Arts

Arts and culture

"I'm not saying it's proper or right to love a student, and I'm not going to pretend I never did anything about it, because I did, but I can say I didn't do much," says the narrator of Deb Olin Unferth's title story, "Wait Till You See Me Dance."

"All I did was to bring the office assistant to the dance and threaten to kill her."

Unferth knows how to change direction. Her absurd and tender story collection is full of sentences like clear glass doors, and you, reader, are the bird.

Undergoing treatment for cancer is hard enough by itself. And for many cancer patients who spend most of their time in a hospital, it gets even harder with the loss of basic comforts. The hospital's sterile environment, the fluorescent lights and the disposable gowns do little to make medical treatment more bearable. Nikla Lancksweert, wanted to do a little something to help with that dehumanizing experience, focusing on an alternative for those uncomfortable hospital gowns.

Christina Ricci's film career began early — at just 10 years old, she played the adorably malevolent Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. From there, she went on to play fascinating and often dark and damaged characters, making a name for herself as an actress who could tap into complex roles.

Looking at Claire Rosen's photographs can feel like walking into someone else's dreams. One of her images shows a young girl about to be dragged into the sky by a pack of flying toy horses. Another series shows horses, hedgehogs, cockatoos and camels posed before different sumptuous feasts, as if having their own last suppers.

Duncan Hines, traveling salesman and future purveyor of boxed cake mix, considered himself an authority on a great many things: hot coffee, Kentucky country-cured ham and how to locate a tasty restaurant meal, in 1935, for under a dollar and a quarter.

By the 1950s, Hines' name would be plastered on boxes of cake mix; housewives would turn to his products for consistent quality and superior taste. Newspaper photographs featured Hines clad in a white chef's apron, hoisting a neatly frosted cake or thoughtfully dipping a spoon into a mixing bowl.

In the introduction of Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales of Animal Brides and Grooms, Maria Tatar talks about how to classify a fairy tale using the Aarne-Thompson system. Developed and refined since the early 20th century, it's a massive taxonomy that cross-references our fundamental stories by subplots and themes.

Charley Pride, one of the first African-American stars in country music, has sold more records for RCA than anyone not named Elvis Presley. Since Pride has a lot to be proud of, we're going to quiz him on shame — three questions about people who've made big mistakes. Click the listen link above to hear how he does.

Washington, D.C.'s Capital City Public Charter School feels like a mini United Nations. Many of the school's 981 students are first-generation Americans with backgrounds spanning the globe, from El Salvador to Nigeria to Vietnam. So when the staff of the literacy non-profit 826DC began a book-publishing project with the junior class, they picked a topic everyone could relate to that also left room for cultural expression: food.

If you're a fan of The Americans, you probably have strong feelings about Alison Wright's character, Martha. Poor, loving, trusting Martha had to be smuggled out of the U.S. because she married a man who was no good for her — a man who turned out to be a Russian spy.

'Girl In Disguise' Is A Spunky Spy Saga

Mar 25, 2017

Pluck. Kate Warne, the heroine of Greer Macallister's detective romp, Girl in Disguise, personifies the attribute (I hear an echo here of Mr. Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, informing Mary she has "spunk," before dropping the other shoe. "I hate spunk.") Warne was in real life the first woman hired by the famed Pinkerton National Detective Agency, back in 1856 — and in this historical novel, she sets herself immediately to solving the crime of what took them so long.

It's hardly unusual for athletes, both amateur and professional, to have pregame rituals. But the NBA's peculiar commitment to one grade-school snack goes deep: ESPN Magazine calls the PB&J sandwich the league's "secret addiction."

"In every NBA locker room, you'll see a variety of different foods on the table, but PB&J — if there's a locker room that doesn't have it, I haven't seen it," ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes tells Scott Simon.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

A Food Festival Celebrates The Rebirth Of Jewish Life In Berlin

Mar 24, 2017

Inside a Berlin bookstore on a recent Friday night, an unusual scene unfolded. Thirty people sat around a long table, sharing Israeli-Moroccan dishes like matbucha (a side of roasted red peppers and tomatoes), ptitim (a toasted pasta shaped in little balls) and a modern twist on the traditional challah or egg bread — a vegan one filled with dry fruits, quinoa, herbs and pomegranate juice.

Tale as old as tiiiiiiime ...

By which, of course, I mean "tired people return from South By Southwest."

But in any event: this week's show kicks off with a discussion with our pal Katie Presley of Bitch Media about the live-action version of Disney's Beauty And The Beast. How are the candlesticks? How's the new music? And, as Katie wonders, is there adequate eroticism within the Beast, compared to the cartoon Beast who set Katie's young heart aflutter so many years ago? And what's the Les Miz-iest part of the Beast's new tune, anyway?

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Painfully Funny.

About Kevin Breel's TED Talk

The image of the "sad clown" can seem like a cliche. But for Kevin Breel, it's very real. He describes how he struggled with depression while performing as a standup comedian.

About Kevin Breel

Negin Farsad: Can Humor Fight Prejudice?

Mar 24, 2017

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Painfully Funny.

About Negin Farsad's TED Talk

Comedian Negin Farsad traveled all over the U.S. to clear up misconceptions about Islam while making people laugh. She calls this form of activism "social justice comedy."

About Negin Farsad

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Painfully Funny.

About Maysoon Zayid's TED Talk

Maysoon Zayid teases herself for all the ways she's different: she has cerebral palsy, she's Muslim, she's Palestinian. By making us laugh at it, she gets us to think about acceptance.

About Maysoon Zayid

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Painfully Funny.

About Sandi Toksvig's TED Talk

When comedian and TV host Sandi Toksvig came out as gay in the early 1990s, she used humor to recover from the onslaught of vitriol. Today, she says, humor can help bring about social change.

About Sandi Toksvig

John Scalzi's novel The Collapsing Empire kicks off a new series set in — you guessed it — an interstellar empire teetering on the brink of collapse. The Interdependency sprawls across light-years of space, held together by a strange dimension called the Flow, which enables humans to span the immense distances between planets. But the Flow is failing, changing, fluctuating — cutting off some planets forever (including Earth). And in the Interdependency, no planet can survive without supplies from the others. So what's an emperox to do?

Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham are creative partners and best friends. From their cozy office in Los Angeles, they oversee their hit show Girls, work on their online feminist newsletter Lenny Letter and develop other film and TV projects. (Currently in the works: an HBO animated series about Planned Parenthood.) Their office is adorned with photos of the BFF posing together for magazine covers, and provocative artworks.

"This one is about perky boobies," Konner says, pointing to a framed needlepoint sampler.

About this time last year, roughly two dozen daring young strangers bid farewell to the modern world as we know it, bearing their hunting equipment and their wiles into the remote Scottish highlands with the aims of creating a new community from scratch — cameras rolling for a reality show all the while, naturally.

With his skill as a psychiatrist, Dr. Hussam Jefee-Bahloul is reaching out to the troubled people of his Syrian homeland, offering guidance for health workers who work with mental health issues in a population traumatized by war.

And with his love of words, he tries to capture his longing for his homeland in poetry.

Brutal in both subject matter and presentation, the art-house biopic I, Olga tells the story of the last woman to be given the death penalty in Czechoslovakia. Olga Hepnarova, a suicidal 22-year-old who drove her truck onto a Prague sidewalk and killed eight pedestrians in 1973, attributed her act of mass murder to her own sense of alienation from the world. To communicate this, it's understandable that directors Tomás Weinreb and Petr Kazda would choose to, well, alienate their audience.

'Life' Doesn't Quite Find A Way

Mar 23, 2017

"Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence," Chief Medical Officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy once lamented. And that was on Star Trek, far and away the most optimistic vision of humanity's spacefaring destiny ever presented onscreen.

To fully understand the dollar-store appeal of Power Rangers, the first big-screen iteration of the media and action-figure line in two decades, one must sit through at least one or two of the five Michael Bay-directed Transformers movies, which is by no means an advisable experience. The two franchises are more or less the same — a busy assemblage of thinly wrought characters, unforgivably dense mythology, and barely comprehensible action sequences, all in service of gleaming battlebots for kids to smash together in the sandbox.

The namesake of Wilson is the kind of guy people try to avoid on the bus, at the sidewalk cafe, or while using the adjacent urinal. Yet the makers of this deadpan comedy want us to spend 90 minutes with him.

The experience isn't painful, but it is a little frustrating. Playing the reclusive, misanthropic, yet oddly gregarious title character, Woody Harrelson is as engaging as the man's personality allows. But Wilson struggles with tone, shifting from monotonously bleak to predictably satirical to improbably sanguine.

Philadelphia-based composer Sheridan Seyfried sat down with WSCL's Chris Ranck during the Spring Membership Drive for an hour-long conversation about the art of composition, the future of classical music and Seyfried's "From Celtic to Classical" concert series in Delaware.

Sheridan Seyfried's Website

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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