Arts and culture

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Kani Alavi was a young artist living in an apartment overlooking the border between East and West Berlin. He remembers seeing East Berliners streaming through "like a wave of water," he said through an interpreter. "Some were joyful, some were doubtful, some were afraid they might not [have the chance to] cross again."

Alavi painted that moment: a flowing river of faces he calls "Es geschah im November," or "It happened in November."

We're taping our show in Ann Arbor this week, where there is no bigger topic than Michigan Football. Every game day, so many people pack into Michigan Stadium that it becomes a super-massive black hole and bores into the center of the Earth, making it necessary to build another stadium every week.

You can run out of colorful adjectives trying to describe Julie d'Aubigny. She was, according to history, exquisite in appearance, a graceful and superb fencer, a sublime singer, a swashbuckling duellist, and lover of men and women, famous and cloistered — and that's just the beginning.

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Jacques Pépin says his new cookbook, Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, is an invitation to join him for dinner at his house. Of course, you'll have to do all the cooking — but you can use his recipes.

Pépin will turn 80 years old this year. He says this is one of his last cookbooks, and it's timed to coincide what he says is his final PBS show, airing this fall: Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul.

Rosemary Kennedy was a beauty, a debutante, and the daughter of one of America's most glamorous families. She was born with a wealth of advantages as the daughter of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy — but her mental development was flawed at birth, and never got beyond about a fourth-grade level.

And at the age of 23, Rosemary Kennedy underwent a new neurosurgical procedure that a couple of respected doctors said might make it easier for her to function in the world: A lobotomy. The operation left Kennedy mostly mute, withdrawn and damaged.

It's a classic story: A man stranded in a remote, forbidding land, left to scrabble a hard existence while he waits for help that might never come. Think of Robinson Crusoe, Tom Hanks and his beloved volleyball Wilson in Castaway -- even Gilligan's Island, for that matter.

Now, add another to that list: Mark Watney, an astronaut marooned on Mars in the new film The Martian. The movie is directed by Sir Ridley Scott, adapted from Andy Weir's best-selling novel, and filled with A-list stars like Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The Mysteries Of Family, Captured In 'Invisible Ink'

23 hours ago

A family story is always something of a mystery story. The mystery, of course, is, "How could I possibly have come from these people?" The more you know about your family, the more the mystery deepens. How has it affected your life's path that your great-uncle sold insurance, or that your grandmother was a noted lepidopterist? And whatever happened to free will, anyway?

A new tourist attraction in Argentina — The Centro Cultural Kirchner in downtown Buenos Aires — has been posting some impressive numbers since it opened in mid-May. As many as 10,000 patrons a day are trooping through an ornate, turn-of-the-last-century building that has been converted into what's said to be the fourth-largest cultural center in the world. Remarkably, everything in it is free, from video installations to comedy acts to symphony concerts.

Shahzia Sikander is one of the contemporary art world's most celebrated stars. She's projecting her hypnotic video installations onto Times Square billboards; she's led exhibitions at major art museums across the world; and she was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as a "genius" fellow in 2006.

Women have historically been told their place is in the kitchen — but not as chefs: According to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department, to this day, only about 20 percent of chefs are women.

It all harks back to the fact that being a chef was not as glamorous as it is today, says Deborah Harris, a sociology professor at Texas State University whose new book, Taking The Heat, explores the issue.

Book Review: 'The News,' By Tess Taylor

Oct 2, 2015
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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Tell an influential, internationally celebrated filmmaker he can't operate a camera, write a script, or direct a movie and what does he do? If he's Jafar Panahi, he drives a taxi.

This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Petra Mayer of NPR Books to our fourth chair for a chat about the comic Ms. Marvel. We must admit, we were more in agreement than we often are, so if you like arguing, you won't find all that much: we really love this series. We talk about Ms. Marvel herself, a/k/a Kamala Khan, from her exploration of identity to her friends and family, and we get into why the book's lively sense of humor hit such a sweet spot for us.

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Margaret Heffernan's TED Talk

Drawing from an experiment with chickens, entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan explains how our cultural obsession with individual success is threatening our potential for collaboration and productivity.

About Margaret Heffernan

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Dame Stephanie Shirley's TED Talk

What's in a name? For tech entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley, bidding contracts under the name "Steve" enabled her to launch and grow a freelance software company with a virtually all-female staff.

About Dame Stephanie Shirley

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Dan Ariely's TED Talk

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely says we work hard not because we have to, but because we want to. He examines the intrinsic values we need to feel motivated to work.

About Dan Ariely

How Can A Monotonous Job Be Meaningful?

Oct 2, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Meaning Of Work.

About Barry Schwartz's TED Talk

Psychologist Barry Schwartz says our current thinking about work focuses too much on paychecks and too little on all the ways we find fulfillment — even in jobs many might consider mundane.

About Barry Schwartz

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And let's go behind the scenes of a show that began just after the Vietnam War ended and premieres its 41st season in a much-changed world tomorrow night.


Grief Is Unpredictable In 'After You'

Oct 2, 2015

Grief is a tricky subject.

It's a tricky subject in real life, because no two people will ever deal with it in exactly the same way, and often we expect people to deal with their grief much differently than they actually do.

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Set in 1932, Indian Summers is a tale of two communities. The British rule India, and in their annual tradition, they retreat into the hills — with all their Indian servants — to stay cool during the summer. But while the British gossip over gin and tonics, the Indian streets are brewing with calls for independence. The new 10-part British TV drama — about empire and race and relationships that cross those lines — has just had its U.S. debut on Masterpiece on PBS.

The world's most prolific banned filmmaker, Jafar Panahi has made three features since 2010, when the Iranian government officially prohibited him from working. The latest, Taxi, is the friskiest and most expansive. Its relative sweep, though, must be understood in terms of Iranian art cinema, which has always emphasized the things it can't show.

The filmmaker who did more than any other to bum us all out about space travel now wants us to feel inspired by it again.

Early on in Davis Guggenheim's tender celebration of women's education activist Malala Yousafzai, we see the bright-eyed Pakistani teenager working her laptop in her family's new home in Birmingham, England. Fending off accusations of bossiness and "violence" from her younger brothers, the Muslim girl who stood up to the Taliban giggles as she dials up web photos of her crushes Brad Pitt, Roger Federer, and a hunky cricketer whose name I didn't catch.

In their absence, the twin towers have occupied such a significant place in the American conscience, it can be easy to forget they were once considered a blight on the landscape. "Like two file cabinets," snorts one New Yorker in The Walk, Robert Zemeckis' exhilarating film about Philippe Petit, the French wire-walker who tightroped across the towers as they were nearing completion in 1974.

Growing up during the crack era in East Baltimore, author D. Watkins saw firsthand how the drug destroyed communities. "It trashed my neighborhood," Watkins tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm old enough to remember before crack really hit, and once it did hit, it changed a whole dynamic of how drug culture worked."

Suddenly, Watkins says, teenage kids — himself included — were selling crack on street corners. But the drug wasn't leaving the neighborhood with each sale. "Everybody's parents were junkies," he says. "And all the kids were selling or using."

Writer Jojo Moyes has a name that lacks gravitas. To be honest, I even feel a bit silly saying her name when I recommend her novels to people — which I do, often and energetically. It's hard to imagine a "Jojo" ever winning the Nobel Prize for Literature; but Moyes has already won a pretty good consolation prize — that is, the kind of staunch, adoring readership that will follow her novels anywhere they go.