Arts

Arts and culture

The new Starz series American Gods is based on Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel of the same name, and it's many things: a road novel, a collection of mythologies, and a reflection of the immigrant experience.

The story follows an ex-convict named Shadow Moon, newly released from prison when he meets a mysterious man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday and offers Shadow a job as a bodyguard and chauffeur.

After some initial hesitation, Shadow accepts the job, and he and Mr. Wednesday head out on the open road, where much of American Gods takes place.

Comic W. Kamau Bell has spent much of his life feeling awkward. A self-described "tall, rangy black dude," Bell was often mistaken for a basketball player growing up — except that serious asthma and allergies meant he spent the bulk of his childhood indoors watching TV.

He says, "There was this weird sense of guilt about the fact that I wasn't using the physical shell that God had given me, and that I wasn't taking advantage of my physical gifts."

As a composer, I entered a profession in which I knew I could actively alter our fractious present using the incomparable tools of art. After all, the intellectually curious and essentially progressive landscapes of our concert halls and opera houses seem like the perfect arenas in which to harness momentum for change and, through the aspirational craft of music, feel the resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy.

Remember Precious? The 2009 film earned six Oscar nominations, including a best actress nod for newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. Precious was Sidibe's first acting job, and audiences ached for her character, a teen who is physically and sexually abused by her family.

Before Precious, Sidibe had been in two school plays — in the chorus. Since then, she has gone on to make a career for herself in movies and TV shows, like Fox's Empire.

In the new film adaptation of Dave Eggers' satirical novel The Circle, Tom Hanks says his character is "neither" and "both" a hero and a villain.

Hanks plays Eamon Bailey, co-founder of a giant social media and tech company. In a tech-obsessed culture, the company has a creepy mantra of "Sharing is caring."

Emma Watson stars as Mae Holland, a new hire at the Circle who quickly rises through the ranks and agrees to broadcast her every waking moment to millions of followers on social media.

This month marks 350 years since John Milton sold his publisher the copyright of Paradise Lost for the sum of five pounds.

His great work dramatizes the oldest story in the Bible, whose principal characters we know only too well: God, Adam, Eve, Satan in the form of a talking snake — and an apple.

Except, of course, that Genesis never names the apple but simply refers to "the fruit." To quote from the King James Bible:

A male boss brushes up against his female employee. Off the record, a male politician makes suggestive remarks to a female reporter. These are just a couple of examples of sexual harassment that may be all too familiar to some career women.

Writing good fiction is hard, and doesn't necessarily get easier with practice. Some writers improve over time, others burn brightly but flame out early. Case in point: F. Scott Fitzgerald, who produced most of his best work — This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, Tales of the Jazz Age — in his 20s.

Sometimes, even professionally compassionate people get tired.

Kristin Laurel, a flight nurse from Waconia, Minn., has worked in trauma units for over two decades. The daily exposure to distressing situations can sometimes result in compassion fatigue.

"Some calls get to you, no matter who you are," she says.

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

Apr 29, 2017

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.

When audience members start taking their seats to see Broadway's Indecent, the actors are already sitting at the back of the stage. Eventually, the lights go down and the performers begin a ghostly dance to klezmer music as bits of ash fall out of their overcoats.

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.

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 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

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