Arts

Arts and culture

Last weekend, HBO presented the season finales of its three Sunday night prime-time spring series, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. This weekend, HBO unveils its new Sunday night lineup: the all-new second season of True Detective, and two new comedies, Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the wrestler called The Rock, and The Brink, starring Tim Robbins and Jack Black.

As a kid, Judd Apatow was obsessed with comedy. "No other kids in my school cared about it at all," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "There was no one to talk about it with."

That's all different now. Today, Apatow says there's a "giant culture of comedy nerds." But as a kid, he was on his own — and in some ways, that worked in his favor. "Back then I was alone and I had a little confidence about it because I felt like: 'This is my thing. This is the only thing that only I know about,'" he says.

Here's one way to attract readers: Spell out your title in Scrabble tiles. It worked for Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak in 2001, though that's not all that worked for that wonderful book, which remains the best about the game of Scrabble and its obsessed competitors.

'Modern Romance:' Love In The Age Of Demography

Jun 17, 2015

Editor's note: There is some adult language in this piece that some readers may find offensive.

They say that all actors really want to direct. That all journalists dream of being novelists. That all babies want to grow up to be cowboys. And that all comedians want to become data analysts. Okay, maybe not all comedians. Maybe just one: Aziz Ansari. And with his new book, Modern Romance, he finally gets his shot at living the dream.

Eight Midwestern river men — all jolly fellows — traveled from St. Louis to New York recently on a museum-to-museum voyage. George Caleb Bingham's 1846 painting The Jolly Flatboatmen is the star of a show opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday, but Bingham's painting belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where it's hung, on and off, for more than 50 years.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Amazon's new romantic comedy Catastrophe begins with a whirlwind tryst that could have been ripped from the latest contemporary romance novel.

Rob is a handsome, witty American advertising executive in London on business. After a chance meeting in a bar, he has an amazing week of romance and sex with a sharp, beautiful Irish schoolteacher named Sharon.

As Israeli writer Etgar Keret waited for his son to be born, victims of a terrorist attack were being brought into the same hospital. "The idea that you bring your son into a world in which he can be hurt and killed by a random and violent act — it's kind of discouraging," Keret tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It's scary enough ... assuming the responsibility of being a parent without having that in your face the day that your son is being born."

Audiobooks have traditionally been tricky to get right and even harder to make special. Very often, they're literally just books read aloud, to the best of the ability of a single, usually highly skilled reader. In fiction, you get readers who are asked to provide voices for however many characters the author invented.

Who's That Batgirl? 'Burnside' Charms Despite Stumbles

Jun 16, 2015

"I guess you can't trust any Batgirl these days," Barbara Gordon says roguishly (she does everything roguishly) in Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside. It's a sly, even subversive line, referring to the fact that the role has been played by many different characters — and in many different ways — over the years. With Barbara's comment, the authors reiterate their cleverly layered theme: Identity, especially in the digital age, is anything but fixed.

Back in the day, this saying applied to pretty much everyone: "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."

Nowadays, though, one friend is probably screaming for gelato, another for a vegan frozen dessert and yet someone else for sherbet.

But it's gelato, ice cream's Italian cousin, that's keeping more customers coming back. Gelato sales rose from $11 million in 2009 to an estimated $214 million in 2014, which has kept frozen dessert sales afloat, according to the market research firm Mintel.

In "The Miracle Worker," one of the nine stories that make up Mia Alvar's debut collection In the Country, a wealthy Bahraini woman hires a Filipino special education teacher to try to coax some communication from her daughter, a profoundly disabled girl with extensive physical deformities. The mother wants nothing more than for her daughter to be "normal." She explains to the teacher: "Often people do not love difference."

Welcome to the second session of the Morning Edition Reads book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

In his stand-up, Aziz Ansari often talks about dating. And while he's now happily in a relationship, he's still fascinated with how people find each other — so fascinated, in fact, that he wrote a book about it called Modern Romance. The comic tells NPR's Audie Cornish, "I didn't want this book to be, you know, just for single people ... who are out there now, but I wanted to kind of do an overview of dating and relationships as a whole."

You may have heard that Jurassic World made more than $500 million worldwide in its opening weekend. That's $500 million, 5-0-0. Its nearly $209 million weekend in the U.S. alone makes it the highest-grossing U.S. opening weekend ever. That's ever, e-ver.

So how's the movie? It's fine. Does it justify having had the biggest domestic box-office opening weekend of all time? That's a pretty tall order for a pretty medium-sized movie, creatively speaking.

The initial "selling point" of Mia Alvar's debut short story collection, In the Country, is its fresh subject matter: namely, Filipinos living under martial law in the 1970s in their own country and in exile, working as maids, engineers, teachers, health care workers and hired hands in the Middle East and the United States.

Richard Nixon's presidency has always been one surrounded by questions and controversy: Why did he wiretap his own aides and diplomats? Why did he escalate the war in Vietnam? Why did he lie about his war plans to his secretary of defense and secretary of state? What were the Watergate burglars searching for, and why did Nixon tape conversations that included incriminating evidence?

Boston's North End neighborhood is a popular destination for authentic Italian food. But this weekend, local eateries got some unlikely competition: the Olive Garden food truck.

The green truck, emblazoned with the words "Breadstick Nation" and "Italian Kitchen," found a parking spot on the edge of the Boston neighborhood where Italian food is most sacred.

That's right: Olive Garden is jumping on the food truck craze. The Italian restaurant chain is sending trucks around the country to hand out free samples of its newest menu item: breadstick sandwiches.

In his 2014 novel Crazy Rich Asians, author Kevin Kwan took readers to Singapore and into the lives of Asia's elite, who live in a world of opulence so extreme, it's absurd.

The novel became an international best-seller, with a movie in the works.

Now those Crazy Rich Asians are back as a mix of old and new characters in Kwan's new novel, China Rich Girlfriend.

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.

This weekend, the dinosaurs are back in Jurassic World, where the park is ravaged by the invented Indominus Rex.

Kathy Griffin has spent her career going for the joke. The comedian has developed a style that eviscerates celebrities, while sharing delightfully bizarre stories that could only happen in Hollywood.

Along the way, she's won fans who feel she tells it like it is ... and enemies who think she goes too far.

On her new tour, called "Like A Boss," Griffin will be traveling to 80 cities between June and December. And, she tells NPR's Rachel Martin, no topics are off-limits — even Caitlyn Jenner.

German Cold War Drama Comes To American TV

Jun 14, 2015
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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On-air challenge: For the blank in each provided sentence, put in the name of a color to complete the sentence in a punny way.

For example, "After getting the title to the Maserati, I was able to call that __________."

Answer: "Carmine."

Only last year, New Jersey writer Norman Lock brought out The Boy in His Winter, his time-travel version of Huck and Jim's passage along a great American river, and the river of time. In his new novel, American Meteor, Lock demonstrates that he doesn't have to lean on other people's creations to make a novel worth reading. He invents a cast that includes doctors, photographers, poets, presidents, and Indian chiefs, making a fable all his own which sheds brilliant light along the meteoric path of American westward expansion.

Many American towns put the "Closed" sign up by 6 p.m. But night markets are drawing people out in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Virginia, with food, art and music from the local community.

The model for the nocturnal markets is the Asian night market, where people eat, shop and socialize and tourists discover delicacies like live scorpions and roasted sea horse until the wee hours of the morning.

Israeli writer Etgar Keret is beloved around the world for his funny, haunting and frequently fantastical short stories. But he's hardly one to stick to a single medium: on top of his stories, he's written graphic novels, TV shows, movie scripts and a children's book. And public radio fans may know his work from its numerous appearances on This American Life.

But for 25 years — whether in print, on air, on screen or in comic-book form — he only wrote fiction.

In his Tucson, Ariz., backyard, 10-year-old Linken Kay throws a ball for his dog, Harley.

The dog speaks only English. But Linken was raised speaking another language.

"Li ŝatas salti en la naĝejo por preni la pilkon," Linken says.

What's that, now?

Every once in a while we have someone on the show who we can't believe agreed to be on the show. Case in point: Kim Kardashian is a producer, entrepreneur, designer, model, mom, tabloid magazine life support system — and now a star of public radio.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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