Scott Simon

How does Rez, a laid-back stoner surfer dude from Laguna Beach, get drawn into a web of fanaticism?

Laleh Khadivi's new novel A Good Country tells the story of Alireza Courdee from the time he's a 14-year-old chemistry whiz, the son of Iranian immigrants, to his transformation into an American kid who leaves America behind, in all ways, to disappear into a forbidding and destructive life.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

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Brockmire is back! Jim Brockmire, the beloved old voice of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, who became one of the first Internet sensations 10 years ago when he shared the shock of walking in on his wife in the middle of an orgy without dropping a moment in his play by play.

Jeffrey Tambor has been a professional working actor since the early 1970s — and he says that's all he's ever wanted to do.

He's done Shakespeare, Avis commercials, Hollywood Squares, Arrested Development and La Cage aux Folles. He's still often remembered as Hank Kingsley, the self-adoring announcer on The Larry Sanders Show. Now, he stars as Maura, a divorced, transgender parent of three in the Amazon series Transparent.

Tambor's new memoir, about his life as an actor, is called Are You Anybody?

Harold Evans sees a lot of fog all around us: Murky words, qualifiers, and subordinate clauses that clog a sentence and route expression into obscurity. Puffed up phrases, passive voices, misused words and words with no meaning, verbs twisted into nouns, buzzwords and hackneyed terms that make the language we use to deliver news, exchange opinions, trade stories, give direction, and declare love into a pea-souper of imprecision and cliche.

One of the world's most lauded novelists has produced her first collection of short stories in decades. The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is by Penelope Lively, who won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 for Moon Tiger and had a bestseller in How it All Began. Her latest is a collection that looks at life in ancient Pompeii, and modern-day western metropolises. They are often short, even for short stories — and subtly simple, or, if you prefer, deceptively nuanced.

A new film starring Richard Gere follows a Jewish man who pops up on the streets of Manhattan dropping names, handing out cards and promising to connect people. That man, Norman, befriends an Israeli politician whose career is on the outs. Three years later, the politician, Eshel, returns as prime minister and their paths cross again.

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A short film that's filled with big Hollywood names premiered Tuesday in Bentonville, Ark. The Forever Tree, a black historical fantasy film, stars Wendell Pierce and Olivia Washington. It made its debut at the third Bentonville Film Festival, which aims to headline creative works by women and filmmakers of color.

A lot of politicians used to strive to sound at least a little like JFK or Ronald Reagan. Do they really now want to sound like Howard Stern?

A few politicians, on both sides of the aisle, have begun to season their speeches with words their parents probably told them not to use, and that we still can't on the air.

Not off-the-record comments, or bloopers muttered over an open mic, but deliberate statements delivered from podiums before cheering crowds, or uttered in interviews.

Their Finest is a film within a film about making wartime movies in Britain. Bill Nighy stars as an aging matinee idol, unhappy that he's been cast in an older role. Gemma Arterton plays a young copywriter — the script department's secret weapon.

It's during the Blitz, and they're tasked with making a British drama that will lift spirits at home and warm hearts across the ocean — a challenge that real filmmakers faced as well.

Karen Neulander is a brilliant, determined, tough political consultant who is facing a crisis she knows she can't fix: terminal ovarian cancer. Karen is determined to use whatever time she has left to share as much as she can of her life with her 6-year-old son, Jacob. She also has another goal: to introduce Jacob to Dave, the father he has never known but must try to love for the rest of his life.

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There were plenty of disagreements at the Senate confirmation hearings for, of course, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina tried to get Committee consensus on at least one point.

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If you're a fan of The Americans, you probably have strong feelings about Alison Wright's character, Martha. Poor, loving, trusting Martha had to be smuggled out of the U.S. because she married a man who was no good for her — a man who turned out to be a Russian spy.

It's hardly unusual for athletes, both amateur and professional, to have pregame rituals. But the NBA's peculiar commitment to one grade-school snack goes deep: ESPN Magazine calls the PB&J sandwich the league's "secret addiction."

"In every NBA locker room, you'll see a variety of different foods on the table, but PB&J — if there's a locker room that doesn't have it, I haven't seen it," ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes tells Scott Simon.

Michael Rodriguez is both a military man and a muse. Years after President George W. Bush sent him into war, the two men now call each other friends.

Rodriguez was a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret who served from 1992 to 2013. He's featured in President Bush's book of portraits of more than 60 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in wars under his watch. It's called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors.

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The Academy Awards are Sunday night. But that's just what we call a peg for what I really want to talk about.

This spring marks the 45th anniversary of The Godfather.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

Francis Coppola's film is smartly scripted, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed. It's one of those special films you can see every few years and notice something new each time. It's an opera, really, where the arias are story lines about love, blood and America.

We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

It's been a hard week in Peoria.

William Ryan Owens, the Navy Seal who was killed in a raid in Yemen, was from Peoria, Ill. Defense Secretary James Mattis said, "He gave his full measure for our nation."

And the Caterpillar company announced that after more than 90 years, it is moving its world headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. It is hard to overestimate the blow this is to Peoria.

I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores: smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business, and, for that matter, our world.

When Mary Tyler Moore died this week, at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business — and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and software engineers — cited Mary Richards, the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration.

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The great British actor John Hurt has died. He got his start early, said he appeared in front of an audience for the first time when he was just 9 years old.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

No poem was read at President Trump's inauguration yesterday. Inaugural poems are fairly recent traditions. But poems might've abounded in the minds of many people. I thought of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Populist Manifesto No. 1."

The one best wish I think I have for the country as a new administration comes to office is that there is a revival of respect.

It can be depressing, especially on these days that celebrate a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, to recount the many times this year political rhetoric got coarse, boorish, and even cruel.

I want to be fair about this. But in the news business, we can't pretend that one candidate didn't utter more of those kinds of remarks than any other; and he won.

There is a funeral service for Ashley Theriot in Pensacola, Fla. today. She was just 32, and a gifted freelance writer.

The death of a vibrant young person is a tragedy in all ways. But the person who dies can leave a gift for someone else to go on. That can be a flesh and blood blessing.

Ashley Theriot returned from Colombia on Jan. 1 and began to have seizures. She turned out to have a rare tear in the artery of her brain stem.

The 17-year-old son of a new congressman became a kind of celebrity this week by being just a little naughty. Or maybe trying to appear a little naughtier than he may actually be.

We won't repeat his name, although it's easy to discover. I think a 17-year-old has the right to make a mistake that won't follow him for the rest of his life, including six years from now, when he applies for a job; or in 12 years, when he wants to get married; or in 20 when his children see a picture and ask, "Dad — is that you? What were you doing?"

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