Arts and culture

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The Compton You Haven't Seen On Screen

Aug 13, 2015

Straight Outta Compton is a music biopic that captures the dramatic rise and evolution of rap supergroup N.W.A. But there's one character that doesn't change much in the film, and that is the city itself — the City of Compton.

From the movie's opening scenes in 1986, viewers see a city defined by strife and crime, as the camera follows soon-to-be rap star Eric "Eazy-E" Wright to a darkly lit house in Compton, right before a drug raid. Almost 30 years later, I went to visit a Compton cricket player — right before a quinceañera.

Known for adult dramas and gory thrillers, HBO is home to some of the most colorful characters on television, but this fall another brightly colored crew is joining the network.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved children's show, announced a new deal with HBO Thursday that will bring the next five seasons of Sesame Street to the premium cable channel and its streaming services.

But Sesame Street isn't vacating its old neighborhood, NPR's Neda Ulaby reports. She tells our Newscast unit that:

Graphic artist and professor Phoebe Gloeckner had an unconventional upbringing. When she was 15, she lost her virginity to an older man — who also happened to be her mother's boyfriend. Gloeckner chronicled the experience in her teenage diaries, which she put aside and then revisited when she found them decades later.

"I remember I opened the box with the diaries and I was just stunned to start reading," Gloeckner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "To hear this child's voice, kind of, talking to me as an adult, it felt like it was crying out to be heard."

In the realm of office work, there's nothing quite so soul-crushing as data entry, a job that combines the joy of carpal tunnel syndrome with the fun of being in a room that's either air-conditioned to Arctic levels or heated to a degree that is only technically survivable by humans. Add to that the anodyne preachiness of those ubiquitous motivational posters, and you've got, essentially, a fever dream of unpleasantness.

A House That's Not A Home In 'Bright Lines'

Aug 13, 2015

In the sweltering summer of 2003, studious and awkward Ella comes home from college and sneaks back into her own house. She's trying to avoid her adoptive parents — her uncle Anwar and aunt Hashi — and, maybe, to share the secret of her return with her outgoing cousin Charu, for whom she harbors a self-defeating infatuation. She's lived with them since she was a child, but coming back to the house is still a disconnect amid the familiarity.

In 1906, 16-year-old Yasuo Kuniyoshi came to the U.S. alone from Japan. He made his name as a painter and at 40 he was showing his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But there was one thing Kuniyoshi longed for that he was always denied: American citizenship. In fact, he was classified as an "enemy alien" during World War II.

When you're out there on the Internet, sometimes it's worth remembering there's a person on the other side of the screen; it could lead to an unexpected connection.

Pack Your Bags

Aug 12, 2015

In this hour, Ask Me Another gets in the car for a road trips favorites edition. Build the ultimate road trip playlist with a game about songs of summers past, featuring guest musician Nellie McKay. Then choose your whip in a game about notable fictional rides.

Heard in Road Tripping: Favorites Edition

On The Road

Aug 12, 2015

Who needs a map when you can put your geography skills to the test with some terrestrial-themed trivia? Then sing along with Jonathan Coulton as he takes a turn with a John Mayer classic.

Heard in Road Tripping: Favorites Edition

Stuck in the Backseat

Aug 12, 2015

Are we there yet? Wrap up with a set of games that'll get you through those final hours of a cross-country drive. Plus, indie band Lake Street Dive reveals how they pass the time on the tour bus.

Heard in Road Tripping: Favorites Edition

Scientists are a driven bunch, dedicated and passionate about understanding the inner workings of the world. You must be focused, willing to work strange hours in every kind of weather. Willing to go beyond the known and be constantly inspired by your curiosity.

It takes guts to be a scientist. And a strong stomach doesn't hurt, either.

"I cannot feel exiled here; it is a second native country."

Every biography carries dual burdens. One is to represent the life of the subject in the time they lived — how they operated within their own system — as honestly as possible. (That last bit's a real stinger; it's one of the reasons you should never trust a biopic of anyone who's still alive.) The other duty, which often comes in retrospect, is as a point of reference in its subject's legacy, which might be trickier still.

Unfolding The History Of Napkin Art

Aug 12, 2015

Napkins today are mundane and practical, made from paper or cheap factory cloth and folded, if at all, hastily into a rectangle. In the past, napkins weren't just for wiping hands or protecting clothing — they were works of art.

Pizza As Autobiography In 'Slice Harvester'

Aug 12, 2015

Pizza is a lot of things to a lot of people. Mostly, though, it's just food. Colin Atrophy Hagendorf is keenly aware of both sides of this not-quite-burning issue in his debut book, Slice Harvester. Subtitled "A Memoir in Pizza," it chronicles a two-year period in Hagendorf's life, from 2009 to 2011, when the 20-something burrito deliveryman wrote a blog called Slice Harvester, in which he reviewed a plain slice of pizza from every pizzeria in Manhattan. Hundreds of them.

Well, that is a thing that happened.

Fantastic Four came out last weekend, only to encounter less-than-stellar reviews and box office. Our own Chris Klimek saw it for and summed up its squandered potential with his usual nerd-cred eloquence, so I sat down with him for Pop Culture Happy Hour to discuss what went wrong and why.

Lots of us are afraid to confront the things lurking in our basements. In mine, it's the spider crickets; in Denise Inge's, it was the bones, piles of human bones that reached almost to the ceiling of the stone cellar beneath her house.

With almost all the music you'd ever want to listen to available online digitally, the obsessive hunt for scratchy, fragile 78 RPM records may seem anachronistic. But author Amanda Petrusich says that those early records, which hold between two and three minutes of music per side, showcase the sound and spontaneity of a time before second takes were common in record studios.

Donald Trump wants to "Make America Great Again!" But much of how he plans to do that is still a mystery.

In his nearly two months as an announced presidential candidate, the controversial and outspoken billionaire businessman has promised he would be the "the greatest jobs president God ever created."

In Angélica Gorodischer's Prodigies, a home formerly occupied by the Romantic poet Novalis becomes a boarding house, in a small German town in the 19th century. At the helm of the residence is Madame Helena, who as a young bride left her unsatisfying husband and moved back to her childhood home, which she has converted into a space for boarders.

As I write this, California remains deep in its fourth year of drought.

One hundred percent of the state of Nevada is in drought — with 40 percent in the extreme drought category. Over to the southeast, 93 percent of Arizona's territory is in some form of drought. Even Washington state, far to the north, finds all of its territory in drought and 32 percent of its land in extreme doubt.

Magic happens in "Soul Case," one of the standouts from Nalo Hopkinson's latest short story collection Falling in Love with Hominids. Not a metaphorical kind of magic, either. Set in a Caribbean village that's based on the historical phenomenon of marronage — former slaves escaping into the wilderness and forming free societies — the story zooms in on a battle between villagers and the colonial army set to subjugate them. That is, until a spell is cast that weighs heavily on all who witness it.

You may know the acclaimed poet Elizabeth Alexander from her reading at President Obama's 2009 swearing-in ceremony.

Alexander, who teaches at Yale, published a new book earlier this year — but it's not poetry. The Light of the World is a memoir of the 16 years she shared with her husband Ficre, until his sudden death a few years ago.

'Sense8' Is Getting A Second Season — Now What?

Aug 10, 2015

Fans of Netflix's world-spanning science-fiction/action soap opera Sense8 have experienced a long, tense wait for renewal in recent weeks. While Netflix series like Daredevil, Bloodline and House Of Cards got their next-season notices back in March or April, and the second season of Grace And Frankie was finally announced in May, Netflix drew out the tension over Sense8 for months, sparking widespread speculation about what was holding up the announcement.

I remember a blue and white sign that used to tempt me every summer when I was a kid. It dangled from the marquee of our neighborhood movie theater: Painted penguins and three irresistible, snow-covered words, "It's cool inside."

There's something romantic about absinthe — that naturally green liquor derived from wormwood and herbs like anise or fennel. Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde drank it. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso filled the glasses of cafe patrons with absinthe in their paintings. Absinthe was a drink of aesthetes.

On Sunday, 38-year-old ballet dancer Jonathan Ollivier died after his motorbike collided with a Mercedes. The accident occurred just after 11 a.m. BST and Ollivier was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the BBC, the driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and released on bail.

Ollivier was slated to perform in the final show of choreographer Matthew Bourne's The Car Man in London on Sunday night. The show was canceled.

Heavy metal is one music culture whose concerts can get pretty aggressive. Stage divers often try to climb up with the band then launch themselves into the awaiting arms of the audience — or that's the idea. In the city of Prague in 2010, one fan wasn't so lucky: At a particularly unruly show by the band Lamb of God, Daniel Nosek fell off the stage, hit his head and died weeks later.

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.