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Arts and culture

You Won't Throw Tomatoes At These Recipes

Jul 28, 2012

Late July is peak tomato season in much of the country, so for some fresh and inventive twists on the fruit — and yes, it is botanically a fruit, no matter what the Supreme Court says — we're heading to Home Wine Kitchen in Maplewood, Mo.

Early in 1944, Southern England bristled with 150,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers gathered for an invasion the Allies hoped would end World War II.

The soldiers, pilots, sailors and Marines knew they were there to be launched into Nazi-occupied Europe. But surely the Germans knew also. It's hard to hide the largest invasion force in history. LIFE Magazine even ran photos of GIs in Piccadilly.

The question was: Where would they attack?

Economist Paul Krugman Plays Not My Job

Jul 27, 2012

Paul Krugman — a professor at Princeton, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and author of many books — has been called "the Mick Jagger of political/economic punditry."

Krugman is known for his direct style, so we don't think he'd do terribly well in the delicate art of diplomatic gift giving. We've invited him to play a game called "Well, it's a nice gift but we're going to invade your country and take your stuff." Three questions about diplomatic gifts.

With our fearless leader Linda Holmes away at the TCA summer press tour, the crew is forced to stumble haplessly into the studio, where I somehow flopped into the host's chair again, heaven help us.

Amid the slapstick comedies, sequels and superhero movies that have come to define summer moviegoing, two films opening today center on disturbed and disturbing romantic ties. Ruby Sparks and Killer Joe aren't fantasy or horror pictures, but they're within screaming distance — close enough to remind you how much deeper artists go when they barrel past realism into weirder areas of the psyche.

Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith's memoir of his experiences with anxiety, debuts this week at No. 10.

This interview was originally broadcast on August 8, 2011. 1493 is now available in paperback.

"In fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," goes the old elementary school rhyme.

In the days of the ancient Greeks, poetry and sport went hand in hand at athletic festivals like the Olympics. Poets sang the praises of athletic champions and, at some festivals, even competed in official events, reciting or playing the lyre. Here at NPR, we're reviving that tradition with our own Poetry Games.

The Trainer Who Created Four-Legged Stars

Jul 26, 2012

Gene Autry, Bette Davis and Buster Keaton are just a few of the names that draw flocks of tourists to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

But there's a lesser-known man among the silver screen legends: Frank Inn, a pioneering animal trainer who made stars out of animals.

Inn's own life closely resembled a Hollywood film. Born into a strict Quaker family from Indiana, Inn set his sights on the movie business early. In the mid-1930s, while still in his teens, Inn hitchhiked west to Los Angeles.

Cage-rattling Chinese artist Ai Weiwei lives in a Beijing complex with his wife and some 40 cats and dogs. Only one of the animals — a cat — has figured out how to open the door to the outside. This ready-made metaphor arrives early in Alison Klayman's documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and is never mentioned again. But it underlies the tale of one of the few contemporary Chinese who publicly defies the government.

The success of R-rated comedies in recent years might as well be broken down to a formula: blend boundary-pushing raunch comedy with heartfelt sentimentality — and if you're most movies produced by Judd Apatow, center the story on male coming-of-age, even for characters well into adulthood. Teary eyes, full raunch, can't lose.

In 1968, two music producers went to a Detroit dive called The Sewer to hear a Mexican-American protest singer with a small cult following.

The producers' client list was mostly Motown, but they immediately signed Rodriguez (full name Sixto Rodriguez), whose stirring lyrics they hoped would speak to disenfranchised outsiders of all stripes and their champions.

Together, they made two albums — one of which, Cold Fact, provides the soundtrack for the thrilling new documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

The savings are never passed on to the consumer, but a little product placement has become standard practice for Hollywood movies — a pizza box here or a conspicuously angled soda can there, and few take notice. But product integration is another matter: If a movie has been explicitly designed to accommodate a sponsor, it's worse than just a commercial movie. It's a movie commercial.

Chances are, if you're a regular reader of this blog you've read (or perhaps even posted) an incredibly vitriolic comment or two accusing the writer of the despicable crime of spoilers.

Comedian. Writer. Twitter sensation. Baratunde Thurston may be the most media-savvy provocateur around today. His latest bestselling book is How To Be Black, half tongue-in-cheek guidebook on such topics as "How to be the Black Friend" or "How to be the Next Black President," and half memoir about his life experiences with identity and race.

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, actor Anthony Mackie stars in this summer's fantasy thriller, "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter," but what's the movie that Mackie could watch over and over again? We'll find out in a few minutes.

If you've ever tuned in to TV shows like HGTV's House Hunters, you've heard many an aspirational "hunter" lamenting the woes of a home without kitchen upgrades: They want to know, where are the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, high-end fixtures, and custom cabinets?

A couple of months ago, I visited Beijing, and like so many before me, I was stunned by how hypercapitalist Communist China has become — the hundreds of glossy highrises, the countless shops selling Prada and Apple, the traffic jams filled with brand new Audis. You felt you could be in L.A. or Tokyo — until you wanted some information. Then you discovered that Facebook was permanently blocked, certain words in Google searches always crashed your browser, and, as my wife joked, it was easier to buy a Rolls-Royce than a real newspaper. Here was a country at once booming — and repressive.

We're about a week into the Television Critics Association press tour for this summer, and so far we've heard from PBS, NBC and Fox. Still to come: ABC (today and tomorrow), CBS/Showtime/The CW (Sunday and Monday), and the rest of cable, including HBO, Discovery, BBC America, ESPN, and so on (Wednesday through Friday of next week).

So how is it looking?

Home is everything. It's where we come from and where we run to, wanting to start anew. But it's also that place we can't escape, the one that's so much a part of us that no matter how old we get, it's impossible to erase its presence from our memories, our bodies.

Andy Cohen has been yakking for most of his 44 years. He has a book titled Most Talkative — a title he earned in high school.

"My mouth has been my greatest asset and also my biggest Achilles' heel," he says.

Most days, it's an asset.

Bagpipes and Scotland? Aye, it's a natural association: Played for centuries, the instrument is especially identified with the Scottish military and traditional Scottish dress, tartan kilts and shawls.

But bagpipes and Pakistan? Nae, you say? Think again.

Turns out no place in the world manufactures more bagpipes than Pakistan. And no city in Pakistan makes more of them than Sialkot.

Bagpipe Central

For Ai Weiwei, Politics And Arts Always Mix

Jul 25, 2012

Last week, a Chinese court rejected artist Ai Weiwei's lawsuit against the tax bureau that had imposed a massive fine on his company. Ai was fined more than $2 million after being detained for three months last year.

The year is 1898. Our heroine, Princess Alexandrina, better known as Mink, is the suddenly penniless daughter of the late, disgraced Maharajah of Prindur, and the best female marksman in England. Queen Victoria has offered Mink a grace-and-favor house (rent-free lodging granted by a monarch) at Hampton Court Palace, where the dispossessed princess and her large-footed serving maid, Pooki, fall in with a cast of classic English eccentrics, a wandering American, and a beetle-eating hedgehog named Victoria.

Actor Sherman Hemsley was best known for his role as George Jefferson on the hit sitcom The Jeffersons. He died Wednesday at the age of 74. Host Michel Martin speaks with Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans about the actor's career and the impact his roles had on TV and in our culture.

New In Paperback July 23-29

Jul 25, 2012

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Stephen King, Ali Smith, Charles C. Mann Juliet Eilperin and Paul Hendrickson.

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

Sinclair Rejects Olympic Excess In 'Ghost Milk'

Jul 25, 2012

For every successful Olympic Games, such as Sydney's in 2000, there are twice as many failures. Montreal famously declared that the 1976 Olympics would pay for themselves; instead the city needed forty years to square its debt, and meanwhile the Expos left town. Beijing's Bird's Nest is crumbling; the hotels far from downtown are vacant. And in debt-wracked Athens, whose lavish Games went ten times over budget, farmers graze their pigs in the abandoned weightlifting stadium.

You Can Never Have Too Many Blackberries

Jul 24, 2012

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I was amazed at how many people had the same landscaping complaint. "I spent all weekend cutting down the blackberries," some co-worker would groan on Monday morning, looking for sympathy for the lost hours and aching back. However, as someone who didn't grow up in such Edenic surroundings, I was totally dumbfounded. Cutting back blackberries? Why would you cut back blackberries? Don't they, you know, give you blackberries?

Best YA Fiction Poll: You Asked, We Answer!

Jul 24, 2012

Our Best YA Fiction poll has only been live for a few hours, and already the cries of outrage are echoing through the intertubes! Where are A Wrinkle in Time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Ender's Game? What about Watership Down? My Side of the Mountain? Where the Red Fern Grows? Most of Judy Blume's oeuvre? The Little House books?

We hear you, I promise.

There's a fine line between satire and the nasty snigger that marks so much of pop comedy these days — which is another way of saying that the corrosively funny takedown of child beauty pageants in the 2006 movie Little Miss Sunshine moved me to forgive (by a hair) its creepiest creation — Alan Arkin's heroin-addicted grandpa. Still, I wonder whether my 14-year-old, who has roared her way through that movie at least a dozen times, can tell the difference between sharp commentary and the juvie desire to shock.

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