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Arts and culture

Jillian Medoff's new novel is an office dramedy involving an elaborate coverup in a corporate HR department that has nothing to do with financial or sexual transgressions. In other words, it isn't ripped from the headlines. Set at a New York-based market research firm that's been cut to the bone by layoffs in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, This Could Hurt is an ultimately heartwarming entertainment about the ways "the work/life firewall" breaks down when a formidable boss — a 64-year-old glass-ceiling-breaker who's both Hispanic and a woman — starts to slip.

Leni Zumas' new novel, Red Clocks, imagines a time in which something called the Personhood Amendment has made abortion and in vitro fertilization a crime in the United States; Canada returns women who slip across the border to seek those services. The novel is set in an Oregon town and it invites inevitable comparison to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Is it also a parable for our time? Zumas says the story started out with "some personal anxiety and anguish of my own," but grew into something larger.

Like most people, Rian Johnson was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid. Unlike most people, he grew up to make a Star Wars movie — he wrote and directed The Last Jedi.

The man behind the latest Star Wars feature film plays a game called Storage Wars -- about the reality show where people guess what's in repossessed storage lockers before they're auctioned off.

Click the listen link above to see how he does.

Christopher J. Yates begins his new novel, Grist Mill Road, with a crime in progress:

"I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh."

It is summer, 1982, and in a clearing in the woods outside the small town of Roseborn, N.Y., a 14-year-old boy shoots a 13-year-old girl over and over and over again with a BB gun while, close by, a 12-year-old boy stands and watches.

Love can be hard to put into words. Poets have been trying for millennia.

For Valentine's Day, Morning Edition is offering a love poem request line. Tell us about a moment in your life regarding love or relationships, and NPR's Rachel Martin and author Kwame Alexander will find you a poem that captures that feeling.

Netflix usually presents its new shows one season at a time, with a dozen or so episodes available immediately, but its latest talk show is being unveiled at the unusual rate of one installment per month.

It's called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman — and it's excellent. The program marks Letterman's return to the talk-show format and to series television, a journey he began in 1980 with his brief but brilliant daytime talk show, NBC's The David Letterman Show.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Mystery Guest

Jan 12, 2018

Amy Webb has an interesting job that incorporates data and advice. Can you guess what it is before Ophira and Jonathan?

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Whistle While You Work

Jan 12, 2018

So what if whistling bothers your co-workers? In this audio quiz, it just might give you an edge. Contestants hear clips from popular songs that feature whistling and ring in with the name of the song or artist.

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

For Your Amusement...Park

Jan 12, 2018

Is the Screamin' Gator Zip Line a real or fake amusement park attraction? We describe a park or attraction, and our contestants guess if it's real, or one we made up.

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Movie Sandwiches

Jan 12, 2018

If you tend to doze off in the middle of Movie Night, this game will be an extra challenge. In this final round, we took movies with three-word titles and removed the middle word. Contestants tell us what the missing word is.

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Stuck Singing "The Middle" With You

Jan 12, 2018

This one goes out to all you Jimmy Eat World superfans! We've rewritten their song "The Middle" to be about other things that are in the middle.

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Appiness Is A Warm Pun

Jan 12, 2018

Found a 5-star restaurant? Just tap this app to let out a loud, piercing cry that alerts other foodies to your exact location. Thanks, "Yelp." We redesigned popular smartphone applications to do exactly what their names suggest. Contestants guess the app based on its revised, more literal description.

Heard on Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Luka Kain: Pikachu, Strike A Pose

Jan 12, 2018

Breakout star Luka Kain had never vogued before filming Saturday Church, an indie film about Ulysses, a genderqueer teen finding community in the New York City ballroom scene. "I had a one hour crash course, [...] I learned three moves, [...] and I worked those three moves to high heaven." What's the secret to this dance style that originated out of 1980s queer culture? "You gotta have good knees!" the 17-year-old told host Ophira Eisenberg. "And this sounds cheesy, but be yourself, cause voguing is a form of self-celebration."

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Big Five.

About Tim Kruger's TED Talk

To tackle climate change, geoengineer Tim Kruger is developing technology that could remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. But he says it takes unprecedented cooperation to make it work.

About Tim Kruger

As a child of Gary, Ind., I've waited years for a TV show or movie to intimately explore Chicago's poor, mostly black South Side neighborhoods — like The Wire did for West Baltimore and Boyz N The Hood did for South Central Los Angeles. I so wanted Showtime's The Chi, which debuts Sunday, to be that show in this moment, but the first four episodes I saw didn't quite hit the mark.

'The Commuter': Punching On The Metro-North Express

Jan 11, 2018

It's been a nearly a decade since Liam Neeson, already in his mid-50s and with a long and varied resume of film roles to his credit, switched, like Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage before him, into high-impact, low-ambition action flicks. He'll still show up for a Scorsese movie or a Lego Movie (and, one hopes, The Lego Scorsese Movie) now and then, but he has played more alcoholic/widowed/divorced/guilt-hobbled ex-cops or ex-killers at this point than Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis and Melissa McCarthy combined.

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

When you're in love, "you just feel good, like you're wrapped in a big coat," says a character in Lover for a Day. Yet there are no big-coat moments in veteran director Philippe Garrel's latest examination of French erotic discontent.

The funniest throwaway moment in Freak Show, an unsteady coming-of-age fantasy, finds Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), a gay teenager with a penchant for sequins and feather boas, introducing himself to his new classmates at a private school somewhere in the Deep South.

If only all of us could see the world the way Paddington sees London. The furry little bear in a raincoat looks around his adopted home and finds, in the smiling faces of his neighbors, nothing but joyful spirits and good intentions. There are no "no-go zones"; even a prison full of roughnecks can be a chance to help people in need. Forget the fact that he's a talking bear from Darkest Peru. It's Paddington's impenetrable spirit, his striving to do right by the world, to "always see the good in people," even those who wish him harm, that is the biggest wish-fulfillment of 2018.

In 2017, Lena Waithe made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding comedy writing. The award specifically recognized Master of None's "Thanksgiving" episode, which Waithe co-wrote with Aziz Ansari and based on her experience coming out to her mother.

There's no kind of anguished desperation that feels quite like the desire to communicate with loved ones who we've lost. It can turn even the most rational person into a believer in the supernatural — to the bereaved, even if there's just a small chance of connecting with a dead friend or family member, isn't it worth the three dollars for the first minute and 99 cents for each additional minute?

Nearly two weeks after Logan Paul posted a YouTube video depicting an apparent suicide victim — and just over a week after he removed it and apologized — the online video platform has announced it is scaling back its relationship with the vlogging star.

Some artists in New York may be wishing to get older faster. A gallery there caters to artists age 60 and older. No kids allowed.

Some 200 artists have exhibited at the Carter Burden Gallery since it opened nine years ago in Chelsea. Business is good, and works sell from $200 to $9,000. It's a lot like hundreds of other galleries in New York — except for one important thing: The Carter Burden has an age limit. Why?

Historian and author Randall Hansen is a lucky man: The title of one of his books is almost exactly the same as another that recently became very, very well-known.

Hansen's book is Fire And Fury: The Allied Bombing Of Germany 1942-1945. The beginning of that title "Fire and Fury" is the same as that of journalist and author Michael Wolff's new exposé about the Trump administration, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COCO")

RENEE VICTOR: (As Abuelita) No music.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing in Spanish).

Ali Smith is flat-out brilliant, and she's on fire these days. Writing in the heat of outrage following England's divisive Brexit vote, she opened a seasonal quartet of novels last year with Autumn, a moving requiem for an unusual friendship between two unlikely kindred spirits, a young art historian and her singularly cultivated old neighbor, whose waning days coincide with an alarming erosion of civility and compassion in the not-so-United Kingdom. Deservedly, Autumn landed on the Booker Prize shortlist.

Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard have organized state dinners and congressional picnics, each serving as White House social secretary for different administrations. Bernard worked for President Obama; Berman for President George W. Bush. And they've collaborated on a new book that uses their White House experiences to draw out lessons in how to handle crises, defuse awkward moments and manage expectations. It's called Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power Of Civility At Work And In Life.

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