Arts & Life

'Taste Of Empire' Shows Us The World In Our Kitchen Cupboards

Oct 8, 2017

"To be a Victorian Englishman was to possess the power to eat the world."

One afternoon in 1748, the Latham family sat down to dinner. They ran a small farm in Lancashire, and their menu was satisfying — beef and vegetable stew, beer, doughy fruit pudding. They grew wheat and barley to make bread, their cows supplied them with milk and cheese, and from their crops (and the women's cotton textile work) they made enough profit to buy beef.

As the legend goes, Andy Richter met a guy at a party who was producing a late-night show starring then-unknown Conan O'Brien. The two men seemed to get along really well, so why not put Richter on set as a sidekick? And thus he became the Ed McMahon of a generation too young to know who Ed McMahon is.

Since he's worked with Conan O'Brien for decades, we gave him a game about Conan The Destroyer – 1984's less-successful sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Conan The Barbarian.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

You're Going To Hate 'TheMystery.doc,' And That's OK

Oct 7, 2017

In the press materials for Matthew McIntosh's new 1,660-page brick of a very literary novel, TheMystery.doc, the publisher says not to be fooled by the book's length. Sure, it weighs 4 1/2 pounds, but they cheerfully insist that "it reads as quickly as a novel of a more conventional length."

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On Feb. 6, 1967, Muhammad Ali stepped into a boxing ring in the Houston Astrodome to take on then-heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell. Ali was nursing a serious grudge against Terrell, who kept referring to his upcoming opponent as "Cassius Clay," the birth name that Ali had abandoned years before. In the eighth round, after battering Terrell with a series of hard punches, Ali started taunting the fighter: "What's my name?" he shouted, over and over again. "What's my name?"

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You had to wonder how director Sean Baker would follow up his shot-on-an-iPhone, transgender-prostitute comedy Tangerine if he ever got a hold of enough cash to pay for a star and a Steadicam. His extraordinary, almost-homeless-family dramedy, The Florida Project, provides the exhilarating answer.

Rivers Solomon's An Unkindness of Ghosts is the kind of novel I need to describe in terms of what it did to me. Reading it, I felt it carving out a vastness inside me, pouring itself into me like so many stars, and the more I read the bigger I felt, falling down a rabbit-hole of sky and wanting only to go deeper and farther with every page.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is taking a leave of absence from his company following a New York Times story that he sexually harassed female assistants, executives and actresses for decades. The Times report also says Weinstein settled complaints with at least eight women.

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Una, an intelligently talky, properly claustrophobic chamber piece directed by Benedict Andrews and adapted by Scottish playwright David Harrower from his 2005 stage play Blackbird, revisits a middle-aged man's past sexual abuse of a precocious adolescent when the victim confronts him many years later. In form and subject, if not in tone, the film recalls David Mamet's 1994 Oleanna, a stridently partisan polemic adapted from Mamet's play about a college professor's alleged sexual assault of a female graduate student.

What a joy it is to have a movie like this in our broken lives right now. Faces Places is the latest celebration of the creative spirit from Agnès Varda, who made her first film in 1954 and is now 89, with no signs of slowing down. Why should she? Films give her vitality, and she returns the favor to the medium.

Director Hany Abu-Assad's film, which stars Kate Winslet, Idris Elba and a cute dog, is prettily shot but blandly predictable.

The Sundance-winning documentary Dina is a tale of two movies, sometimes at odds with each other: One is a quirky indie rom-com about two people on the autism spectrum who are getting ready to tie the knot. The other is an unvarnished verité about the difficulties they have with sexual intimacy. Directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles structure and frame the film so carefully that it almost seems like the staging of a script, rather than real life unfolding before the camera.

In 2011, Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, A Visit From The Goon Squad. Years before that book came out, Egan had begun researching the 1930s and '40s in New York City. Her new novel, Manhattan Beach, is the result of that research. It follows a father, his daughter and a gangster whose lives intersect in New York around World War II.

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King Lear, done right, verges on unbearable. A portrait of cruelty, betrayal, male power become impotent male rage, the disintegration of the mind, all delivered one after another like steel boots to the spine. "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods: They kill us for their sport," says one character.

So unbearable did audiences find it that for nearly 200 years it was performed with an altered ending, where Lear and his daughter live happily ever after.

The Swedish Academy has chosen Kazuo Ishiguro as the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday morning, in an event that began at 7 a.m. ET. You can watch it online.

The academy's citation for Ishiguro said he is a writer "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world."

By now, fans of Jennifer Egan's writing know not to expect straightforward narratives. Her individual short stories often play with form — like "Black Box," constructed from tweet-length field instructions, or "Great Rock and Roll Pauses," told via PowerPoint slides.

When baker Julie Richardson was growing up in Vermont, Autumn Saturdays had a particular rhythm. First, soccer practice. And then, to the apple orchard for some cider and donuts.

"I would sit there and watch that machine — watch the doughnuts plop into the hot oil, go down the conveyor belt and plop out the other end," she says.

It's my first interactive theater experience. I'm standing in a dark, large room with a stage in the middle. Other audience members are huddled around. We're not really sure what we've gotten ourselves into.

Here's the premise: We've been asked to be part of a focus group run by a K-pop label. Its leaders have invited us to tour a Korean pop "factory," where the stars hone their dancing and singing in Korean and English. We, the audience, are supposed to help figure out just why Korean megastars haven't been able to break into the American market.

From baseball caps to saris to the little black dress, there's a social history woven into the clothing we wear. A new exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) explores that history. "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" looks at some of the garments that changed the world — but the show less about fashion, and more about design, history and why things last.

It's no secret that movie theaters are trying to preserve the theatrical experience as something special — something you can't replicate, even in your tricked-out living room with your home theater system. Theater design is one of the ways they're trying to add value, as consultants and Shark Tank competitors might put it.

But at a recent screening of Blade Runner 2049, I experienced a technology that isn't new but was new to me, and with it, the need to make a plea that I never expected to make. Theaters, I beg you: don't manhandle my physical being.

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Decades before NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police treatment of African-Americans, boxer Muhammad Ali roiled white America with his 1967 resistance to the Vietnam War draft.

The boxer had converted to the Nation of Islam a few years earlier, and he explained his resistance to the war by saying, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."

New York City can be the place where you go to "make it," but as cartoonist Julia Wertz points out in her new book, it's as storied for its failures as its successes. A 300-page visual epic, Tenements, Towers & Trash captures the New York that's risen up by stacking failure upon failure as implacably as residents toss bags onto curbside garbage piles. This isn't The City That Never Sleeps, it's The City Where Dreams Go To Die.

It began with more than 1,500 books.

With all the works submitted by publishers, the judges for this year's National Book Awards have had their hands (and bookshelves) full the past few months. But that daunting number of contenders winnowed further Wednesday, as the National Book Foundation announced the finalists for its literary prize — just five works each in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.

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