Arts & Life

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In the 1980s, Raymond Douglas had been living in Ireland when a priest invited him for a drink. This was not an invitation to partake in Holy Communion. Rather, the priest — whom Douglas, then 18, had come to know as the unofficial chaplain at his school — had invited Douglas out to a party.

'Smoke' Author Dan Vyleta Keeps It Messy

May 22, 2016

The river Avon is crowded: swans, boaters, a swimming dog or two. On the bank, an excited old man waves at each boat like a castaway sighting rescue.

Stratford is all pubs and thatched roofs and sweet shops, with its daytrippers and slightly suffocating, kitschified Shakespearean pedigree (I say that: I still contemplated buying an "Out, damn spot" novelty eraser). The author Dan Vyleta teaches in nearby Birmingham, but lives here with his partner, a literary translator. We're sitting on a bench on the opposite bank from the happy castaway, looking at the Avon.

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

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

Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make: "The world is really divided into two kinds of people. People who adore plague novels and wimps."

Known mostly for graphic novels, Fantagraphics has ventured occasionally into prose — including His Wife Leaves Him, the 2013 novel by award-winning author Stephen Dixon. Letters to Kevin is Dixon's second book for Fantagraphics, and while it's also a work of prose, it veers a bit closer to the publisher's wheelhouse: It's profusely illustrated by Dixon himself. It's a risky move; most of Dixon's rudimentary sketches are of the don't-quit-your-day-job variety.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

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

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

The copper craft makers in Seffarin Square in the historic district of Fez, Morocco, bang out designs on platters and shape copper pots to a rhythm.

Called the medina, neighborhood streets lined with domes and archways take you back through the history of the dynasties and occupiers that ruled Morocco from the 9th century on. At the center of the square is the Qarawiyyin Library, founded more than a millennium ago.

Even car racing fans may be surprised to learn that in the 1920s a poem would grace the pages of the race-day program. But then, what better way to get the juices flowing, amid the exhaust, screaming engines and checkered flags, than a few lines of verse?

In case by now you didn't know it,

the Indy 500 has brought back its poet.

Ben Collins is a very, very good driver. You may have seen him drive on the European race circuit, or on the BBC show Top Gear, or in the James Bond movies. He's written a book called How to Drive so that you, too, can come to a screeching stop right at the edge of a cliff. (Or so we hope.)

Since Collins knows a lot about gears, we've decided to quiz him on Richard Gere.

ASPCA

When  Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA on April 10, 1866, I wonder if he ever could have envisioned the effective force it has become for animal welfare not just in its home base of New York City but all across the country!

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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 the first page of Girls on Fire, author Robin Wasserman asks us to imagine a group of teenage girls on a bus. "Give in: Pick a pair of them, lost in each other, a matched set like a vision out of the past," she writes. "Nobody special, two nobodies. Except that together, they're radioactive: together, they glow."

Watching a Terence Davies film is like watching paintings come to life. On the other hand, the filmmaker jokes, "The people who don't like my films say it's about as interesting as paint drying."

Still, Davies (pronounced "Davis") has plenty of defenders. More than one critic has called him Britain's greatest living film director, and French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard — who was famously not a fan of British moviemakers — called Davies' 1988 full-length feature breakout, Distant Voices, Still Lives, "magnificent".

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is kind of the unofficial poet laureate of Detroit. She has written three plays about her hometown and her latest, Skeleton Crew, looks at four African-American automobile workers struggling with the economic downturn in 2008. The play is currently running off-Broadway, where it's gotten rave reviews.

“All the Governor’s Men: A Mountain Brook Novel”

Author: Katherine Clark   

Foreword by Pat Conroy

Publisher: University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 238

Price: $29.99 (Hardcover)

“Half- Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life”

Author: Edward O. Wilson   

Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation

Pages: 212

Price: $15.95 (Hardcover)

It is arguable that Edward O. Wilson, a native Alabamian who graduated from UA before his Ph.D. at Harvard, had his career at Harvard, is now Professor Emeritus and has over the years won two Pulitzer Prizes, is the most important biologist alive today.

Attention should be paid.

Mike Rowe: Public Radio Shopping Network

May 20, 2016

Before he became a go-to television host, Mike Rowe got a small part in the Baltimore Opera in hopes of joining the actor's union. "Okay, you can't fake your way into opera!" interjected Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando, Florida. "Sure you can," he responded. "You can fake your way into anything. I mean, look at us!" During a long break in a performance, Rowe grabbed a drink across the street. The bartender told him about a cattle-call audition for a home shopping network the very next day.

If you were to ask our experts, "so are you a rocket scientist or something?" Gioia Massa and Melissa Jones would say, "well, yes!"

Gioia Massa is a NASA project scientist focused on growing lettuce on the International Space Station. The goal is to be able to grow food in space, rather than bring it from Earth, if we all move to Mars one day. And, as host Ophira Eisenberg points out, there isn't a Whole Foods on the way.

Decode The State

May 20, 2016

Try replacing a word that is also a postal code with the full name of the state. What vice president "lost" the 2000 election, but won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth"? That's ALABAMA Gore, when you replace the postal code A-L with the full state name.

Heard on Mike Rowe And NASA Scientists: Dirty Jobs In Spaaace!

See You Later Alligator

May 20, 2016

Florida is home to about 1.5 million alligators, so we've crafted this game around the expression, "See you later, alligator!" Each answer contains a word that ends in ator. See you later, gladiator!

Heard on Mike Rowe And NASA Scientists: Dirty Jobs In Spaaace!

Fantasy Sports

May 20, 2016

We ask contestants to identify sports franchises that share their names with things found in fantasy literature. If we said, "This Florida basketball team is named for the supernatural art studied at Hogwarts," the answer would be "The Orlando Magic." Because this is public radio and sports are hard, they only have to know the fantasy word.

Heard on Mike Rowe And NASA Scientists: Dirty Jobs In Spaaace!

Spy Spy Spy

May 20, 2016

Orlando is the primordial soup from which many of the most successful boy bands emerged: The Backstreet Boys, O-Town, and, of course... N*SYNC. In recognition, we have rewritten N*SYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" to be about famous fictional spy spy spies.

Heard on Mike Rowe And NASA Scientists: Dirty Jobs In Spaaace!

How Can We Design For A Better Experience?

May 20, 2016

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Power of Design

About Tony Fadell's TED Talk

The designer behind the iPod and the Nest thermostat explains why design is in the details, and why designers often get those details wrong.

About Tony Fadell

A new oil painting has just arrived in what may be the world's most clandestine art gallery — the fine arts collection at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

This commissioned work isn't your typical still life; the tableau is a busy clutter of gear — photos, blueprints, weapons and ammunition.

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