Arts

Arts and culture

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The new FX comedy Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll* stars Denis Leary as the decaying former singer of a briefly scorching New York band whose speedy self-immolation was brought about by debauchery and betrayal. The band was called The Heathens, because they were heathens. The singer is named Johnny Rock, apparently because it was a rock band and "John" is a popular name.

A year and a half ago, Dr. David Casarett did not take medical marijuana very seriously. "When I first started this project, I really thought of medical marijuana as a joke," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

At least no one can complain Ernest Cline wears his influences too lightly. Nerd culture pervades everything he does, from his screenplay for the movie Fanboys to his spoken-word routines.

Question: What do holiday shopping and staving off cognitive loss have in common?

Answer: Both are ordinarily earnest endeavors in which Patricia Marx has found unlikely sources of hilarity.

We talk a lot about nostalgia on Pop Culture Happy Hour — about the ways entertainment has shaped our youth and placed our memories in perspective — but in doing so, we've mostly discussed movies, TV shows, music, books, board games, that sort of thing.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It takes about four cups of milk to make one cup of skyr, Iceland's super thick, high-protein version of yogurt.

Every drop of skyr made in Iceland comes from Icelandic cattle, the country's single breed.

But there's a problem: The average Icelandic cow can't supply much milk. And the hunger for skyr is stronger than ever now that people around the world are discovering its creamy delights.

Watson, IBM's Jeopardy!-winning supercomputer, boasts a pretty impressive resume when it comes to cooking.

Growing up in West Baltimore, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was no stranger to violence. "Everyone had lost a child, somehow, to the streets, to jail, to drugs, to guns," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Coates' new book, Between the World and Me, is an effort to protect his son from the same threats he experienced as a youth. Written in the form of a letter, Coates draws on history as well as personal experience to discuss the different forms of violence young African-Americans face on the street, in school and from the police.

John A. Williams might be one of the most prolific writers most people have never heard of.

Although he was often compared to Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Williams didn't much like that. He felt that when black writers were lumped together by the literary establishment, only one at a time would be allowed to succeed. His novels, which were always focused through the prism of race and were told from his black characters' point of view, were well-reviewed. But Williams never reached the level of fame of writers like Wright, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.

As another Southern writer once said, "You can't go home again." In Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which takes place in the mid-1950s, a 26-year-old Scout Finch takes the train from New York City home to Maycomb, Ala., and finds the familiar world turned mighty strange.

TV and air-conditioning have changed the landscape, and beloved childhood friends like Dill and her brother Jem have vanished. Others, like Calpurnia, look at Scout, here called by her grown-up name of "Jean Louise," as though she were, well, a white lady.

Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating this morning, after cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades.

Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. On Sunday, he posted a photo of himself to Facebook in which he sat in front of a computer screen with an empty cartoon template titled Bloom County 2015.

"A return after 25 years. Feels like going home," he wrote.

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, a fire broke out in a commercial building on the northern edge of the city of Dallas. It destroyed a small yogurt company called Three Happy Cows.

Two months later, Edgar Diaz, the founder of Three Happy Cows, confessed that he'd set the fire. Yet people who knew Diaz, and had worked with him, could not believe it.

"I was like, Edgar did that? No way! No way. No way," says Ruth Cruz, who worked at Three Happy Cows.

"No. No. It was his baby. Couldn't imagine," says Don Seale, who supplied milk to the factory.

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.

American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer traveled to Indonesia in 2001 to make a documentary about plantation workers. What he found was the legacy of genocide. The documentary he made, The Act of Killing, looked at life in the country since a 1965 coup led to the slaughter of between 500,000 and 2 million people by paramilitary death squads, in the name of stamping out communism.

Like many Star Trek fans, Michael Chang Gummelt wants the legendary franchise to return to TV. And like many fans, he has a lot of ideas about what such a reboot should look like.

But Gummelt also has something no other fan does: a meeting with Paramount to pitch his concept.

The Guinness Book of World Records calls "Happy Birthday to You" the most recognized song in the English language. But you'll rarely ever hear it on TV or in a movie.

Instead, you usually hear something that sounds sort of like the song, but not quite. In Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, for example, the characters sing: "Happy, happy birthday from all of us to you, we wish it was our birthday so we could party, too."

In an age of CEO gaffes and snafus, one in particular drew significant backlash last year.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: A stress-free way to make a classic — and unruly — French sauce that's a variation of hollandaise.

On-air challenge: Today's puzzle involves wordplay on some well-known Canadian place names. Example:

The name of which Canadian province is an anagram of "oration"?

Last week's challenge: The seven words in the following sentence have something very unusual in common — something that almost no other words in the English language share. What is it?

"Ira saw three emigrants restock large wands."

Nicole Perlman was the first woman to get a screenwriting credit on a Marvel Studios movie, for last year's big hit Guardians of the Galaxy.

Perlman has been tapped to write the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, too, but first she's navigating a slightly less galactic challenge: Writing her first comic book.

What better place to prepare for that than San Diego Comic-Con?

[Deep breath.]

So there's this new English translation of a French graphic novel adaptation of Swann's Way, the first of seven novels in Marcel Proust's masterwork, In Search of Lost Time.

Got all that? First there was the 1913 novel by Proust (in French!), then a graphic novel adaptation by Stephane Heuet (in French!) that was published in installments between in 1998 and 2013, and now that whole thing has been translated by Arthur Goldhammer (into English!).

We're coming up on the final week of the month of Ramadan. It's the time of year when observant Muslims avoid all food and drink during the holy month's daylight hours — if they're able.

When Ramadan falls during the height of summer — as it does this year — that's a lot of hours. So what's the best thing to eat to prepare you for a long fast?

In the acknowledgements for Cold Iron, Stina Leicht writes that one of the questions at the core of her new Malorum Gates series is, "if Tolkien had been American, what would fantasy look like?" It's a fascinating question — and I don't intend to sound cynical or glib when I say that, according to Cold Iron, the answer is, at least partly, "more full of guns." Cold Iron is very attentive to the nuances of early modern warfare, on both land and sea.

When the first Palestinian uprising began in the late 1980s, the images from the intifada showed exploding tear gas canisters launched by Israelis, answered by Palestinian youngsters shooting slingshots and hurling rocks. A photographer snapped a photo of a boy with tears in his eyes, an 8-year-old named Ramzi Aburedwan. The image came to represent the rage and frustration of life in the refugee camps. But although his face was famously stuck in time, Ramzi's life changed dramatically when he was introduced to music at age 16.

How do you write jokes for a TV comedy about race and culture when there are riots over how police treat black suspects, and a gunman just shot down nine people in a black church?

If you're Robin Thede, head writer for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, you think carefully about where you focus the joke.

Patricia Marx is a former writer for Saturday Night Live and Rugrats. She's a contributor to The New Yorker.

And she's afraid she's losing her mind.

"There were just so many moments of, 'What's that thing that you put the thing in that's got the thing that, you know, that what is it called?' " Marx tells NPR's Arun Rath.

"I was really worried that in a matter of days, I was going to need a caregiver and the caregiver was going to find the butter dish in my sock drawer."

Roger Rees, the Tony Award-winning Welsh-born actor and director who got his start on the stage but also appeared in film and television shows such as Cheers and The West Wing, died Friday night in New York at age 71 after what his spokesman described as a "brief illness."

The Associated Press says Rees "had abruptly left The Visit on Broadway in late May to undergo a medical procedure."

It's a shame Ben Kingsley doesn't have more of a mustache in Tarsem Singh's new science fiction thriller Self/less. If he had one long enough to twirl menacingly, if he was playing that kind of outsize stereotype, at least he'd be able to clarify exactly what sort of role he's meant to fulfill.

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