Arts and culture

It's a lot easier to write about a dead parent than a living one. Alison Bechdel's new "comic drama," Are You My Mother?, makes this abundantly clear. Fun Home, her amazing 2006 graphic memoir, was about her difficult, closeted gay father, who died shortly after she came out as a lesbian in college. This fascinating but demanding followup volume explores her uneasy relationship with her emotionally distant mother — who is not only alive but openly critical of Bechdel's work.

When Sissy Spacek started her film career, she was told to lose her heavy Texas accent. But her famous drawl became one of her greatest assets when Terrence Malick cast her in his 1973 crime drama Badlands.

Spacek played Holly, a teenage girl from South Dakota who became an accomplice on a cross-country murder spree. The film, which also starred Martin Sheen, was narrated in Spacek's distinctive Southern voice.

Writer and poet Holly Bass joins host Michel Martin to wrap up Tell Me More's poetry series, Muses and Metaphor. In celebration of National Poetry Month, listeners and friends of the program were invited to tweet poems no longer than 140 characters, via Twitter.

Nick Dybek is the author of When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man.

The sinister face sneering from the cover is reason enough to keep John Fowles' The Magus tucked discreetly away. Then there's the 600 or so pages inside, which are filled with pretentious riffs on psychoanalysis, metaphysics, fascism and the occult.

Robert Caro writes obsessively about power. Fittingly, it's Lyndon Johnson — catapulted suddenly into the presidency "in the crack of a gunshot" — who consumes him.

The Passage of Power, the fourth volume of Caro's massive biography of Lyndon Johnson, is released this week. Caro has dedicated decades to meticulously researching Johnson's life, and the previous books in the series have been almost universally hailed as a significant achievement in American letters.

Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are no strangers to D.C. politics. The two of them have been in Washington for more than 40 years — and they're renowned for their carefully nonpartisan positions.

But now, they say, Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, and they aren't hesitating to point a finger at who they think is to blame.

Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz checks-in with Three-Minute Fiction judge Luis Alberto Urrea to hear how the reading process is going and to hear some of his favorite stories thus far.

Teaching, once a revered profession, has of late been much maligned. Teachers are accused of laziness and greed. They're blamed for low test scores, and a general decline in the nation's educational standing. Most people believe their work day is short and their vacations are long. But teachers also have their defenders — perhaps none so passionate as Taylor Mali.



In the history of Major League Baseball, one of the most emotional moments came in the summer of 1993. The week didn't begin well for New York Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott. He was pitching terribly against the Cleveland Indians. His manager took him out, so...

JIM ABBOTT: I ripped off my Yankee jersey, put on my running shorts and shirt and shoes. And I left the stadium. I just went for a long kind of get-it-out run, as far and as fast as I could, to kind of get rid of some of the anger and disappointment of that start.

Hopper, Hockney, Lichtenstein. Among these great artists featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., you'll now find Lara Croft and Earthworm Jim.

Chris Colfer, one of the stars of the hit TV show Glee, is known for his portrayal of Kurt, a confident and openly gay high school student (who also possesses pipes like a diva). In the new film Struck By Lightning, which Colfer wrote, he plays a very different character: Carson Phillips, an ambitious high school student who starts a literary magazine in order to get into Northwestern University. The character is arrogant and not exactly well-liked, so how does he collect submissions? By blackmailing the popular kids, of course.

If you're watching a sports game at home, at a bar or at an arena, what better way to enjoy it than with some nachos, pretzels or hot dogs?

As a former baseball player, Josh Chetwynd knows a thing or two about stadium grub. His new book, How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink, features 75 short essays that trace the history of popular food and dispel common misconceptions.

On-Air Challenge: Every answer today is a familiar three-word phrase in which the second word is "and" and the first word starts with the letter L. You'll be given the last word of the phrase, and you must identify the first word, starting with "L." For example, given "master," the answer would be "lord," as in "lord and master."

There was news this week that Ernest "Chick" Callenbach had died. His 1975 cult-classic, Ecotopia, was beloved by environmentalists and science fiction fans. Originally self-published, it went on to sell more than a million copies in many languages. The utopian novel, which imagined a new nation made up of Northern California, Oregon and Washington state, is told from the point of view of a visiting reporter from the United States.

Lawrence Kasdan became famous for writing the blockbusters The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he went on to a successful directing career with high-profile films like Body Heat, The Big Chill and Grand Canyon.

His latest film, and his first in nine years, is Darling Companion, which Kasdan wrote with his wife, Meg. The film was her idea.

'The Art Of The Sale': Life's A Pitch

Apr 28, 2012

Salesmen are rarely heroic figures in American culture. They're often shown as slick, unscrupulous charlatans like Ricky Roma in David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross. And then there are sad, defeated characters like Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman, who shortly before taking his life says, "After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive."

Yet sales drive the economy. The cleverest invention or product will disappear — creating no income, no employment — unless someone can sell it.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at a recent film premiere that she'd told Aung San Suu Kyi that she was moving from being an icon to being a politician.

The film Clinton saw is The Lady, starring Michelle Yeoh as the pro-democracy activist who spent 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar (also known as Burma), and who won the Nobel Peace Prize before being freed in 2010.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld Plays Not My Job

Apr 28, 2012

Barry Sonnenfeld either directed or shot some of the best movies of the '80s and '90s. He was the cinematographer on the Coen Brother's first movies and directed the Men in Black movies and Get Shorty, among other works of dark genius. His movie Men in Black III is coming out in May.

He plays a game called "Men in White," where he will answer three questions about people who play cricket.

Director Garry Marshall has worked on so much popular comedy in his career — television like Happy Days and The Odd Couple, movies like Pretty Woman and Beaches — that something he's done has probably made you laugh. And now he's written a memoir called, fittingly, My Happy Days In Hollywood: A Memoir.

Paul Krugman's Prescription For A 'Depression'

Apr 27, 2012

In his new book, End This Depression Now! Paul Krugman states that the U.S. is in the throes of a depression — not merely an economic crisis. The New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate argues that Keynesian economics got us out of a much worse depression in the 1930s, so if we were to follow Keynesian prescriptions now, we could get out of this one too.

Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.

Shakira Shuts Out J-Lo At Latin Billboard

Apr 27, 2012

The hottest stars of Latin music strutted down the red carpet last night in South Florida, for the annual Billboard Latin Music Awards. Host Michel Martin checks in with NPR Music's Alt.Latino co-host Jasmine Garsd to take a look at the winners, the losers, and the surprising snubs.

School Teacher Tweets On Cycle Of Life

Apr 27, 2012

As part of Tell Me More's series for National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from Jessica Mogis of Omaha, Nebraska. She's a Montessori school teacher and a recording studio manager. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters or less to #TMMPoetry.

This week on Pop Culture Happy Hour, the old gang is back together to tackle a new comedy, just like the guest panel did last week: Last week, it was Girls; this week, it's the less fussed over Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We'll talk about how we responded to her performance, the writing (from the guys behind the great In The Loop), and the depiction of politics.

'Bernie': Death Becomes Her, He Decided

Apr 27, 2012

If there is a dream team in modern American comedies, it might just be Richard Linklater and Jack Black. The two haven't worked together since 2003's The School of Rock — a film that bore all the hallmarks of successful collaboration — and since then Black, aside from a passable turn in King Kong, has been confined mainly to guest spots on television comedies and voice work in big-screen animation.

What Makes Us Happy?

Apr 27, 2012

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Our Buggy Brain

Why Do We Cheat?

Apr 27, 2012

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Our Buggy Brain

An 'Engagement' Going Nowhere, But Endearingly So

Apr 27, 2012

We start where most movies end: A happy city-slicker couple pledge to spend the rest of their lives together, as a famous American landmark twinkles behind them.

From then on, Nicholas Stoller's weird, endearingly messy The Five-Year Engagement embarks on an uncharted circular voyage. Its two wistful, determined leads — Emily Blunt as grad student Violet and Jason Segel as sous-chef Tom — are caught in a Sisyphean premarital loop.

This interview was originally broadcast on August 11, 2011. To End All Wars is now available in paperback.

The human cost of World War I was enormous. More than 9 million soldiers and an estimated 12 million civilians died in the four-year-long conflict, which also left 21 million military men wounded.