Arts and culture

In the stone courtyard of a lovingly — if quirkily — restored 500-year-old house in the Old City of Damascus, a ginger-bearded man in a baseball cap opens his arms to another set of visitors.

"Hi," says Syria's most successful sculptor, Mustafa Ali. "This is my place."

Tourists may be avoiding Damascus, thanks to more than five years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. But Ali's artists' retreat, a combination gallery, performance space and fun-house, is nearly always busy.

Meet Mumbai's Iconic Veggie Burger

Nov 4, 2016

Sometimes called India's veggie burger, vada pav is indeed just as iconic in Mumbai, the city of its origin, as the burger is in America. But this deep fried, spicy potato patty sandwiched in a small, square roll was invented more than 50 years ago, long before the first burger showed up on the subcontinent.

Traditionally cooked and sold by Mumbai's street vendors, vada pav is loved by people across society and is a symbol of local culinary creativity – combining local flavors with foods (potato and bread) introduced to the subcontinent by Europeans.

Before I talk about the new historical film Loving from writer/director Jeff Nichols, I have to confess: I don't usually enjoy civil rights movies.

Desmond Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the Pacific — and he did it without ever carrying a weapon. The battle at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, was a close combat fight with heavy weaponry. Thousands of American and Japanese soldiers were killed, and the fact that Doss survived the battle and saved so many lives has confounded and awed those who know his story. Now, he's the subject of a new film directed by Mel Gibson called Hacksaw Ridge.

Out of Austin, Texas, three writers have emerged from a ceremony with fresh laurels in hand: C.E. Morgan, Jason Reynolds and Susan Faludi have won Kirkus Prizes this year — for fiction, young readers' literature and nonfiction, respectively. The prize, awarded by the literary publication Kirkus Reviews, doles out $50,000 apiece along with the honors in each category.

Judges plucked the three winning books from the pool of more than 1,100 books that received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews in roughly the past 12 months.

Less than three years ago, a Russian court convicted Bolshoi Ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko of ordering a shocking acid attack against the Ballet's then-artistic direct Sergei Filin.

Now, according to multiple media reports, officials from the legendary ballet company have granted Dmitrichenko permission to return to the building for practice – the same building where Filin continues to work.

Before Dog Eat Dog even reveals its title, one of its three central characters has already killed two people. Does Mad Dog slay his pious ex-girlfriend and her teenage daughter because he's a sociopath and drug fiend? Or is he driven insane by the overwhelming pinkness of the women's home?

Filmmaker Mel Gibson has two obsessions: grisly violence and martyrdom. Hacksaw Ridge, his new World War II film, splits its 140 minutes between the two of them almost 50-50 (or 70-70). It's good, in a sturdy, muted, unsurprising way.

The mystical world of Doctor Strange, where sorcerers clash in an interstellar battle royale, unfolds in a shape-shifting, time-bending, mind-blowing flurry of special effects. The facades of buildings turn and flip like the rows of a giant Rubik's Cube. Whole cities are vacuumed into the sky like wispy clouds of lint. Temporal loops destroy and reconstitute entire neighborhoods, which are made to seem like life itself sits on tectonic plates that no one knew existed below their feet. Reality as we know it becomes as malleable as soft clay.

The title Loving may seem a rough fit for a movie made by Jeff Nichols, whose previous work includes Take Shelter and Mud. But Richard and Mildred Loving were the names of the real-life couple who inspired his new film; in the late 1950s they were forbidden to love and marry by the state of Virginia.

By the time a group of high school students showed up at Richard Moss' home in 1980, he was an old man in his 80s.

He was a master of shape-note singing — a remarkable old style of music he learned from his elders, who learned it from their elders in the mountains of northern Georgia.

The students wanted to document the tradition for their magazine, Foxfire.

When the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September, Associate Director Beverly Morgan-Welch expected a lot of visitors.

But she didn't expect how long people would stay once they got in. Museum experts call that "dwell time."

"The normal dwell time for most museums is an hour 45 minutes to two hours," says Morgan-Welch. "Our dwell time can go to six."

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


In the beginning of Javier Marias' new novel, Thus Bad Begins (translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa), a young man named Juan de Vere gets a job working as an assistant to the prominent (if somewhat fading) film director Eduardo Muriel — a man with odd habits, an eye patch and an absolutely maddening penchant for speaking in half-told stories and half-asked-for requests.

"I have a secret, Juan," is something that Muriel never exactly says. "But I cannot tell it to you. For if I did, this book would only be nine pages long."

On a bright, blustery October morning in Clarkston, Ga., the sweet aroma of baked treats and brewing coffee flows out the windows of the fire engine-red food truck known as Refuge Coffee Co. parked at a street corner. A dozen or so eager customers mill about, converse and gradually fall into line.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


It has been more than a year since Stephen Colbert took over as host of CBS' The Late Show, and he's finally feeling comfortable being himself and not a character.

Coming To Terms With A Bloody Past In 'Pull Me Under'

Nov 2, 2016

I have some problems with Kelly Luce's new book Pull Me Under, and I'll get to those. But first I want to say that this is a suspense novel with a female protagonist that gets more right about women than so many others I've read in the past few years. Note there's no use of "girl" in the title, even though a great deal of the book concerns the childhood and adolescence of one. We learn about that girl's darkest secret on page one, in a 1988 "excerpt" from "Kyoto Wow!

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


The documentary "The Eagle Huntress" won hearts at the Sundance Film Festival, including that of MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

Huddled over a hot griddle in the back of his food truck, Abdel Rahman Rahim al-Bibi doesn't hold back on the curry powder. He's frying up shish taouk — a spicy chicken kebab dish popular in the Middle East.

Aromas waft down the block, and a line forms on the city sidewalk next to al-Bibi's truck — office workers popping out for a quick bite, a mother and her two children, and a law student on his way home from the gym.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


Now we're going to remember the children's book writer Natalie Babbitt, who died yesterday at her home in Connecticut. She was famous for exposing kids to big, difficult concepts like death.


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


Last things first. One of the most extraordinary aspects of the third volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's monumental biography of Eleanor Roosevelt is the way it ends. I don't think I've ever read another biography where the death of the subject is noted in an aside of less than 10 words, on the second to last page of the book.

Sex is a fraught subject in April Ayers Lawson's impressively polished debut collection of stories. The audacious but vulnerable young Southerners who populate these five tales live in a world where the ordinary uncertainties of relationships and physical intimacy are amplified and distorted by their devout, fundamentalist Christian upbringing, and in several cases, a history of childhood sexual abuse. Despite her limpid, supple prose, there's a creepy cast to Lawson's vision, with shades of Flannery O'Connor's dark humor and Southern Gothic sensibility.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis, a virtuoso trumpet player and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has written — wait for it — a violin concerto.

As the daughter of the late virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. So I spent an hour with Marsalis — and the violinist he wrote his concerto with and for. (More on that later.)

A couple years ago, artist and illustrator Christoph Niemann felt like he needed to shake things up. "When you do any kind of creative job for a while, you become better ..." he says, "but I think you always become a little bit more predictable."

Salisbury University website

Salisbury University's Cultural Calendar week of November 7th , 2016

In the small town of Sunderland, Mass., is a 300-year-old, family-run plot of land that fuses fine art and farming.

Mike Wissemann's 8-acre cornfield maze is a feat of ingenuity, with carefully planned and executed stalk-formed replicas of notables such as the Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein and Salvador Dalí.

3 Romances To Light Up Your Diwali

Oct 31, 2016

If you're wondering why holiday lights have already gone up in some of the homes in your neighborhood, the answer is probably Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Like all holidays, it's a time of love, family, and food. A time when the Indian American community comes together to satisfy all the stereotypes in one fell swoop — sparkly silks and heirloom jewelry, syrupy sweets and deep-fried savories, all that decadence only a tad bit heavier than our nostalgia.