Arts & Life

I make a lot of kale chips. You might even say I have chipping kale down to an art. But even for a kale connoisseur like me, the crinkly green cruciferous vegetable is still full of surprises. In this case, explosive surprises.

We meet Eleanor Flood, the main character of Maria Semple's new novel, on a day when she has resolved to change some things about her life:

You know who's not worried about Resting Bitch Face?

Vladimir Putin, that's who.

"He's, like, not concerned with that, which is so freeing," Phoebe Robinson tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

As a black woman, Robinson doesn't have the same luxury.

"There's this whole notion of 'black women are angry' or 'black women are sassy' or, like, 'have bad attitudes,'" she says. "And so you always want to be in space where — at least I was for a while — where I was like: I want to be likable. I don't want people to think that I have resting bitch face or whatever."

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When I reviewed Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings last year, I admired its scope and craft, especially as a debut, but remarked on the absence of women, regretting how they seemed to fall through the cracks of Liu's epic storytelling. The novel's final act seemed to promise a great deal of change on that front, and left me very curious about how Liu would handle what seemed like the obvious middle-book shift: from the masculine public of battles, feats, and nation-forging, to the feminine private of family focus and palace intrigue.

We're in Tampa this week, and so we've invited bestselling author and gulf coast resident Randy Wayne White to the show. In addition to being the author of the Doc Ford books and the Hannah Smith series, White has been an explorer, a deep sea diver, a full-time fishing guide, and he owns restaurants throughout the state.

We've invited White to play a game called "Welcome to Bill's Anchor Desk Cafe, where every meal is breaking news!" Three questions about theme restaurants around the world.

Brian Hillegas [Flickr]


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Michael Twitty wants you to know where Southern food really comes from. And he wants the enslaved African-Americans who were part of its creation to get credit. That's why Twitty goes to places like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's grand estate in Charlottesville, Va. — to cook meals that slaves would have eaten and put their stories back into American history.

Caroline Leavitt's latest novel, Cruel Beautiful World, is about coming-of-age in 1969; it's about wild love, rebellion and finding oneself in the time of Woodstock and the Manson murders.

The story follows 16-year-old Lucy Gold, who runs away with her English teacher, William, to the wilds of Pennsylvania. Lucy leaves behind a big sister and the aunt who raised them after their parents died. As she and William try to build a new home for themselves, William becomes more and more controlling.

A friend of photographer Phillip Toledano once said "He is the most self-absorbed person I've ever met — but he wears it well."

The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano is a new short film in which the photographer, with the assistance of makeup artists, fortune tellers, and psychics, disguises himself as the various fates life might one day hold for him: Ending up a homeless alcoholic, a white-collar criminal cuffed and taken away by police, or a lonely senior, feeding a small dog from his plate — and more.

Magic In The Air: 3 Young Adult Fantasy Reads For Fall

Oct 1, 2016

It's inevitable: As soon as I'm too busy to read for pleasure, all I want to do is dig into a new novel. So it somehow seems fitting that during this month of school starting and nose-to-the grindstone necessity, we're having a glut of alluring young adult releases.

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One of the nation's biggest environmental disasters is now the season's big disaster flick. Sound insensitive? Well, rest assured the filmmakers were aware of — and have managed to sidestep — any qualms audience members are likely to have.

Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the oil drilling rig that turned into an inferno in 2010 off the coast of Louisiana — a story of tragic, entirely avoidable missteps and astonishing personal heroics.

This is a big weekend for matzo ball soup.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts Sunday night, and chef Pati Jinich wants all the matzo-ball makers out there to understand: The soup doesn't care whether you prefer floaters or sinkers.

"It turns out that matzo balls are insanely capricious," Jinich says. "One Friday, they're like, you can have me fluffy. And the other week is like, this is what you'll get."

In the TV comedy version of Portland, Ore., the bookstore is called Women and Women First. In real life, it's In Other Words — and the shop is using frank terms to say the Portlandia show is no longer welcome to film there. The feminist store and community center faults the show's depiction of men dressing as women, its treatment of store staff, and its role in gentrification and race relations.

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

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

The Sweet Success Of Bananas Foster Has An Unsavory Past

Sep 30, 2016

There's more to the story of Bananas Foster than flambeed fruit. While the enticing dessert is a sweet legacy of New Orleans' once-booming banana trade, there's also a less savory one: banana republics.

Today, the banana is America's favorite fruit, but it was once considered exotic. The fruit only became commonplace in the United States starting in the 1870s, thanks to improvements in shipping and botany. By the turn of the century, the banana trade was a million-dollar industry.

Anti-mafia police in Naples, Italy, have recovered two paintings by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen from a museum in Amsterdam more than a decade ago.

The Van Gogh Museum announced Friday that a curator inspected the two works, at the request of Italian authorities, and "drew a firm conclusion: 'They are the real paintings!' "

When trying to demystify wine, one of the most misunderstood challenges for consumers can be the fizzy stuff.

There are all sorts of foreign names for what's commonly known as sparkling wine: Cava (from Spain), Prosecco (from Italy), Crémant (from many different regions in France), Sekt (from Germany). But all too often if we see tiny bubbles racing to the top of a glass, our first assumption is Champagne.

But not all sparkling wines taste alike – or are made alike.

[In case you haven't heard, Pop Culture Happy Hour is about to embark on a West Coast tour. San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles are sold out — though we recently added an appearance (with Guy Branum!) at the Now Hear This podcast festival in Anaheim on Oct. 29 — but we'll also be in Portland on Oct. 19 with our dear pal Audie Cornish.

Step aside Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — a grumpy old man may soon be taking your place as America's favorite fictional Swede. Ove — that's pronounced Ooo-vah — is the lovable curmudgeon at the center of A Man Called Ove. The film, which opens in the U.S. on Friday, is based on a Swedish best-selling novel.

Whether boosting or buffeting the careers of the Beatles, the Doors and the Stooges, Danny Fields was the man behind the curtain. He remains so in Danny Says, a candid yet unrevealing documentary named for a song the Ramones wrote about Fields.

The angry old gent at the heart of the Swedish film A Man Called Ove is the kind of man who puts on a suit and tie every time he tries to kill himself, which believe me is more than twice. He's also the kind of man you're likely to find in films submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So even though Ove, who's played with firmly compressed lips by Rolf Lassgard, is a royal pain in the butt, the suicides are played for gentle laughs and it's pretty clear from the get-go that things will pan out, in their deadpan Scandinavian way.

When it was announced that Oliver Stone would be making a film about Sept. 11, the news alone felt like a startling provocation: Hollywood's most political director, a man known for upending assumptions about America's history and institutions, would be commenting on the formative tragedy of the early 21st century. Perhaps Stone would indulge in the type of leftist conspiracy theory that informed his JFK or, at a minimum, seize the opportunity to critique the drastic changes in domestic and foreign policy precipitated by the attacks.

When did our expectations for Tim Burton movies sink so precipitously? We ought to be able to forgive the guy who made Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow a Planet of the Apes now and then. Or even an Alice in Wonderland, so long as he keeps balancing mega-grossing mediocrities like that with heartfelt stuff like Frankenweenie, his delightful stop-motion ode to his dog. Any director who averages a studio feature every other year for three decades will have a stinker or two on his resume.

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