Arts/Life

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In 2012, Tig Notaro walked onto the stage at LA's Largo Theater and said this: "Good evening hello, I have cancer, how are you? Hi, how are you? Is everybody having a good time? I have cancer. How are you?"

Notaro was in the middle of one of the worst years of her life, dealing with serious illness, a breakup and the death of her mother.

In 2004, Susan Faludi stepped off a plane in Budapest, Hungary, to visit her father, a sometimes violent man with whom she'd barely spoken in over 25 years.

The reunion was prompted by an email she'd received from her then 76-year-old father announcing that "after years of impersonating a macho man" he, or rather, she, had undergone sex reassignment surgery. Faludi's father, "Steven," was now "Stefanie." Here's how Faludi describes their airport reunion:

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There's a possibly inadvertent but telling double-entendre in the title of Alain de Botton's new book. The Course of Love is his first novel since On Love (1993), which inventively tracked the trajectory of a love affair from the ecstasy of infatuation to the utter despair of its demise. Half his lifetime and more than a dozen nonfiction titles later, this followup about the 14-year rocky road to romantic reality of a couple living in Edinburgh reveals the constancy of de Botton's concern with the arc of relationships.

The mechanics of DC Comics' latest relaunch of its superhero line — precisely which books are returning to their original numbering, and the fact that several titles will now be published twice monthly, etc. — have engendered much discussion among retailers and collectors.

But let's talk big picture.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that superhero universes periodically reshuffle their narrative decks. The in-story explanations differ in often tortuous ways, but the only true driver is sales. Or, rather, a lack of them.

A lot of what we read and watch comes to us through recommendation algorithms. Amazon tells us: People who bought this book also bought this other book, and Netflix says: Because you watched this movie, we think you should watch this other movie. And we welcome our new recommendation robot overlords!

But this summer, we're going old school — because we haven't found an algorithm that says: If you loved this movie, you'll devour this graphic novel. (Or like this podcast, enjoy this short story ... you get the idea.)

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It's good to be Regina King.

For decades, she's worked in front of the camera as an actress. Now, she's building a career in the director's chair.

On the Warner Bros.' backlot in Burbank recently, King commanded the cast and crew of Animal Kingdom, TNT's new dramatic series about a family of outlaws in Southern California. It's based on an Australian movie; this version features Ellen Barkin as the matriarch, living with her four bad boy sons in a ranch-style house full of skateboards and surfboards, complete with a real, working swimming pool.

In August of 2015, I wrote a list of five fictional TV shows representing some of the ideas networks seem to return to over and over (and over) again. One of the entries read like this:

Tea Tuesday: Meet The Chai Wallahs Of India

Jun 14, 2016

On virtually every other street corner, in every city or town or village in India, there is a chai wallah — a tea vendor who supplies the piping hot, milky brew that fuels the country.

And because everybody — politicians, rickshaw drivers, schoolteachers — needs a daily cuppa, chai wallahs get to meet people from every walk of life.

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the book The Carrot Purple And Other Curious Stories Of The Food We Eat.

Tonight the game show To Tell the Truth returns to television on ABC, hosted by Black-ish star Anthony Anderson. It's proven a surprisingly scrappy, long-lived, battle-scarred veteran of show: since its first run on CBS from 1956 to 1968, there have been three different syndicated versions of TTtT, plus a brief one-year run on NBC (1990-91).

Before we even begin to talk about Naomi Novik's beloved alt-history/fantasy Temeraire series — which concludes this month with League of Dragons — we have to look at the numbers. The first book in the series, Her Majesty's Dragon, came out in 2006. League of Dragons is the ninth. That means over the past ten years, Novik has written upwards of 3,500 pages of the Temeraire series, which at this point probably ought to be called a saga.

Author Claire Hoffman estimates that she's spent at least 2,200 hours of her life meditating — but not because she became a devotee of the practice as an adult. Her mother was a follower of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Hoffman spent most of her childhood in a community in Fairfield, Iowa that was devoted to Transcendental Meditation.

Remember that meteorite that smashed into Russia a few years ago, with enough people filming it as it came to Earth to cause a brief Internet sensation?

Celery: Why?

Jun 13, 2016

Celery, the mild-mannered straight man of the vegetable world, packs a puny six calories per stalk and — in my opinion — about as much flavor as a desk lamp. Yet despite its limitations, the fibrous plant has featured in Mediterranean and East Asian civilizations for thousands of years.

The paradox puzzled me enough that I called a bunch of specialists at the intersection of botany and anthropology to pick their brains. They shared their best guesses about how celery sneaked into our diets.

My wife's the reason anything gets done

She nudges me towards promise, by degrees

She is the perfect symphony of one

Our son is her most beautiful reprise

We chase the melodies that seem to find us

Until they're finished songs, and start to play

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us

That nothing here is promised, not one day

This show is proof that history remembers

Summer is always a weird time for the TV industry.

These days, in a #PeakTV world where hundreds of scripted shows air every year, there is no downtime. Which means viewers will see a dizzying number of new and returning TV shows this summer on broadcast, cable and online — close to 100 series, by my count.

Amid the darkness looming over the nation following Sunday's shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Broadway's brightest stars shone at the 70th annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Host James Corden and the night's biggest winners paid emotional tribute to the 49 people killed in the attack and the more than 50 people wounded.

Earlier in the day, organizers had released a statement saying that the show would go on and be dedicated to the families and friends of those affected by the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

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One of the first people you meet when you walk through the door of the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City is Elizabeth Reed. She's part of a battalion of part-time workers who meet, greet and seat audience members at Broadway's 40 theaters.

"What we really try and do is enhance the patron's experience, from the moment that they walk in the door, to the end of that performance," Reed says.

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It started on the subway, on her school commute. She was flashed, groped, and, once, ejaculated on. "I invested in a pair of headphones," she reports, "so I wouldn't listen to the things men say to 12-year-old girls on the subway."

Susan Phillips studies and writes about graffiti as an anthropologist. In 2000, while doing research for her book, Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in LA, she stumbled upon some graffiti that stunned her.

Under a century-old bridge near the Los Angeles River, Phillips discovered what appeared to be grease-pencil markings – a practically extinct type of American hieroglyphics called hobo graffiti.

Stephon Alexander didn't always love music. When he turned 8, his grandmother, who was from Trinidad, forced him to take piano lessons in the Bronx. His teacher was, in a word, strict. "It felt like a military exercise to rob me of my childhood," Alexander recalls.

Several years went by like that. Until one day when Alexander's dad brought home an alto sax he found at a garage sale. "That became my toy. Music no longer for me was this regimented tedium," he says.

Not My Job: The Blue Man Group Turns 25

Jun 11, 2016

In the early 1990s, Chris Wink and Phil Stanton were two underemployed guys in New York City. So they did what anyone in their situation would do: They shaved their heads, painted themselves blue, and put on a show in which they said nothing and banged on things. Now, 25 years later, Blue Man Group is still doing shows across the country and around the world.

Since the Blue Man Group is famously silent, we've invited Wink and Stanton to answer three questions about people who have a lot to say.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has defined tragic young love for centuries: Boy and girl from feuding families fall in love. Boy slays the girl's cousin for killing his friend in a duel. Girl swallows a sleeping potion. Boy thinks she's dead. Boy swallows poison. Girl wakes, sees boy dead, and stabs herself. They're both really dead. Families mourn and reconcile.

Screenwriter John Logan has worked on some big films. From Skyfall to Gladiator, Logan has learned well how the movie business works. So he knew his latest film, Genius, would be a tough sell.

"This movie is the worst Hollywood pitch in the history of the world," he admits.

That's because it's about editing books.

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The most compelling science fiction is the sort which holds weight beyond its sheer inventiveness or even its ingenuity. It takes more. The best in the genre have always functioned like corner prophets reporting from the fringe. They succeed in showing us, in a vision uniquely their own, what could potentially become of our planet should we continue down a particular path. Which is not to say one shouldn't devour the purely entertaining for its own sake. But surely the most evocative sci-fi is the stuff of warning shots.

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