These may sound like the makings of a Roald Dahl children's book (he of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame). But at London's Kew Gardens, visitors can now immerse themselves in such fantastic-sounding experiences like rowing down a blue-dyed boating lake to the aforementioned island, which features a 15-foot replica pineapple towering over a banana grotto.
Lance Cpl. Travis Williams, 29, is an Iraq War veteran — and the only post-9/11 Marine to lose every other member of his 12-man squad. It happened in August 2005, when Williams and his teammates were sent on a rescue mission in Barwanah, Iraq.
"That morning, we loaded into the vehicle," Williams recalls. "And I get tapped on the shoulder, and I got told that I need to bounce up to the next vehicle. I said, 'Catch you guys on the flipside.' And that was the last thing I ever said to them."
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
NPR's Bob Mondello and Susan Stamberg read excerpts of two of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. They read Snowflake by Winona Wendth of Lancaster, Mass., and Geometry by Eugenie Montague of Los Angeles. You can read their full stories below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
I found your journal in my car. A slim, Moleskin, six by ten centimeters, soft cover, blue, curving upwards at the edges like an incredibly shallow bowl, or a key dish. By the concavity in its form, the book seemed to be suggesting it was capable of carrying something. Something real. Not much. A few pennies. A handful of nails. One heavy pen cradled at that depression in the center, which had dropped out of the flatness of the book from riding around in the back pocket of your jeans.
She found the photograph early in the day, while she was cleaning for spring, pulling a winter's collection of domestic detritus out from under the bed. Ticket stubs, grimy grocery notes, coffee-stained lined paper, and dead pens. Their life: movies, food, and books. She didn't like housecleaning, but the weather had changed, and something moved her to sweep around, put things in order, clean them up.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with political leaders in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank this week in his effort to try to restart direct peace talks between the two parties. NPR's Emily Harris is in Jerusalem. Emily, thanks for being with us.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: So if not a concrete plan, is somebody pouring the concrete?
"Don't put your daughter on the stage," Noel Coward famously cautioned his imaginary Mrs. Worthington, and no wonder: Stage acting is one of the toughest professions imaginable. For all the potential triumph, there's hardly any job security — and more than a little potential for heartbreak and disappointment.
With summer travel season just over the horizon, millions of Americans are poised to take off for family vacations. But before they reach their destinations, they'll likely endure security lines, luggage fees, tiny bags of pretzels and unexplained delays.
Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and columnist, has written a new book for curious fliers. It's called Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers and Reflections.
The iconic Gateway Arch — overlooking the Mississippi River from the St. Louis side — took almost a generation to build, but the 630-foot monument hasn't transformed the city as hoped in the four decades that have followed.
Conceived in the 1940s and completed in the 1960s, the history of the signature American symbol is described in Tracy Campbell's new book, The Gateway Arch: A Biography. The story has some surprising twists — including, Campbell says, a very early vision of an arch by the Mississippi:
Gnomes marched their way into one of England's most prestigious gardening events this year. The 100th annual Chelsea Flower Show, which ends Saturday, opened its gates to the flower-friendly creatures for the first time.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. In the two weeks since the Internal Revenue Service scandal erupted, the acting commissioner has been ousted, the head of the relevant section has been put on administrative leave. The Justice Department has begun investigating the scrutiny given to conservative groups that sought tax exempt status and three congressional committees have held hearings bombarding IRS officials with questions.
In his national security speech Thursday, President Obama discussed drone warfare and the Guantanamo detention camp. But a third controversial issue went largely unmentioned: the use of interrogation methods that are tantamount to torture.
In India, some of the most entertaining reading on a Sunday afternoon is found in the classified ads. Page after page, the matrimonial section trumpets the finer qualities of India's sons and daughters.
Parents looking to marry off their children often place ads such as this one: "Wanted: Well-settled, educated groom for fair, beautiful Bengali girl, 22, 5'3"."
The matrimonial ads are a hallowed tradition in the quest to find a life partner — part of the institution of matchmaking that is as old as the country itself.
Will teaching in English at France's universities undermine the French language? That's up for debate in the country now, and the argument is heated.
The lower house of parliament approved a measure Thursday that would allow courses to be taught in English, something that is currently against the law.
Those in favor of the proposal say it will attract more international students and improve English language skills of French students. But opponents say the move will only impoverish and marginalize the country's tongue.
When huge tornadoes, like the one that hit Moore, churn, swirl and scream, most people run for cover. Then there are people like Val Castor, who jumps into his truck and heads straight towards it. Mr. Castor is the senior storm tracker for Channel 9 News in Oklahoma City. He's been covering Oklahoma's temperamental and often treacherous weather for the last 22 years. Val Castor, we had the honor of spending a little time with you in your truck a couple of years ago. Thank you for being with us today.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. A federal judge in Arizona has ruled against the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff. The judge ruled that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department has used racial profiling to enforce the state's tough immigration laws. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has maintained that his department has the authority to round up undocumented immigrants. NPR's Ted Robbins has been following the case and joins us now. Ted, thanks for being with us.
Hundreds of volunteers have come to Moore, Okla., this week to help the community after Monday's deadly tornado. Some people are cleaning debris, others are bringing out water and supplies to people whose lives have been turned upside down. NPR's Kirk Siegler stopped by one volunteer-powered relief group that's working east of town.
This Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of tourists are descending on the nation's capital. Many will spend time inside of Washington, D.C.'s free museums. Only a small fraction will take the drive across the Potomac River to a museum of a different sort, that's in the Pentagon. NPR's Shula Neuman reports.
One hundred years ago this week, a ballet premiered that changed the art world. Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps — The Rite of Spring — was first seen by the public on May 29, 1913, in Paris. As the orchestra played TheRite's swirling introduction, the audience at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées began to murmur. Then the curtain opened.