A group of people inspired by a book on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are creating theater around the idea that his death could have been part of a conspiracy. And the questions don't stop there.
Back in September, poet and novelist Sherman Alexie wrote an open letter to a group of people whom he called the "gorgeous book nerds" of the world, asking them to become "superheroes" for independent bookstores.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 7:42 am
Readers always seem to want to get closer to Emily Dickinson, the godmother of American poetry. Paging through her poems feels like burrowing nose-deep in her 19th century backyard — where "the grass divides as with a comb," as she writes in "A narrow Fellow in the Grass."
Whatever they are, our holiday traditions tend to be a mixture of the universal and the specific.
If we celebrate Christmas, for instance, we might have stockings and trees just like our neighbors, but we might also be the only ones in town who wear homemade elf hats while we open presents. It's a mix that helps us feel closer to the rest of the culture while reaffirming what's special about our own little community, family and home.
Originally published on Sat November 30, 2013 9:05 am
How to make dead fish look attractive? That's the challenge New York-based duo Shimon and Tammar Rothstein faced when they were hired to do the photography for famed French chef Eric Ripert's book On the Line.
Rome is often called the Eternal City, and generations of filmmakers from around the world have sought to capture its enduring beauty on screen.
The new film The Great Beauty is the latest, a picture that casts Rome itself in the title role. After playing to critical acclaim in Europe, it opens in American cinemas this month. The film is also Italy's official entry at this season's Academy Awards.
The Great Beauty is a double-edged portrait, out to capture both the beauty and the ugliness of modern Rome.
Sometime after 3 a.m. on Sunday, international negotiators emerged from a conference room in a Geneva hotel, bearing with them weary smiles and a historic agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and representatives from five other world powers had come together on a deal to freeze the Iranian nuclear program temporarily.
Spike Lee's movies typically carry the label "A Spike Lee Joint," but Oldboy doesn't. He calls it "a Spike Lee Film," which my guess is Lee's way of saying he's a gun for hire — and that after a line of box office failures and difficulty getting financing for personal projects, he can make a fast, violent action thriller.
And as it happens, he can — a more-than-decent one. But this is also the first time I've come out of a Spike Lee film, bad or good, and not known why it had to be made. It's brutal, effective and utterly without urgency.
Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 1:17 pm
It worried me when my daughter didn't like Star Wars. Even though I told her there was a princess in it, she was wholly unimpressed and, from the start, a little bit creeped out by Darth Vader and all the stormtroopers. Granted, she was only 6 when I first tried to bring her into the fold of my obsession, but that was twice as old as I'd been when I'd first fallen hard for the original trilogy. It was ... disconcerting.
Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 5:10 pm
Some movies try to underscore their authenticity by flashing dates, names and locations on the screen. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom offers some dates and locations, but not much in the way of names. The result is a history of national transformation in which only two people really seem to matter.
Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 4:29 pm
To many baffled outsiders over 40, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna was a weirdo riot grrrl bopping up and down onstage in her bra and panties, bellowing atonal revenge lyrics at anyone who'd keep her and her fellow women down.
To her ardent young following of 1990s Third Wave feminists, though, Hanna was an alt Messiah, hacking out a space for women in the punk-rock mosh pit and sounding an enraged alarm on behalf of victims of sexual assault.
Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 6:55 pm
Like Eve's Bayou, her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected: Black Nativity is a musical, after all, as well as a credible attempt at an African-American holiday perennial.
The original Black Nativity is a gospel-music oratorio, conceived by poet Langston Hughes and first performed in 1961. It pairs the Christian Nativity story with traditional spirituals and African drumming.
In an annual tradition, writer Bailey White spins a fictional tale of love and life. This year's entry is about a woman dying of cancer who is attended to by a series of old boyfriends, each of whom contributes some sort of minor service. The story ends with a symbolic event at an old hollow tree in the woods, where a coiled snake meets a violent end.
Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 11:05 am
The deadline is looming for "wrimos" — writers challenged to clock in a 50,000 word novel by November 30th.
"We're the largest writing event in the world," says Grant Faulkner, executive director of the Berkeley-based non-profit NaNoWriMo — short for National Novel Writing Month. "People's to-do list revolves around food and shelter, but I would say that creativity is a necessity of life, so we need to do what we can to nurture more creators in the world."
Let's face it, while Thanksgiving get-togethers can be joyful, they can also be stressful. And if you're gearing up for a family gathering right now, you're likely awaiting the arrival of a few loved ones who may be a little hard to love sometimes.
Knowing that, we've called on Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated column "Ask Amy," for some advice on how to get through the holiday. Hey there, Amy.
Those of us slaving over pecan and pumpkin pies ahead of Thanksgiving already know that pie-making season is decidedly in full swing. And on a segment for Morning Edition airing Thursday, host David Greene and I discuss the best advice for pie-making newbies. Really, it comes down to this:
Baking is not like cooking a stew or soup. Bakers can't take as many liberties — adding a pinch of this or that.
This is a big week for Mystery Science Theater 3000, or as big a week as can be had for a show that's been off the air since the waning days of the 20th century. The show first aired a quarter of a century ago this past Sunday, and the 25th-anniversary volume (XXVIII, if you're keeping Roman score of the ongoing DVD releases and not the anniversaries) hit shelves on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Thursday marks the return of an MST3K Thanksgiving tradition, the Turkey Day marathon.
England got a lot more of The Beatles than Americans did during the group's formative years. Between 1962 and 1965, The Beatles were featured on 53 BBC radio programs, including their own series, Pop Go the Beatles. They performed originals and covers and chatted with BBC hosts.
Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 12:19 pm
On Monday morning, national treasure Bruce Springsteen announced that he'll release a new studio album two weeks into the new year. For dedicated fans like me, the announcement was full of curious details to pick over and discuss: Three songs, including the the title track, "High Hopes," were not written by Springsteen. Tom Morello, who's been playing with him on tour and whom The Boss calls "my muse" in the announcement, plays guitar on eight.
Originally published on Wed November 27, 2013 5:24 pm
When the days would grow shorter and the weather would turn wintry, I used to find myself despairing over the quality of salad fixings at my local market. Limp, tired lettuce. Pale tomatoes as hard as potatoes. Cucumbers with skins like buffalo hides. So I'd stop making salads altogether, until springtime rolled around and the first crop of tender young greens would show up at my local farmers market.
Originally published on Wed November 27, 2013 6:55 am
Imaginary countries, from Swift's Laputa to the far lands in the works of Borges and Ursula K. Le Guin, countries we'd do better to just enjoy than try to find on a map — these strike us as mostly places it's better to visit than to live in.
With another holiday shopping season on the horizon, one group of retailers is doing better than you might expect. Despite intense competition from Amazon and big box retailers, independent bookstores are enjoying a bit of a renaissance.
Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books in Seattle, says for a couple of decades independent booksellers have been fighting an uphill battle, but now things are finally improving.
The new animated musical Frozen is based — sort of, hypothetically, in theory, or at least according to the Disney studio — on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen.
Not in ways anyone would notice, however, and not in ways that will in any way distract moviegoers from thinking about the other works that seem to have influenced its creators; unlike in many animated movies, the borrowings aren't so much in-jokey as structural. Homages, of a sort, and fun to spot.
Mark your calendars: According to some scholars, the next time it might happen is the year 79,811. I'm talking, of course, about the hybrid holiday of Thanksgivukkah, a melding of Thanksgiving and the Jewish Festival of Lights. The Borsch Belt-style Pilgrim jokes and mishmash recipes (turkey brined in Manischewitz, anyone?) are flying around the Internet; but since Jews are frequently referred to as "the People of the Book" and Pilgrims pretty much lived by the Book, Thanksgivukkah seems to me like the quintessential (stressful) family holiday to celebrate by escaping into a book.
The wild-game supper has traditionally been a way for rural America to share the harvest before winter sets in. Food historians trace the ritual back to Colonial times, when families had to hunt in order to eat well, and some providers were better shots than others.
If you're headed to the ballet this season, chances are to hear something like the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from "The Nutcracker," this season's dance blockbuster as usual. But dance doesn't always sound this sweet. Sometimes it sounds more like this.