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"Swimmer Among the Stars," the title story of Kanishk Tharoor's debut collection, tackles one of the trickiest subjects for fiction writers: using language to discuss language itself. In it, a team of ethnographers track down an elderly woman in a remote village who's believed to be the last living speaker of a soon-to-be-extinct language. As they record her speech, hoping to capture enough of it to reconstitute and preserve it for archeological posterity, things go sideways.

When Stephen Bosio of Pasadena, Calif., fed his 9-month-old son a pasty, the act felt, by his assessment, more important than it should have.

"Teddy is a fifth generation pasty-eating man," Stephen told me.

'Inexplicable Logic' Maps A Teen Boy's Complicated Mind

Mar 16, 2017

In the realm of young adult literature, the biggest tomes are usually fantasies, the kind that require several hundred years of history, culture, and politics to ground an intricate plot. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life has the word count of a book with worlds to build, but rather than using its pages to explore the confines of an imaginary land, it delves deeply into the complex inner world of one teenaged boy.

If you've ever spent an afternoon with "Under the Sea" or "A Whole New World" or "Be Our Guest" stuck in your head, you can thank composer Alan Menken.

Menken scored The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and many other Disney classics. He says he prefers his songs "to be hummable."

The new movie Life, which opens March 24, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn't uncommon in Hollywood.

The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it's primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a "social thriller."

When a TV show really connects with viewers, it's often a lightning-in-a-bottle experience; a collision of talent, material and public mood that is difficult to define. But that hasn't stopped people from asking Dan Fogelman, the creator of NBC's supersuccessful family drama This Is Us, this question: How did you pull this off?

Fogelman's answer: tone, timing and cast.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Hackers, fake news, conspiracy theories tweeted and retweeted. One takeaway from the election is that the internet isn't living up to the promise that it would revitalize the marketplace of ideas.

A recent lawsuit brought by a blind theatergoer against the producers of the hit musical Hamilton has highlighted Broadway's spotty track record in serving audiences with disabilities.

"It tasted like rotten compost," recalls Max Falkowitz, executive digital editor of the food and wine magazine Saveur, of the time in college he sipped one of the most sought-after teas in the world. That would be pu'er — a legendary, fermented dark tea sourced from ancient trees in the isolated forest canopies of the Yunnan Province in southwest China.

If you ever want to make a group of Southerners groan, just ask them how they feel about kudzu. The now-ubiquitous vine was introduced to the United States from Japan in the late 19th century, and widely publicized as a miracle plant: it could be used as food for cattle; it made a nice ornamental addition to porches. But it didn't take very long for "the vine that ate the South" to go out of control, smothering Dixie and suffocating its other plants.

Countersurveillance fashion designs are being spotlighted at this year's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, by a group of young women of color who started a company called Hyphen-Labs.

They are scientists, architects and engineers turned artists "creating critical work for critical times," says Ashley Baccus-Clark, a speculative neuroscientist and member of the collective, which includes designers from around the globe.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the best-selling author who recently announced her illness by penning a personals ad for her beloved husband, has died at 51.

Rosenthal had ovarian cancer. Her longtime literary agent confirmed her death to The Associated Press.

Could smartphones and other screens be decreasing the human attention span? Author Adam Alter thinks so.

"Ten years ago, before the iPad and iPhone were mainstream, the average person had an attention span of about 12 seconds," Alter tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. Now, he says, "research suggests that there's been a drop from 12 to eight seconds ... shorter than the attention of the average goldfish, which is nine seconds."

You might say that Heretics, a sprawling novel by celebrated Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, has been in the works since the early 1990s. It was back then that Padura began writing a series of books featuring an ex-police detective in Havana named Mario Conde. Funny and philosophical, Conde, like the sharpest of detectives, devotes more time to investigating the mysteries of his own society than he does to investigating crime.

Finally, a piece of matzo you can Instagram.

No one has ever been all that excited about matzo, the bread of affliction. But two New Yorkers, Kevin Rodriguez and Ashley Albert, are looking to make matzo — the unleavened bread that Jews eat during the eight days of Passover — as ubiquitous as that other cracker that jumped the cultural hurdle: the pita chip.

"Our goal is to move matzo out of the dusty, shadowy, ethnic food corner and into the cracker aisle. I think matzo chips will be that foray," says Albert.

Cheech Marin lives up a winding hill in Los Angeles, high above where the ocean meets the mountains. He greets NPR in a Cheech and Chong T-shirt and makes sure to get everyone's names before inviting us in.

Marin, of course, was half of Cheech and Chong, one of comedy's most famous duos. The group became popular in the 1970s, and continued making movies into the '80s.

Clothing is communication; it's a language we unconsciously absorb. And as with any language, the finer points bring the vocabulary together. When Janelle Monae walked the red carpet at the Oscars, we recognized the 18th-century influence in her dress. But that's not just for geometric effect.

Neal Brennan has gone from working the door at comedy clubs to writing and co-creating Comedy Central's Emmy-nominated Chappelle's Show. He has a new Netflix special out called 3 Mics so we've decided to ask him questions about three Mikes (as in, three guys named Mike.)

Click the audio link above to hear how he does.

Phyllis Diller's File Of 53,000 Jokes

Mar 11, 2017

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And now, here she is, Phyllis Diller.

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Phyllis Diller didn't get on stage until she was 37 years old. She became one of the first famous female comedians. Jokes were her livelihood.

"They summered on Nantucket and Fishers and Islesboro, Maine; their sons and daughters attended Ivy League colleges and had careers with Big Banks and Big Oil and the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve; and the most daring and radical of their children became artists and filmmakers or worked for the Nature Conservancy, and these were everyone's favorite cousins and nieces and were endowed with a certain mystical reverence — they were not so much the black sheep of the family as special children who were indulged like the shamans of other cultures who only walk b

Amy Dickinson says her hometown of Freeville, N.Y, is mostly a town of leavers and stayers — and she managed to be both. Dickinson went away to college and lived in Chicago, New York, London and Washington, D.C. Eventually, as her mother was nearing the end of her life, Dickinson returned home.

When it comes to depictions of grief, comedian Patton Oswalt says pop culture failed him. Just look at super heroes, he says — their motivation is often rooted in loss that "leads them to travel the world learning martial arts and doing CrossFit and getting really cut," Oswalt says. "And that's not been my experience."

Oswalt experienced his own tragic loss on April 21, 2016, when his wife, writer Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly, leaving behind Oswalt, and their young daughter, Alice.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today, the fight against fascism.

Nickolas Butler's second novel, The Hearts of Men, unfolds over three generations at a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin, and explores what it means to be a good man in a changing America.

"I was sorting through some feelings about being a young dad with a young son and thinking about my own dad," Butler says. "... And there you go. ... I had this book inside me at this time. It needed to get out."

You've probably read by now at least a little bit about Jordan Peele's well-reviewed and very commercially successful horror movie Get Out. And many of you, I'm sure, have seen it. With the film a couple of weeks into its run, we thought it was the right time to sit down with Gene Demby and Kat Chow from Code Switch (while Stephen Thompson was out of town) to talk about this very, very creepy movie.

Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas' moody, baffling and altogether entrancing new movie, takes the form of a genre exercise as preposterous as it is irresistible. It begins as a chilling ghost story, accelerates into a Hitchcockian railway thriller, takes a sharp turn into whodunit territory, and ends somewhere alongside the abyss that separates this world from the next. Above all, the movie is a testament to the eerie powers of Kristen Stewart.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Decisions Decisions Decisions.

About Dan Ariely's TED Talk

We often think that our decisions are our own. But Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely explains how our environment — even something as simple as how a question is framed — can affect what we choose.

About Dan Ariely

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Decisions Decisions Decisions.

About Ruth Chang's TED Talk

One choice isn't always better than the other. Philosopher Ruth Chang says, once we realize that, it's easier to embrace the hard work of decision-making.

About Ruth Chang

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