It all started in 1968 at a pet shop called Fish 'N' Cheeps in New York's Greenwich Village. On the way to a Jimi Hendrix concert, Patricia Wright and her husband dashed into the shop to escape heavy rain. There, a two-pound ball of fur from the Amazon captured their attention. A few weeks and $40 later, this owl monkey became their pet; later on they acquired a female as well.
"We love being the country that freed the slaves," says historian David Blight. But "we're not so fond of being the country that had the biggest slave system on the planet." That's why Blight was glad to see the new film 12 Years a Slave, an adaptation of an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. Northup was a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841 and won his freedom 12 years later. "We need to keep telling this story because it, in part, made us who we were," Blight tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
The new movie 12 Years a Slave has been receiving high praise — critic David Denby recently described it in The New Yorker as "easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery." The film is adapted from the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, who had been a free black man in upstate New York. A husband and father, he was a literate, working man, who also made money as a fiddler. But in 1841, after being lured to Washington, D.C., with the promise of several days' work fiddling with the circus, he was kidnapped into slavery.
In this week's show, recorded at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, play games about famous sets of twins, grammatically-incorrect song lyrics--and did you know that James Bond also has a "license to grill"? Pun alert! Our V.I.P. is the woman who helped add 13 hours of marathon-watching to our schedules: Piper Kerman. She's the author of Orange is the New Black, the memoir that inspired the hit Netflix series about life in a women's prison. Plus, two Mystery Science Theater 3000 veterans riff on bad movies.
It makes all the sense in the world to cover new things — the movies opening this weekend, the TV shows premiering right now, the books that have just been released — to the degree people are asking the questions (1) What's interesting about this new thing? (2) Is this new thing good? and (3) What new things are there? Those are important parts of cultural coverage, and they always will be.
Long before he was a conservative writer, Charles Krauthammer was a psychiatrist. He tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he changed career paths because he didn't buy into popular beliefs about a psychiatrist's power: "There is a mystique about psychiatry," he says, "that people think that you have some kind of a magical lens ... Superman's X-ray vision into the soul. One of the reasons I left psychiatry is that I didn't believe that."
Few people love bad movies like Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett love bad movies--you know, movies that are "so bad, they're good"? The pair is known for their work on the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, and now are part of the team that creates RiffTrax--downloadable commentaries that you play along with a cheesy or shlocky film to create the sense that you're hanging out with your friends and making fun of the movie. Only your friends are professional comedians.
It's Opposite Day for this final round, in which puzzle guru Art Chung will give you the "opposite" of a well-known book title, and you must figure out the real one. For example, "The Visible Woman," is a clue to The Invisible Man. So if we tell you "bad misfortune," what we really mean is--good luck.
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The elusive British graffiti artist Banksy has taken to the streets of New York this month, tagging buildings throughout the city. Last week we brought you the story of his fans, who have been on the hunt, early each day, to find his latest creation. They have to move quickly; Banksy creations are often vandalized after their locations become known.
The sexting scandal surrounding former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has been fodder for comedians, punsters and those who love double entendres. Now it's the source material for a play, The Weiner Monologues, coming to off-off-Broadway's Access Theatre Nov. 6 through Nov. 10.
Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 2:56 pm
Still looking for a Halloween costume that makes a statement? Look no further than your grocery aisle, if you dare.
Ever since Carmen Miranda danced her way onto the silver screen with a fantastical fruit-laden hat in the 1940s, food as costume has provoked reactions of both delight and horror.
Costumes made of real food have sparked discussions about race, hunger, vegetarianism, commercialism, sexuality, morality and the ever-popular female body image for decades. Here are a few of the more memorable examples.
Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 8:39 am
Every now and then, my random wanderings through file photos from the previous 24 hours bring me to something that makes me pause.
This is apparently the menu from an event referred to in the photo captions as Christina Hendricks Toasts Johnnie Walker Platinum. (It is at least a list of food posted there.) The event was held at the Santa Monica Museum Of Art on Tuesday night.
Roth Unbound, Claudia Roth Pierpont's aptly titled study of Philip Roth's evolution as a writer, unleashes a slew of memories — including my eye-opening first encounter with Portnoy's Complaint as a naive 14-year-old. It also stokes a strong desire to re-read his books, which I suspect will be the case for many.
Broadway composer John Kander is a living legend: With his songwriting partner, the late Fred Ebb, he created the scores for the smash hit musicals Cabaret and Chicago, as well as the enduring anthem "New York, New York."
Now, at 86, Kander has a new writing partner — and a new musical, The Landing, opening off-Broadway Wednesday.
Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 3:19 pm
A new trend is brewing in the coffee world: coffee prepared by a robot, able to be preordered via cellphone and picked up at an unmanned kiosk, perfectly adjusted to your taste and ready to go.
To some, this might seem lamentable: the beginning of the end of coffee shops as we know them. No more huddling around warm cups of coffee with friends or sipping a refreshing iced latte while reading.
We're used to relying on antibiotics to cure bacterial infections. But there are now strains of bacteria that are resistant to even the strongest antibiotics, and are causing deadly infections. According to the CDC, "more than 2 million people in the United States every year get infected with a resistant bacteria, and about 23,000 people die from it," journalist David Hoffman tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 2:00 pm
Gene Luen Yang broke out in 2006 with American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. It weaves three stories — about a Chinese-American boy, a terrible stereotype named Chin-Kee and the mythical Monkey King — into a complex tapestry of identity and assimilation.
The editors of The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things, are carefully unambitious about the aim of the book: "we thought it might be fun to collect our various observations, fascinations, annoyances, and inspirations in one easy-to-use, attractive volume." On the surface, it seems like a cheeky gift book, a pseudo-serious encyclopedia that juxtaposes cellulite with the Latvian artist Vija Celmins, Clueless with Clytemnestra, the porno Deep Throat and the Native American politician Ada Deer.
When the 2006 secretive military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay began, only one courtroom sketch artist was allowed in. Her name is Janet Hamlin.
The Associated Press sent her there. Since then, Hamlin has created a rare visual record of the human drama unfolding in Guantanamo's courtrooms. Those images are now collected in a book, Sketching Guantanamo.