NPR Staff

A stop-motion samurai film — that's the germ of an idea that grew into the sprawling fantasy film, Kubo and the Two Strings.

It's a coming-of-age epic set in fantasy Japan about a young storyteller who makes magic with music and origami paper. The film stars Art Parkinson as Kubo, the Samurai's son, as well as Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei and Matthew McConaughey.

Editor's note: This interview contains adult themes, including a discussion of sexual assault.

Amy Schumer is tired of answering a question journalists ask her all the time: Is this a good moment for women in Hollywood?

"It is an amazing moment for every woman," she tells NPR's David Greene, "if you have ovaries and you're in the 90210 ZIP code."

When Melva Washington Toomer joined her father on a visit with StoryCorps recently, their conversation was quite unlike anything that has been featured in the series' 10-year history. That's because she spoke with her dad, John Carter Washington, relying not on her voice but on a TeleBraille machine.

Washington is blind and deaf. So was his late wife, in fact — and together, they raised three children, including Melva, the oldest.

Natalie Portman says her new film felt like something she just "had to make." It's an adaptation of A Tale of Love and Darkness, the autobiographical novel by Amos Oz, in which he tells the story of his childhood in Jerusalem during the early years of Israeli independence.

Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, directed and wrote the Hebrew language film. She also stars as Oz's mother, Fania, whose family emigrated from Eastern Europe.

There are plenty of Civil War museums in Gettysburg, Pa., but none of them recreate the drama of the battlefield quite like the Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum.

It boasts a collection of dioramas — miniature models of important Civil War battles — painstakingly sculpted by Rebecca Brown and her twin sister, Ruth. The stars of the exhibits are the tiny clay soldiers — nearly 2,000 of them. They're less than an inch tall and meticulously detailed right down to the patches on their blue and gray uniforms.

In Teju Cole's writing, everything is fair game. Politics, poetry, music — even Snapchat.

He roams between time periods, genres and media, drawing unexpected parallels, and his latest book, Known and Strange Things, is a collection of his essays written for publications like The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

Jace Clayton circles the globe looking for new sounds, from home studios in Morocco to teen parties in Mexico. Performing as DJ /rupture, he incorporates them into his work — and in his travels, he's found that digital technology has profoundly changed how music is produced, even in the most unlikely places.

That's the subject of his new book, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture. He joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about it; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

Most weddings go off without a hitch. Happy couples pledge to love one another for better or worse in front of their nearest and dearest. But for a small group, they never make it to those vows.

Calling the whole thing off has become a reliable plot twist in movies, but this week on For the Record, we hear three different, real-life stories about calling it quits before walking down the aisle.

Stella Grizont

"He was a totally nice guy. There was nothing i could say was wrong. And I so just figured, why not?"

Graham Moore's new novel opens in 1888 with a jolt: Its main character, Paul Cravath, witnesses a Western Union worker being electrocuted in the sky above Broadway while trying to repair a live wire. Blue flame shoots from his mouth and his skin falls from his bones.

Later that day, Paul meets Thomas Edison, an inventor who is racing against archrival George Westinghouse to electrify the United States from coast to coast. The success of Edison's inventions hinges on the U.S. adopting DC electricity, while Westinghouse's innovations rely on AC power.

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Drones, surveillance, torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These are just some of the subjects over which Jameel Jaffer has fought the U.S. government.

He is the head of the ACLU's Center for Democracy — and now he's leaving after more than a decade with the civil liberties organization to run the new Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Sam Esmail, creator of the TV show Mr. Robot, learned the hard way that hacking isn't easy. Years ago, he made the "really ill-advised decision" to hack his girlfriend's college campus email, from his job at an NYU computer lab.

"I easily got busted ..." he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "They traced it back to that IP address and I got fired and put on academic probation and that was the end of my hacker days."

Nearly 25 years after Anita Hill accused her former boss Clarence Thomas — then a Supreme Court nominee — of making lewd advances, the fight against sexual harassment is again in the spotlight.

Women are pushing to change policies at colleges across the country. Bill Cosby — once a beloved figure of American culture — is now widely reviled because of accusations of rape and assault.

More recently, more than 20 women say media mogul Roger Ailes harassed them at work.

A few years ago, writer Elizabeth Greenwood went on a trip to the Philippines where, on the afternoon of July 7, 2013, she died. "My death certificate indicates that I perished in a car crash," she tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

Clearly, Greenwood didn't actually die, but she did spend a lot of time researching how to make the world believe she did. Faking your own death, or pseudocide, is the subject of her new book, Playing Dead: A Journey Through The World of Death Fraud.

During the Olympics we will hear a lot about the winners. But the reality is most athletes at the games come home without a medal. Today we explore what losing does to athletes, fans and anyone who casts a vote for president.

Listen to this week's episode to hear the story of judo star Jimmy Pedro, and how he dealt with a crushing defeat in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Daniel Pink also joins Shankar for a Stopwatch Science competition on all the unintended consequences of losing.

Stopwatch Science

Here's one museum you can enjoy without even getting out of your car: a drive-thru museum in Seale, Ala.

Created by artist Butch Anthony, it's a collection of odd items — many of which people have given him — that he has decorated and set up inside shipping containers cut out with large display windows.

There's a gallstone from 1971 billed as the largest with a poem it inspired, a two-headed duck in a domed jar and an assortment of fossils.

In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a monster that is part lion, part goat and part snake. Far from reality, sure, but the idea of mixing and matching creatures is real — and has ethicists concerned.

With Hillary Clinton having made history last month by becoming the first female presidential nominee, could it be that today's gender roles are not as egalitarian as we think?

Irina Reyn's new novel, The Imperial Wife, raises such questions. The dual-narrative follows the marriages of two ambitious women immigrants: one, a rising Russian art expert in a high-end Manhattan auction house set in the present day; the other, a young Catherine the Great in imperial Russia.

Summer is a time for music festivals around the world, with thousands of people gathering to enjoy their favorite bands and musicians. But a dark current underlies some of these events: In Sweden, police say there were more than 50 cases of rape and sexual assault at two major festivals there last month. Sexual violence has been reported for decades at large outdoor concerts, including here in the U.S. And now in the U.K., some county officials are trying to do something about it.

Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer "radical empathy" and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

There was a time when people went to bars to talk to other people, maybe even meet someone new. But that was in the BC era — before cellphones.

"I've been in the pub industry for a long time, and progressively it's become less and less social and more and more antisocial," Steve Tyler, the owner of the Gin Tub in Sussex, England, tells NPR's Scott Simon.

Cockroach Milk: Yes. You Read That Right

Aug 6, 2016

Pour out that almond milk — the new hip thing cockroach milk.

Well, kind of.

The female Pacific beetle cockroach is one of a kind. Unlike other insect species, this Hawaiian native gives birth to live young. And she feeds them a pale, yellow liquid "milk" from her brood sack.

But the craziest thing: Cut open an embryonic beetle roach, and they're guts will spill out nutrient-rich milk crystals that shimmer like glitter.

The Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Mo., might be the only place where having a collection that sucks is considered a compliment.

Tom Gasko, the museum's curator and a former door-to-door vacuum salesman, offers guided tours through nearly a century and a half of vacuum cleaner history. The oldest ones date back to just after the Civil War.

Two retired generals spoke at the national political conventions last month — one in favor of the Democratic candidate and one for the Republican.

At the Democrats' convention, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen offered a thinly-veiled swipe at Donald Trump.

"But I also know that with [Hillary Clinton] as our commander in chief, our international relations will not be reduced to a business transaction," Allen said.

At the Republican convention, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn joined in the crowd's chants to arrest Hillary Clinton.

Jesmyn Ward was in her twenties when she first read James Baldwin's 1963 essay collection The Fire Next Time. Ward felt that Baldwin's essays — compiled in a year which included Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have A Dream' speech and the Birmingham church bombings — are especially resonant today and tease out similar racial tensions.

The NPR Politics team is back with a quick take to discuss the ongoing controversy over GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's response to the parents of a Muslim-American solider who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

They also talk about the GOP establishment's reactions to Trump's comments and what it could all mean for Trump's campaign.

On the podcast:

  • Campaign Reporter Scott Detrow
  • Campaign Reporter Asma Khalid
  • Political Editor Domenico Montanaro

It may sound trite, but the Olympic Games truly are a chance to witness what unites us all as human beings: Our joy in triumph and our anguish in defeat.

David Matsumoto believes this truism, but on an entirely different level.

Matsumoto is a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University and a former Olympic judo coach. He has analyzed the behavior of Olympic athletes. He spoke recently with Shankar Vedantam about what his research reveals.

A few years ago, Silicon Valley engineer Bindu Reddy was raising money for a new startup. An investor offered to contribute — not because of what she was trying to do, but because she was a woman.

That rubbed Reddy the wrong way, and she wrote about it — then the backlash began.

Perhaps you've heard the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that goes, "There are no second acts in American lives." Some may beg to disagree. After all, for many people, there are indeed second acts. One such example is singer and actress Heather Headley, who epitomizes this in ways few others do. Headley is a native of the twin-island republic Trinidad and Tobago in the South Caribbean, where she started singing and playing the piano in church at a very young age. She moved with her family to the United States in the early '90s.