Arts and culture

'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.

Why Do We Cheat?

Apr 27, 2012

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Our Buggy Brain

What Makes Us Happy?

Apr 27, 2012

Part 3 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.

In the 1920s, it wasn't uncommon for the Gershwin Brothers — composer George and lyricist Ira — to have two shows running on Broadway at the same time. What's surprising is that this season, 75 years after George's death, it's happening again, with Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

It's no coincidence: Both shows were generated by the Gershwin estates, the nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews charged with looking after a legacy that's not only highly loved, but immensely lucrative — a multimillion-dollar-a-year responsibility.

Something Wicked: A Haunting Must Read

Apr 26, 2012

Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of Unholy Night.

I know it's strange to be thinking about October right now, but whenever I write, in a way that's always where I am. Growing up in Connecticut, it always held a special place in my heart — "a rare month for boys," as Ray Bradbury begins Something Wicked This Way Comes.

At the beginning of the Norwegian thriller Headhunters, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) will likely strike you as just about the cockiest insecure guy you've ever met.

Smirking as he pads around his pristine, glass-walled home in boxer shorts, he swirls a heart into the foam on the coffee he's taking to his gorgeous, blond and naked wife (former model Synnove Macody Lund) in their enormous open shower. Then as she moves from the streaming water to kiss him, he has to lean up, because she's half a head taller than he is.

In 1945, shortly after my father was demobilized from the British army, my parents packed their bags and went to help found a kibbutz near Galilee, in the north of what was then Palestine. Along with a crew of other young Jewish socialists and refugees from European anti-Semitism, these two city dwellers set to work draining swamps and replacing them with fish ponds and fruit orchards, building collectives out of spartan shacks and collective dining halls, and raising their children in communal nurseries.

In Elles, a Paris journalist has an eye-opening experience when she interviews two university students who moonlight as prostitutes. So do the movie's viewers, presented with beaucoup de nudite. No genitalia are on display, but there are a few kinky moments that justify the NC-17 rating.

'Pirates': Avast Ye, Bumbling Buccaneers!

Apr 26, 2012

In 1837, a young, ambitious Charles Darwin was writing in his journal aboard the HMS Beagle when the vessel was waylaid by pirates. But what caught his attention was the feathery mascot accompanying the posse of pillagers: a dodo bird, thought at the time to be extinct for more than 150 years. In this rare specimen, Darwin envisioned the pathway to scientific fame for himself — and the pirate captain saw the opportunity for vast riches.

There are many dramas and comedies in which career trajectories take couples to different corners of the country, complicating or ending romantic relationships. There will be many more, at least until someone invents a teleportation machine. What's different about each work is how the problem gets interpreted.

Snarky comedians who mock people who share food photos on Facebook and Twitter (see this video) may be good for a chuckle, but they don't have the will of the people behind them.

That's what we've learned from our online survey this week, which asked: "Are your friends bombarding you with 'food porn'?"

"Crime doesn't pay" is one of the hopeful cliches Margaret Atwood invokes in her essay collection Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth.

Of course it does, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal shows in Payback, a documentary that riffs on Atwood's themes. But crime doesn't always pay, and perhaps it will pay less well in the future. At least that's the suggestion made by the on-screen commentators who expand on Atwood's original theme.

As part of Tell Me More's series for National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from Philadelphia poet and English professor, Kelly McQuain. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters or less to #TMMPoetry.

"Difficult" is probably the most tactful word one could use in characterizing Lillian Hellman. If ever there were an author safer to meet through her art rather than in real life, she was the one. Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Hellman came of age in the Roaring '20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a "tough broad ...

Americans generate more trash than anyone else on the planet: more than 7 pounds per person each day.

About 69 percent of that trash goes immediately into landfills. And most landfill trash is made up of containers and packaging — almost all of which should be recycled, says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes,

"It's instant trash," he says. "We pay for this stuff, and it goes right into the waste bin, and we're not capturing it the way our recycling programs are intending us to capture it. We're just sticking it in the ground and building mountains out of it."

New In Paperback April 23-29

Apr 25, 2012

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Kevin Wilson, Adrian Burgos Jr., Kevin Mitnick, Melissa Fay Greene and Doug Saunders.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

Hugh Laurie's 'House': No Pain, No Gain

Apr 25, 2012

For the past eight seasons, actor Hugh Laurie has played Dr. Gregory House on the Fox medical series House. House is brash, narcissistic, unsympathetic, addicted to painkillers, confrontational — and 100 percent American.

Laurie is none of those things.

"I am not playing House today, so I am dressed as an Englishman and speaking as an Englishman," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm wearing a bowler hat and carrying a furled umbrella. It's nice to have a day every now and then off from the vocal exercises."

I, Claudius came to American television, imported from the BBC, in 1977 — the same year as another ambitious long-form production, ABC's Roots, which proved to everyone that miniseries were an exciting and extremely popular new form of television. I, Claudius, shown on the PBS series Masterpiece Theatre, didn't get anything close to the audience that Roots did — but it sure got a lot of attention.

Sculptor Gerson Frank On Love And Art

Apr 25, 2012

The 89-year-old sculptor recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to view two of his pieces in a collection for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. But the trip gave him the chance to fulfill another dream: marrying his partner of more than 30 years. Frank speaks with host Michel Martin about his art and his marriage.

Notre Dame Professor Pounds Out The Poems

Apr 25, 2012

As part of Tell Me More's series for National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from Sondra Byrnes, an associate professor of law and business. She says she's only been writing poetry for a year, but has written almost 1,700 poems. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters or less to #TMMPoetry.

In Sequel To 'Drive,' Sallis Delivers A Thrill Ride

Apr 25, 2012

James Sallis says he had no intention of writing a sequel to Drive, his 2005 neo-noir thriller that, with the help of dreamy lead Ryan Gosling, later became one of the moodiest films of 2011. But after telling his agent as much over the phone one day, Sallis couldn't shake the vision of "a woman leaning against a wall, bleeding out," an image that eventually became the opening scene of Driven.

Celebrating Poem In Your Pocket Day

Apr 25, 2012

National Poetry Month may be coming to an end, but poetry lovers still have one big day to look forward to this April. This Thursday is Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is to tuck a favorite poem into your back pocket to share with family, friends and co-workers. Poetry lovers across the country have come up with clever ways to celebrate.

At Baggby's Gourmet Sandwiches in Charlottesville, Virginia, customers will find something different in their bag lunches. Owner Jon LaPanta explains.

I've never been much good at mornings. For most of my life, I prided myself on being a night owl, the type of gal who could always handle one more thing after midnight — another phone call, a few more pages of a novel, a last turn on the dance floor. For years, I even showered at night. And if, in the morning, I couldn't produce a civil word before my first sip of coffee, well, that was a small price to pay.

April showers bring May flowers, and in this case they bring us a selection from the garden for NPR's Backseat Book Club. Each month we ask young people to read a book along with us, and for this month, our pick is Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman.

Our May book takes us on the most action-packed adventure yet for NPR's Backseat Book Club. In the Newbery Honor-winning Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, we meet 14-year-old Manjiro, a Japanese boy who works on a fishing boat. Manjiro looks out across the sea and wonders what lies there. "Barbarians live there," he's told.

Is the "culinary paparazzi" out of control? That's the message of a parody video by musical comedians The Key of Awesome.