Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

You never know who you're going to meet at a party. In the case of one young man and woman, a Halloween celebration in New York City led not just to a love affair — it became part of the fabric of modern Cuba.

You wouldn't expect a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic to take you to the sort of place that's wedged between a 99-cent store and a boarded-up meat market.

But that's exactly where I sat down for lunch with Jonathan Gold — at a downtown Los Angeles eatery called El Parian.

Artist Robert Mapplethorpe was as controversial as he was celebrated. In 1989, his photographs depicting nude men and sexual fetishes helped ignite the culture wars. Now, an upcoming HBO documentary, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, examines the artist's life and work. He's also the subject of a major retrospective spanning two L.A. museums — the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

'The Bronze' Is The Story Of A Mighty, Nasty Gymnast

Mar 17, 2016

If you've ever wondered how gymnasts have sex ... well, according to one new film, it looks like a gymnastics routine. There's a lot of vaulting and twirling, some precise, um, dismounts and even a pommel horse of sorts.

Paul Dedalus can be a man of action. The middle-class protagonist of the dynamic yet ultimately melancholy My Golden Days carries a gun into a tense negotiation with a drug dealer, and happily accepts a secret mission to carry documents and cash to Jewish refuseniks while on a high-school trip behind what was then the Iron Curtain.

Home for the holidays: An aging prodigal child approaches, swearing like a trooper and dragging all manner of other baggage behind her battered wheelie. Once she finds the right front door — it's been a while, with ample reason, since last she visited — a warm, if nervous, welcome awaits from an extended family of noisy Texans gathered for Thanksgiving. In another kind of movie, tears and laughter will follow as a family closes ranks to heal its black sheep, and thereby itself.

Creatively speaking, if not financially, the Divergent series is less a franchise than a quagmire, an unwinnable war that nonetheless must be fought until the bitter end. And like all quagmires, the terrain has been hostile from the start: Based on Veronica Roth's bestselling novels, the films have tried to advance a "Chosen One" narrative through the awkward rigging of a dystopian "faction" system that, at best, only makes sense when vast swaths of the screenplay are carved out to explain it.

2 Breakfasts May Be Better Than None For School Kids

Mar 17, 2016

When it comes to school breakfasts, two is better than none, says a new report released Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

If you're planning to hoist a pint of Irish dry stout for St. Patrick's Day, the folks at Guinness have a polite request: Don't slurp the foamy head off their beer. It's essentially a nitrogen cap, they say, that's protecting the flavors underneath from being oxidized.

St. Patrick's is a huge day for the legendary brewer – of the 70 million people who are estimated to be celebrating today, around 13 million will also drink a glass of Guinness.

Today is the day that the Guinness flows freely, tough brisket is transformed into tender corned beef, and we celebrate the Emerald Isle with humble cabbage. This holy trinity of meat, veg and stout is the communion of St. Patrick's Day.

But the history of that meal is relatively short, going back mainly to trade and immigration in the 18th and 19th centuries. Want to feast like St. Patrick would have celebrated more than 1,600 years ago? Let's party like it's 399.

Everybody makes mistakes, but some people manage to turn it into an art form. Take the characters in John Jodzio's new short story collection, Knockout. There's the young man who lets himself be talked into stealing a tiger and selling it for meth. There's the guy who moves into a duplex and discovers, too late, that his new roommate is a sadistic kidnapper. And then there's the woman whose boyfriend talks her into letting him pick up women at a speed-dating event, then tying them up until they give him their ATM codes.

Stop me if you've heard this one: A young man from a noble family suffers hardship that robs him of his place in the family. When the men in charge of government refuse to help him, he takes matters into his own hands, gathering a ragtag group of bandits and whipping them into shape to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Also, he has magic powers. You're in, right? (If not, we can talk about the part where he builds doppelgangers out of straw and lets them get arrested in his stead, just to teach the king a lesson. Your move, Robin Hood.)

Pot-infused edibles are big sellers in states that have legalized marijuana. The problem is, it's been tough to measure and regulate the potency of these ganja-laced gummy bears, lollies and brownies.

Before she was a writer, Sara Baume set out to be a visual artist.

"First and foremost I see; I see the world and then I describe it ..." she says. "I don't know another way to write. I always anchor everything in an image."

Baume's process works — a review in The Irish Times called her debut novel a "stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness."

Baume loves words, and she loves fitting words together so they flow like poetry.

This week the world's been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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The same day the president announced his nominee for the Supreme Court, this girl power song got a nod from the first lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

Kanan Makiya is still best known for a book he originally published under a pseudonym back in 1989. The Republic Of Fear catalogued the atrocities committed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Makiya later acknowledged authorship and became an advocate for the dictator's ouster.

Now, he's written a new book — a novel — published in both Arabic and English, and set in Iraq right after the U.S. invasion. It follows a Shiite militiaman from the day the dictator fell to the day he was hanged.

The new movie Krisha is a family drama about addiction and chaos. In it, a recovering addict named Krisha comes home for Thanksgiving after being away from her family for years.

If the family in the film seems tighter than most acting ensembles, it's because they have history: The director and writer, Trey Edward Shults, cast his aunt as the main character, his mother as the family matriarch and himself in the role of Krisha's estranged son.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's been called "perhaps the most contentious issue in the food industry": Should food products be labeled to indicate they contain genetically modified ingredients?

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War.

But what few know is that the writer, reformer and mother of six who wrote those stirring words – "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" – was adrift in a lonely war of her own, against a husband who sought to control every aspect of her life, from what she wrote to what she ate.

Commentators both amateur and professional have turned over the events of the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson trial in their hands for a couple of decades now, trying to figure out how it got so distressingly ugly as a display, let alone as a legal proceeding. The FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run Of His Life, has come to the surprisingly compassionate conclusion, over and over, that a significant part of the problem was not malice but excess made worse by public attention.

With Beauty And Wonder, 'The Winged Histories' Soars

Mar 16, 2016

In Sofia Samatar's World Fantasy Award-winning debut novel A Stranger in Olondria, she introduced an empire redolent with magic and rife with turmoil. Olondria is one of the richest new fantasy settings in recent memory, and Samatar has returned to it in The Winged Histories. Like the book before it, Histories deals with the way language, books, and romance intersect with class, politics, and religion — and it does so in an ornate, dreamlike atmosphere.

If you drive down any interstate in the South, you can't miss the giant black-and-yellow signs beckoning: Waffle House.

These ubiquitous, yellow-roofed chain restaurants have been serving up not just waffles but all manner of Southern comfort foods 'round the clock for more than 60 years.

And for the past 30 years or so, Waffle House has also been working on a side project: making music.

Like this peppy number:

Roberto Bolaño's sprawling, posthumous epic 2666 has been called a masterpiece and a landmark. It addresses the nature of good and evil, art and humanity, love and death — to name just a few themes. It's populated by literary critics, detectives, a philosopher and many more, all on their own interconnected journeys.

Faced with her own forgetfulness, former NPR correspondent and author Barbara Bradley Hagerty tried to do something about it. She's written about her efforts in her book on midlife, called Life Reimagined. To her surprise, she discovered that an older dog can learn new tricks.

A confession: I loathe standardized tests, and one of the perks of reaching midlife is that I thought I'd never have to take another.

Want to mark this St. Patrick's Day with something beyond the usual corned beef and cabbage (which aren't so traditionally Irish anyway)? Why not mix up your menu with a tasty tray of blaas?

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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