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Toy Companies Debut Bald Dolls For Cancer

Apr 6, 2012

Barbie is best known for her curvy figure and long blond hair — but Mattel plans to produce a doll that's a dramatic departure from that classic image.

This Barbie will be bald.

Mattel decided to make the doll after a campaign by Jane Bingham, a survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Philadelphia. She started a Facebook group with her friend called "Beautiful and Bald Barbie." She tells Audie Cornish, host of All Things Considered, that they wanted the toymaker to create a doll for kids who have cancer or have lost their hair for medical reasons.

When I hear the word "Titanic," I picture a tuxedoed Leonardo DiCaprio, waiting at the bottom of a gilded staircase while the voice of Celine Dion swells in my mind. It's all Edwardian glitz and glamour, decadence and passionate love, the kind best enjoyed in a dark theater with plenty of popcorn. And then I quickly remember that the ship sinks, and that Titanic is more than just an epic film from my youth. On April 15, a century will have passed since the ship plummeted into the icy Atlantic, and it is the tragedy we should remember, not just the mythology surrounding it.

Director Whit Stillman is 60 now, and hasn't made a film since 1998's The Last Days of Disco, but his preferred milieu is still the world of privileged young people with the luxury of taking time to figure themselves out. It's a rarefied realm, where vocabulary and self-confidence outstrip experience, and wisdom and adulthood are still to be embraced.

As part of Tell Me More's series for National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from storyteller and poet Anne McCrady of Henderson, Texas. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters or less to #TMMPoetry.

A little short of two decades ago, I served with Whit Stillman on the Dramatic Competition jury at the Sundance Film Festival, alongside actor Samuel Jackson and directors Atom Egoyan and Darnell Martin. During voting meetings, we were a fractious bunch, but otherwise we all got along great. Never had jury duty been so much fun — when I wasn't fretting about whether Stillman had seen my surly review of his 1990 first feature, Metropolitan.

It sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown thriller: A powerful medieval pope makes a secret pact to prop up the fishing industry that ultimately alters global economics. The result: Millions of Catholics around the world end up eating fish on Fridays as part of a religious observance.

Terence Davies' films aim for and often achieve a state of music, the camerawork in harmony with the soundtrack, the images connected by emotion rather than narrative.

Adapting Terence Rattigan's 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea, he throws out the drama's tidy structure and much of the dialogue, and shows the events through the eyes of the adulterous Lady Hester Collyer, played by Rachel Weisz.

On this week's podcast, we decided to ruminate about teen sex comedies — in part because of spring break season, and perhaps in part because we're all surrounded by discussions of American Reunion. We chat about the ebb and flow of teen comedy in general, the ways in which Superbad was and was not influential, and the relationship between teen comedies, sex comedies, and teen sex comedies. This also leads us down a strange path about what kinds of vaguely dirty movies we did and did not have access to as kids.

The inaugural San Diego Comic Book Convention, now more commonly known by the shorthand Comic-Con, drew around 300 comic enthusiasts for a weekend at a downtown hotel. More than 40 years later, the event now hosts upward of 120,000 attendees at the San Diego Convention Center, all gathered for a pop-cultural smorgasbord in which comic books are but a small, increasingly marginalized part.

It was really too bad about the audio.

Our press screening of American Reunion here in Washington was saddled with a muted soundtrack, which is unfortunate for any movie, let alone one that revolves around '90s music, loud parties and a school dance. The audience laughed louder at "I love this song!" than at any of Eugene Levy's improv.

Not every human advance is a snare, according to Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress. But some new techniques can lead to something the Canadian author calls a "progress trap" — a development that's ultimately more harmful than helpful.

"God sees abilities in me I don't have," laments the protagonist of Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti's new movie. Such self-doubt is hardly novel, but Melville (Michel Piccoli) has a special stake in God's opinion of him — he's just been elected pope.

'Keyhole': Looking Through (And Into) The Past

Apr 5, 2012

"This kind of weather stirs me up," growls Ulysses, as he looks with caged-tiger menace out of rain-streaked windows at the strobing, manic lightning outside.

"Man's weather," he adds.

As embodied in the chiseled good looks of actor Jason Patric, Ulysses himself is a picture of old Hollywood masculinity, so tough and unwavering that surely only the most primal forces of nature could match him.

Kerry Washington knows that her new drama, Scandal, will inevitably be compared to another drama about D.C.: The West Wing. Scandal tells Audie Cornish on today's All Things Considered that it even has Josh Malina, a West Wing cast member, for a little of what she calls "secret D.C. credibility."

When A.J. Jacobs got sick on a tropical vacation, his wife looked at him in his hospital bed and said, "I don't want to be a widow at 45."

Jacobs was 41, bedridden with tropical pneumonia, and living with what he calls a "python-that-swallowed-a-goat body." He wasn't notably unhealthy, but he'd begun to feel some of the vulnerabilities of age, so he vowed to make himself healthier so that he could be around — and vital — for his wife and three sons.

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After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, there was one man the American public wanted captured: Osama bin Laden. There was also a secret hunt going on for someone else, the real mastermind of the attacks.

That man was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and he's the focus of Josh Meyer and Terry McDermott's new book, The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."

Lionel Shriver's new novel, called The New Republic, is actually an old manuscript with a star-crossed history. As Shriver explains in a prefatory note, this satire on (among other things) terrorism was finished in 1998, but, back then, publishers weren't interested. That was five years before Shriver's break-through novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Then, Sept. 11 happened: sincerity was in; irony was out. Publishers wouldn't touch this story that offered an ironic take on violent extremism.

As part of Tell Me More's series for National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from Jim Lounsbury of Sydney, Australia. He is a writer and filmmaker who listens to NPR on his iPhone. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters and less to #TMMPoetry.

Artist, Social Justice Activist Dies At 96

Apr 5, 2012

Host Michel Martin remembers American artist Elizabeth Catlett, who died this week at the age of 96. Catlett is known for integrating social justice activism in sculptures and prints. That activism caught the eye of the U.S. government at the height of McCarthyism. For years, she was banned from entering the U.S. from her adopted home of Mexico.

Debt Struggles As Old As America Itself

Apr 5, 2012

As of today, the national debt held by the public is more than $10 trillion. That's more than $30,000 for every man, woman and child living in the United States.

Imagine a Lego as tuna sushi, or a leaf as a pair of acid-washed jeans, or bathroom tiles made to resemble Warhol's Brillo box. These are only a few of the funny, unexpected, cleverly conceived and realized sights that make up Christoph Niemann's Abstract City, a book culled from the renowned illustrator's popular visual blog for The New York Times.

On Thursday night, ABC's Scandal will step out as a rarity on TV: a show developed by one of the most powerful black women in TV, Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rimes, depicting a powerful black woman in Washington, D.C.: Olivia Pope, a top-flight crisis manager.

She's a "fixer" so impressive, she can negotiate down payments with the Ukrainian mob in a burst of rapid-fire dialogue. She is played by Kerry Washington, whom you might recognize from wife and girlfriend roles in films like The Fantastic Four and Ray.

Since they made their debut in 1971, it's been rare for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to not have a show on Broadway. But now they're ramping it up, with the opening of Evita following fast on the heels of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"It's actually just a coincidence as far as I can tell, because the two shows came from totally different sources," Rice says. "And by sheer chance, they've arrived within two or three weeks of each other on Broadway, which is fun!"

Bill Duke knew he was going to get flak from a lot of people before he ever turned the cameras on to film Dark Girls, a new documentary about the painful encounters dark-skinned black women experience in a society where lighter is usually considered better.

It's a subject that has, more often than not, been considered taboo to discuss outside the black community. So Duke knew making a general-distribution movie about color prejudice within the black community was definitely going to rub some black folks the wrong way.

Former Child Star Fatigue. Many of us have suffered it, given the drug problems, the meltdowns, the awful nude photos.

But then there's Fred Savage, who starred in the ABC show The Wonder Years from 1988 through 1993. Now he's a successful, slightly offbeat 35-five-year-old television producer and director. He works on wicked, slightly warped comedies including Party Down, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and as of today, Best Friends Forever. His first network sitcom premieres tonight on NBC.

New In Paperback April 2-8

Apr 4, 2012

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Julie Otsuka, Kyung-sook Shin, E.L. James, Shirley MacLaine, Shania Twain and Wendy McClure.

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As part of Tell Me More's series celebrating National Poetry Month, host Michel Martin shares a poetic tweet from freelance photographer and administrative assistant Renea Hanna of Bandera, Texas. Listeners are invited to tweet original poems of 140 characters and less to #TMMPoetry.

Of all the things that make me say, "I really don't understand why this is still a thing," wax museums are right up there.

Anne Tyler is the patron saint of misfits. In novel after novel, this wry, warmhearted writer introduces us to awkward, shy, often eccentric or mismatched people, mostly residents of Baltimore. Embarking on an Anne Tyler novel is like heading off on vacation to a favorite destination: You're filled with anticipation of pleasure, even though you know the place is likely to have changed since your last visit.