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Jean-Michel Basquiat joined "joined the pantheon of great, great artists" Thursday night, when the late painter's 1982 work Untitled sold for a record-breaking $110.5 million at auction — the highest sum ever paid at auction for a U.S.-produced artwork.

That breathless assessment was offered after the sale by Oliver Barker, chairman of Sotheby's Europe. So you can imagine just how thrilled the buyer must have been.

First, let me remind you: we've still got tickets to see us live in L.A. on June 15, where our fourth chair will be Shereen Marisol Meraji. We've got lots of good fun planned, since we figure everybody can use a night of good fun, so join us!

We've been known to enjoy a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, and it's a week that's a little bit like that as we take on one of the best shows we've covered in a while and one of the most vexing movies.

Oh, Code Switch fam: Has there ever been such a week? Because of the virtual smorgasbord of unfortunate news, you may have skipped putting these on your plate. Dig in. Keep a chaser of Pepto handy.

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Now, a correction. On Tuesday, we ran a story about the famous Renaissance painting the "Birth Of Venus" by Sandro Boticelli.

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'Alien: Covenant' Continues To Mine Old Ground

May 18, 2017

Almost 40 years ago, Alien was a B-movie with A+ production values and performances, and the scariest monster the movies ever gave us.

There's a whiff of John Cheever-ish unease in Wakefield, a quietly unsettling drama about a man who disappears from his suburban home, only to spy on his family's response from a house across the street. In fact, the movie is based on a 2008 New Yorker short story by E.L. Doctorow, which in turn was inspired by a Nathaniel Hawthorne tale with the same premise, written in 1837.

Based on Nicola Yoon's YA novel, Everything, Everything is about an 18-year-old girl who suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a condition that's kept her inside the same house her entire life, due to potentially fatal vulnerabilities to allergens, viruses, and other infections. SCID is a real disease — David Vetter, the famous "bubble boy," died due to complications after a bone marrow transplant in 1984 — but for Yoon's purposes, and the film's, it's mostly a romantic obstacle, a thin but impenetrable barrier between the girl and whatever her heart desires.

From the pages of sober financial journals to Hollywood's slapstick-econ adaptation of The Big Short, commentators often note that no American banks were indicted in the wake of the 2008 financial cave-in. Hoop Dreams director Steve James is here to say that's not true. In May 2012, New York's district attorney brought charges against Abacus Federal Savings Bank and 19 of its employees.

In 'The Commune,' Where We Live Is Who We Are

May 18, 2017

It's the 1970s, and a Copenhagen family has just inherited a very large, rambling mansion on the outskirts of town. What to do with it? The time is right for a group living experiment, and if the new Danish film The Commune were a different sort of movie, it would stage everything that follows — the group skinny-dips, house meetings about dishwashers, and Elton John songs — as warm, raunchy comedy.

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And now we remember this voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK HOLE SUN")

CHRIS CORNELL: (Singing) In my eyes, indisposed, in disguises no one knows...

As the American-born child of parents who emigrated from India, comic Hasan Minhaj often feels a little out of place. "I exist in this hyphen," he says. "I'm an Indian-American-Muslim kid, but am I more Indian or am I more American? What part of my identity am I?"

Ask some actors about their dream role, and they're likely to offer range of answers: a character from Shakespeare, a superhero, the lead in Phantom of the Opera. As for Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean-American actor who has had roles in Lost, Crash and most recently Hawaii Five-0, his dream is to play a romantic lead. Any romantic lead.

The king of the Netherlands moonlights as a part-time commercial pilot, he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

An American Abroad Searches For Self In 'Florence In Ecstasy'

May 18, 2017

There's no shortage of stories in the genre of Westerners experiencing a personal disaster and then globetrotting in search of answers about themselves. There's always potential for these narratives to go awry in subtle and damning ways — to seem unthinkingly privileged and navel-gazing and selfish — and so the endeavor of writing one is both a sure thing in terms of finding an audience, and risky as a self-aware artistic endeavor.

When Josh Groban takes his final bow in Broadway's Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, he'll leave some very big shoes to fill. Fans of the multiplatinum-selling recording artist have flocked to see him in this exuberantly offbeat musical, which is based on a section of the Russian novel War and Peace.

It's a question the broadcast TV industry asks itself around this time every year: How long can we keep this going?

The occasion is TV's upfront season, when all the big programmers announce their plans for the next season in glitzy presentations for big advertisers in New York, selling commercial space in the new schedules early.

These days, the moneymaking heart of the TV business — broadcast television — is fighting harder than ever to stay competitive with the innovation at streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

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Browse through some turn-of-the-century American cookbooks, and it's obvious that popular tastes have changed (such as the presence of fried cornmeal mush and the absence of cilantro). But more striking than the shift in flavors and ingredients is the focus on feeding those who are sick — or, to use the parlance of the time, "cooking for invalids."

Let's get this out of the way: The best part of The Golden Cockerel and Other Writings is not the title piece. In his introduction, translator Douglas J. Weatherford makes a big deal out of El gallo de oro, Mexican master Juan Rulfo's long-ignored second novel, but it's nothing compared to the sketches and fragments that come after.

The famous Renaissance painting of the goddess Venus, standing nude on a giant shell, has been appropriated, satirized and riffed on so many times — by everyone from Andy Warhol, to Lady Gaga, to The Simpsons — that it's easy to lose track of its origins.

Susan Burton knows just how hard it is to get back on track after being released from prison. It's an experience she lived through six times, once for each of the prison terms she served.

"One of the things about incarceration is that you're deprived. You lose all of your identity and then its given back one day and you're ill-equipped to actually embrace it and work it," Burton says. "Each time I left prison I left with the resolve to get my life together, to get a job, to get back on track. And each time the task became more and more and more daunting."

This spring brings a bumper crop of short story collections, some introducing distinctive new writers, others strategically timed to tide us over the wait between an established author's novels. I've been enjoying a stack of these books, most notably by Haruki Murakami, Joshua Ferris, Penelope Lively, and Tessa Hadley. They're all worthwhile, but if pressed to recommend just one, it would be Hadley's Bad Dreams. Her meticulously observed, extraordinarily perceptive stories are as satisfying as Alice Munro's. Yes, Hadley is that good.

Journalist Alex Tizon carried a secret his whole life.

"She lived with my family for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings, and cooked and cleaned from dawn to dark — always without pay," Tizon writes in an upcoming cover story in The Atlantic. "I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized she was my family's slave."

Intellectual, philosophical, literary, rebellious, Simone de Beauvoir spoke a mile a minute, and wrote quickly, too — novels, essays, a play, four memoirs. She was an atheist, bisexual, pioneer feminist, and her longtime lover, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote the book on Existentialism. When she died in 1986 she was world-famous — now the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., is saluting her again.

Since the February death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the first bias fatality of the Trump era, one question has been coursing through South Asian-American circles: was this hate-crime killing in Olathe, Kansas their "Vincent Chin moment"?

Chin was a Chinese-American in Detroit who was beaten to death by two white men in 1982. His death is credited with sparking a pan-Asian-American activist movement.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross, who's getting an honorary degree today from the University of Pennsylvania.

(SOUNDBITE OF JEFF RUSSO SONG, "FARGO SERIES THEME")

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