When Pope Benedict XVI said he was stepping down, he broke a tradition that had been in place since 1415. The pope, who gave his final blessing Sunday, leaves the Catholic Church in the midst of changing social views and demographic shifts among its followers.
Haven't had a chance to watch the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts? All Things Considered is here to help. In the week leading up to the Academy Awards, NPR's Audie Cornish talked with the directors of the five short films nominated for best documentary short.
The films tell a range of stories — about a preventable disease that's ravaging Africa and the quiet loneliness of Florida retirees, the vibrant art of a homeless teenager and the hard life of "canners," and finally a salon that helps women with cancer cope with their scars.
Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 11:59 pm
A big first for Danica Patrick, but an even bigger second for Jimmie Johnson.
Patrick made history out front at the Daytona 500, only to see five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson reclaim his spot at the top in the end.
Johnson won his second Daytona 500 with a late push on Sunday, grabbing the spotlight from Patrick as she faded on the final lap. Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in "The Great American Race" and was running third on the last lap, but slipped to eighth in the late push for position.
For Terje Isungset, the cold weather in Washington, D.C., this week is no problem. The Norwegian musician was in town to perform as part of the Kennedy Center's "Nordic Cool" series, and he needed low temperatures to keep his instruments in good shape.
He has chimes, drums, a marimba and a "tube-ice" (like a tuba). They're all carved out of shimmering ice, harvested from the frozen lakes of Ottawa, Canada, and shipped to the Kennedy Center for an hour of melting music.
It's worth the effort, Isungset says, to get the perfect sound.
Jimmie Johnson has won the Daytona 500, one day after crash during a race there injured fans. Danica Patrick, who was hoping to make history, finished eighth. Jacki Lyden gets the latest from NPR's Mike Pesca.
André Brink is one of the most well-known anti-apartheid writers in South Africa. His latest novel Philida, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is set in 1832 in the South African Cape, just two years before emancipation.
The title character lodges a complaint against her master, Francois Brink, who is also the father of her four children. He'd promised her freedom, but then backs out and marries a wealthy white woman.
A new album by bluesman Corey Harris pays tribute to one Southern neighborhood with a particularly haunted past.
Fulton Blues is named for a district in Richmond, Va., that was once home to a large number of the city's middle class African-American families. But by the 1960s, Fulton had fallen on hard times. Its scenic views of the James River and easy access to downtown made it a target for "urban renewal," as it was euphemistically called in the Virginia Statehouse. The residents of Fulton were evicted and the neighborhood was razed.
"Benedict told the crowd that God is calling him to dedicate himself 'even more to prayer and meditation,' which he will do in a secluded monastery being renovated for him on the grounds behind Vatican City's ancient walls.
In Life of Pi, one of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture this year, a boy suffers a shipwreck and is lost at sea. It's a fictional story, of course, based on a novel, but director Ang Lee nevertheless wanted the movie to have depth and realism. But how do you add a realistic edge to someone drifting alone in the sea? For most people, even those in the imaginative business of movie-making, it's hard to picture the perils and isolation of months without rescue.
What would you do if your literary idol came to life — came into your life — and then you couldn't get rid of her? Violet Epps, heroine of the new novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker discovers being a fan isn't the same as being a roommate when Dorothy Parker's spirit rematerializes from an ancient Algonquin Hotel guestbook — and then follows her home.
Author Ellen Meister tells NPR's Rachel Martin that she first encountered Parker's work as a teenager.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 10:40 am
Michael Dirda's latest book is On Conan Doyle.
When I was a boy growing up in the working-class steel town of Lorain, Ohio, I used to ride my beloved Roadmaster bicycle to the branch library. Located in the Plaza Shopping Center, this former storefront was just around the corner from the W.T. Grant's and Merit Shoes. Inside there were perhaps six small tables, a couple of reading chairs, the librarian's checkout desk, and light oak bookshelves along three walls. There can't have been more than one- or two-thousand books.
Like many countries, Israel tried to drain many of its swamplands, then realized it was destroying wildlife habitats. So the country reversed course, and has been restoring the wetlands of the Hula Valley in the north.
The effort has had a huge and rather noisy payoff. Unlike many birding sites, where the creatures take off when you approach them, you can practically touch the cranes that inhabit the Hula Valley.