Arts & Life

Frank Langella has all manner of elastic gifts, but he's never been the sort of actor to disappear into the many roles he's played over a distinguished career. There's an underlying stern implacability to just about every deplorable villain (and occasional hero) Langella has tackled: intractable obstinates all, who bend others' wills to their own and give no quarter.

James Baldwin is having a posthumous resurgence, but we are so in need of his words at this moment that it's hard to believe he hasn't still been writing every day since his death in 1987. In every genre Baldwin dabbled, from novels to political commentary to arts criticism, he found the core of our identity as a nation: a core that feeds off division and prejudice; that celebrates its own history while refusing to learn from it; and that was, and plainly remains, too painful for anyone other than him to talk about honestly.

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We asked you to tell us the simple things that make life enjoyable.

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And we asked you to write about them in the form of a radio ad.

CORNISH: More than 2000 of you did. Now we get to share.

Sure, we all know the adage: "The best things in life are free."

So why doesn't anyone advertise them? We've got ads for deodorant, luxury cars and snacks — why not ads for sunshine, balmy breezes and children's laughter?

That's the question we put to our listeners way back in 1972, challenging them to write some very noncommercial commercials and then producing a handful of our favorites. With a little help from our Research, Archives and Data Strategy team, we dug up that oldie-but-goodie, dusted it off and retooled the challenge for more modern times.

'Mr. Seabrook' Might Be A Little Too Abominable

Feb 2, 2017

In a 2015 interview with Comics Alternative, Joe Ollmann included among his clips "An examination of the oeuvre of the cartoonist Joe Ollmann by the artist's daughter." In a row of four tidy boxes that ape Ollman's favored nine-panel grid, a frowny stick figure announces: "I'm sad," "I'm jaded," "I have hate," and "Nothing is technically resolved."

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The centerpiece of the Black History Month programming on the cable channel BET is a miniseries called "Madiba." "Madiba" is a three-night special on the life of Nelson Mandela. It debuts tonight. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans has this review.

The Trump administration's executive order on immigration is heightening awareness of the challenges immigrants face getting into this country. Once here, children and teenagers can find themselves in circumstances completely out of their control, and those circumstances are now at the center of two recent young adult novels.

Remembering 'Elephant Man' Actor John Hurt

Feb 1, 2017

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It's an Indian dish you're unlikely to find in India.

Bunny chow is essentially a kind of bread bowl. You take a loaf of white bread, hollow out the middle and fill it with a curry, either vegetarian beans or some type of meat.

But not rabbit. The name "bunny" comes from the corruption of an Indian term referring to merchants. The dish has its origins in Durban, South Africa's third-largest city.

Toward the middle of Paul Auster's new novel, 4 3 2 1, young Archie Ferguson, recovering from a car accident that could have killed him, quotes the satire Candide to his optimistic girlfriend. "You're beginning to sound like Dr. Pangloss," he complains. "Everything always happens for the best — in this, the best of all possible worlds."

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Need a distraction from the news?

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We have one.

CORNISH: It's a reminder of the good things in life that are free.

SHAPIRO: Another commercial for Nicer Living.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Imagine waking up on a malfunctioning spaceship: The artificial gravity is disabled. Blood floats through the air. And the corpse that blood is coming from is ... your own. Kind of. You're a clone — and your original self, along with most of your crewmates, are dead. As your ship plummets through interstellar space, off course and carrying thousands of hibernating colonists to the planet Artemis, you and your fellow clones take on a daunting task: solving the mystery of what happened to the six people from whom you were cloned. Was it mass murder? Mass suicide?

He was Russia's Mad Monk. A pale, bearded, wiry, horny, green-eyed debauch who was the preeminent power broker of the Romanov dynasty in its waning years. A party fiend, a drinker, a healer and a prophet who was poisoned, shot, drowned, and burned by his enemies.

But was he really?

Breaking news is everywhere, 24 hours a day. And now, it's made its way into an art gallery as well — in an exhibit called "Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media." In Los Angeles, a Getty Museum show examines artists' reactions to mass media in decades past.

The exhibit includes more than 200 photos and videos, from 17 different artists. They're not photojournalists — these artists take the work of photojournalists, and turn it into something else.

The first images on screen in Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-nominated Iranian drama, The Salesman, look like a spread in House Beautiful — a sofa, a table and chairs, a bedroom suite, all arranged just so, lit to a fare-thee-well. They are, in fact, part of a stage set. Real life is messier.

Utopian communities don't fare much better in fiction than they do in real life. As the plot usually unfolds, a brave new world loses its luster fast when the failings of its founder are exposed, or when the community itself begins to morph into a cult.

Humans have had to face death and mortality since since the beginning of time, but our experience of the dying process has changed dramatically in recent history.

Haider Warraich, a fellow in cardiology at Duke University Medical Center, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that death used to be sudden, unexpected and relatively swift — the result of a violent cause, or perhaps an infection. But, he says, modern medicines and medical technologies have lead to a "dramatic extension" of life — and a more prolonged dying processes.

Writer Laurie Frankel has written a novel about a family with five boys in which the youngest feels he's something entirely different — a girl. It's called This Is How It Always Is, and it's a story that's close to Frankel's heart because she's living it: Her own child was born a boy and now identifies as a girl.

In 1996, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton published a book that drew its title from a proverb of indeterminate origin: "It takes a village to raise a child." The aphorism, which was embraced by Clinton's fans and mocked by her detractors, suggests that it's in the interest of everyone for all adults to look after the children of the world.

Was it the maid, the lover or the lover's partner who killed glamorous socialite Emily French with a candlestick? If this sounds like an Agatha Christie plot, it is.

Christie's novella-turned-play The Witness for the Prosecution — set in 1920s London — has been adapted into a new TV show, starring Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall as the murder victim.

The world of Caraval is one part amusement park, one part Venice, and one part game show, painted in all the colors of a gothic circus. Girls in gowns rustle their way down dark hallways, searching for clues that will win them a wish — but some girls have more need of wishes than others.

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Hip-Hop Duo Run The Jewels Plays Not My Job

Jan 28, 2017

El-P and Killer Mike formed their duo back in 2013 and have recently released their third album, Run The Jewels 3. We've invited them to play a game called "Oy, gevalt!" Sure they're known as Run the Jewels ... but what do they know about running the Jews? We'll ask them three questions about rabbis.

Click the Listen link above to see how they do.

When we asked listeners to write advertisements for the small joys in life, the stuff and experiences money can't buy, we weren't surprised to find a few things come up often in the sales pitches. Sunsets, breezes, stars and granddaughters — we're with you on those, dear listeners.

Funny enough, though, something else kept coming up: math. There were ads for arithmetic, graph theory, the unending wonders of pi ... what was going on here?

Cat Show

Jan 28, 2017
Trish Hamme [Flickr]

If you think all cats are alike, one visit to a cat show will suprise you.  These feline friends come in many different colors, shapes, sizes and personalities, but each one has the potential to be a great pet if it just has the chance.

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Oxford, Miss., is a town steeped in Southern identity.

"In many ways this is an archetypal Southern town," says John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which is based in Oxford. "There's a courthouse square at the center, there are beautiful homes with rolling lawns framing it."

And there's the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss, a campus once rocked by deadly riots over racial integration. To some, Oxford might seem an unlikely place for a native of India to achieve star status as a chef.

Patricia Bosworth has authored acclaimed biographies of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Diane Arbus. Now, she's written about a chapter in her own remarkable life.

The Men in My Life chronicles Bosworth's time in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, learning and working alongside Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Penn, Elaine Stritch and Tennessee Williams. Bosworth starred with Audrey Hepburn in the 1959 film The Nun's Story, before she turned to writing.

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