Arts & Life

Not My Job: The Blue Man Group Turns 25

Jun 11, 2016

In the early 1990s, Chris Wink and Phil Stanton were two underemployed guys in New York City. So they did what anyone in their situation would do: They shaved their heads, painted themselves blue, and put on a show in which they said nothing and banged on things. Now, 25 years later, Blue Man Group is still doing shows across the country and around the world.

Since the Blue Man Group is famously silent, we've invited Wink and Stanton to answer three questions about people who have a lot to say.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has defined tragic young love for centuries: Boy and girl from feuding families fall in love. Boy slays the girl's cousin for killing his friend in a duel. Girl swallows a sleeping potion. Boy thinks she's dead. Boy swallows poison. Girl wakes, sees boy dead, and stabs herself. They're both really dead. Families mourn and reconcile.

Screenwriter John Logan has worked on some big films. From Skyfall to Gladiator, Logan has learned well how the movie business works. So he knew his latest film, Genius, would be a tough sell.

"This movie is the worst Hollywood pitch in the history of the world," he admits.

That's because it's about editing books.

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

The most compelling science fiction is the sort which holds weight beyond its sheer inventiveness or even its ingenuity. It takes more. The best in the genre have always functioned like corner prophets reporting from the fringe. They succeed in showing us, in a vision uniquely their own, what could potentially become of our planet should we continue down a particular path. Which is not to say one shouldn't devour the purely entertaining for its own sake. But surely the most evocative sci-fi is the stuff of warning shots.

The Roaring '20s are in full roar when we meet fabled editor Maxwell Perkins in Genius, but to look at him, his nose perpetually buried in a manuscript, you'd never guess he is walking through a New York that's populated by flappers and swells swilling bathtub gin.

On the street, on a train, in his office awaiting a new writer, this chaperone to Scribners scribes (who included Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) is not at all a demonstrative man. As played by Colin Firth, in fact, you'd be likely to call him "unreadable."

Writer Annie Proulx won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Shipping News, and her short story "Brokeback Mountain" became a Hollywood blockbuster — but her new novel is her most ambitious work yet. It's called Barkskins, and to say it's about deforestation undersells the book's drama, blood and epic sweep.

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

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

Can A 75-Year-Old Study Deliver Wisdom For All Of Us?

Jun 10, 2016

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Robert Waldinger's TED Talk

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the director of a 75-year-old study on happiness and satisfaction. He shares what he has learned, as well as his wisdom on how to find fulfillment.

About Robert Waldinger

What Can One Generation Teach The Next About Manhood?

Jun 10, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Tony Porter's TED Talk

Advocate Tony Porter's wisdom focuses on masculinity and ending violence against women. He explains how he draws on his own upbringing to help the next generation of men redefine manhood.

About Tony Porter

What Wisdom Can We Gain From Nature?

Jun 10, 2016

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Boyd Varty's TED Talk

South African writer and conservationist Boyd Varty has spent his entire life among wild animals. He describes how he discovers "new old ways" by observing the natural world.

About Boyd Varty

What Wisdom Can Adults Learn From Kids?

Jun 10, 2016

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Adora Svitak's TED Talk

When Adora Svitak was 12, she gave a TED Talk on what grownups can learn from children. Now at age 18, and a sophomore at UC Berkeley, Svitak reflects on the message she shared.

About Adora Svitak

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Joshua Prager's TED Talk

We all stumble across similar ideas as we age, and some of these revelations have passed into the books we love. Journalist Joshua Prager explores the stages of life through quotes from great writers.

About Joshua Prager

Welcome, friends, to a discussion featuring four of the only people in America to see Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping in theaters last weekend. Though the movie wasn't a box-office hit, to put it lightly, we whip up an extraordinary amount of affection for The Lonely Island's goofy comedy — a lightweight but joke-dense look at "Conner4Real," a vaguely Bieber-esque singer and rapper (Andy Samberg) who used to belong to a boy band called the Style Boyz with Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.

The most telling aspect of The Conjuring 2, the gonzo sequel to the 2013 horror smash, is that it's 133 minutes long. A running time like that is a rarity—The Exorcist, at 132 minutes, may be the strongest analogue—because the genre draws intensity from concision, and its dread-soaked mysteries are not so easily sustained over time.

In Benoit Jacquot's Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen), the vivacious 18th-century protagonist moved purposefully through dark passageways reserved for royal servants. In the director's Journal d'une Femme de Chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), set a century or so later, our heroine spends more time in the sunlight, but has scarcely more freedom.

Three other things the two films share: the ever-watchable Lea Seydoux, a mix of opulent costume-drama sensibility and unadorned new-wave style, and a setting near the end of a rotten era.

Genius, a likable, if sluggish adaptation of A. Scott Berg's biography of old-school New York book editor Maxwell Perkins, is thrown out of joint from the start by a British cast — great actors all — wrecking their vocal chords on regional American accents from Montauk to the Carolinas. In principle I'm all for anyone playing anyone, but the story of Perkins' turbulent personal and professional relationship with Southern writer Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel) couldn't be more North-versus-South Yankee if it wrapped itself in stars and stripes.

So wide is the fame-gap stretching between filmmaker Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola that the new feature-length profile De Palma makes a point of reminding us that the four pals were in more or less the same place at the dawn of the 1970s: trying to make personal statements amid what remained of the studio system.

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

Ren Warom's Escapology is a loud book. It thumps and howls and whistles and squirms. It's a twitchy thing — won't sit still for a second. It makes no sense sometimes. It's derivative and odd, big and intimate at the same time, clunky and uneven and trope-heavy and manages to be both 2016 post-genre original and totally late '80s cyberpunk samizdat page to page, sometimes line to line.

It's odd to view the O.J. Simpson trial in a renewed cultural spotlight today, 22 years after the murders and 21 years after the verdicts, almost in defiance of our tendency to observe round-number anniversaries. But between FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story earlier this year and now Ezra Edelman's 7 1/2-hour documentary O.J.: Made In America, we are not observing a milestone, but attempting an almost convulsive reckoning with every open or tenuously bound wound the case touched and still touches: racism and sexism, certainly.

'The Hatred Of Poetry' Feels Personal

Jun 9, 2016

The familiar cycle of denouncements and defenses of poetry never seems to have much to do with anyone's actual experience of, say, John Ashbery. You know these pieces from highbrow magazines: The Death of Poetry versus The Enduring Relevance of Poetry, on and on into infinity. "What kind of art is defined — has been defined for millennia — by such a rhythm of denunciation and defense?" asks the poet and novelist Ben Lerner.

Like the other 4 million or so visitors expected to wander around Yellowstone National Park this summer, we had come to see the bison. And we found them. Hulking, shaggy, majestic, nose-down nibbling on fresh spring grass, their tails swishing. At our safe and respectful distance, my family stood quietly in awe. And then, being the good, nature-loving Americans that we are — we were suddenly starving.

A relationship drama with societal implications, Desde Allá (From Afar) hails from afar — specifically, from Venezuela — and marks a striking debut for first-time writer director Lorenzo Vigas.

His method is to draw you in by holding you at a slight remove — a habit he seems to have picked up from its leading man.

Where do you draw the line between inspiration and straight-up imitation when it comes to food?

A few years ago, we brought you the story of Caitlin Freeman, a pastry chef baking innovative, art-inspired cakes at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Using modern art as her muse, Freeman translated what she saw in the museum into edible form at the SFMOMA's upstairs café.

Theresa Saldana, an actress and victims advocate, died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 61.

She worked in movies such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Raging Bull.

In 1982, she was stabbed 10 times outside her West Hollywood apartment by a man who had become obsessed with her. She survived the attack, and the man was convicted of attempted murder. But Saldana told NPR the man continued sending her disturbing, threatening letters.

Science fiction is known for speculating on technology, but it's always been just as passionate about politics. From Philip K.

During my parents' last winters in Florida, each time I visited I would stealthily vanquish the ghosts of meals past from their refrigerator and run all their smudged glassware through the dishwasher and their stained clothing through the wash. They no longer saw the spots, and my mother, leached by Alzheimer's, no longer cared — though she was still with it enough to take umbrage at my interference.

Pages