Scott Simon

Known for his work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius was one of the most inventive bass players in music history. He is the only electric bassist in DownBeat magazine's Jazz Hall of Fame.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

How does Rez, a laid-back stoner surfer dude from Laguna Beach, get drawn into a web of fanaticism?

Laleh Khadivi's new novel A Good Country tells the story of Alireza Courdee from the time he's a 14-year-old chemistry whiz, the son of Iranian immigrants, to his transformation into an American kid who leaves America behind, in all ways, to disappear into a forbidding and destructive life.

Brockmire is back! Jim Brockmire, the beloved old voice of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, who became one of the first Internet sensations 10 years ago when he shared the shock of walking in on his wife in the middle of an orgy without dropping a moment in his play by play.

Jeffrey Tambor has been a professional working actor since the early 1970s — and he says that's all he's ever wanted to do.

He's done Shakespeare, Avis commercials, Hollywood Squares, Arrested Development and La Cage aux Folles. He's still often remembered as Hank Kingsley, the self-adoring announcer on The Larry Sanders Show. Now, he stars as Maura, a divorced, transgender parent of three in the Amazon series Transparent.

Tambor's new memoir, about his life as an actor, is called Are You Anybody?

Harold Evans sees a lot of fog all around us: Murky words, qualifiers, and subordinate clauses that clog a sentence and route expression into obscurity. Puffed up phrases, passive voices, misused words and words with no meaning, verbs twisted into nouns, buzzwords and hackneyed terms that make the language we use to deliver news, exchange opinions, trade stories, give direction, and declare love into a pea-souper of imprecision and cliche.

Lea Michele was 8 years old when she was cast as the young Cosette in Les Misérables. Then came more Broadway roles — in Ragtime, Fiddler On The Roof and Spring Awakening — before she became Rachel Berry on Glee.

A new film starring Richard Gere follows a Jewish man who pops up on the streets of Manhattan dropping names, handing out cards and promising to connect people. That man, Norman, befriends an Israeli politician whose career is on the outs. Three years later, the politician, Eshel, returns as prime minister and their paths cross again.

One of the world's most lauded novelists has produced her first collection of short stories in decades. The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is by Penelope Lively, who won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 for Moon Tiger and had a bestseller in How it All Began. Her latest is a collection that looks at life in ancient Pompeii, and modern-day western metropolises. They are often short, even for short stories — and subtly simple, or, if you prefer, deceptively nuanced.

A short film that's filled with big Hollywood names premiered Tuesday in Bentonville, Ark. The Forever Tree, a black historical fantasy film, stars Wendell Pierce and Olivia Washington. It made its debut at the third Bentonville Film Festival, which aims to headline creative works by women and filmmakers of color.

Zeshan Bagewadi's new album, Vetted, sounds a lot like classic American funk and soul from the 1960s and '70s. The difference? He sometimes sings in Punjabi. Bagewadi was born in Chicago to parents who were Indian Muslim immigrants, and he learned about soul, funk and blues from his father's music collection.

Their Finest is a film within a film about making wartime movies in Britain. Bill Nighy stars as an aging matinee idol, unhappy that he's been cast in an older role. Gemma Arterton plays a young copywriter — the script department's secret weapon.

It's during the Blitz, and they're tasked with making a British drama that will lift spirits at home and warm hearts across the ocean — a challenge that real filmmakers faced as well.

Karen Neulander is a brilliant, determined, tough political consultant who is facing a crisis she knows she can't fix: terminal ovarian cancer. Karen is determined to use whatever time she has left to share as much as she can of her life with her 6-year-old son, Jacob. She also has another goal: to introduce Jacob to Dave, the father he has never known but must try to love for the rest of his life.

An artist is sitting on a chair in a Paris art museum over a dozen chicken eggs until they hatch. This is not an April Fools' joke.

"I will, broadly speaking, become a chicken," says Abraham Poincheval, a French performance artist who has recently also had himself encased inside a bear, where he ate worms and beetles, and then inside a limestone rock, where he thought, slept and slurped soup.

If you're a fan of The Americans, you probably have strong feelings about Alison Wright's character, Martha. Poor, loving, trusting Martha had to be smuggled out of the U.S. because she married a man who was no good for her — a man who turned out to be a Russian spy.

It's hardly unusual for athletes, both amateur and professional, to have pregame rituals. But the NBA's peculiar commitment to one grade-school snack goes deep: ESPN Magazine calls the PB&J sandwich the league's "secret addiction."

"In every NBA locker room, you'll see a variety of different foods on the table, but PB&J — if there's a locker room that doesn't have it, I haven't seen it," ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes tells Scott Simon.

There is a photograph that's been seen around the world this week. It seems to hold both civilization and destruction in the same frame.

The photo shows a white-haired man sitting on a bed in the midst of rubble. He sits in front of broad windows, which have been shattered; and gauzy white curtains, which flap like wounded white birds.

Amy Dickinson says her hometown of Freeville, N.Y, is mostly a town of leavers and stayers — and she managed to be both. Dickinson went away to college and lived in Chicago, New York, London and Washington, D.C. Eventually, as her mother was nearing the end of her life, Dickinson returned home.

And the winner is, La La Land!

Oh, sorry. Someone handed me the wrong script.

Gary Alan Coe — Gary from Chicago, as he introduced himself — enjoyed four minutes and 40 seconds of fame this week when he was first in a line of Hollywood tourists ushered into the Dolby Theater during the Oscars ceremonies.

Most of the tourists seemed flabbergasted to be paraded, in their shorts and fanny-packs, in front of cinema stars in silk and glitter.

Michael Rodriguez is both a military man and a muse. Years after President George W. Bush sent him into war, the two men now call each other friends.

Rodriguez was a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret who served from 1992 to 2013. He's featured in President Bush's book of portraits of more than 60 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in wars under his watch. It's called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors.

The Academy Awards are Sunday night. But that's just what we call a peg for what I really want to talk about.

This spring marks the 45th anniversary of The Godfather.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

Francis Coppola's film is smartly scripted, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed. It's one of those special films you can see every few years and notice something new each time. It's an opera, really, where the arias are story lines about love, blood and America.

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The great British actor John Hurt has died. He got his start early, said he appeared in front of an audience for the first time when he was just 9 years old.


I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores: smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business, and, for that matter, our world.

When Mary Tyler Moore died this week, at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business — and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and software engineers — cited Mary Richards, the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration.

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Every week we get emails and tweets from people who say they are so appalled by this year's election campaign they no can longer pay attention to the news. Then they often go on to give us full details about the latest incident in the campaign that's so repulsed them.

A lot of Americans say they are disgusted by this year's election. And the data says they can't get enough of it.

It somehow just seems right the last A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor will be heard tonight, on this weekend of flags, parades, and lemonade stands. The show was recorded last night at the Hollywood Bowl.

The first Prairie Home Companion was in 1974, and all of us who share this sliver on the radio spectrum know we wouldn't be in business if Garrison Keillor hadn't made a new thing called public radio truly sing.

A cooking show has reportedly dominated the recent television ratings in North Korea.

Of course there's just one broadcaster. And it's the government.

Some songwriters are able to write songs about those turns in life too painful to talk about.

When I met Merle Haggard aboard his tour bus in the early summer of 2001, he no longer looked much like the hard-scrabble outlaw of his 20s, but a man who had been tempered by the ups and downs of riches and bankruptcy, love, loss and time. He had come a long distance since his boyhood in a converted boxcar on the wrong side of the tracks, growing up just outside of Bakersfield, Calif., and the troubled times when he served more than two years in San Quentin for robbery.