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Arts

Arts and culture

Many science-fiction storytellers worry about robots becoming self-aware and destroying us. The moment the artificial beings attain real intelligence, these tales posit, they'll realize we made them too smart and too strong for our own good, and they'll wonder why the superior beings should be relegated to working assembly lines and doing mundane repetitive tasks when they could be ruling the planet.

Of the roughly 80,000 Chinese children adopted in the United States since 1979, almost all are girls, abandoned at birth by their parents because of China's one-child policy, coupled with inheritance laws that favor boys.

During the next two weeks, the major political parties will assemble their faithful in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to officially nominate their presidential tickets. These conventions were once places of high political drama. But over the decades, as the primary system has determined the candidates well in advance, conventions have become political theater. With that in mind, there's much to be said on staging in politics — not substance, but style.

When the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark Citizen United case in 2010, the landscape of presidential elections shifted. SuperPACs — entities that can't make direct contributions but are allowed to engage in limitless spending and fundraising independently of the campaigns — have allowed for the some of the largest indirect gifts by wealthy Americans in the nation's history.

Obama is on record as opposing superPACs for normalizing gigantic donations, but his campaign has hesitantly decided to accept donations from these outside groups.

Paul Auster doesn't take living for granted. At 65, the author has had several "near misses," from sliding face-first into a jutting nail as a child to a traumatic car accident that almost killed him, his wife and his daughter.

Auster's new memoir, Winter Journal, is a series of meditations on his life, aging and mortality — including his mother's death.

Twitter wasn't built to give voice to Curiosity, the rover currently exploring Mars, but it's awfully well-suited for the purpose.

Leaves are falling in the summertime. School starts in early August in many places. Politicos are already talking about the presidential election — of 2016.

Everything is happening earlier.

New In Paperback Aug. 20-26

Aug 23, 2012

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Robert Harris, Jennifer DuBois, Tony Horwitz, Thomas Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum and Adam Gopnik.



Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Amanda Coplin grew up in the apple-growing Wenatchee Valley, on the sunny side of Washington state's Cascade range, surrounded by her grandfather's orchards. Her glorious first novel, inspired by family history, takes you back to the days when you could buy what are now considered heirloom apples — Arkansas Blacks and Rhode Island Greenings — from the man who grew them, from bushel baskets lugged into town by mule-drawn wagon. Seattle and Tacoma were mere villages, and train travel was the new-tech way to go.

Comedian Bill Hader is adept onstage and doing live performances. But he's scared to death of standup.

He says he remembers watching Chris Rock's 1996 HBO special, Bring the Pain, and thinking, "I don't know how people do that."

"I need a character," Hader tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I need people out there with me."

So Hader has stuck with sketch comedy — where he has been wildly successful.

Next week, in Justice League #12, The Man of Steel and the Amazing Amazon will ... get their respective super-powered grooves on, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Tango fans are flocking to the Buenos Aires Tango Festival & World Cup in Argentina. The tango is seen as a romantic and seductive dance, but you may not know that the dance may have gotten its start in brothels. Guest host Viviana Hurtado speaks with dance instructor Daniela Borgialli. She's participating in the dance competition.

Michael Chabon sets his sprawling new novel, Telegraph Avenue, in his adopted home of Berkeley, Calif., and its grittier southern neighbor, Oakland. With its multiracial, multigenerational cast of jazz musicians, former blaxploitation stars, midwives, gay teens and Black Panthers-turned-politicians, the book both celebrates and gently sends up the countercultural norms and complex racial politics of East Bay life.

A Bartender's 'Tale' In Nostalgic Soft-Focus

Aug 22, 2012

At the moment Rusty, the young protagonist of The Bartender's Tale, is rescued from his Aunt Marge's house in Phoenix, author Ivan Doig cranks into motion a dense valentine of a novel about a father and a small town at the start of the 1960s. Rusty's liberator is also his father, Tom Harry, the august bartender and proprietor of the Medicine Lodge bar in Gros Ventre, Mont. Tom is the archetypical flinty Western bartender, slinging beers and shots of wisdom cultivated from a less than perfect life.

The Pies Of Late Summer

Aug 22, 2012

My dad used to sing to me an old folk song before I went to sleep. One of my favorite verses went:

Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall.

If I can't have the one I love, I won't have none at all.

I still like that lyric for its simplicity and its assertion of seasonal eating at a time when that was unquestioned. You ate fresh apples in the fall (and probably storage apples through the winter) and peaches all summer. Love could be fleeting and unreliable, but autumn apples and summer peaches would always be there.

Set in contemporary Denmark and in Thailand, Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear is a sweetly muted domestic drama struggling to contain a fierce and ancient folk tale.

The hero, Dennis — a 300-pound bodybuilder with a lovable touch of Shrek — has an absent father and a tiny witch of a mother whose parenting is a twisted cocktail of dominatrix and coquette. (If your mother conducted bathroom business with you alongside at age 38, you'd have issues too.)

Persona 4 Arena
Atlus
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

The quirky, the odd and the eerie. As a videogame publisher, Atlus has become the expert in making the strange into the popular. It released Demon's Souls, a horror-filled role playing game that was so unrepentantly unforgiving, even hard core gamers complained (even as they continued playing). Last year, Atlus' Catherine was a long meditation upon the nightmarish angst and fear that can emerge when trust fails a young relationship.

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley, formed a protest movement to repeal a campus rule banning students from engaging in political activities.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected the free speech movement to be evidence of a Communist plot to disrupt U.S. campuses. He "had long been concerned about alleged subversion within the education field," journalist Seth Rosenfeld tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Fresh Air Remembers Comedian Phyllis Diller

Aug 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller, one of the first and one of the few female comic headliners of her generation, died Monday at the age of 95.

Diller performed in the persona of a crazed housewife. She usually dressed in outlandish, bad-fitting clothes with her hair teased into a disheveled mop. Then she'd fire off long strings of self-deprecating gags. She was so unattractive, she used to tell her audiences, that Peeping Toms asked her to pull her window shades down. Onstage, she called her husband Fang. Diller told Fang jokes like her male counterparts told wife jokes.

NBC is in need of a stroke of luck. They need something to work. The Olympics are over; it hasn't appreciably changed anything yet, and there's certainly no swell of excitement about Animal Practice and Go On that leads me to believe previewing them during the Olympics will make them hits any more than that strategy usually does.

If you've spent even a few minutes watching a telenovela, or Latin American soap opera, you're familiar with some of the archetypes: the swarthy, good-looking country man; the maid; the poor peasant woman (generally devoid of indigenous features); the evil rich girl, etc. For better or worse, it's a huge part of Latino culture, and photographer Stefan Ruiz wanted to document it.

Josh Radnor has been playing the much-maligned — and I would perhaps say overly maligned — Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother since 2005. We've known for a while that he's ultimately interested in being a filmmaker — his 2010 film Happythankyoumoreplease got mixed reviews, but won an Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

"You think it will never happen to you," Paul Auster writes about aging and mortality in Winter Journal, penned during the winter of 2011, when he turned 64. Thirty years ago, Auster followed several volumes of poetry with The Invention of Solitude, an unconventional, profoundly literary meditation on life, death and memory triggered in part by the sudden death of his remote father and in part by the breakup of his first marriage to the short story writer Lydia Davis.

Before he cooked up green eggs or taught us to count colorful fish, Dr. Seuss was a captain in the U.S. Army. And during World War II, the author and illustrator, whose given name was Theodor Geisel, spent a few years creating training films and pamphlets for the troops.

One of Geisel's Army cartoons was a booklet aimed at preventing malaria outbreaks among GIs by urging them to use nets and keep covered up.

Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.

If you ever decide to visit one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world, prepare yourself: It's a little intimidating. First, you have to drive to upper Massachusetts, just south of the Vermont border, where you'll behold 26 hulking brick buildings: We're talking 600,000 square feet of raw, sunlit space, roughly equivalent to a mid-sized airport.

A queen of comedy has died. Phyllis Diller had audiences in stitches for more than five decades with her outlandish get-ups and rapid-fire one-liners. She died at her home, where she had been in hospice care after a fall. She was 95.

Diller was glamorously outrageous — or at least the character she created was glamorously outrageous, the one who wore wigs that made her look like she had her finger in an electrical outlet, who wore gaudy sequined outfits. She was known for her laugh and those nasty jokes about her dimwitted husband, "Fang."

Sandwich Monday: The Energy Bar Sandwich

Aug 20, 2012

A few of us are doing a 5K tonight (burger-themed, of course), and rather than doing any training whatsoever, we're getting ready with our very own Energy Bar Sandwich. Luna Bar bread, a Clif Bar patty, topped with a Powerbar, carbohydrate goo and something called Clif Shot Bloks. It adds up to 1,200 calories, more than twice that of a Big Mac.

Ian: This sandwich tastes like exercise feels.

When people talk about Tony Scott's movies, the same words often come up: stylish, exuberant and kinetic. Three years ago, in a video interview with The Guardian, Scott explained why watching his movies could sometimes be exhausting.

"I have this natural energy that I want to inject into what I do," he said. "The worlds that I touch, I sort of embrace those worlds, and I always look for that energetic side of the worlds that I'm touching."

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