Arts & Life

'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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Despair no more, fans of Lucille Ball.

A new statue of the queen of comedy will be unveiled this weekend in her a hometown in Celoron, N.Y., and unlike the old one, this one actually looks like the Lucy everyone loves.

The new life-size bronze statue was created by noted sculptor Carolyn Palmer who won a national competition (involving more than 65 sculptors) for the honor of crafting a statue that will be unveiled on Aug. 6. It would have been Ball's 105th birthday.

New York indie filmmaker Ira Sachs makes quietly observant relationship movies that are designed to get under an audience's skin in the gentlest of fashions, but to the most emotional of effects.

His last film, which dealt with the pressures the outside world exerted on a marriage, was called Love Is Strange. His latest is called Little Men, but might easily be subtitled "Friendship Is Strange."

Using specialized X-ray imaging, a team of researchers in Australia has revealed a striking painting of a woman's face hidden under French Impressionist Edgar Degas' Portrait of a Woman.

The researchers believe the auburn-haired woman in the hidden work — which they also attribute to Degas — is Emma Dobigny, who was reportedly one of Degas' favorite subjects and modeled for him in 1869 and 1870.

Friday Reads: Five Rings, Five Books For Rio

Aug 5, 2016

As the world turns its eyes toward Rio in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games, people everywhere are immersing themselves in Brazil's cultural offerings—food, art, music, and, of course, literature. For decades, readers have taken to the poetry and fiction of Machado de Assis and Jorge Amado and the stories of experimental giants like Clarice Lispector and Hilda Hilst.

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