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Arts and culture

The term "Chicago politics" gets bandied about whenever people complain about what they see as corruption and abuse of power.

Republicans often apply the concept to President Obama, who calls Chicago home. Earlier this year, presidential candidate Mitt Romney called one of the president's appointments "Chicago-style politics at its worst," and Illinois Republican Aaron Schock once described Obama's team as "the Chicago machine apparatus."

But what does that mean? And what are Chicago politics really like?

Imagine waking up to find that Earth's rotation has slowed — inexplicably — and the 24-hour day now has 56 extra minutes. And imagine what happens if Earth turns more and more slowly — still for no reason — until days last as long as weeks.

NOTE: Monday on NPR's Tell Me More, Michel Martin talks to Marvel editor-in-chief Alex Alonso about the wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu. The audio will be available later today, and we'll add a link when it's up.

Armed with cameras and microphones, we recently invaded the rehearsal spaces of prominent musicians. The result is "In Practice," a new series of videos you can watch here.

Pablo Medina is the author of Cubop City Blues.

"Showtime! Senoras y senores. Ladies and Gentlemen. And a very good evening to you all, ladies and gentlemen. Muy buenas noches, damas y caballeros. Tropicana! The MOST fabulous nightclub in the world — el cabaret MAS fabuloso del mundo — presents — presenta — its latest show — su nuevo espectaculo ..."

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his piece The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major in commemoration of the Russian Army's successful defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing troops at the Battle of Borodino. Most Americans, however, know the piece as the bombastic tune that accompanies Fourth of July fireworks shows all over the country.

The key to being a new parent, says renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, is to think of your newborn's "fourth trimester."

"Our babies aren't like horses. They can't run the first day of life," Karp says. "And so we need to recognize that they're evicted from the womb three months before they're ready for the world."

As you walk in the doors of Red Rooster, you immediately see a key piece of design: a bar dominates the front room, nearly touching the street, as if to say to the people of Harlem, N.Y., "Come on in."

The story behind the restaurant's owner, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, is more about life than food.

I have always loved a great story set in the past. Give me a high-powered historical plot, and I will keep turning those pages until my eyes cross. Kings or consuls, functionaries or janissaries, it doesn't matter, only that it pounds onward to the conclusion — volcano explosion, battle or market crash. It's literary dessert, and I devour every bite.

For most people, the start of World War II means German soldiers marching into Poland. Historian Antony Beevor begins and ends his new book, The Second World War with something different: the story of a German soldier who was actually Korean, was captured in Normandy, and wound up living in Illinois.

NPR Bestsellers: Week Of June 21, 2012

Jun 22, 2012

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide.

Michael Ondaatje's seafaring coming-of-age tale, The Cat's Table, debuts at No. 12.

Alan Furst's Hollywood-infused prewar spy thriller, Mission to Paris, debuts at No. 2.

Destiny of the Republic, about the assassination of President James Garfield, debuts at No. 11.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's true tale of survival in WWII, is on the list for an 83rd week.

Around The Classical Internet: June 22, 2012

Jun 22, 2012
  • This week, Gustavo Dudamel was in Scotland to visit Raploch, Stirling, the "former haunt of notorious crime-clan ­matriarch Big Mags Haney and once so educationally deprived it was dubbed a 'higher-free zone.'" It now is the home of Big Noise, a classical music project for kids run by Sistema Scotland.

America's Got Palate

Jun 22, 2012

Got an idea for a classical cartoon, or a reaction to this one? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

'Next!' How Do You Reduce Audition Anxiety?

Jun 22, 2012

All this week, we've been exploring the ways families help kids learn to play music. Along the way, we've gleaned lots of great tips on everything from choosing an instrument to tantrum-free practice from our readers, as well as young musicians who have appeared on From the Top and their parents.

Will Your Children Inherit Your E-Books?

Jun 21, 2012

In 1898, a man bought a book for his 16-year-old nephew. "Many happy retoins [sic]. Uncle Spud," he wrote on a blank page at the front.

All this week, we've been exploring ways to encourage kids' enthusiasm in learning music, from picking an instrument to finding a teacher to practicin

'Windeye': Gripping Tales Of Horror And Mystery

Jun 21, 2012

As if wooing Sisyphus, I push hungrily through the 25 stories in Brian Evenson's new collection, Windeye, trying each time to get to The Answer. Is the man a maniacal killer, or trapped in an experiment? What happens in the caves? Will the dead boy be avenged? Can Halle survive until the end of the oxygen shortage?

When friends learn that my nearly six-year-old has been playing violin for three years, their voices shift a bit, especially if they also have a child learning an instrument. Two questions come in quick succession: "Does she like it?" and "How do you get her to practice?" There's a nervous energy to their queries, and usually a little laugh, too. Either they've been struggling with kids who have a hard time practicing, or they recall their own childhood boredom.

The four-man vocal ensemble New York Polyphony sings ancient music built for big resonant spaces. Since they can't just pop into St. Patrick's Cathedral any time they need to practice a renaissance mass, the group rehearses sometimes in the Jackson Heights home of bass singer Craig Phillips. There, in a modest-sized living room, they can hear every detail. "It's a very different experience rehearsing in a dry room and a small room," says tenor Geoffrey Silver. "You actually hear what you and your colleagues are singing, there's no watercolor wash over what you are doing."

It's tough to concentrate on the rigors of Beethoven with jackhammers pounding in your ears. So when they started demolishing the building next to Jonathan Biss, he moved his piano out of his apartment into a separate studio, away from the commotion. "I would get up in the morning, the piano wasn't there, and I had to leave my apartment to go practice and I've decided that's a much more productive way of working," he says. Biss needs a good working environment for his massive project.

Jeremy Denk has his own personal "piano boot camp." Actually, it's his cramped Manhattan apartment. Beside his beloved books, a trusty coffee pot and a laptop, there's not much to do except practice. Which Denk does, hours and hours a day on a Steinway wedged into his living room. On a good day, he brews pot of coffee number one at about 11, then plays for about five hours. Perhaps a run to the gym, then pot number two is brewed at about 6, followed by more playing — until the neighbors complain.

The unexamined life isn't worth living, according to Socrates, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a writer who disagrees. Few, though, have taken it to the extreme that Toronto author Sheila Heti does with How Should a Person Be? The relentlessly introspective "novel from life" earned critical raves when it was released in Canada in 2010. The book chronicles Heti's struggle — sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking — to answer the seemingly simple questions: "What was the right way to react to people? Who was I to talk to at parties? How was I to be?"

New In Paperback June 18-24

Jun 20, 2012

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Michael Ondaatje, Lev Grossman and Ron Suskind.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Author Sheila Heti has a fresh pulsing voice in her new novel, How Should a Person Be?

Nurturing young talent is a long tradition in the classical music world, and many professional orchestras have their own youth orchestras. But it stands to reason that an organization with the kind of international stature the Cleveland Orchestra enjoys would have a top-notch youth ensemble. It does. And it's called, not surprisingly, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra — COYO for short. The young musicians have just embarked on a European tour.

In the beginning, the self-described "fermentation fetishist" Sandor Katz loved sour pickles.

"For whatever reason, I was drawn to that flavor as a child," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And then when I was in my 20s, I did quite a bit of dietary experimentation and ... I started noticing that whenever I ate sauerkraut or pickles, even the smell of it would make my salivary glands start secreting."

After Katz moved from New York City to a rural community in Tennessee, his fascination with all things fermented increased.

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