Arts & Life

Dolly's Dollies

Jan 13, 2017

If you hear, "her life is plastic and it's fantastic!" and immediately think "Barbie," you'll love this game. We took the Dolly Parton song "9-to-5" and rewrote it to be about careers that have been held by an official Barbie doll.

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D-lightful

Jan 13, 2017

All answers in this final round consist of two words, both words starting with D. For example, if we said, "A clue in Jeopardy! where a contestant can wager their entire earnings," you'd answer, "Daily Double."

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Cat Cora: Her Kitchen Rules

Jan 13, 2017

According to celebrity chef Cat Cora, when she became the first female Iron Chef in America, things started to get a little weird. "I got into a winning streak...I would wear the same socks, I'd eat the same breakfast - I mean five almonds on my granola, my two tablespoons ... of yogurt... I measured everything out," she told host Ophira Eisenberg. "You get weird, you get freakin' weird."

Bring Your "Ay" Game

Jan 13, 2017

An-cay ou-yay eak-spay ig-Pay atin-Lay? In this game, clues hint at a word AND its Pig Latin translation. If we said, "Get CLOSE TO THE GROUND to CHEER at a bullfight," you'd answer, "Low... ole," because the Pig Latin translation of the word "LOW" is "OW-LAY."

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How much criticism can a single half-hour episode of television sustain before it gets the ax?

On Friday, we may have gotten our answer: An episode of the British comedy series Urban Myths — which drew widespread complaints for featuring the white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson — has been canceled by Sky TV before it could air.

When I meet Nineb Lamassu at England's Cambridge University, where he's a researcher, he transports us to his Middle Eastern homeland by opening his computer and playing me a recording of a man reciting a poem.

Somewhere between speech and song, the voice is old, a little gruff, rising and falling rhythmically. Even in Aramaic — I don't speak a word of Aramaic — the effect is hypnotic.

We are happy to be joined this week by Gimlet's Brittany Luse, the host of For Colored Nerds and the future host of shows not yet invented! Brittany joins us to talk first about Hidden Figures, the high-performing historical drama about black women working in the space program. We talk about the marvelous cast (including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae), the ways in which such projects inevitably compromise truth with theater, and whether Kevin Costner is all that nice of a guy or all that important to the story.

If you are interested in food stories accompanied by overhead videos showcasing recipes involving just three ingredients, you would be better off reading something else. This is because when preparing dishes to accompany the new Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which premieres Jan. 13, the more complex the recipe, the more you'll identify with the many trials and tribulations of the orphaned Baudelaire children as they try to unravel the mysteries surrounding them.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Mike Sutter, food critic for the San Antonio Express-News, about his "365 days of Tacos" series, in which he eats at a different taco joint every day for a year. He's done it before, in Austin, where he ate more than 1,600 tacos in 2015. But now he's moved to San Antonio, and he's finding that the taco scene there is a bit different, and in fact is tied to a cultural identity that spans back many decades.

When a man vanishes in a Hollywood studio movie, the disappearance is usually the prelude to disclosing a hidden, violent life. But Claire in Motion is an indie domestic drama, so its revelations are less sensational. In fact, they're kind of bland.

Claire (Breaking Bad veteran Betsy Brandt) and Paul (Chris Beetem) are a faculty couple at Ohio University. Their shared surname is Hunger, but Paul is the only one who's been experiencing it.

When Otto and Anna Quangel, a middle-aged couple in early '40s Berlin, receive a letter informing them their only son has died in the Battle of France, they take the news with curious resignation. Otto can't even bring himself to open the envelope, leaving his wife alone to process its contents. Their reaction is somewhere between shock and a grim acceptance of the inevitable, and it stands in sharp contrast to a city buoyed by Nazi victories and nationalist propaganda. They've lost their child and they've lost their country, perhaps long before.

Rummage through the many movies that get dumped into distribution in the run-up to Oscars night and you'll often find, amid all the prestige, cinematic awards-bait, a smaller film that's perfectly fine — not great — yet that tells us something consequential about the culture that produced it. That's 100 Streets, a sour-sweet British drama about a bunch of walking-wounded Londoners crossing paths as they struggle through life-crises we all recognize — a marriage on the skids, a longed-for child, an uphill battle to rise above poverty and petty crime.

The firm of Wahlberg and Berg, LLC is a highly specialized one. Patriots Day, an absorbing and detail-rich account of the terrorist bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the four-day manhunt that followed, marks the third time in three years that director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have collaborated to dramatize recent history. (Deepwater Horizon, their thriller about the 2010 Transocean oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, came out all of four months ago.)

Free speech advocates see President-elect Trumps's testy relationship with the media and his middle-of-the-night tweets reacting to critics as evidence that he is — at best — insensitive to the First Amendment. And they say one recent controversy, the decision by Simon & Schuster to publish a book by social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, has grown out of an atmosphere that encourages hate speech.

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The bustling Paris streets were rutted and caked in thick mud, but there was always a breathtaking sight to behold in the shop windows of Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. By 1814, people crowded outside the bakery, straining for a glimpse of the latest confection created by the young chef who worked inside.

Latin American literature has an excellent tradition of short and creepy novels. The leader of the pack is Juan Rulfo's classic Pedro Páramo, set in a town where everybody is dead, but Rulfo is in good company. Chilean masters José Donoso and Roberto Bolaño wrote breathtaking novellas; so have present-day Mexican stars Valeria Luiselli and Carmen Boullosa. And so has the Argentine short story writer Samanta Schweblin, whose first novel, Fever Dream, is an exceptional example of the short-and-creepy form.

If reading more in 2017 was one of your new year's resolutions, Nancy Pearl is here to help. Every once in a while, the Seattle-based librarian sends host Steve Inskeep a big stack of books. They're generally "under-the-radar" reads — titles she thinks deserve more attention than they've been getting.

This year, the stack includes breathtaking thrillers, a multi-generational crime story, an unforgettable family tale, and more. Pearl tells Inskeep why she loves these novels, and why she thinks you will, too.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Most of us have jobs where we have to behave ourselves. In Joe Buck's job, he gets to yell.

Italy has been described as the world's biggest open-air museum.

And with illegally excavated antiquities, looting of unguarded, centuries-old churches and smuggling of precious artworks, it's also an art theft playground.

But thanks to an elite police squad, Italy is also at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in artworks — believed to be among the world's biggest forms of trafficking and estimated to be worth billions.

Earthy 'Lotus' Is A Fascinating Flower

Jan 11, 2017

"A Newborn Calf Isn't Afraid of Tigers" is a typical chapter title in Lotus, Lijia Zhang's compelling debut novel. Readers will find the entire text rich in Chinese proverbs, as well as folk wisdom of a more prosaic variety.

“Mr. X and Mr. Y”

Author: Donald Brown  

Publisher: Borgo Publishing

Pages: 122

Price: $20.00 (Paper)

In June of 1959 Donald Brown, 23 years old, recently graduated from Birmingham Southern College, was a cub reporter for the “Birmingham News.” When a report came in that two armless, legless torsos had been found in two different counties in northeast Alabama, the city editor sent Brown to cover the story.

The two torsos will be, for a time, known as Mr. X. and Mr. Y.

“Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards”

Author: Wade Hall with Nancy B. DuPree and Christopher Sawula

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 224

Price: $24.95 (Trade Paper)

"Homegoing" By: Yaa Gyasi

Jan 10, 2017

“Homegoing”

Author: Yaa Gyasi  

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf,

Pages: 300

Price: $ 26.95 (Hardcover)

The author of this debut novel is Yaa Gyasi— pronounced “Jessie.”

Born in Ghana, Gyasi was brought by her parents to the United States at the age of two. After stops in Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee, they settled in Huntsville, Alabama when she was ten, her father becoming a teacher of French at UAH. Gyasi is, then, an African immigrant, not an African-American, a difference which is brought out in the novel.

"The Whole Town's Talking" By: Fannie Flagg

Jan 10, 2017

“The Whole Town’s Talking”

Author: Fannie Flagg  

Publisher: Random House

New York

2016

Pages: 402

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Fannie Flagg’s novels are usually somewhat sweet, and, as they say, heart-warming stories of ordinary people going about their lives in small town America. One does not find or expect overt violence or sexuality. The novels are hugely successful and, even if most people don’t realize it, the road to mass popularity and wealth in America is “Everybody Loves Raymond,” not Lennie Bruce or Chris Rock talking blue.

“El Paso: A Novel”

Author: Winston Groom  

Publisher: Liveright: a Division of W. W. Norton

New York

2016

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Pages: 477

After publishing 7 novels, including the mega-hit “Forrest Gump” in 1986, Groom left off writing novels and turned to nonfiction. He has published 10 works of history, mainly on military subjects, from the Civil War battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg to WWI fighting in Flanders to the darkest period of WWII, the year 1942.

“H is for Hawk”

Author: Helen Macdonald 

Publisher: Grove Press

Pages: 283

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

“H is for Hawk” has come to my attention because it has already won prizes in Britain and was a “New York Times” bestseller in spite of being nearly unclassifiable by genre.

“Freedom of the Mask”

By Robert McCammon           

Subterranean Press

Burton, MI

2016

$ 26.95 (Deluxe hardcover Edition)

530 pp.

After a series of highly successful novels in the horror genre, Robert McCammon switched to a series of historical murder mysteries, set in the years around 1700.

In the first Matthew Corbett novel, “Speaks the Nightbird,” Corbett, a magistrate’s assistant, investigates charges of witchcraft in Fount Royal, South Carolina.

The novel Lucky Boy focuses on two women and two very different pictures of immigration. In one story, 18-year-old Soli enters the U.S. from Mexico without papers. In the other, an Indian-American woman named Kavya is struggling to have a baby with her husband, who works in Silicon Valley. Their stories converge around a baby, the "lucky boy" of the book's title.

What Is Driving The 'Unbanking Of America'?

Jan 10, 2017

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