Arts & Life

One way you know it's August at the multiplex is that the many unextraordinary virtues of the thoughtful crime drama Hell or High Water — a plot that kicks off in the first scene instead of the fourth or fifteenth; "heroes" and "villains" equally deserving of our empathy, and who come into focus through behavior rather than dialogue; a palpable sense of place; basic A-leads-to-B-causing-C narrative competence — make it feel like the pinnacle of cinematic artistry.

The economics of remakes tend to run counter to creative value: Studios eager to cash in on existing properties choose to revive their most beloved titles, which generally condemns remakes to be a pale shadow of established classics. It also handcuffs filmmakers significantly, because they can't paint too far outside the lines or risk alienating fans of the original. The ideal remake would take a flawed film with a strong premise and build something completely new and inspired around it.

After decades in which diversity of roles — and accents — seemed to guide her career, Meryl Streep has come to specialize in silver-haired divas. Since 2005, she's played a cookbook maven, a fashion magazine editor, and a British prime minister. Now, in Florence Foster Jenkins, she plays a real-life diva, albeit one who couldn't sing.

That doesn't seem to have fazed Jenkins and, of course, it doesn't fluster Streep. Coq au vin, Paris fashion week, the Falklands War, Mozart — she can handle them all, and at roughly the same pitch.

Japan is home to many local festivals, but some of the best known are the ones in which men run and jump around nearly naked — not for dirty reasons, but for ancient religious ones.

The hadaka matsuri or "naked festival" dates back centuries in Japan. Men perform in traditional fundoshi (loincloth) to purify themselves before gods, to bring luck and prosperity or to welcome new seasons.

There are waves and there are bubbles. In previous installations of Hip Hop Family Tree, his history of hip hop culture told through comics, Ed Piskor charted waves and the eddies that would build into waves. He depicted Grandmaster Flash's discovery of a beat box, Fab Five Freddy's epochal ad-lib on "Change the Beat," and the earliest roots of the L.A. scene. He told the story behind such key works as Whodini's Whodini, Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and Run DMC's "Rock Box" video.

Sam Esmail, creator of the TV show Mr. Robot, learned the hard way that hacking isn't easy. Years ago, he made the "really ill-advised decision" to hack his girlfriend's college campus email, from his job at an NYU computer lab.

"I easily got busted ..." he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "They traced it back to that IP address and I got fired and put on academic probation and that was the end of my hacker days."

Jacqueline Woodson has been writing books for children and young adults for most of her career. After winning the National Book Award for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, she decided she wanted to do something she hadn't done in 20 years — write a book for adults. Her new novel, Another Brooklyn, is about friendship and memory and coming to terms with death.

Meryl Streep works hard to sing badly in her new film, Florence Foster Jenkins. In it, she plays the title character, based on an actual heiress and socialite born in 1868, who devoted her life to music — despite the fact that she had a squeaky, screechy singing voice.

'Playing Dead' Teaches You How To Disappear

Aug 10, 2016

"To become invisible is to cast yourself as both the villain and the hero of your story."

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A few years ago, writer Elizabeth Greenwood went on a trip to the Philippines where, on the afternoon of July 7, 2013, she died. "My death certificate indicates that I perished in a car crash," she tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

Clearly, Greenwood didn't actually die, but she did spend a lot of time researching how to make the world believe she did. Faking your own death, or pseudocide, is the subject of her new book, Playing Dead: A Journey Through The World of Death Fraud.

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Novelist Angela Flournoy recently said, "I think it's an undue burden for the writer of color that's just trying to get people to care about their book as much as other people's books, to then also be the one to have the answers."

A friend reported gleefully that his small daughter had asked him, "What's the difference between litter and literature anyway, Dad?" He knew I'd relish both her question and his answer: "Sometimes, alas, not all that much."

I'll bet Amy Krouse Rosenthal would enjoy the partial homonym, if not the distinction. The author of more than 30 children's picture books, she loves wordplay. Her latest book for grownups, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, makes clear that she is on a mission to extend the playfulness of kid lit to adults.

It's hard to blame the hero of Dr. Seuss' famous Green Eggs and Ham — which turns 56 this month — for being suspicious of the title dish. The illustrated lump of green meat and two eggs with alien yolks would look off-putting to the most adventurous eaters. Yet decades after Theodor Geisel's beloved children's book was first published, chefs across the United States are tickled by the idea of putting the infamous dish on their menus.

Would you eat it with some kale? Would the thought turn diners pale?

Editor's note: This review contains language some may find offensive

In Paris, a really old dress has sold for more than $150,000. Now, if that sounds like an unreasonably high price tag, keep this in mind: The 1730s dress is in mint condition, it might have been worn at Versailles, and it was part of a fashion revolution.

Known as a robe volante — or flying dress — the long, luscious yellow brocade gown is patterned with silver thread. It's loose-cut, with soft pleats in the rear, a deep V in front and graceful flow-y sleeves.

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When author Colson Whitehead first heard about the Underground Railroad as a child he imagined a subway beneath the earth that escaped slaves could ride to freedom. He tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that when he found out that it was not a literal train, he felt "a bit upset."

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In 1962, a Syrian-born Hollywood filmmaker named Moustapha Akkad watched the epic film Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean. Akkad was riveted as he watched a scene in which actor Omar Sharif emerges from the sands like a wraith on horseback — an Arab screen hero.

With Hillary Clinton having made history last month by becoming the first female presidential nominee, could it be that today's gender roles are not as egalitarian as we think?

Irina Reyn's new novel, The Imperial Wife, raises such questions. The dual-narrative follows the marriages of two ambitious women immigrants: one, a rising Russian art expert in a high-end Manhattan auction house set in the present day; the other, a young Catherine the Great in imperial Russia.

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For most of us, a road trip is a fun summer adventure — a time away from work, gorging yourself on gas station junk food, listening to audiobooks and your favorite songs.

But the situation is different when being on the road isn't your vacation, but actually part of your livelihood. Subsisting on fast food and sleeping at hotels isn't healthy or economical when you're doing it more often than not.

Many musicians spend their lives on the road. And the ones who want to stay healthy and keep their wallets intact have developed some tricks of the trade.

Actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key was a star performer with the improv comedy troupe Second City before he gained fame on MAD TV and then in the hit show Key & Peele. In 2015 he appeared alongside President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner in the role of "Presidential Anger Translator." He's now starring in Don't Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia's new movie about the improv comedy scene.

American Humane Association

 The 2016 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways.  Dogs are nominated in one of eight categories:  Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement Dogs, Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs. 

The Law Enforcement Dog category includes what we often think of as police dogs, animals specially trained to patrol, search buildings, track criminals, and to detect drugs, narcotics and explosive devices. 

The Arson Dog category includes animals trained to sniff out accelerants that may have been used to start a fire.  Every year hundreds of lives (and billions of dollars in property) are lost as a result of fires that were set intentionally.  The dog works with a handler who is a law enforcement officer trained to investigate fire scenes.

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In September 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn. It was an iconic moment — two mortal enemies had come to terms on a historic peace agreement.

That agreement was forged during months of secret back-channel talks in Norway. A new off-Broadway play, OSLO, looks at this little-known part of the peace process.

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