Arts

Arts and culture

When U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein back in 2003, they sent CIA analyst John Nixon to interrogate him. Nixon is now retired, and has written a book called Debriefing the President, about his interrogation of Saddam and other adventures in the spy trade.

Since Nixon has done both briefing and debriefing, we'll see how much he knows about underwear briefs. Click the listen link above to hear how he does.

Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer "radical empathy" and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

Reading The Game: Stardew Valley

6 hours ago

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

If you're the kind of person who opens the paper in the morning and goes straight to the obituaries, we've got good news for you: There's a new documentary out this week that follows the staff writers of the New York Times obituary desk. It's called Obit.

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When Wanuri Kahiu took to the TED Fellows stage this week in Vancouver, the 36-year-old had on green shoes and a beaded necklace worn like a crown — a hint to her offbeat worldview.

In a time when most types of government spending are under attack, a few brave souls have stepped up to defend those perpetually endangered hillocks of federally funded refinement, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. The defenders haven't always managed so well.

In 1966 Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane gave filmmaker Frederick Wiseman unprecedented access. Wiseman documented staff at the Massachusetts hospital herding patients, often heavily drugged and naked, through bare rooms and corridors.

The resulting documentary, Titicut Follies, shook up the medium and launched Wiseman's innovative, Oscar-winning career. A ballet adaptation of the film premieres in New York Friday night.

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It was supposed to be an exclusive luxury music festival on a tropical island. Instead it became a target of ridicule and a social media feeding frenzy.

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The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

In 19th century Georgia, Princess Barbare Jorjadze grew up to be the country's first feminist. But until recently she's been best remembered for another accomplishment – her cookbook.

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Rinse, Pete, Repeat

Apr 28, 2017

This word game is inspired by our favorite prefix! We invented alternate definitions for words that start with "re." If we said, "I GIVE UP trying to WRITE MY NAME at the bottom of this letter," you would say, "Re-sign" or "resign."

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

Apr 28, 2017

Magician Penn Jillette prefers tricks to illusions: "which is just gluing two front surface mirrors together at 45 degree angles, and then the sides look like the back!" He doesn't particularly like spending time with his stage partner Teller: "We wanted to work together, but there was no sort of affection." And he doesn't even like magic: "I was never fond of it."

Are We There Yet?

Apr 28, 2017

In honor of our long flight from Brooklyn to Phoenix, this final round is called, "Are We There Yet?" Every answer contains something that sounds like a method of transportation. For example, if we said, "This astronomer was the original narrator of the science show, 'Cosmos,'" you'd answer "Carl Sagan..." which has "car" in it.

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

Mystery Guest

Apr 28, 2017

Our Mystery Guest Stacey Gordon has an interesting job that takes her from Phoenix to a street in New York City. Can you guess what it is before Ophira and Jonathan?

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

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Daylight Saving Time Travel

Apr 28, 2017

Fun fact! Phoenix, Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time! So we wrote an audio quiz with clips from famous works involving time travel.

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

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Click-Bait And Switch

Apr 28, 2017

Many people don't like learning about history, but they DO like reading Buzzfeed articles about kittens. To get more people interested in history, we've written clickbait-style headlines for important historical events. Contestants ring in to guess the event — but what happens after that will SHOCK you.

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

Things With Wings

Apr 28, 2017

Inspired by the 1980s band from Phoenix, Arizona, house musician Jonathan Coulton takes us under his wing for the Mr. Mister parody the world's been waiting for! We rewrote their hit song "Broken Wings" to be about things...with wings.

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

We're always excited for the beginning of summer movie season. Despite the fact that it's almost guaranteed to contain some major disappointments and jarring disasters, we often find goofy fun, sharp writing and new stars blowing up (sometimes literally) our cinematic seasons.

"Marcus Gavius Apicius purchased me on a day hot enough to fry sausage on the market stones."

So begins the tale of Thrasius, the fictional narrator of Feast of Sorrow. Released this week, the novel is based on the real life of ancient Roman noble Marcus Gavius Apicius, who is thought to have inspired and contributed to the world's oldest surviving cookbook, a ten-volume collection titled Apicius.

Paula Hawkins' 2015 book — The Girl on the Train — was a massive bestseller. A tense domestic thriller with a boozy, unstable narrator, it caught the imagination of a reading public desperate for the kinds of dark deeds and desperate women Gillian Flynn pioneered in Gone Girl a few years earlier.

They say everyone dies twice: once when they take their last breath, and again when their name is spoken aloud for the last time. The heartfelt and unshakable new documentary Obit, a profile of the Obituaries section at the New York Times, considers the people who have devoted their professions to extending the period between those two deaths. A well-crafted obituary will enshrine its subject in the collective memory, but it's a balance between sentimental eulogy and tough reportage. Says one of the interviewees, "We put word limits on human beings."

What it is like to be married in Hollywood? We have a good idea about what it's like to be divorced in Hollywood, we've seen famous couples run aground by egos and scandal, and we're well-versed in the ups-and-downs of a lifestyle where fortunes vary and relationship are jostled like luggage on a turbulent flight.

There are many explanations for Bertrand Russell Berns' relative obscurity. The subject of Bang! The Bert Berns Story flopped as a performer, and so turned to songwriting and producing. He sometimes composed under aliases such as Bert Russell and Russell Byrd. And several of his tunes became associated with their performers, who were widely assumed to have written them.

Also, Berns died young, succumbing to the long-term effects of childhood rheumatic fever at 38. It was 1967, and rock 'n' roll was just beginning to be chronicled by sympathetic observers.

Anyone who's experienced grief more as a wild boat ride on stormy seas than as the scheduled five stages from denial to acceptance, will feel intimately spoken to by One Week and a Day, a trenchant first feature from the young Israeli writer-director Asaph Polonsky. Equal parts bracing and beguiling, Polonsky's modestly budgeted movie addresses head-on the ungovernable confusion and raw emotion that attend one of the worst losses anyone can suffer — the death of a child.

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