Arts & Life

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Kwame Alexander writes books that bend genres — novels about middle school boys, written not in prose but verse. And he does it well: His book The Crossover won the Newbery Medal last year for children's literature.

His new book is no different. Composed of a series of poems, Booked tells the story of a 12-year-old named Nick, a boy who loves soccer and hates books. But, as Alexander notes, there's a reason for that.

A Spanish Comic Book Exposes Franco's Orphanages

Apr 3, 2016

Sometimes the most unlikely image can provide insight into the nature of tyranny. Take, for example, a comic-book picture of a small boy vomiting. The comic book is Paracuellos, Carlos Giménez's memoir of growing up in the orphanages of Francisco Franco's Spain. There are actually several upchuckings in this work, and the symbolic wallop they pack makes clear why Giménez is celebrated in the European comics scene.

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

As much as we might like to, we can't lay claim to that headline. Credit Rik Stevens, instead, with the golden little rhyme, which he tweeted to All Things Considered earlier this week.

If you have kids, you know two things — they hate to be scared ... and they love to be scared. Author R.L. Stine figured that out years ago, and with his best-selling Goosebumps and Fear Street series, he has now terrified generations of children.

Since R.L. Stine isn't the only famous R.L. out there, we've invited him to answer three questions about fashion mogul Ralph Lauren — who was born Ralph Lifshitz.

Pet Health Insurance

Apr 2, 2016
IndysMom [Flickr]

A broken foot may seem like a small injury, but with x-rays, anesthesia (so the pet will be still for x-rays and treatment), medications and veterinary fees, it can be an expensive event for a pet owner.  When the unexpected happens, pet health insurance can make it possible to give your furry friend the care it needs.

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

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

On a cold, dark night, a stranger arrives in an Irish village. He's a healer, he says, and a sex therapist. His name is Dr. Vladimir Dragan, but he is known as "Vuk," or "wolf," and he is a wolf in a land of sheep.

"Maybe he'll bring a bit of Romance into our lives," the owner of the local pub says.

It's an odd thing, watching a memoirist grow up on the page.

Most writers (and we're talking about a specific subset of writers here — those afflicted by the autobiographical blabbermouth disease) have one in them. They reach an age, glance back over their shoulders and see a book waiting there. For most mortals, 300-some pages is enough to contain all the tales of childhood weirdness, drinks and drugs, failed love affairs and the slow, lumbering trudge into age and wisdom. Some fantastic messes or geniuses have two.

And then there's Augusten Burroughs.

You probably remember that discredited Rolling Stone story about an alleged fraternity rape, or the coverage of a Columbia University student who carried around a mattress she says she was raped on; maybe you saw the headlines about two Steubenville, Ohio, high school athletes

You know the formula — troubled teen meets inspirational mentor, and it hardly matters whether we're talking a delinquent battling a judge, or a chess champion pitted against a street gang.

But suppose the mentor is more troubled than the teen. That's the story in The Dark Horse, a based-on-truth tale about a middle-aged Maori speed-chess champion who is released from a New Zealand mental institution, alas, into the home of his biker-gang brother. From frying pan to fire, with medication issues.

"Who needs France without the Louvre? Or Russia without the Hermitage?"

These questions, addressed to Francofonia's audience by director and narrator Alexander Sokurov, may recall Russian Ark, the Siberia-born filmmaker's best-known (and arguably best) movie. But while his new film is nominally about the Paris museum, it's less focused than Russian Ark. That 2002 cinematic pageant presented Russian history in a single, unedited 87-minute take that danced through the St. Petersburg landmark.

On the most recent Sight & Sound list of "The 50 Greatest Films of All Time" --- conducted every 10 years, it's the closest thing cinema gets to an official canon — Chantal Akerman's 1975 masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles was the only film directed by a woman, and a new addition at that. Currently tied at #35 (Psycho, Metropolis, and Sátántangó are keeping it prestigious company), Jeanne Dielman only stands to rise as its sphere of influence continues to increase.

Time was when every other drama about troubled youth came packaged with evil, inept or uncomprehending government functionaries itching to make matters worse. In Emmanuelle Bercot's sympathetic Standing Tall, one sorely lacking caseworker shows up briefly to rub salt in the prior wounds of a damaged youngster. He is quickly dispatched though, and from then on the film tags along with a team of dedicated workers trying to rescue the teenager from a rotten past, a lousy future, and his own hair-trigger temper. There's not a saint among them, but their devotion rarely flags.

Don Cheadle has been playing Miles Davis for his entire career. To look back now on some of the actor's most exciting performances — as flashy porn star Buck Swope in Boogie Nights, velvet-slick con man Basher Tarr in the Ocean's trilogy, and rabble-rousing deejay Petey Greene in Talk to Me — is to recognize those same larger-than-life elements from the persona of the jazz legend and Cheadle's personal hero.

Beautifully lit, perfectly styled food photography is everywhere — in magazines, food blogs, and even Instagram, where your 10-year-old cousin is already expert at using natural light to make mom's cooking look delicious. These images are usually carefully curated to project an image of an idealized existence where the chicken never burns and everyone is always smiling, perfectly coiffed round the table.

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

Fresh Air Remembers Actress Patty Duke

Apr 1, 2016
Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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

How Can Text Messaging Save Lives?

Apr 1, 2016

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Crisis and Response

About Nancy Lublin's TED Talk

Activist Nancy Lublin explains how Crisis Text Line, the first 24/7 text line of its kind, has helped millions of people by providing direct support as well as anonymous data about people in crisis.

About Nancy Lublin

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Crisis and Response

About Melissa Fleming's TED Talk

Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the UNHCR, tells the story of a young refugee who miraculously survived four days on a child's life ring after her boat was capsized in 2014.

About Melissa Fleming

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Crisis and Response

About Matt Weinstein's TED Talk

Motivational speaker Matt Weinstein shares the lessons he learned after losing his life's savings to Bernie Madoff, a man who ran one of biggest investment scams in U.S. history.

About Matt Weinstein

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Crisis and Response

About Ken Kamler's TED Talk

Physician Ken Kamler describes his experience as a doctor on Mount Everest during one of its deadliest days in its history.

About Ken Kamler

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Crisis and Response

About Kitra Cahana's TED Talk

Photojournalist and conceptual artist Kitra Cahana describes how her father dealt with a stroke that left his body completely paralyzed, and how his experience of "locked-in syndrome" opened a world of unexpected opportunities for him.

About Kitra Cahana

During the 1930s, as Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany, the man who would turn out to be his most implacable foe was drowning — in debt and champagne.

In 1936, Winston Churchill owed his wine merchant the equivalent of $75,000 in today's money. He was also in hock to his shirt-maker, watchmaker and printer — but his sybaritic lifestyle, of a cigar-smoking, horse-owning country aristocrat, continued apace.

Quick announcement, before we get started: During the month of April, Pop Culture Happy Hour will be available a day early, exclusively in the NPR One app. Nothing else will change; the show will otherwise appear in your feeds and on this site first thing Friday morning. But for those who use NPR One, or who've been thinking about trying it, you'll get a little head start.

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