Arts & Life

Book Reviews
1:32 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

Gangsters, Goons And 'Grievous Bodily Harm' In Ted Lewis' London

Ted Lewis' gritty storytelling takes readers inside London's seedier quarters.
Soho Press

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 4:29 pm

In his famous essay, "The Simple Art of Murder," Raymond Chandler put down the classic British mystery, making fun of its arcane killings and hokey air of gentility. He preferred the tough American style and praised Dashiell Hammett for, as he put it, taking murder out of the vicar's rose garden and dropping it in the alley where it belonged.

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Television
1:32 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

'Mad Men' Creator On Don Draper's Losses And The End Of The Road

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) faces personal and professional upheaval in the final season of Mad Men.
Justina Mintz AMC

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 4:08 pm

Editor's note: This conversation discusses plot points from the seventh season of Mad Men.

With just two episodes to go until the AMC series Mad Men wraps for good, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the series protagonist, seems to have nothing left — no Sterling Cooper ad agency, no apartment, no wife, no lover and no family life.

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Monkey See
12:25 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

'I Am Big Bird' Finds An Artist Under The Feathers

An archival photo of Caroll Spinney at work.
Courtesy of Robert Furhing

The film I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, which focuses on the life of puppeteer Spinney, avoids a few common pitfalls in the biographical documentary. It doesn't occupy its entire running time with people saying how amazing Spinney is or with testimonials to the importance of his work. It doesn't return to the same analyses of the effects of Sesame Street on children that have been offered a million times before. It doesn't explain over and over how puppeteers merge with their characters.

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Book Reviews
9:03 am
Thu May 7, 2015

Flexible, Fluid 'Revision' Bounces From Rom-Com To Sci-Fi

Courtesy of Fireside Fiction Company

One of my earliest experiences of how astonishing a tool is Twitter came several years ago, when, seeing Californians tweeting about an earthquake, I texted my best friend in canyon country to ask if she'd felt the earthquake where she was. She said no — and then freaked out as the tremors reached her a few minutes later. The internet was literally faster than the quake.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Thu May 7, 2015

'The Argonauts' Is A Voyage Through Parenting, Partnership And Transition

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 11:41 am

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is, on one level, a memoir about Nelson's pregnancy with her first child, Iggy, and her partner Harry's concurrent female-to-male "transition." (The quotation marks are borrowed from Nelson, who at one point wonders "how to explain ... that for some, 'transitioning' may mean leaving one gender entirely behind, while for others — like Harry, who is happy to identify as a butch on T [testosterone] — it doesn't?")

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The Salt
1:27 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Puerto Rico Is Sowing A New Generation Of Small Farmers

Dalma Cartagena teaches a class on agricultural science to elementary-school students in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. "I'm preparing them to make good decisions when it comes to the environment and healthy foods," she says.
Greg Allen NPR

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 6:55 pm

Although it's a tropical island, perhaps surprisingly, Puerto Rico produces very little of its own food. After decades of industrialization, the U.S. territory imports more than 80 percent of what's consumed on the island. There are signs, though, the trend is changing.

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Television
12:34 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Meet The Power Couple Behind 'The Good Wife'

Julianna Marguiles plays attorney Alicia Florrick in the CBS drama The Good Wife.
CBS

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 8:31 am

The CBS drama series The Good Wife explores the behind-closed-doors drama of a smart female lawyer who stands by, silently supportive, as her husband admits to scandals both political and extramarital. Robert and Michelle King, the real-life husband and wife team who created the show, say that when it came to creating the series' main character, it was a question of art imitating life.

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Television
11:49 am
Wed May 6, 2015

The Allure Of Gore: 'Walking Dead' Producer On Zombies And Mean Tweets

Andrew Lincoln plays Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead.
Frank Ockenfels 3 AMC

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 8:31 am

The AMC series The Walking Dead, about a band of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, is known for killing off characters without much warning. But while the show's sudden plot twists keep viewers engaged, they can also create explosions of fan grief and rage on social media. Much of the audience's ire has landed on Scott M. Gimple, the series' executive producer and this season's showrunner.

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Monkey See
10:01 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Amy Schumer Puts Her Own Looks On Trial

Front row (from left): Chris Gethard, Nick DiPaolo, Vincent Kartheiser. Back row (from left): Henry Zebrowski, Paul Giamatti.
Comedy Central

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 12:59 pm

On the fantastic advice podcast Judge John Hodgman, one of the things Hodgman always says in getting litigants to relay their stories is that "specificity is the soul of narrative." Specificity is also the soul of parody, as we saw Tuesday night on Inside Amy Schumer.

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Book Reviews
9:03 am
Wed May 6, 2015

In 'Subprimes,' Swiftian Satire Hits Close To Home

Courtesy of Harper

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 10:56 am

In his new novel, The Subprimes, Karl Taro Greenfeld charges in where most of us would fear to tread. Carol Burnett could have warned him. "It's almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington," she once said, but Greenfeld tries his darnedest. He wants to skewer a certain political mindset, and he goes at it with anger, wicked humor and verve.

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Book Reviews
6:09 am
Wed May 6, 2015

After 'Life,' 'A God In Ruins' Picks Up The Epic Tale Of The Todds

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 9:38 am

The moment in Kate Atkinson's A God In Ruins when protagonist Teddy Todd lies to his granddaughter about an old photograph isn't a grand climax. It happens in passing, in half a sentence: She asks about the stain on an image of Teddy and his long-dead wife Nancy. It's actually the blood of one of his World War II air crew, who died in his arms after their plane was shot down. But Teddy claims it's tea, "not because she wouldn't have been interested but because it was a private thing."

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The Two-Way
4:34 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

Edison's Talking Dolls Can Now Provide The Soundtrack To Your Nightmares

Thomas Edison's talking dolls were reportedly pretty robust, but their miniature phonographs were another story.
Collection of Robin and Joan Rolfs Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 11:47 am

Back in 1890, Thomas Edison gave us some of the world's first talking dolls. Today, the glassy-eyed cherubs that are still around stand about 2 feet tall; they have wooden limbs and a metal body; and they sound supercreepy. (If you're looking for a soundtrack to your nightmares, listen to the audio story above.) Edison built and sold about 500 of them back in 1890. Now, new technology has made hearing them possible for the first time in decades.

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Book Reviews
12:41 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

'One Of Us' Examines The Damaged Inner Terrain Of Norwegian Mass Shooter

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 7:08 am

Columbine; Port Arthur, Australia; The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin; Newtown — the list goes on and on. And, by now, the elements of this type of massacre have become ritualized: usually one, but sometimes more than one, deeply disaffected person, almost always male, who is heavily armed with guns and/or explosives, targets the innocent. In the aftermath, which sometimes includes a trial, the crucial question of "Why?" is never really answered. Instead, most of us are left to wonder how any human being, however twisted, could be capable of such horror.

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The Salt
12:20 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

'Tales' Of Pig Intelligence, Factory Farming And Humane Bacon

Author Barry Estabrook says pigs can be taught to play computer games and recognize themselves in a mirror.
W. W. Norton & Company

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 4:59 pm

Journalist Barry Estabrook knows how to enjoy a juicy heritage pork chop. He'll also be the first to tell you what intelligent, sensitive creatures pigs are. "I had no idea how smart they were until I got in the research," Estabrook tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

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Book Reviews
10:28 am
Tue May 5, 2015

No Easy Answers In 'The Book Of Aron'

Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

"My mother and father named me Aron, but my father said they should have named me What Have You Done, and my uncle told everyone they should have called me What Were You Thinking." These are the first words of Jim Shepard's Holocaust-themed novel The Book of Aron, the reader's first introduction to the book's chronically depressed and likely doomed protagonist. Aron Różycki is a young boy when the story begins; by the end, after the Germans have occupied Warsaw and forced the city's Jews into a ghetto, he's older in ways that time can't measure.

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