Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 7:29 am
Stories ignite our imagination, let us leap over cultural walls and cross the barriers of time. In this hour, TED speakers explore the art of storytelling — and how good stories have the power to transform our perceptions of the world.
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Lizz Winstead has an impressive resume. She's a veteran stand-up comic, co-created both The Daily Show and Air America Radio, and is the author of the book Lizz Free or Die. But Winstead is also a bonafide word nerd and game fanatic. Which means she was right at home on the Ask Me Another stage.
Brian Castner arguably had one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the U.S. military. He commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs, investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings and searched door to door to uncover bomb-makers at their homes.
A sad tale's best for winter, Shakespeare tells us. I'm wondering if perhaps poetry, both lyrical and narrative, isn't best for summer. I'm thinking of how Keats, in "Ode to a Nightingale," describes that wonderfully musical bird as singing "of summer in full-throated ease"; and how, say, in three-time Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's poem "Ralegh's Prizes," summer "turns her head with its dark tangle / All the way toward us" and however drowsy-making the weather, we pay attention.
All this wonderful poetry, it's filled up my throat as well:
The best twists in The Twilight Zone weren't the ones that came at the end. The real genius of Rod Serling's classic series was how often and how effectively it twisted things up with simple but outlandish "What if?" queries in episode setups.
After the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the soldiers of theparamilitary force JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) who carried out the operation were lionized as national heroes.
They earned more ambivalent treatment in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. And according to Dirty Wars, a documentary based on a book by investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, their shadowy outfit has pretty much taken over America's global war on terrorism — and in flagrantly unconstitutional ways, he claims.
As a relatively young man, French director Alain Resnais made films about loss, remembrance and the ghosts of a recent history that included the Holocaust, Hiroshima and the brutal Franco-Algerian war. He was 89 when he directed his latest film, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, which also considers the presence of the past. But the director's concern with real-life horrors has been replaced here by an outlook that's both playful and explicitly theatrical.
If you're a parent with small children, summer is traditionally a time when there's lots for them to see at the multiplex. That's not untrue this summer. But if you're specifically looking for a film with a G rating, you may just be out of luck.
If you all think back all the way to when I was in Toronto last fall, you'll recall I was very enamored with Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, the story of the bickering lovers Beatrice and Benedick. And now, months later, this morning, he was on Morning Edition to talk about it with NPR's Renee Montagne.
In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Gustave Molaison underwent an experimental brain surgery in an attempt to alleviate his severe epileptic seizures. The surgery left him with a form of amnesia; he could remember many things from the past, but was unable to form new memories.
"He could tell us about where he was born, [that] his father's family was from Thibodaux, La., his mother came from Ireland," says neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin. "He talked about the towns in Hartford where he lived and about his specific neighbors. He knew the schools he attended, some of his classmates' names."
When Jason Isbell was part of Drive-By Truckers, his guitar contributed to the band's sometimes magnificent squall of noise, while his songwriting contributed to the eloquence that raised the band high in the Southern rock pantheon. But the group was led by two other first-rate songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.
On today's Here & Now from WBUR, I talked to host Robin Young about the weird situation of summer blockbusters — which can easily go the way of Iron Man 3 (hit!) or the way of After Earth (non-hit!) and it's not always easy to tell what you're going to get until it happens.
The highly anticipated animated films Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and Turbo hit theaters this summer. From cel technology to full-length, computer-animated, celebrity-studded movies, animation has come a long way.
Transportation alternatives are so hot right now, but house musician Jonathan Coulton has got a few innovations of his own. In this game, he's singing popular songs about travel--although he's replaced the method of transportation in the song with a different, more whimsical, type of vehicle. Can you name the original?
In this game, host Ophira Eisenberg changes the titles of some well-known movies by exactly one letter, and reworks their plots to suit. For example, Star Wars becomes Star Bars when the plot is changed thusly: A long time ago, Luke and Obi-Wan walked into Mos Eisley and went on the greatest pub crawl in the galaxy.
Very Important Puzzler Lizz Winstead is a huge fan of the "portmanteau," a word formed by combining two other words, such as "smog" being a combination of "smoke" and "fog." But the ones Lizz makes up are much funnier. In this game, Lizz joins host Ophira Eisenberg to prompt contestants to make their own portmanteaus by combining a famous person's name with a food item.
Have you ever met a baker whose last name was Baker, or a blacksmith whose last name is Smith? Then you might be familiar with the term "aptronym," a word that refers to a person's name that happens to suit her job or characteristics. In this game, host Ophira Eisenberg asks contestants about people both real and fictional whose last names are aptly suited to their professions.
Later, house musician Jonathan Coulton covers "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park," a seasonal favorite by Tom Lehrer.
For readers in search of tales that step outside familiar viewpoints, there is an abundance of fiction by women unraveling the big themes of conflict, religion, race and love — from new and different angles. The five novels I'm recommending offer up-close-and-personal engagement with characters who are often at odds with their communities or whose lives are so far on the periphery that we can be sure history books would pass them by. They make far-flung places and faraway lives feel immediate.
Food porn and rip-roaring pirate adventure are two great tastes that taste great together in Eli Brown's rollicking Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Owen Wedgwood is the brilliant but rather prissy chef to shipping magnate Lord Ramsey — until privateer captain "Mad Hannah" Mabbot shoots Ramsey at point-blank range and takes Wedgwood prisoner, charging him to earn his keep by preparing her one magnificent dinner a week, using only the ingredients he can find on her ship, the Flying Rose.
If you've ever wondered how to say "May the Force be with you" in Navajo, you're in luck. On July 3, a new translation of Star Wars will be unveiled on the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona. The 1977 classic has been translated into many languages, and the latest effort is the brainchild of Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz.
The Bluth family of the cult show Arrested Development can be oblivious, mean — to each other and anyone who enters their orbit — and eccentric. But that, says show creator Mitch Hurwitz, is in some ways the point.
"The goal with the show has always been that the Bluths are wrong," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They're] self-centered. They haven't had to develop. [Their] money allowed them to stop developing."
I have substantial affection for both Hollywood Reporter TV critic Tim Goodman and the Fox executive who tweets as "Masked Scheduler." They're both amusing, resolute grumps at times, but great fun to follow on Twitter. So you can imagine how uncomfortable it was to see them have a testy exchange about the new episodes of Arrested Development (which, remember, was on Fox and is now not). Tim liked them, and was reacting to early criticism of the first couple of episodes.