Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

An ancient variety of squash that was all but lost to history is now being rediscovered. Native Americans in the Great Lakes region have cultivated this squash for centuries, and now tribes are sharing the seeds with each other and with small farmers to bring the plant back.

Eighth Day Farm in Holland, Mich., is among those that acquired seeds from this mystery squash. And the farm's Sarah Hofman-Graham says they didn't know what to expect when they planted it last year.

The Shallows, the second-best aquatic adventure now playing at a theater near you, looks at first glance like an attempt to restore a modicum of respectability to the genre Jaws wrought. (I mean shark-flicks specifically, not the predatory, invasive species of the sensation-driven summer blockbuster.)

In the shimmering Tinseltown gothic of Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, beauty is a commodity both precious and volatile, subject to runway trends and the ravages of age, with just a blemish, a wrinkle, or a sliver of fat separating today's "It Girl" from tomorrow's bus back to Indiana.

A wannabe-gangster foster kid develops an uneasy bond with a reluctant parental figure as they trek through the New Zealand bush in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a familiar sort of coming-of-age movie made more interesting by the uniqueness of its setting and its off-kilter Kiwi humor. The film has already broken box office records in its native New Zealand. It's a bit too tame to catch fire here in the same way, however, despite writer-director Taika Waititi's growing track record as a cult comedy hero.

Is there anything to be learned from watching the same scenario play out multiple times? Regular viewers of Hong Sang-soo's psychologically acute work have probably been asking themselves that for years, as many of the Korean filmmaker's movies spin variations on a single setup: a middle-aged art-film director dallies, often inconclusively, with a pretty young woman (or two).

The great critic Robert Warshaw once pegged the gangster movie as "the no to the great American yes that is stamped so large over our official culture."

During his daily bus commute in the bustling Indian city of Hyderabad, there was something that really bothered Narayana Peesapaty.

"Everybody was eating something on their way to work," says Peesapaty, who was working as a sustainable farming researcher for a nonprofit organization at the time. But it wasn't his fellow bus riders' snacking habits that troubled him. It was their plastic cutlery.

The mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando has led to a revival of the debate over assault weapons, but journalist Evan Osnos says the real growth in gun ownership is from small, concealed handguns.

"Something really profound has changed in the way that we use guns," Osnos tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Concealed carry, as it's known, is now legal in all 50 states."

The rant is a staple of sports fandom. At Thanksgiving, at the office, in bars, via text, on Twitter — wherever sports fans go, rants go, too.

It makes sense, then, that the biggest headline out of Wednesday's premiere of Bill Simmons' new HBO talk show Any Given Wednesday was a sports rant. And it wasn't from the first guest, Charles Barkley. It was from the second guest, Ben Affleck.

"No matter how long they've been there, the people who live out here believe that whatever life demands of them they can meet it on their own," writes Larry Watson in his new novel, As Good as Gone. "Here" is the badlands of eastern Montana, a famously desolate and unforgiving region; those who inhabit it tend to learn self-reliance quickly, and by necessity.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The moment my boyfriend — now husband — and I got serious about our future together, my father-in-law got serious about teaching me to cook Indian cuisine. My boyfriend was already skilled in the kitchen. But Dr. Jashwant Sharma wanted extra assurance that the dishes from his native country would always have a place in our home. Plus, as he told me recently, he thought I'd like it.

"We mix four, five, six different spices in a single dish. These create a taste and aroma that you don't get in any other food. People exposed to it usually like it," he said.

Actor Tony Hale is really comfortable playing doormat characters. The two roles he's gotten the most attention for — Gary Walsh on HBO's Veep and Buster Bluth on Fox's Arrested Development — both fall squarely into that category.

"I guess I just do emasculated and meek very well," Hale tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"Nostalgia," a wise man once wrote, "is the nutrient agar upon which nerd culture grows."

For this week's episode, I sat down with my Code Switch teammate Gene Demby to dig into one of our favorite topics: rep sweats. It's the feeling of anxiety that can come with watching TV shows or movies starring people who look like you, especially when People Who Look Like You tend not to get a lot of screen time.

Things are not what they seem: That idea is the building block of thriller and horror novels. Paul Tremblay exploited uncertainty to its utmost in his breakthrough book, last year's Bram Stoker Award-winning A Head Full of Ghosts, in which a teenage girl shows all the telltale signs of demonic possession.

Why do onions make us cry?

Many a poet has pondered. Is it because their beautiful, multilayered complexity moves us to weep? Are we mourning the majestic bulb as we cut it up and consume it?

Or are these tears induced by the tragic tedium of chopping, chopping, chopping?

Yes, yes. All of the above.

There is a moment, a little ways into tonight's first episode of the Oprah Winfrey Network's new drama, Greenleaf, which sums up all the things that work — and don't — in this ambitious nighttime soap.

Merle Dandridge plays the show's heroine, Grace Greenleaf. Her father, Bishop James Greenleaf, and mother, Lady Mae Greenleaf, founded a powerful, predominantly black megachurch in Memphis, Tenn., where she preached as a child. After 20 years away from home, she has come back — for the funeral of her sister Faith, who killed herself.

On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote on whether or not to split from the European Union.

Those on the Remain Team, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, say Britain will be richer, safer and stronger if it stays with Europe. Those who want Britain to exit — Team Brexit — argue that the British should be able to control their own destiny. We haven't fought two world wars, they sniff, to be pushed around by the bosses in Brussels and told what sort of bananas to eat. Yes, you read that right: bananas.

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

The web series The Outs premiered on Vimeo in 2012. Its six-episode (plus a Chanukah special) first season chronicled the aftermath of a gay couple's breakup. Co-creators Adam Goldman and Sasha Winters made a humane, wryly funny and deeply felt series that felt distinct from other shows with similar settings (read: Brooklyn) and about similar subjects (read: relationships, friendships, young people in cardigans).

Hot Dogs Against Conformity In 'Taste Test'

Jun 21, 2016

If you're a fan of the Hot Dog Princess, you're going to love Hot Dog Taste Test. Lisa Hanawalt's lushly illustrated, stream-of-consciousness diary reveals a soul cut from the same vibrant cloth as that of the 6-year-old who wore a hot dog costume to a princess-themed dance recital. Both the 6-year-old and the grownup diarist understand that there's only one option for a free spirit confronted by the forces of conformity: You've got to go completely orthogonal.

This summer, diners in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles will get their hands on a hamburger that has been five years in the making.

The burger looks, tastes and smells like beef — except it's made entirely from plants. It sizzles on the grill and even browns and oozes fat when it cooks. It's the brainchild of former Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and his research team at Northern California-based Impossible Foods.

The startup's goal is like many in Silicon Valley — to create a product that will change the world.

Despite its ever-controversial sexism, The Taming of the Shrew remains one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies — in both the original and its many modern adaptations, including Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate. And now Anne Tyler, as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels based on the major plays, has tamed the Bard's shrewish battle of the sexes into a far more politically correct screwball comedy of manners that actually channels Jane Austen more than Shakespeare. It's clear that she had fun with Vinegar Girl, and readers will too.

Terry McMillan's characters have grown along with her. So it's not surprising that her latest book — I Almost Forgot About You — is about middle age. Her protagonist, Georgia Young, is an optometrist. Dr. Georgia is attractive, successful and economically secure. But, McMillan says, Georgia's accumulation of fine things has left her wondering why she bothered.

I must admit I have dunked a tea bag into hot water and called it tea. I have even made Darjeeling tea, sometimes called the champagne of teas, from a tea bag.

For tea gurus like Anindyo Choudhury, that is sacrilege. "I wouldn't even touch it," he says.

Most tea-bag teas are chopped and cut by machine instead of being rolled and twisted, hand-plucked and hand-processed. The best Darjeeling tea is loose leaf, steeped for a couple of minutes in hot water — it's light and bright.

On first blush, the death of the young actor Anton Yelchin, who starred in recent Star Trek movies, seemed just a freak accident, but it might be connected to a known defect in his SUV.

Yelchin's body was found pinned between his car and a fence. His Jeep Grand Cherokee had apparently rolled into Yelchin after he exited the car.

This post discusses events of Sunday night's episode of HBO's Game of Thrones, "Battle of the Bastards."

Fans of Game of Thrones, and the book series on which it is based, like to compare the moral universe created by author George R.R. Martin to that of his literary predecessor, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is black and white, they say — a place where pure, unremitting Eeeeeee-vil threatens pure, noble-hearted Good.

Are Millennials Chocolate Chip-o-crites?

Jun 20, 2016

If you give a millennial a cookie, he'll ask for some organic milk to go with it. So goes the food industry's conventional wisdom, which has pegged millennial consumers as caring more than previous generations about the social and environmental implications of their food.

But give a millennial a chocolate bar, and he'll hold off on the questions, according to an April study in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

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