Arts & Life

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are fighting. The young Los Angeles couple bickers long and loud in unprintable expletives about dirty dishes, interfering mothers, his laziness, her incessant judgments and, of course, sex (not enough) in their shaky 10-year marriage. Band Aid is a comedy, and though the jokes are out-there funny on and off (a toddler named Isis has a cameo), half an hour in you may wish this quarrelsome pair would take it outside.

You know what a performative utterance is, even if you've never heard the term before. "I now pronounce you" at a wedding is one; "I christen this ship" is another. Performative utterance carries a particular power — it's the thing you want to make true.

And performative utterance is at the heart of Brittney C. Cooper's Beyond Respectability, which profiles several black feminist intellectuals who not only fought against the idea of "respectability" as a prerequisite for being heard, but against the tendency of white feminists and black men to erase their contributions.

Princess Diana of Themyscira was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, brought to life by Aphrodite and bequeathed her superhuman powers by the Greek gods. Over the 75 years she has been kept off the big screen, her fitful appearances on the small screen, most notably in the Lynda Carter TV series and on animated shows like Super Friends and Justice League, have made it easy to forget that Wonder Woman is not one of us.

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The poet Tess Taylor left her home in California last winter to spend this semester teaching in Northern Ireland. She says she's felt poetry come to life and is learning about the value of place.

On a sidewalk in the Village in downtown Manhattan, an African-American woman leans on her elbows and knees, wearing only black underpants. Scrawled in black marker all over her body are the words "Ain't I a Woman?"

Across the street, another woman lies face down, sunbathing on a large sheet of tinfoil. The sentence "White Supremacy Is Terrorism" is inked across her white skin, which is turning pink under the hot sun.

Nearby, a young, black man is kneeling. His body is wrapped in duct tape inscribed with the phrase "Black People Die in Public."

It all started when a director and producer from a tiny theater in Portland, Ore., posted a message on Facebook; he was outraged that the Edward Albee estate wouldn't grant him rights to produce Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? because he'd cast a black actor in one of the roles. His post went viral, and a firestorm ensued.

Humorist David Sedaris admits that his latest work, Theft by Finding, isn't exactly the book he set out to publish. It was originally meant to be a collection of funny diary entries, but then Sedaris' editor had a suggestion that changed its course.

"My editor said, 'Why don't you go back to the very beginning and find things that aren't necessarily funny and put those in as well?' " Sedaris says. "Soon those [entries] outweighed the funny ones, and the funny ones seemed almost over-produced, so I got rid of a lot of them."

Howard Scott Warshaw has had many gigs over the years, but perhaps his most notable achievement was also a spectacular failure:

"I did the E.T. video game, the game that is widely held to be the worst video game of all time," he says.

John Scalzi's newest book, The Dispatcher, is a strange one.

And I don't mean the book itself, though it has its own streak of oddity alive in its pages. I mean the book as metaphysical object — book as BOOK, as story and voice and concept and conceit. It's strange because, for starters, it's a backwards kind of book, done first for Audible, the audio book people, and therefore written with an ear toward performance. It is a physical book only as an afterthought, arriving on the shelves months after it appeared on people's phones.

One night in December of 1993, I stood in a frost-bound churchyard in Wolvercote, near Oxford. The tombstone in front of me bore the names of Edith Mary Tolkien and her husband John Ronald, but underneath each name was another: "Lúthien" and "Beren."

Young Tolkien had fallen in love with Edith when he was 16 and she 19, but his guardian disapproved (both he and Edith were orphans). They finally married when Tolkien was 24 — just a few months before he was deployed to the Somme.

France's ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, is a fan of 19th-century French painter Frédéric Bazille. But I had a confession to make when I spoke with him about the National Gallery's "Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism" exhibition. I said that I usually walk right past Bazille's paintings and go straight to the impressionists — and I assume I'm not the only one who does that.

There are museums, and then there are "wonderfully specific museums."

For nearly 40 years, Little Pete's was more than just a greasy spoon. It became a landmark and the pride of Philadelphia. Now the city is mourning the loss of one of its last all-night downtown diners.

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The controversial Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" dramatizes a teen's suicide.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

KATHERINE LANGFORD: (As Hannah Baker) Hey, it's Hannah. Hannah Baker.

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At the University of Wisconsin, some students are blending art and science to create hotels that might save disappearing insects. Susan Bence of member station WUWM explains.

For a few hours Monday, the bitter face-off between a bull and a girl in New York City got a curious, four-legged interloper: a tiny pug, with one of those legs suggestively raised beside the girl's leg. There was no urine, no caustic caption, but it was clear where the dog's disdain was directed.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has the distinction of being the only former Saturday Night Live cast member to serve in the U.S. Senate. It's a singular career trajectory, but it's also not particularly surprising given Franken's deep interest in politics and comedy.

In 'Boundless,' The Modern World Is Timeless

May 30, 2017

It's risky to incorporate fads into your fiction. It can be a lot like planting a delicate spring garden next to a busy sidewalk. At first the commuters, skateboarders and dog joggers marvel at the blooms, but soon the garden becomes a familiar sight — "NBD." By the time July rolls around, nobody cares that the blistering summer heat has shriveled the fragile flowers. It's all very depressing.

Samin Nosrat has become known as the chef who taught Michael Pollan to cook, after the famed food writer featured her in his book Cooked and his Netflix show of the same name.

Now, she's sharing her wisdom with the masses in her new, illustrated cookbook called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. The key to good cooking, she says, is learning to balance those elements and trust your instincts, rather than just follow recipes.

'Descent' Is A Witty Manifesto On Modern Manhood

May 30, 2017

Grayson Perry isn't widely known in America, but in his native England, he's a cultural luminary. After beginning his career as an artist specializing in ceramics in the early '80s, he spun off into other media, appearing regularly on British TV screens as the subject and — or host of — programs such as Why Men Wear Frocks and All Man.

Senate confirmation hearings aren't known for their viral moments.

But Sen. Al Franken seems to have a knack for creating them.

At hearing after hearing this year, some of the most newsy and memorable quotes came when the Minnesota Democrat was asking questions.

On a November night in 1986, a crowd gathered in Las Vegas for an event that was hyped as "Judgement Day." Muhammad Ali was there, along with celebrities Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy and Rob Lowe. (Hey, it was the '80s.) At the center of it all was a boxing ring with a referee and two fighters: Mike Tyson and Trevor Berbick.

For families spread out across the country, videos and video chats have become a meaningful way to share a baby's first steps, a birthday party or a loved one blowing a kiss.

But for people in prison, rules limiting access to the Internet and cameras can make sharing these moments difficult. In Colorado Springs, an artist came up with a creative solution.

Like many proud parents, Nicole Garrens captured her son Zander's first steps on her cellphone. She wanted to share the video with her husband, Roy, but he recently went to prison in Texas.

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(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) Mr. Clean will clean your whole house and everything's that in it.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Hers was a Pulitzer in poetry, specifically for a volume titled Annie Allen that chronicled the life of an ordinary black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's famous South Side.

Brooks was in her living room when she learned she had won, she recalled in a Library of Congress interview, and it was growing dark. She didn't turn on the lights, because she knew what would happen. Money was tight, and the bill hadn't been paid.

I think there are two things that unite horse people above all else: love of a complex animal, and a deep appreciation for story. Literature and history are littered with stories of horses, from the great Bucephalus to Black Beauty to Secretariat. And even closer to home, on ranches and in stables, on breeding farms and hobby farms, smaller, more intimate stories spread and linger — an old gelding who liked things just so, a hot-blooded young mare who could only be ridden by children, a first pony, the one that got away, the one that broke your heart. Horse people tell stories.

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