Arts/Life

Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri December 26, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Into The Woods' And How To Make A Franchise

NPR

We at PCHH are not together this week for the holidays, as we are scattered hither and yon, literally from coast to coast. But before we scattered thusly, we sat down with our friend (and film critic and musical theater aficionado) Bob Mondello to talk about Disney's new adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods, starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and lots more.

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Found Recipes
2:29 pm
Thu December 25, 2014

After The Presents, A Buttery Tea Cake Tradition

Susan Tannewitz-Karnes grew up eating Mrs. Lawrence every Christmas. The tea cake was so beloved that Tannewitz-Karnes and her siblings would argue over who received more than their fair share.
Courtesy of Susan Tannewitz-Karnes

When listener Susan Tannewitz-Karnes was a child in Johnson City, Tenn., Christmas wasn't Christmas without an English tea cake baked by their neighbor, Mrs. Lawrence.

She would deliver it about a week before Christmas. "We would come home from school and my mother would just say, 'Mrs. Lawrence came by! We have Mrs. Lawrence!' And we'd say, 'Oh, yes! Yes!' We couldn't wait."

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Europe
2:29 pm
Thu December 25, 2014

In Britain, A Christmas Tradition Of Slapstick And Silliness

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Salt
2:29 pm
Thu December 25, 2014

What Would Jesus Drink? A Class Exploring Ancient Wines Asks

An illustration depicts Jesus Christ transforming water into wine during the wedding at Cana (John 2:7).
Joseph Martin Kronheim Kean Collection/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 25, 2014 2:52 pm

Inside the Boston Wine School, Jonathon Alsop places empty glasses and plate of figs and cheese before a small group of students. Alsop, who founded the school in 2000, is doing a test run of a new class that poses the question: What would Jesus drink?

"This is ... a cheese that Jesus might have eaten," he tells students. "It's called Egyptian Roumy — it was a cheese that was introduced to the Egyptians by the Romans. It's a sheep's milk cheese."

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The Salt
2:29 pm
Thu December 25, 2014

Why Bury Fig Trees? A Curious Tradition Preserves A Taste Of Italy

Michele Vaccaro buries a fig tree in the yard of Mary Menniti in Sewickley, Pa.
Hal Klein for NPR

On a grey, chilly December morning in Sewickley, Pa., Michele Vaccaro and his assistant are digging a trench in a garden.

"It looks like we're burying somebody over here — a body," Vaccaro says.

Cast your old Godfather stereotypes aside, because this Calabrian immigrant is carrying on a much more wholesome tradition: He's burying a 12-foot fig tree.

"It's been done for years. Probably [since] the 1800s," he says, when Italians coming to America first started bringing fig trees over from the old country. "They would put them always in the ground."

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The Salt
1:24 am
Thu December 25, 2014

A Punch Line In The U.S., Christmas Fruitcake Is Big In Calcutta

At Calcutta's famous New Market, vendors do brisk business in fruitcake as Christmas approaches.
Sandip Roy for NPR

Originally published on Thu December 25, 2014 5:00 am

Denzil Saldanha is over 80 but far from retired.

He takes orders on the phone, surrounded by workers, newspapers spread out in front of them, cutting slices of fruitcake with thick almond icing.

The family-run Saldanha Bakery and Confectionery is making 600,000 pounds of cake this Christmas. Denzil's daughter Debra Saldanha, who gave up banking to join the family business, says customers appreciate that it's all made to order.

"They get the smell of hot cake coming out of the oven and literally wafting in the air," she says.

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Movie Reviews
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

'Selma' Manages To Be Both Passion-Inspiring And Measured

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 3:23 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Books
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

The Perfect Family Book List

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 3:09 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

U.S.
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

Independent Theater Owner In D.C. Gets Ready To Screen 'The Interview'

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 3:09 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Around the Nation
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

'Crabs For Christmas': A Tuneful Baltimore Tradition (Really!)

Every year, David DeBoy and The Hons (Wendy Savelle, center, and Karen Fitze) perform a live — and often sold-out — show in the upstairs cabaret of a Baltimore restaurant.
Courtesy of David DeBoy

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 3:09 pm

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Monkey See
2:02 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

50 Wonderful Things From 2014

Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy in Obvious Child.
Courtesy of A24

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 2:40 pm

I am not a great maker of lists. Unless pressed, I will make exactly one each year, and this is it.

This is a list of 50 of the wonderful things that wandered through my field of vision in 2014. It is not a definitive list of the best things. It is not merely subjective but sublimely subjective. It leans away from (but doesn't entirely avoid) what's been most highly praised and what seems to have been most rewarded.

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Arts/Life
1:05 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

The Best Of KRWG Music Spotlight

Television
10:34 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Bianculli's Top 10: 2014 Was A 'Good Year For Programming'

Allison Tolman plays Deputy Sheriff Molly Solverson in the FX TV series Fargo. It's a breakout role for the actress who had done only theater and commercials.
Chris Large

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 12:47 pm

Although it wasn't a great year for the shows themselves, it was a good year for programming, says TV critic David Bianculli.

"In terms of what was happening on television, in terms of new and old formats and new, exciting players coming into the mix — [it was] another good year," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm actually kind of encouraged."

Bianculli reflects on how far TV has come.

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The Two-Way
9:19 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Book News: It's Snowing Poet Laureates

Laurels: perfect for the poet laureate on your holiday list.
Grafissimo iStockphoto

The daily lowdown on books, publishing and the occasional author behaving badly.

Lately, state governments have been waxing poetic. Showing their more aesthetic side, North Carolina has named its new state poet laureate, while both Ohio and Massachusetts are moving forward with plans to establish similar posts at home.

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Movie Reviews
9:11 am
Wed December 24, 2014

In A 'Depressing' Year For Films, Edelstein Finds Some Greats

Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason in Boyhood, was 6 years old when director Richard Linklater picked him for the role. Made over the course of 12 years, the film is David Edelstein's favorite of the year.
Courtesy of Matt Lankes

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 12:06 pm

"This is a very, very depressing year for film," critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "because none of the great material came from Hollywood studios."

Studios, he says, direct their financial resources into sequels and comic-book movies, which leaves little room for "creative expression, and for doing something weird and potentially boundary-moving."

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The Salt
4:33 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Guyanese Christmas Gives A Whole New Meaning To Slow Food

Pepperpot, a traditional Guyanese Christmas dish, is basically a stew of aromatics and tough meat parts like shanks, trotters and tails that benefit from a long cooking.
Courtesy of Cynthia Nelson Photography

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:00 am

There are some Christmas foods you make far in advance that just get better and better with age and anticipation. Like British fruitcakes that age into their boozy ripeness, and German gingerbread cookies called lebkuchen that get softer and spicier as they mature.

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Art & Design
1:17 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Mother, Empress, Virgin, Faith: 'Picturing Mary' And Her Many Meanings

Curator Timothy Verdon says "Mary is unexpectedly fashionable" in Fra Filippo Lippi's Madonna and Child, painted in the 1460s.
Provincia di Firenze, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence National Museum of Women in the Arts

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:56 am

This Christmas, images of the Virgin Mary created over five centuries glow on the walls of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Mary's role as Woman, Mother and Idea is portrayed by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt as well as other major and lesser-known artists from the 1400s through the 1900s.

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Dance
4:58 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

In Seattle, Maurice Sendak's 'Wild' 'Nutcracker' Reaches Its Final Act

Stowell (right) says Sendak (left) needed some convincing before he signed on to design a new Nutcracker. Their version of the ballet debuted in 1983.
David Cooper Pacific Northwest Ballet

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 5:32 pm

In Seattle, the Pacific Northwest Ballet performs The Nutcracker to that same ubiquitous Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky score. The ballet tells the story of Clara, a young girl whose grandfather gives her a nutcracker at a party. One night, Clara goes searching for her nutcracker and walks right into a battle between a regiment of toy soldiers and a wily team of oversized rodents.

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Movies
2:21 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

How To Compose Music For A Movie About Music

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 4:28 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arts & Life
11:37 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Serial Host Sarah Koenig Says She Set Out To Report, Not Exonerate

The Serial podcast is Sarah Koenig's reinvestigation of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a Maryland high school student who was strangled in 1999. Lee was found in Baltimore's Leakin Park. Her schoolmate and ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder and is serving a life sentence.
Courtesy of Serial

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 4:32 pm

Sarah Koenig didn't expect her new podcast, Serial, to get so much press, but she says the attention helped keep her on her toes: "It was just a constant reminder of how careful we needed to be," Koenig tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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The Salt
9:43 am
Tue December 23, 2014

For Australian Christmas, Everything's Overturned But The Pudding

Australian Christmas today is characterized by gastronomic eclecticism. Many of us have abandoned the old British customs — except for the rich and alcoholic Christmas pudding.
Edward Shaw iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 9:58 am

Americans know Australia as the land Down Under, and one consequence of this geographical flip is that Christmas here falls at the height of summer.

Our 100-degree temperatures aren't exactly conducive to cooking with a hot oven — although early colonists gave it their best shot.

But it wasn't long before Australians began to rebel, ditching the formal dining room for the pleasures of a picnic spread at the beach or a shady glade. Over the years, many of us have abandoned the old British customs altogether.

Except for Christmas pudding.

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The Two-Way
9:01 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Book News: For A Deeper Sleep, Forgo The E-Reader Before Bed

It's clear from this child's reckless nighttime e-reading that someone has not kept up with their subscription to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mari iStock

The daily lowdown on books, publishing and the occasional author behaving badly.

When picking up a book before bed, sleepy readers ought to give some thought not just to what they read but also how they read. It doesn't matter how boring the material may be; if you're plodding through it on an e-reader, a new study shows it'll likely be tougher to fall asleep — and to get a good rest while you're at it.

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Monkey See
5:03 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Videos Of Ray Rice, Eric Garner Among Biggest Media Moments Of 2014

Protesters in Boston during a December demonstration against the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers in New York City and Ferguson, Mo.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 11:08 am

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Arts & Life
3:05 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Time For A Holiday Favorite: 'Santaland Diaries'

Philip Game Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 9:14 am

You might not expect "Santa's Helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he read on Morning Edition in 1992.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his story.

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Movie Reviews
1:31 am
Tue December 23, 2014

A Vital Chapter Of American History On Film In 'Selma'

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in the new movie Selma.
Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 1:47 pm

It's hard to believe, but there has never been a major motion picture that centers on one of this country's most iconic figures: Martin Luther King Jr. But that's about to change, with Selma, which opens Christmas Day.

The film explores the tumult and the tactics of the civil rights movement, from King's tense relationship with President Lyndon Johnson to the battle for voting rights for black Americans — a battle that reached a climax on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, as state police beat peaceful protesters trying to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

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Movie Interviews
1:27 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Satirizing Dictators Is Nothing New — Just Ask Charlie Chaplin

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 5:31 pm

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The Salt
4:21 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Sandwich Monday: The 'Shroom Burger From Shake Shack

Mouth's eye view of the 'Shroom Burger.
NPR

If you haven't heard of Shake Shack, it's a hip, growing national chain where Americans go to stand in long lines. Also, it serves food.

We tried the 'Shroom Burger, a breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom patty in a bun. It's topped with lettuce, tomato and the chain's special sauce.

Peter: In order to get the mushrooms stuffed with cheese, they plant the spores in a block of Velveeta.

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Found Recipes
2:23 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Yule Have To Try This Gingerbread Buche De Noel

Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan says she makes a "Franco-American" buche de Noel with American flavoring and French technique.
Alan Richardson Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 3:50 pm

Sweets this time of year take on all kinds of whimsical shapes: cookies cut into stars, stockings and gingerbread men, candy canes, peanut butter balls ... or logs covered in frosting.

Yes, really — logs.

Not real logs, of course — these are holiday cakes, rolled and frosted to look like a yule log and known as buche de Noel. Sometimes the cakes are dotted with little meringue mushrooms or edible holly leaves. While the cake may not be on every American's baking list, cookbook author Dorie Greenspan says it's iconic in Europe.

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Movie Interviews
1:35 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

We Ask A Scholar: How Does Ridley Scott's 'Exodus' Compare With The Bible's?

In Exodus, Christian Bale's Moses is more of an action hero than a religious figure.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 3:50 pm

For nearly a century, Hollywood has been turning out cinematic adaptations of the biblical book of Exodus. There have been Technicolor versions, animated versions and even a silent version. Now, filmmaker Ridley Scott has a 3-D contribution: Exodus: Gods and Kings.

NPR's Robert Siegel asks Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, for his thoughts on the film. Alter has translated most of the Hebrew Bible, including the five books of Moses, and he's a leading secular scholar of Scripture.

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The Salt
12:23 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

In Slovakia, Christmas Dinner Starts In The Bathtub

Ivan Babej AP

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 11:38 am

For centuries, families throughout much of central Europe have relied on one simple main course for Christmas Eve dinner: the common carp.

But getting from river (or carp farm) to table is not so simple. As the tradition goes, the Christmas carp must first swim in the family bathtub for at least a day or two before being killed, cleaned and prepared.

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