Arts and culture

Stan Lee is a legend. Along with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee helped populate the Marvel Comics universe with heroes like the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

Their most famous creation — Lee calls him "Spidey" — is everywhere in this office, as a painting, a life-size doll, and even a pinball machine. "Nobody plays pinballs anymore," Lee tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "And it's really a good thing, because it doesn't work anymore."

From the Jakarta Ritz-Carlton to Kerala guesthouses to the Detroit Marriott, environmental journalist and educator Simran Sethi has eaten more room service meals than she can count. "I'm sure it's in the thousands," she says.

And why was she so often eating alone in her hotel room?

"I was always ashamed to go to a restaurant alone and ask for a table for one," she says.

Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam spoke with NPR's Ask Me Another about what it was like having Donald Trump host the show last weekend. Plus, Killam explains what goes into the perfect Trump impersonation. Hear the bonus segment at the audio link above. For more, subscribe to the podcast.

Shonda Rhimes has been making up stories for a very long time. She's the creator of ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, and the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder.

At times in her new novel, it seems Ludmila Ulitskaya has her sights set on depicting the entire Soviet Union. The battered tramps, the generals and detainees, the dissidents and KGB informers, scholars, bullies, bumblers and nonpersons — all the lives, large and little, that shaped the hulking 20th-century empire like the dots on a pointillist painting. She crafts a cast of dozens in The Big Green Tent, with an eye trained as intensely on high-altitude Soviet policy as it is on the paupers stretching every last ration.

'The Night Clock' Ticks With Wit, Fright And Fantasy

Nov 11, 2015

Humor and horror taste great together, a fact Paul Meloy knows well. The British author's debut novel The Night Clock strikes exactly that balance, with the added perk of dark, far-flung fantasy. Set in contemporary England, it revolves around Phil Trevena, a 40-something who — like Meloy himself — works as a psychiatric nurse, counseling the mentally ill.

True confession: I joined Twitter to follow a curry truck while I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area had plenty of Indian buffets, but Indian street food was hard to find.

Back here in Kolkata, India, there's street food everywhere. Puffed rice tossed with pungent mustard oil, onions and chilies. Indian wraps with a layer of egg, crispy phuchka shells dunked in tangy, tamarind water.

What I didn't expect to find: a food truck.

Hours after launching a Kickstarter campaign to revive a TV show that made it fun to watch horrible movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson has raised more than $500,000 — a quarter of his $2 million goal.

When it comes to enjoying the flavors in food, our tongues really aren't that useful. They can detect just a few basic tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami, and maybe fat.

When Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost and Michael Che became co-anchors of the show's "Weekend Update" segment, they knew they had big shoes to fill.

" 'Update' is such an institution," Che tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. At first, "you really just try to do what's worked before, what you've seen working, what you've loved about it."

But the co-anchors say they realized the segment was stronger if they dialed up their banter and acted more like who they are off camera. "Episode by episode, we've been bringing that a lot more," Che says.

Wild foliage, the cries of fishmongers, near-crazed love, musty rooms and forbidden sex overspill Brazilian author Milton Hatoum's 2000 novel The Brothers. For Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, adapting this book into comic form must have seemed both scary and inevitable. The second novel from the multiple-award-winning Hatoum, it concerns two men who are twins — just like the Brazilian artists, who have themselves won multiple awards.

The Pickle Index app — one way to experience Eli Horowitz's newest novel and multimedia project — opens with what looks like an ad for an Apple product. Millennials gather to feast together in a stylishly decorated home, laughing and communing silently behind a veneer of electric pop. They lay down newspaper; they tuck napkins into their shirt collars. But instead of plates of steamed seafood or roasted vegetables, a tray is overturned before them, and there are ... pickles. Huge, meaty dill pickles. The hip young friends joyfully pick up the pickles.

Betsy Broun, director of the American Art Museum, grew up in a small town in Kansas. When she saw the photographs of women in Vogue -- with their pinched waists and impersonal expressions — "it never even dawned on me that those women lived on my planet," she says.

Irving Penn took those posed, perfect, glossy images — some of which are now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

In Taiwan, it's not enough just to get your dog groomed regularly. These days, owners are asking for their four-legged friends to become geometric shapes, like spheres and squares.

Salad-Making Is Performance Art At The Getty In Los Angeles

Nov 9, 2015

If the Getty Center in Los Angeles is going to treat salad as art, then you can bet iceberg lettuce is not part of the equation. And indeed, from now through January 11, the Salad Garden performance art stage features artists making salads from more than 50 exquisite heirloom herbs, vegetables and edible flowers. Part of the spectacle is also the artists devouring their salads on site.

Shonda Rhimes will be the first to admit she didn't expect to be famous. Hollywood is notoriously uncharitable to writers, but the success of her company ShondaLand — the force behind the ABC top-rated dramas Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder — has made her a household name.

George Takei has, over the years, lent his gently charismatic presence to many stages — the original Star Trek soundstage, where he played the USS Enterprise's Mr. Sulu, then the social media stage, where he emerged as a leading activist for gay and lesbian rights. Now, Takei is making his Broadway stage debut in Allegiance, a musical inspired by his childhood experience in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

In the new film Room, actress Brie Larson plays Ma, a woman who has created an elaborate fantasy world for her 5-year-old son, Jack. The fantasy covers a harsh reality: She and Jack are imprisoned in a small backyard shed by the man who abducted Ma as a teen and raped and impregnated her.

Oprah Winfrey recently invested $43 million in faltering diet company Weight Watchers International, Inc., and issued a call to dieters everywhere to lose weight and gain health and happiness as Weight Watchers customers.

Police in Russia have arrested a dissident performance artist for setting fire to some doors at Russia's top security agency.

Images from the protest show Pyotr Pavlensky standing in front of two monumental wooden doors, their panels outlined in flame. The 31-year-old artist is a cadaverous figure, wearing a dark hoodie and holding a gasoline can.

We've just bid farewell to October — which made me think of a simply charming romance novel that takes place during the Chicago World's Fair, which lasted over a year and ended at the end of October, 1893.

Author Michael Cunningham was fascinated by fairy tales as a child — but he always wondered what happened after the story ended. His new collection, A Wild Swan, tries to answer that question.

Cunningham spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin on how one story ends and another begins.

Interview Highlights

On what happens after the happily-ever-after

In the late 1800's, it would've been tough to find two men more famous than Mark Twain and Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

By now, it should be no surprise that ballet has a grim underbelly — or should that be a flat stomach? The dark side of the art form has gotten its share of depictions on screen, and now it's getting a new one — this time in Flesh and Bone, a limited-run series on Starz.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has been having a rough couple of days. In the past 48 hours, several news organizations have raised questions about aspects of his past.

But even as he's weathered the increased media scrutiny, this week also saw Carson grab headlines for a decidedly different campaign milestone: He dropped a rap song.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit