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How's your week going so far?

That well, huh? We understand.

Over on our show, Pop Culture Happy Hour, we recently spent an episode talking all about comedy specials, which play a unique role for us in helping hard times feel a little less taxing. Stephen Thompson of NPR Music, Glen Weldon of the NPR arts desk, Mike Katzif of Ask Me Another and I chose two specials each to highlight from the last couple of years.

Donald Hall, a former poet laureate of the United States whose writing explored everything from nature to mortality to the toss of a baseball, has died at the age of 89.

Hall died on Saturday at his family farm, known as Eagle Pond, in the small town of Wilmot, N.H. His death was announced by his literary agent, Wendy Strothman.

Hall was a prolific author who began writing when he was just 12 years old. Over the course of a career that spanned more than seven decades, he wrote over 40 books, about half of which were works of poetry.

At Union Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, a classroom of fifth grade students are buzzing during the last week of school.

The students are high-fiving, grabbing popcorn and forming a circle around a makeshift stage.

One of those students is Dylan Martinez — he's here to celebrate a movie he made.

"My film is about a scared plumber," Martinez says. "We pretty much put all the scripts together, all the screens together, went to the places where we filmed our scenes, and we edited, put music, looked for music, and that's it!"

Mexican actor Diego Luna first shot to fame in the United States after 2001's Y Tu Mamá También. Since then, he's starred in a handful of blockbusters — including, recently, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — and he's about to play the leader of a drug cartel in the upcoming season of Netflix's Narcos.

Luna could have happily continued to live a successful life in Hollywood, but he missed Mexico. At a café near his kids' school in Mexico City, he explains why.

It's got to be a bit daunting for a comics creator to contribute to an anthology revolving around Michael Chabon's Escapist. Chabon created the Escapist in his 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize and set a new standard for highbrow treatment of comics. He's an author who's always expected great things from the form; in the keynote speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards (included in this volume), Chabon called for writers and artists "to ...

The new novel Confessions of the Fox is a mystery enrobed in a mystery.

Hugh Grant was finishing up his studies at Oxford in 1970s, when the scandal about British politician Jeremy Thorpe broke. "It was a source of much amusement and sort of schoolboy giggling at the time," Grant recalls.

Thorpe, also an Oxford man, was a savvy progressive, expected to make history as the leader of Britain's Liberal Party. But Norman Scott, a former groom and aspiring model, came forward to say he'd had a sexual relationship with the popular politician. Thorpe was later accused of hiring a hitman to murder Scott.

Early in his memoir Room to Dream, filmmaker and artist David Lynch seems to question the entire purpose of memoirs. Talking to Jack Nance, star of Lynch's deliriously baffling debut film Eraserhead, Lynch says there's no way to convey the essence of life moments. "You can tell all the stories you want," he says, "but you still haven't gotten what the experience was like across. It's like telling somebody a dream. It doesn't give them the dream."

Playing Hanafuda With The Hand You're Dealt

Jun 23, 2018

At her home in Honolulu, our grandmother hovered above us, inspecting our cards: illustrations of wisteria, chrysanthemum, cherry and plum blossoms and, if we were lucky, a crane perched among pine branches. My cousins and I were playing a 200-year-old Japanese card game called hanafuda, which translates to "flower cards." She taught us the game when we were young, maybe so she could have a new crop of opponents to defeat.

Updated at 5:09 p.m. ET

In the image, a little girl wails in uncomprehending sadness and anxiety.

Her face flushed nearly as pink as her shirt and shoes, she stares up at her mother and a U.S. official, both too tall to be seen. The 2-year-old Honduran child's panic is so palpable, it's difficult for a viewer not to feel it, too.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

ABC canceled its lucrative reboot of Roseanne in late May, after star Roseanne Barr published a tweet that compared Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama, to an ape. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey called the tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values." It looked like the network was willing to take a financial hit and part with a successful property in the name of, of all things, principle.

Not so fast.

Children are plagued by the occasional certainty that there's a monster in their basement, if not right under their bed, and they're almost always wrong. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the follow-up to 2015's mediocre but hugely successful revival of the Jurassic franchise, is the exception that proves the rule.

The following baseball terms apply to The Catcher Was a Spy, a modestly appointed biopic about Moe Berg, a major-league-catcher-turned-OSS-agent during World War II: "Down the middle," "a can of corn," "passed ball," "below the Mendoza line," "designated for assignment."

In other words, it's a consistent underachiever, as washed-out and terminally mediocre as Berg himself was at the end of his long stint in the majors. Or, to quote a favorite schoolyard taunt: We want a catcher, not a belly scratcher. And there's an abundance of belly scratching going on in this film.

"Not another Elvis movie," you scream at the heavens in the year 2018. "The man's been dead for four decades. Every part of him has been strip-mined for white-nostalgia money already. My parents just dragged me to the touring production of Million Dollar Quartet. Show some mercy, people."

First of all: point taken. Secondly: don't be cruel. You haven't seen The King yet. And you're going to want to. Oh, yes.

To rescue his kidnapped fiancee, an earnest dandy rides into the wilderness, accompanied by a fake preacher and a miniature horse. That's the setup for Damsel, a deadpan farce filmed on the rocky Utah turf of classic John Ford Westerns. David and Nathan Zellner are on another cinematic quest.

Much has been written about Donald Trump as a politician and as a businessman, but a new book by Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox looks at the president through a different lens: as the head of a family.

Fox's new book, Born Trump: Inside America's First Family, focuses on Trump's three marriages and five children — as well as on his relationship with son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

One summer's day a few years ago, my daughter and her friends piled into a car that one of them had recently gotten a license to drive. "Where are you going?" I asked with false calm. "We're driving up Wisconsin Avenue until it turns into Rockville Pike," my daughter said, naming some roads in and around Washington, D.C. "Then," she continued, "we're gonna keep on driving up Rockville Pike. We want to see what's at the end."

Voting in this year's Summer Reader Poll is closed — and you've given us more than 6,000 of your favorite horror novels and stories to sort through. So while my shambling hordes of undead minions (OK, the interns) get to sorting and tabulating the results, let's meet the expert panelists who've agreed to help us build the final list. (Really, running the Summer Poll is just an excuse for me to hang around with authors I admire, but shhhh ... don't tell anyone.)

Look, I know how these things are supposed to work.

Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl shares her under-the-radar reading recommendations with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep. This year's picks include mysteries, nonfiction and a fantasy story for young readers.

(These recommendations have been edited for clarity and length.)

Danny Hajek and Shannon Rhoades produced and edited this segment for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

"There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse."

Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón said that.

But what does he know.

After a month-long investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz has been cleared by MIT to continue teaching there next year.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

The short version: I loved this book! I was also very confused by this book.

The longer version: I was intrigued by the title of Kate Evangelista's new book The Boyfriend Bracket. The tagline on the cover read like a movie poster, "8 Boys, 16 Dates, 1 Perfect Boyfriend."

Grab the tissues — the Fab Five are back with a second season of Netflix's Queer Eye.

For the uninitiated, Queer Eye is a makeover show where five gay men with different areas of expertise (fashion, food, grooming, interior design) have a week to help change the life of one person, who they refer to as a "hero."

We paused this week to bring you a bit of a respite from the news that's still often incisive, smart, and essential. In other words, we're talking stand-up comedy. You can listen to the show to hear all of the recommendations from me, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and our friend Mike Katzif — and to hear the performers in their own words — but here's the list if you're trying to track them down:

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