Arts & Life

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Mia Birdsong's TED Talk

Activist Mia Birdsong says the stories we tell about poverty don't reflect reality. She describes people in her community who are optimistic about their futures — even if the larger society is not.

About Mia Birdsong

Are We Natural Optimists?

May 6, 2016

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Tali Sharot's TED Talk

Cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot makes the case for why humans are wired to have what she calls an "optimism bias."

About Tali Sharot

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About John Hunter's TED Talk

Educator John Hunter describes how he finds hope and inspiration in his fourth grade students — and their ability to solve big problems.

About John Hunter

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Al Gore's TED Talk

Vice President Al Gore says that — despite the dismal news on climate change — he's optimistic.

About Al Gore

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Tania Luna's TED Talk

In describing her experiences of immigration, poverty, and homelessness, psychologist Tania Luna explains that gratitude for the small things creates a rich and hopeful life.

About Tania Luna

Part 6 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Case For Optimism

About Al Gore's TED Talk

Vice President Al Gore explains how human ingenuity can solve our climate crisis.

About Al Gore

Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day, the comics industry's yearly attempt to bring new readers into the fold, is 15 years old. It's a peevish teen that smells of Speed Stick and Clearasil and a practiced, performative surliness. It demands that you drop it off a block away from school.

For the past eight years, I've written a preview of the comics on offer on Free Comic Book Day for NPR. So I'm kind of like Free Comic Book Day's annoying third-grade little brother, always chasing after him and telling everyone how cool he is.

Every year at the Kentucky Derby, crazy hat-wearing, mint julep-guzzling horse-gazers break into a passionate rendition of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." As tradition goes, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band accompanies the crowd as they croon a ballad that seems to be about people who miss their happy home. "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home/'Tis summer and the people are gay," begins one version.

But Frank X Walker, Kentucky's former poet laureate, suspects that most people are missing the point.

In 2009, French director Jacques Audiard won the Grand Prix (equivalent to second place) at the Cannes Film Festival for A Prophet, a gripping thriller about a 19-year-old Algerian inmate who slowly rises to power in a prison where Muslims and Corsicans are engaged in mob warfare. Chief among the film's many virtues is Audiard's sly narrative strategy: Through the vessel of a tough, violent genre picture, he could smuggle a movie that's really about the difficulty persons of color and cultural disadvantage have in a system that's stacked against them.

When you know the backstory behind Being Charlie, the wounds this film opens become so raw you can still see them bleeding. It follows the troubled 18-year-old addict son of an emotionally frigid movie star and politician. It's directed by Hollywood legend Rob Reiner, from a script co-written by his son Nick, who himself had fallen in and out of rehab centers as a teen.

Inspiration in Hollywood movies is often a matter of one plucky individual taking on a "system" and winning. For the Brits, such triumphs come deeply embedded in class, region, and national pride, and winning is neither guaranteed nor especially prized. The wonderful 2014 drama Pride re-enacted a gratifyingly improbable, real-life alliance between gay Londoners and displaced Welsh miners during the bruising national strike of 1984.

For an "authentic" Mexican meal, why not cook up crepes?

¿Que qué?! You ask. Hear me out.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

When you first wrap your head around its plot, the new film Captain America: Civil War seems to have abandoned most of the pointed political content of Marvel's 2006 comics series Civil War, on which it's based. ("Loosely based"? Let's say "semi-loosely based.")

'The Queue' Carries On A Dystopian Lineage

May 5, 2016

In an unspecified Middle Eastern city, a doctor is drawn to and troubled by a particular patient file. The file documents the injuries of a man named Yehya, sustained after a skirmish called the Disgraceful Events. Not only are the events shrouded in mystery; Yehya himself does not know who shot him. And the doctor would have already removed the bullet, except for the fact that in that aftermath of the Disgraceful Events, the government has made it illegal to do so without a certain permit. Yehya must get that permit so the doctor can do the surgery.

Novelist Richard Russo heard a story once: A cop discovers a garage door remote in his wife's belongings, so he goes around town pointing the remote at different garages. The idea, Russo tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, is "if he could find the house where the garage door went up, he would have found his wife's lover."

Growing up in Pennsylvania coal country, writer Jennifer Haigh learned that a lot of what matters in the state can't be seen. It lies beneath the surface, in the form of potential energy. She saw how the boom and bust cycles of mining affected the people of her hometown, which is now poised on the brink of fracking.

She's taken what she knows and turned it into a new novel, Heat and Light. But Haigh says she doesn't think of it as a book about fracking.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

“Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews”

Author: Ted Geltner   

Foreword by Michael Connelly

Publisher: The University of Georgia Press

Pages: 448

Price: $32.95 (Hardcover)

When the writer Harry Crews died on March 28, 2012, his many fans were grieved and some were surprised, believing that Crews had died years earlier. Many who knew of his wild man lifestyle were surprised he had made it that long. But Harry Crews, with his karate, body-building, Mohawk haircut and tattoos, was a very tough guy, or at least appeared to be.

What do these movies have in common?

Funny Face
New York Stories
Beetlejuice
The Big Lebowski
Ghost World

Mental illness has long been a mainstay of literature, from Don Quixote and Jane Eyre to Mrs. Dalloway and Madame Bovary. And why not? It's interesting. Novels like Crime and Punishment and The Catcher in the Rye find cultural insights in the tumult of nonconforming, besieged minds. Others, like Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot and Walker Percy's The Second Coming explore the devastating toll of mental illness on loved ones.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This interview contains language some readers may find offensive.

Hamilton, the Broadway musical about "the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America" has made history, after being nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards. The nominees were announced today.

Honey, I shrunk the queso.

"The whole city is talking in music," marvels Simon, the main character of Anna Smaill's debut The Chimes, near the start of this Man Booker-longlisted novel. Young and orphaned, he's just arrived in London from his family's farm in the country. But it's not the London we know: At some point in the future, society has been reduced to a medieval level of farmers and artisans. A cataclysm called Allbreaking was responsible — not that Simon, or anyone else, remembers it.

The food glitterati will gather in Chicago Monday night for the black-tie James Beard Chef and Restaurant Awards, known as the "Oscars of the food world." Most of the categories sound like industry fare: Outstanding Restaurant Design. Best Chef: Great Lakes. Best New Restaurant. Rising Star Chef of the Year. There's not much of interest for anyone outside the foodies and food world orbit. Except, that is, for a sneakily subversive category: America's Classics.

You may have seen the crazy amounts of money spent at high end art auctions: $81 million for a Mark Rothko, $179 million for a Picasso. Now, a new memoir called The Auctioneer dishes about the tycoons, rock stars and royalty who play in this high-priced game. Simon de Pury is an art world insider who has been called the "Mick Jagger" of auctions — he once even tried to compete with the two power houses, Christie's and Sotheby's.

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