Arts & Life

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's a perennial story: An older student returns to the classroom education he'd long set aside, finally finishing his studies and graduating years later. Typically, that story includes detours like service in war or a family tragedy.

If you think your job is painful, try spending a workday with Justin Schmidt.

Schmidt is an entomologist who focuses on a group of insects called Hymenoptera — we know them as stinging ants, wasps and bees.

Schmidt has traveled all over the world looking for bugs ... and getting stung by them. The result of his work is an alarmingly comprehensive pain index, ranking 83 insect stings on a spectrum of 1 to 4.

The legal case over transgender rights hinges on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. But the word "sex" wasn't always going to be part of the bill. And "sex" — which, at the time was meant to mean gender — was not on that list when the bill came to the House.

If you're reading this section of the site, there's a better than good chance that at one time, you've read a book that changed your life. For literature lovers, that's not hyperbole — occasionally, books have a way of finding you when you most need them; they really can alter the way you look at things, the course of your life. It can feel a lot like magic.

Known for freeways more than forests, Los Angeles isn't the first place one thinks of when it comes to foraging for food in the wilderness. But for Pascal Baudar, the city is a treasure trove of hundreds of varieties of wild plants and insects that he uses in unusual culinary creations.

Ah, the cardigan: your granny's cozy go-to used to be available year-round, but in limited quantities and colors. It was considered the sartorial equivalent of flossing: necessary, but not glamorous.

"The cardigan used to be something to keep you warm in the work place," explains Teri Agins, who covered the fashion industry for the Wall Street Journal for years. "It was not really an accessory you left on—unless you wore it as part of a twin set."

That look, sweater upon sweater, was considered too prim for a lot of young women. It was their mother's look.

We're taping the show in Providence this week, and we can't help but notice — Rhode Island isn't actually an island. So we've invited the state's first female governor, Gina Raimondo, to answer three questions about real islands.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pet Transformation

May 14, 2016
eileen (outlier) [Flickr]

Great pets aren't so much born as they are made.  They become great pets because they have owners who love them, take care of them and spend time with them.  Almost any dog or cat can be a great pet, given the chance.

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On the second floor of an old Bavarian palace in Munich, Germany, there's a library with high ceilings, a distinctly bookish smell and one of the world's most extensive collections of Latin texts. About 20 researchers from all over the world work in small offices around the room.

They're laboring on a comprehensive Latin dictionary that's been in progress since 1894. The most recently published volume contained all the words beginning with the letter P. That was back in 2010.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Not long after publishing his first book, London designer Thomas Thwaites found himself with no real job and in relationship trouble. His book, The Toaster Project — about his attempt to build a toaster from scratch — was a huge success, but he found the whole business of being a celebrity thinker a hard act to follow.

To be human is to worry about getting by, doing better, finding love and accepting the march of mortality. Thwaites decided to try to escape the burden of being human — and he would do it by becoming a goat.

In a telling 2014 interview, Alejandro Jodorowsky opens up about — among other things — losing his son ("It destroyed me") and the healing power of art. "If I cannot heal my son who died," he says, "I will heal the other son. My goal for art now is to heal." One gets the feeling that, through his many books and films, a vision of healing has always been part of the plan.

Dating is plenty complicated as things stand. But suppose romance came with deadlines, and a penalty for not meeting them. That's the dilemma Colin Farrell faces in filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' latest weirdness. The maker of Dogtooth, which takes home schooling to comically absurd extremes, and Alps, which does much the same for the process of grieving, is tackling notions of romance in The Lobster, and let's just say that rom-coms don't come much stranger.

Here's a minor philosophical puzzle to ponder this Friday: The "see no evil," "hear no evil" and "speak no evil" monkey emojis.

One monkey, three faces? Or three monkeys, each making a different face?

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

The writer-director Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship is an improvement on its source, Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan.

That's not quite as heretical as it sounds. Austen wrote the book early in her career, before Pride and Prejudice. It wasn't published in her lifetime. The title isn't even hers — it didn't have one.

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

This week's show finds Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon and Gene Demby (Gene Demby, that is, of NPR's coming-soon Code Switch podcast, and this is where I would insert a praise-hands emoji if we did that in blog posts around here) chatting about Captain America: Civil War. They talk about the action, the Bucky situation, the Tony situation, the kissing, and much, much more.

This weekend, the Italian city of Naples wants the world to know that it is the heart and soul of pizza. And to prove it, 100 chefs are teaming up for 11 hours to make the planet's longest pizza – 2 kilometers, to be exact.

"Pizza was born in Naples," says Alessandro Marinacci, who helped organize the smackdown with Caputo flour, "but the record was made in Milan." Last year, Milan's pizza clocked in at just over 1.5 kilometers.

Jodie Foster has entertained audiences on screen for decades, but more recently, she's been behind the camera, directing. And in her newest film, Money Monster, it's a behind-the-scenes character who gets to call the shots.

George Clooney plays financial guru Lee Gates, who dishes out stock market tips and money advice on his hit TV show. It's business as usual until an intruder arrives on set and takes Gates hostage during a live broadcast. From that point on, it's his longtime producer Patty Fenn — played by Julia Roberts — who's really in charge.

In an achingly lovely scene in Terence Davies' 1992 film The Long Day Closes, a little boy rests his elbows on a windowsill and gazes out at the rain slanting past his cramped tenement house in England's industrial North. It's the 1950s, and on the soundtrack is Debbie Reynolds' honeyed "Tammy." To those of us who grew up in dreary post-War Britain (I remember that time in monochrome), the relentless grey of that scene, set off by the pop promise of a Golden Elsewhere, takes the measure of both our days and our yearnings for relief.

The financial legerdemain lampooned in The Big Short was designed to be opaque and arcane — so much so that even the supposed experts didn't really know what they were doing. The scenario of Money Monster is much simpler, which is both a strength and a weakness. The movie is easier to understand, but that's because, as with so many Hollywood conspiracy thrillers, the big payoff is actually pretty small.

Some of the best films about Christianity don't treat the Gospel as, well, gospel. The filmmakers don't view the act of moviegoing as a pilgrimage only for the devout to undertake, nor do they allow theological rigor (an expectation that biblical entertainment must adhere as closely as possible to the source material) to overtake the more necessary task of telling an engaging narrative.

J.G. Ballard's classic 1975 science-fiction novel High-Rise is a caustic vision of modernity gone awry, witnessing a high-tech utopia of domestic convenience undone by class conflict. Located on the outskirts of London, the building of the title has 40 floors, and its amenities — a grocery store, a swimming pool and gym, high-speed elevators, and even its own primary school — discourage residents from ever leaving the premises. In other words, it's a self-contained vertical society, with the wealthy elites occupying the top floors and the cash-strapped plebeians toward the bottom.

Sometimes a career in television is launched seemingly out of nowhere. That's how it was for Gary Cole. The actor currently appears in the HBO series Veep, but his first major TV role was in the 1984 miniseries called Fatal Vision.

Cole tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that landing the part in Fatal Vision when he was 27 was "very fluke-ish." He estimates that he got the role only after eight other actors turned it down, adding, "It was all like a dream. It didn't make any sense to me, how I got there, but sometimes that's the way that it goes."

Growing up, cartoonist Daniel Clowes liked to draw, but he never thought he'd make much of a career out of it. "I was expecting to work for Cracked magazine for four years, and then try to get work putting up aluminum siding or something, doing my prison drawings while I was down for a DUI," he jokes to Fresh Air's Sam Briger.

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