Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's radio and online stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions, as well as artistic adventurousness— and awesomeness.

Over the last few years, Ulaby has strengthened NPR's television coverage both in terms of programming and industry coverage and profiled breakout artists such as Ellen Page and Skylar Grey and behind-the-scenes tastemakers ranging from super producer Timbaland to James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features. Her stories have included a series on women record producers, an investigation into exhibitions of plastinated human bodies, and a look at the legacy of gay activist Harvey Milk. Her profiles have brought listeners into the worlds of such performers as Tyler Perry, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Ruffalo, and Courtney Love.

Ulaby has earned multiple fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg as well as a fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism to study youth culture. In addition, Ulaby's weekly podcast of NPR's best arts stories. Culturetopia, won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

Joining NPR in 2000, Ulaby was recruited through NPR's Next Generation Radio, and landed a temporary position on the cultural desk as an editorial assistant. She started reporting regularly, augmenting her work with arts coverage for D.C.'s Washington City Paper.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. Her film reviews and academic articles have been published across the country and internationally. For a time, she edited fiction for The Chicago Review and served on the editing staff of the leading academic journal Critical Inquiry. Ulaby taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in the idyllic Midwestern college towns of Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's look at some of the buzziest shows on television in the past year or so, shall we? What do House of Cards, Girls, I Love Dick, Orphan Black, Transparent and The Magicians have in common?

Every one of them has featured unconventional romantic or sexual relationships involving more than two people.

The creator of one of the most popular hockey-themed web comics — yes, that's a thing — does not even know how to ice skate. Ngozi Ukazu created "Check Please," about a sweet-natured Southern hockey player who's short, loves baking pies and is completely crushed out on his hunky team captain.

The success of "Check Please" shows how a new generation of storytellers are refining the 21st century tools that help them attract and retain fans and earn a living with their work.

Hollywood has solved another cliffhanger. A massive writers' strike was narrowly averted Tuesday, as a tentative agreement was reached between the members of the Writers Guild of America and the group representing the studios they work for, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Details of the deal are expected to be provided to members on Thursday. Around 13,000 film and TV writers were ready to strike starting at midnight, but they managed to reach an agreement over pensions and health plans and how much writers get paid.

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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2016 was the year the Underground Railroad became a focus in popular culture — in Colson Whitehead's National Book Award-winning novel, and a critically acclaimed new television drama about a group of runaways fleeing a Georgia plantation in 1857.

Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET

Zsa Zsa Gabor — the woman who probably inspired the term "famous for being famous" — died on Sunday, according to multiple media outlets. She was 99 years old, just two months shy of her 100th birthday.

NPR confirmed Gabor's death with her publicist, Edward Lozzi, who issued the following statement:

Barbara Massaad was watching a TV news program about the plight of Syrian refugees from her apartment in the suburbs of Beirut when she decided to visit a refugee camp herself.

"I just wanted to go and see what was happening," she told me. "So I went and started taking photographs and talking to people about food."

In the 1990s and early 2000s, TV shows didn't have a lot of love for mass transit — as Homer Simpson pronounced, "Public transportation is for jerks and lesbians."

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"I'll never be able to speak their words!"

That cry of frustration comes from linguistics professor Louise Banks in the new movie Arrival. Banks, played by Amy Adams, is confronted with a hard jolt of reality in a fantastic situation: Aliens have arrived from outer space and we have no idea how to talk to them.

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Artist Ragnar Kjartansson stands surrounded by women in gold strapless gowns. One by one, the women climb onto a slowly rotating pedestal to practice their performance: strumming an E minor chord on a golden guitar for two and a half hours. The group is rehearsing in a cavernous gallery at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The piece, Woman in E, is a new-ish work by Kjartansson, one of the art world's biggest stars.

Miranda Sings is an awkward, homeschooled teenager with messy hair, mismatched outfits and clownish red lipstick that ends up smeared all over her teeth. From her bedroom, she uploads videos of herself singing — horrifically badly — that she believes will make her a star.

And they have. Around 7 million people follow her on YouTube.

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When Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature this morning, he joined a lineage that includes Harold Pinter, Thomas Mann and Toni Morrison. NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at how Dylan fits into this group.

It's well-known that Dear Leader was crazy about movies. What's less known — at least in the West — is that infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was so crazy about them that he kidnapped a South Korean actress and a movie director in 1978 and forced them to work for him for years. That story is the subject of a new documentary called The Lovers and the Despot.

When's the last time you ordered turtle when you went out to eat?

Most of us would probably turn it down in an instant if we saw it on a menu. But terrapin was a completely normal entree for diners at the finest restaurants of a century ago. America's changing tastes — and what they have to say about our culture — are explored in a new nonfiction book, Ten Restaurants That Changed America.

11:00 a.m. is bilingual story hour at the Aguilar branch of the New York Public Library. Dozens of kids — mostly children of immigrants from China, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — have settled down to hear Perez y Martina, a story based on a Puerto Rican folktale.

There's an insatiable appetite, it seems, for books about young people killing each other in made-up militarized societies. And according to author Sabaa Tahir — whose new book, A Torch Against the Night, continues that trend — if you look at today's headlines, the genre's popularity makes sense: After all, the news is where she found her inspiration.

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It's a sweltering night in July and Los Angeles' Underground Museum is packed. "It's crowded and hot, but it feels really good," says vistor Jazzi McGilbert. Like much of the crowd, McGilbert is young, creative and African-American. She drove across town to this unassuming, bunkerlike storefront for an event that combines art and activism. The museum is one of her favorite spots in Los Angeles. "I like what it stands for," McGilbert says. "... And the art is incredible."

Happily, the creators behind the 1980s comic series Suicide Squad have been getting a fair amount of attention with the release of the splashy new movie it has inspired. Writer John Ostrander created the comic (with artist Luke McDonnell) and Ostrander's late wife, Kimberly Yale, co-wrote it for much of its run. But in all the coverage of the film, Yale has been completely overlooked.

Producer Lawrence Grey loves horror movies. But he still shivers, remembering a 2 1/2 minute video that starts on a rainy Scandinavian night. A ordinary woman is getting ready for bed in her small apartment. She switches off the hall light and, in the darkness at the other end of the hall, she sees a shadow. A silhouette. Something almost human. But not quite.

Born This Way is a reality show — not too different from The Real World, the groundbreaking show that helped define the genre and aired for more than 30 seasons on MTV. Both feature a cast of diverse young adults navigating the world around them. Both came from reality TV pioneer Jonathan Murray (who co-created The Real World with Mary-Ellis Bunim). The big difference: All the stars of Born This Way have Down syndrome.

In four months, on the first Friday after the elections in November, Renee Montagne will step away from the host chair on Morning Edition after 12 years.

That's 12 years of arriving at work every weekday at midnight. Montagne works out of the NPR West studio in Culver City, Calif., on the outskirts of Los Angeles. That means at 2 a.m. PT, she's sounding bright and fully caffeinated for Morning Edition's earliest East Coast broadcasts. Her punishing hours were a point of pride — but only to a point.

Many chefs think of themselves as artists in the kitchen. Craig Thornton has taken it to another level: For the past five months, he's been serving up multi-course meals as part of a room-size installation at the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

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