Arts and culture

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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.

Step aside Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — a grumpy old man may soon be taking your place as America's favorite fictional Swede. Ove — that's pronounced Ooo-vah — is the lovable curmudgeon at the center of A Man Called Ove. The film, which opens in the U.S. on Friday, is based on a Swedish best-selling novel.

When it was announced that Oliver Stone would be making a film about Sept. 11, the news alone felt like a startling provocation: Hollywood's most political director, a man known for upending assumptions about America's history and institutions, would be commenting on the formative tragedy of the early 21st century. Perhaps Stone would indulge in the type of leftist conspiracy theory that informed his JFK or, at a minimum, seize the opportunity to critique the drastic changes in domestic and foreign policy precipitated by the attacks.

When did our expectations for Tim Burton movies sink so precipitously? We ought to be able to forgive the guy who made Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow a Planet of the Apes now and then. Or even an Alice in Wonderland, so long as he keeps balancing mega-grossing mediocrities like that with heartfelt stuff like Frankenweenie, his delightful stop-motion ode to his dog. Any director who averages a studio feature every other year for three decades will have a stinker or two on his resume.

Whether boosting or buffeting the careers of the Beatles, the Doors and the Stooges, Danny Fields was the man behind the curtain. He remains so in Danny Says, a candid yet unrevealing documentary named for a song the Ramones wrote about Fields.

The angry old gent at the heart of the Swedish film A Man Called Ove is the kind of man who puts on a suit and tie every time he tries to kill himself, which believe me is more than twice. He's also the kind of man you're likely to find in films submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So even though Ove, who's played with firmly compressed lips by Rolf Lassgard, is a royal pain in the butt, the suicides are played for gentle laughs and it's pretty clear from the get-go that things will pan out, in their deadpan Scandinavian way.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

The main characters of the FXX series You're the Worst don't follow the rules of polite society. They are narcissists who talk in movie theaters, think everyone else is annoying and are frequently mean to the people they encounter. They also happen to be in love with each other.

Series executive producer Stephen Falk tells Fresh Air's Ann Marie Baldonado that the characters, Jimmy and Gretchen, are "stand-ins for the dark parts of all of us that are still deserving of love at the end of the day."

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


I have a friend in London who's at war with her car's GPS. Although she nearly always puts it on, she's driven mad by its voice, which is female, and refuses to follow its directions. She spends whole trips arguing with, barking at, and sometimes cursing this imaginary woman. She'd never be this rude to an actual human being. But, of course, a GPS doesn't have feelings.

But what if it did? That's one of the many timely questions raised by Westworld, the darkly exciting new series that's HBO's biggest gamble since Game of Thrones.

Every book can't be War and Peace. Readers may approach a doorstop novel of some 700-plus pages with a mixture of hope and dread: hope that the tome will offer a tale to relish, dread from being betrayed one too many times. By Gaslight, the second novel by award-winning Canadian poet Steven Price, proves engrossing enough to warrant its forest-depleting bulk. I found myself returning to passages not only because I occasionally lost the thread of this historical mystery's manifold plots, sub-plots and asides, but because I wanted to revisit the somber music of the telling.

As protests over police shootings of black men top the news, Netflix debuts a show on Friday about a bulletproof black man. It's called Marvel's Luke Cage, and it's based on one of Marvel Comics' first black superheroes.

Step into executive producer and showrunner Cheo Coker's cramped office in Hollywood, and you face a wall plastered with comic books from the 1970s and '80s. "That's where my love of comics started." he says. "Because when I read those I mean I was, what, sixth grade?"

Carli Lloyd doesn't "do fake."

"I'm loyal, I'm real, I'm not afraid to say what I'm thinking," she tells NPR's David Greene.

In her new memoir, When Nobody Was Watching, Lloyd describes the journey that led her to become one of the world's best soccer players.

Her victories have been hard-fought — Lloyd's training began in the small, working class town of Delran, N.J.

"I used to kick the ball up against the curb for hours upon hours," she recalls. She'd gather all the soccer balls she could find, head over to the field, and work on her shot.

In the summer of 1936, a plain and sturdy farm woman from southern Minnesota traveled to New York to meet the mayor, stay at the Waldorf, dine at the Stork Club and make headlines in every major newspaper.

That woman was Susan Eisele, my grandmother, who Country Home magazine selected — out of 4,000 entrants — as its "Rural Correspondent of the Year."

The award came with a $200 prize and a two-week trip to New York and Washington.

Soap opera pioneer Agnes Nixon, who created All My Children and One Life to Live, has died at the age of 93. She is known for highlighting challenging and taboo social issues through daytime television.

Her son Bob Nixon told The Associated Press that she died at a physical rehabilitation facility in Haverford, Pa.

Curious George famously managed all sorts of escapes — from policemen, firemen, zookeepers and plenty other humans who didn't like his mischief. But many readers don't know that the husband-wife team who created the inquisitive little monkey — who is celebrating his 75th birthday this year — had the most harrowing escape of all.