Arts & Life

It's been one year since bells tolled along the East Coast, welcoming the newest Smithsonian to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since then, the museum has attracted more than 3 million people of all races, colors and creed from across the nation and around the world — averaging about 8,000 visitors daily.

When it comes to brownie recipes, one would usually expect to hear ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs and chocolate. But one woman dished out a most unusual addition – a heavy serving of infidelity. It all started when The New York Times published Katharine Hepburn's Brownies Recipe two years ago.

The 1782 French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses — a steamy story of aristocrats behaving badly — has been told many times over the centuries in adaptations for the stage and screen. A new retelling, Unforgivable Love, has just as much betrayal and bed-hopping as the original, but in a new setting: glamourous, 1940s Harlem.

Author Sophfronia Scott says she was inspired to set the story in high society Harlem by the story of Madam C.J. Walker — a wealthy, African-American entrepreneur who made her fortune in beauty and hair products.

Jason Sheehan knows stuff about food, video games, books and Starblazers. He is currently the restaurant critic at Philadelphia magazine, but when no one is looking, he spends his time writing books about giant robots and ray guns. Tales From the Radiation Age is his latest book.

Adderall and Red Bull. Pringles and cigarettes and scotch. More Adderall and more Red Bull and, if you mix them in just the right way and shake violently for months, you might end up with a videogame.

They say if you want something done right, do it yourself. But for Ray Halbritter, it was more a case of, "if you want something done at all."

Halbritter, the CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, wasn't seeing stories by or about Native Americans in mainstream media outlets, and on the rare occasion those places did try to write about indigenous people, the stories often got distorted.

For many people, the Jewish High Holidays are a time of celebration and spiritual renewal. But for those who have a more ambivalent relationship to their faith — those who might identify as culturally Jewish rather than religious — this time of year can be challenging.

This year, the 40th anniversary of the opening of Studio 54, a onetime Manhattan nightspot where very good-looking people danced to very good music while snorting very good drugs, has seen the publication of two memoirs by past owners.

Preparing for Disaster

Sep 23, 2017
Wolfrage [Flickr]

One lesson learned  in Hurricane Katrina is that failure to include pets in a disaster plan endangers not only the pets, but also the pet owners, and even first responders who try to rescue them .  Be a  responsible pet owner and plan to keep both you and your best friend safe, no matter what blows your way.

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The New York City Ballet's costume shop is located on the eighth floor of a building in Lincoln Center. There are spectacular views of the Hudson River, but no one's looking out the windows. They're all working with a quiet intensity.

"It's a shop full of 18 people," says Marc Happel, the City Ballet's director of costumes. "Amazing craftspeople, machine operators, hand stitching, we have three drapers. I mean the level of costume-making here is probably the highest you could get."

Many of Lee Daniels' projects — the movie Precious, the TV shows Empire and Star — tend to be about people who start with everything against them and rise up to do amazing things. (While occasionally killing people along the way, which happens.)

In Empire, Daniels created one of the great TV characters of our time — the ambitious record company matriarch Cookie Lyon — so we'll be quizzing him on actual cookies.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Every year, summer gives way to fall, and in movie theaters, blockbusters give way to awards contenders. On this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, film critic Bob Mondello of All Things Considered and I spoke with Tasha Robinson of The Verge and film writer Bilal Qureshi about some of what we all saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season.

'Kingsman' Sequel: This Time, A Flat 'Golden Circle'

Sep 22, 2017

You might have to go all the way back to RoboCop — the 1987 Paul Verhoeven one that got resubmitted to the MPAA a double-digit number of times before its comically grisly violence was deemed tame enough to warrant a mere R-rating— to find a trigger-happy popcorn flick as deeply cynical as the two Kingsman super-spy adventures, the second of which is subtitled The Golden Circle.

In 2014, the directing/screenwriting team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller surprised a cynical, jaded nation that was expecting, from The LEGO Movie, a cynical, jaded toy commercial.

It was that, to be clear. But it was also frenetic, funny, colorful, clever and desperately eager-to-please: a hugely imaginative joyride through a riotous landscape of Warner Bros.-owned intellectual property. Movie as theme park.

In the story of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs, told again in Battle Of The Sexes, it's often forgotten that she didn't particularly want to do it. In fact, she didn't do it until Riggs had badly beaten Margaret Court, who was one of the greatest players in women's tennis at the time.

Victoria & Abdul is not the first movie to show the Queen of England cavorting with the help. And you don't have to be a cynic to read Stephen Frears' new film as a brazen attempt to piggyback on the runaway success of 1997's Mrs. Brown.

When filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick began research for a 10-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War, they thought they knew the material. After all, Burns was of draft age in 1970, though his draft number was too high for him to be called to serve.

But as they began interviewing subjects and sorting through archival footage, Burns and Novick soon came to appreciate just how complicated the war was. "We went in, both of us, with this kind of arrogance about it, and immediately had that blown out of the water," Burns says. "We realized we knew nothing."

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Bedecked in fondant and flowers, modern wedding cakes are the centerpiece of the marriage feast — an edible form of art. But are they also an expression of free speech?

That is the question the Supreme Court will consider this fall when it hears the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.

"You'd think cake would be apolitical, and yet here we are," muses baker Catherine George of Catherine George Cakes.

In one beautifully observed, quietly absorbing novel after another, Alice McDermott has made the insular world of New York's Irish Catholic immigrants in the first half of the 20th century her own, much as Anne Tyler has laid claim to Baltimore's middle class. And, like Tyler, in focusing tightly on a close-knit community of ordinary people, she leads us to a deeper understanding of the human condition.

Jake LaMotta, the middleweight champion boxer famed for his ferocity in the ring in the 1940s and early '50s, died this week — nearly 40 years after his obituary was written.

That obituary, of course, is Raging Bull.

LaMotta published a memoir of that title in 1970, but it was Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the book, released late in 1980 to critical acclaim and commercial indifference, that became the lasting monument to his life.

In the fictional county of Cotton, Georgia, a pair of twins is born, one white and one black. "They looked like a pair of baby chicks ... Only if you looked closely — and people did — could you see that the girl is pink as a piglet, and the boy was brown." In the summer of 1930, in segregated Georgia, they become a sensation, nicknamed the Gemini twins by the press for Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Leda by different fathers.

Eighteen doughnuts, toasted Brazil nuts, a can of deviled ham, an avocado "pear," and Worcestershire sauce: No, this list doesn't comprise an especially malicious ingredient basket for competitors on the Food Network's Chopped.

Instead, they are the makings for the "Goblin sandwich," a Halloween recipe published in a donut-maker's 1946 cooking pamphlet. The donuts are sliced like bread, and the other ingredients are mixed into a highly seasoned spread.

Many plays have been called "kitchen sink" dramas because of their attempts at realism, but Oh My Sweet Land takes that to the extreme. It uses not just the sink but also the stove, the refrigerator, a chopping board and a very big knife — and it's being performed in kitchens across New York.

There's one extraordinarily beautiful shot in Stronger that helps account for why this inspirational drama, about a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, stands out from other films of its kind. As the city of Boston processes this traumatic event and the manhunt that followed, Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, braces himself for the agony of having the dressing removed from his amputated limbs for the first time.

Fall is when the publishing industry gets serious, when it leaves beach books in the sand and turns to weightier topics. And what could be weightier than the greatest question of all: the meaning of life. Two new books — one a novel; one a (sort of) memoir — tackle that ultimate question through experimental forms of writing.

I know, I know: "Experimental writing" is surely one of the least enticing literary terms. But don't be put off, because both of these odd new books offer something special, something that more "broken in" forms of writing can't provide.

On television, Jerry Seinfeld has not only been astoundingly successful, he's also been amazingly consistent in pursuing and presenting his particular comic vision. He doesn't do big shows or specials about grand ideas and giant themes. He does narrowly focused TV programs about specific concepts — then, within those narrow confines, he finds humor, honesty and sometimes even art.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel thwacked the latest Republican health care proposal Tuesday night after one of the senators sponsoring the bill invoked Kimmel's name.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., touted Tuesday on Capitol Hill that his plan passes the "Jimmy Kimmel test."

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