stories matter — but they don't have a commensurate place in fiction.

Artist David Hockney is obsessed with looking. He looks and looks; and then, in his works, he makes us see what he sees.

The artist says looking and showing are as old as time. "I think the first person to draw an animal on a wall would have perhaps been watched by someone. And then, when he'd got the animal down, the person would've grunted or something, and said, 'I've seen something like that.' "

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If you really want to understand a place, writer Colin Dickey has some advice: "Ignore the boastful monuments and landmarks, and go straight to the haunted houses. Look for the darkened graveyards, the derelict hotels, the emptied and decaying old hospitals."

Dickey has spent a lot of time travelling the country searching for places that go bump in the night. The result is a new book called Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.

America has a long and storied history with marijuana. Once grown by American colonists to make hemp rope, by 1970, it was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Possession of it was — and is — a federal crime, despite the fact that in recent years 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Some artists seem to be in an ongoing contest with themselves. Take Australian creator Shaun Tan: In 2006's The Arrival, he built a dense black-and-white world that told a story without any words. For the 2010 short film The Lost Thing he took on animation and won an Academy Award for it. Now, in The Singing Bones, he's set yet another bar — make that bars — for himself.

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If you're looking for evidence of Andrzej Wajda's filmmaking smarts, it's right there in his first, black-and-white movie, made in 1955. A trench-coated young man races through Warsaw at the height of World War II, past corpses dangling from streetlights, pursued by Nazi soldiers who chase him into a building and up a central staircase.

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Christian Siriano has been designing clothing since he was a teenager. He's 31 now, and for the past decade he and his company have been making clothing for women of all shapes and sizes.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


The restaurant inside the new National Museum of African American History and Culture offers food that satisfies the hunger — and a space that satisfies the mind.

Sweet Home Cafe has four serving stations, each representing a region of the United States: the North States, Western Range, Agriculture South and Creole Coast.

The idea is to expand people's understanding of just how much African-Americans have contributed to our nation's culinary heritage, says Joanne Hyppolite, curator for the cultural expressions exhibits that feature foodways, culture and cuisine.

John Kaag hits the sweet spot between intellectual history and personal memoir in this transcendently wonderful love song to philosophy and its ability "to help individuals work through the trials of experience." Kaag, a young philosophy professor questioning the meaning of his life, finds answers — and a soul mate with whom to share them — in a neglected library hidden deep in the New Hampshire woods.