Arts and culture

Specially trained dogs have been known to sniff out explosives, drugs, missing persons and certain cancer cells, but author Alexandra Horowitz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that extraordinary olfactory abilities aren't just the domain of working dogs.

The tea gardens of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, produced significantly less than 1 percent of India's 2.6 billion pound output last year. Yet Darjeelings are considered the "Champagne of teas," the finest in the country and some of the most exquisite and sought-after in the world.

The harvesting season in Darjeeling runs from mid-March through November, as the tea bushes gradually progress through a quartet of distinct seasons known as "flushes." The tea is often sold not only by single estate (like wine) but also by flush.

  This hands-on training will include practices for determining irrigation efficiency, setting controllers, soak and cycle method, minor irrigation repairs, system trouble shooting, catch can test, converting spray head irrigation to new water conserving head, converting spray irrigation to drip irrigation and many other water conservation practices.

When 49-year-old artist Eleanor Flood wakes up one weekday, she makes herself a promise. "Today will be different," she vows. "Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I'm capable of being. Today will be different."

Luke Cage was one of the first black superheroes to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics, back in the 1970s.

Put in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he eventually gets put into a machine where he gains powers like super-strength and bulletproof skin. And, like many good Marvel characters, he's now on TV — in the new show Marvel's Luke Cage.

Before he served in Vietnam, author Winston Groom says he wanted to write but didn't have anything to write about. Going to war changed things.

"Any experience like that, I mean, it's like being in a year-long car wreck," he says. "It's traumatic. ... And I thought, Well, at least I've done this. Let's see if I can make some sense of it. And I wrote my first book, called Better Times Than These, and it did well and I was off and running."

Tax records and literary criticism are strange bedfellows. But over the weekend, the two combined and brought into the world a literary controversy — call it the Ferrante Furor of 2016.

To put it briefly: Elena Ferrante, an admired and cherished Italian novelist, has always made it clear that her name is a pseudonym and her true identity is not for public consumption.

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


I make a lot of kale chips. You might even say I have chipping kale down to an art. But even for a kale connoisseur like me, the crinkly green cruciferous vegetable is still full of surprises. In this case, explosive surprises.

We meet Eleanor Flood, the main character of Maria Semple's new novel, on a day when she has resolved to change some things about her life:

You know who's not worried about Resting Bitch Face?

Vladimir Putin, that's who.

"He's, like, not concerned with that, which is so freeing," Phoebe Robinson tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

As a black woman, Robinson doesn't have the same luxury.

"There's this whole notion of 'black women are angry' or 'black women are sassy' or, like, 'have bad attitudes,'" she says. "And so you always want to be in space where — at least I was for a while — where I was like: I want to be likable. I don't want people to think that I have resting bitch face or whatever."

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When I reviewed Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings last year, I admired its scope and craft, especially as a debut, but remarked on the absence of women, regretting how they seemed to fall through the cracks of Liu's epic storytelling. The novel's final act seemed to promise a great deal of change on that front, and left me very curious about how Liu would handle what seemed like the obvious middle-book shift: from the masculine public of battles, feats, and nation-forging, to the feminine private of family focus and palace intrigue.

We're in Tampa this week, and so we've invited bestselling author and gulf coast resident Randy Wayne White to the show. In addition to being the author of the Doc Ford books and the Hannah Smith series, White has been an explorer, a deep sea diver, a full-time fishing guide, and he owns restaurants throughout the state.

We've invited White to play a game called "Welcome to Bill's Anchor Desk Cafe, where every meal is breaking news!" Three questions about theme restaurants around the world.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

A friend of photographer Phillip Toledano once said "He is the most self-absorbed person I've ever met — but he wears it well."

The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano is a new short film in which the photographer, with the assistance of makeup artists, fortune tellers, and psychics, disguises himself as the various fates life might one day hold for him: Ending up a homeless alcoholic, a white-collar criminal cuffed and taken away by police, or a lonely senior, feeding a small dog from his plate — and more.

Michael Twitty wants you to know where Southern food really comes from. And he wants the enslaved African-Americans who were part of its creation to get credit. That's why Twitty goes to places like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's grand estate in Charlottesville, Va. — to cook meals that slaves would have eaten and put their stories back into American history.

Caroline Leavitt's latest novel, Cruel Beautiful World, is about coming-of-age in 1969; it's about wild love, rebellion and finding oneself in the time of Woodstock and the Manson murders.

The story follows 16-year-old Lucy Gold, who runs away with her English teacher, William, to the wilds of Pennsylvania. Lucy leaves behind a big sister and the aunt who raised them after their parents died. As she and William try to build a new home for themselves, William becomes more and more controlling.

Magic In The Air: 3 Young Adult Fantasy Reads For Fall

Oct 1, 2016

It's inevitable: As soon as I'm too busy to read for pleasure, all I want to do is dig into a new novel. So it somehow seems fitting that during this month of school starting and nose-to-the grindstone necessity, we're having a glut of alluring young adult releases.

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One of the nation's biggest environmental disasters is now the season's big disaster flick. Sound insensitive? Well, rest assured the filmmakers were aware of — and have managed to sidestep — any qualms audience members are likely to have.

Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the oil drilling rig that turned into an inferno in 2010 off the coast of Louisiana — a story of tragic, entirely avoidable missteps and astonishing personal heroics.

This is a big weekend for matzo ball soup.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts Sunday night, and chef Pati Jinich wants all the matzo-ball makers out there to understand: The soup doesn't care whether you prefer floaters or sinkers.

"It turns out that matzo balls are insanely capricious," Jinich says. "One Friday, they're like, you can have me fluffy. And the other week is like, this is what you'll get."

In the TV comedy version of Portland, Ore., the bookstore is called Women and Women First. In real life, it's In Other Words — and the shop is using frank terms to say the Portlandia show is no longer welcome to film there. The feminist store and community center faults the show's depiction of men dressing as women, its treatment of store staff, and its role in gentrification and race relations.

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

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

The Sweet Success Of Bananas Foster Has An Unsavory Past

Sep 30, 2016

There's more to the story of Bananas Foster than flambeed fruit. While the enticing dessert is a sweet legacy of New Orleans' once-booming banana trade, there's also a less savory one: banana republics.

Today, the banana is America's favorite fruit, but it was once considered exotic. The fruit only became commonplace in the United States starting in the 1870s, thanks to improvements in shipping and botany. By the turn of the century, the banana trade was a million-dollar industry.

Anti-mafia police in Naples, Italy, have recovered two paintings by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen from a museum in Amsterdam more than a decade ago.

The Van Gogh Museum announced Friday that a curator inspected the two works, at the request of Italian authorities, and "drew a firm conclusion: 'They are the real paintings!' "

When trying to demystify wine, one of the most misunderstood challenges for consumers can be the fizzy stuff.

There are all sorts of foreign names for what's commonly known as sparkling wine: Cava (from Spain), Prosecco (from Italy), Crémant (from many different regions in France), Sekt (from Germany). But all too often if we see tiny bubbles racing to the top of a glass, our first assumption is Champagne.

But not all sparkling wines taste alike – or are made alike.

[In case you haven't heard, Pop Culture Happy Hour is about to embark on a West Coast tour. San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles are sold out — though we recently added an appearance (with Guy Branum!) at the Now Hear This podcast festival in Anaheim on Oct. 29 — but we'll also be in Portland on Oct. 19 with our dear pal Audie Cornish.