Arts & Life

The Rocky Horror Show began as a stage musical in London in the early 1970s, starring Tim Curry as the outrageously dressed outer-space alien Frank N. Furter, self-described as a "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania." Richard O'Brien, the composer of the play and its music, played Frank's hunchbacked assistant, Riff Raff — and the two of them repeated their roles in a 1975 movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Dorothy's ruby slippers could use a little more magic these days — or at least some preservationist TLC.

The famous shoes from The Wizard of Oz are among the most popular items on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. But they're showing their age, and the museum is asking the public to pitch in to help keep the shoes intact for decades to come.

In 'IQ,' A Sherlock For South Central

Oct 20, 2016

We have so many Sherlocks these days.

Books, multiple TV shows, movies — the world (particularly the modern world) is so rich with touchy, cold, brilliant consulting detectives that it's a wonder there are any crimes left for the police to solve. I mean, with such a profusion of Holmeses running around, why would anyone bother calling 911?

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Filmmaker Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell McCraney grew up just blocks away from each other in the same housing project in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. They went to the same elementary school at the same time, but they did not meet until they were adults, when Jenkins contacted McCraney about adapting his play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, to the screen.

You think you've read every permutation of a World War II novel possible — then along comes a Venetian fisherman and his unlikely first mate, a beautiful Jewish teenaged girl on the run from the last few Nazis occupying Italy. Venerable author Martin Cruz Smith has chosen, in The Girl from Venice, to put aside his usual spy stories (e.g. Gorky Park and Three Stations) for a straightforward wartime chase-cum-romance, a slice of La Serenissima life so perfectly researched that details melt into action like the local goby fish into risotto.

I need a moment away from unceasing word drip of debates about the election, about whether Elena Ferrante has the right to privacy, about whether Bob Dylan writes "Literature." I need a moment, more than a moment, in the steady and profound company of Mary Oliver and I think you might need one too.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Is Francine Prose just monkeying around? Is she taking a comic break after the much weightier exploration of creeping xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and right-wing proto-fascism in her last novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932?

Mister Monkey, her 22nd book of fiction, is a dark comedy about the mainly sad, disappointing lives of everyone involved in a woeful way-off-Broadway revival of a painfully bad musical based on a made-up classic children's book called Mister Monkey — itself an unlikely success — written by a Vietnam veteran.

What Best in Show did for dog shows and what A Mighty Wind did for folk music, the new mockumentary Mascots does for, well, mascots. The film, from director Christopher Guest, follows contestants in the World Mascot Association Championship.

If you feel like Internet ads are more pervasive and invasive than ever before, you're not alone. Author Tim Wu tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that the Web has gotten worse over the years, not better — and unrelenting ads are to blame.

"I think you spend 50 percent of your mental energy trying to defeat ad systems," Wu says. "It's amazing that we've got this great scientific invention, the Web and the Internet, and then it has come to the point where using it reminds me of swatting mosquitoes."

"Do you know how many words there are in 80 minutes?" asks actress Kathleen Turner. "My god!"

Turner is referring to The Year of Magical Thinking, a play based on Joan Didion's 2005 memoir. The book was written while Didion's daughter was in a deep coma, and after her husband of 40 years suffered a fatal heart attack. In her role as Didion, Turner is the only one on stage. "It's very lonely," she says.

One late December day in 1950, Max Beckmann was standing on a street corner near Central Park in New York City. The German expressionist painter had been on his way to see an exhibition featuring his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Called "American Painting Today," the show was displaying his Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket.

It would turn out to be his last self-portrait.

"No man is an island, entire of itself," John Donne famously reassured us in 1623, the same year Shakespeare's The Tempest was published in the First Folio. But "isolate" and "island" come from the same Latin root, and the truth is that we make our own islands where we daily maroon ourselves.

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Pets in the Storm

Oct 15, 2016
American Humane Association [Facebook]

If you wonder how you can help the pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the answer is to make a donation to one of the many organizations that are working in the storm area.    And consider adopting a pet.  Every animal that is adopted from a shelter or rescue group makes room and gives another animal a chance to be adopted!


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In Philip Roth's acclaimed novel American Pastoral, Miss New Jersey and Mr. Former High School Football star get married, have a beautiful daughter, a lovely house in the country, and a peaceful, blessed, life. But then the 1960's strike, and their little girl, outraged by the war in Vietnam, becomes a bomber.

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. His selection was surprising. He is the first artist to receive the award for a body of work that is almost entirely songs. But while there were critics, there was also a lot of acclaim, even from outstanding longtime novelists, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and Salman Rushdie, who called Mr. Dylan, "the brilliant inheritor of the Bardic tradition."

Remember for a moment the days of your youth. Before you were a reader of Serious Literature. Before you cared about the big questions and thematic duality, Pynchon's latest or the spectacular weirdness of China Mieville. Bring to mind a simpler time when books existed either as pure, picture-heavy entertainment or (depending on your age) as a vehicle for Dick and Jane to teach you about manners or Ninja Turtles to school you on good oral hygiene.

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The tragedy was local, yet seemed to speak to the whole of journalism: On July 15, 1974, reporter Christine Chubbuck pulled out a revolver during a live evening newscast in Sarasota Florida, and as her coworkers looking on in horror, shot herself in the head.

The what was simple, the why hard to fathom, and that's no less true in Antonio Campos' compelling retelling of the tale in his biopic Christine.

Steel, Talking Heads, Or Wrestlemania?

Oct 14, 2016

In this edition of This, That, or the Other, contestants must decide: is it a Danielle Steel novel, a Talking Heads song, or a Wrestlemania tagline?

Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down

Knowledge By Nature

Oct 14, 2016

In honor of the song "O-P-P" by "Naughty By Nature" being over 25 years old, every answer is three letters that rhyme with O-P-P. For example, if we said, "You down with a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich?" you'd answer, "You down with B-L-T?" Yeah, you know us!

Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down

I Just Play One On Television

Oct 14, 2016

In this final round, Puzzle Guru Art Chung asks the final contestants to identify the occupations of famous TV characters. For example, "Tony Soprano, from The Sopranos," would be "mob boss."

Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down

David Harbour: 20-Sided Quiz

Oct 14, 2016

Actor David Harbour has had a long career. From theater (The Rainmaker, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), to TV (Law & Order, The Newsroom) and film (The Equalizer, Brokeback Mountain)--he's done it all. But he's never received the attention he's had since playing Police Chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix series Stranger Things. "God yeah, I've really done so much work and no one's cared," Harbour told host Ophira Eisenberg.

To All The Ghouls I've Loved Before

Oct 14, 2016

Jonathan Coulton parodies game the kinda creepy Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias song "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" to be about famous monsters.

Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down

Even though Javier Muñoz was Lin Manuel Miranda's alternate in Miranda's first Broadway musical, In the Heights, he still had to audition for Hamilton. Twice. Flash forward to Muñoz's first performance as Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway production, which President Obama attended. "No pressure!" he told host Ophira Eisenberg. "I was surprised that I just wasn't nervous. I was so excited to do it. It was one of the three times Lin got to see the show so that was the most important thing to me...I believe he was a row or two in front of the President."

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Tower is an animated documentary that tells the story of a massacre that happened 50 years ago and was a historic first: A man with no record of violence shot at people at random for no logical reason.

It was Aug. 1, 1966, in the middle of a 100-degree day at the University of Texas at Austin. The shots came from the clock tower at the center of the campus. A woman eight months pregnant was the first to fall, soon to be followed by her boyfriend and a boy delivering newspapers on his bicycle. It's not the usual subject for a cartoon.