Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

You probably know Neil deGrasse Tyson as an astrophysicist with a seemingly endless stream of science fun facts at his command. You might not be aware that he is also a great oenophile and lover of food.

Some 16 years ago, before I was a journalist and illustrator, I worked with Neil at the American Museum of Natural History. He would sometimes carry around a small canvas tote bag. As I recall, the bag would contain one of two things: either a weighty, mango-sized meteorite to show to guests of the museum, or a bottle of wine to gift to a colleague.

In the summer of 2004, after two decades of estrangement, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Susan Faludi received an e-mail from her father. It read:

Dear Susan,

I've got some interesting news for you. I've decided that I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man that I have never been inside.

The letter was signed, "Love from your parent, Stefánie." Faludi's 76-year-old father, Steven, had had gender reassignment surgery.

Lately, it has felt like the terrible news just won't stop. As soon as you've wrapped your head around one story, you're pummeled by another — and then another.

An African bird called the Greater honeyguide is famous for leading people to honey, and a new study shows that the birds listen for certain human calls to figure out who wants to play follow-the-leader.

The finding underscores the unique relationship that exists between humans and this wild bird.

There's a scene in Mike Birbiglia's Don't Think Twice where a character flagrantly breaks a fundamental rule of improv comedy onstage, and it's devastating. The film does such a good job making us believe in the closeness and the fragility of the group at its center that we have nothing to do but squirm when things go wrong. "Fall, and then figure out what to do on the way down," as one member quotes improv legend Del Close at the outset as having said.

Making an Absolutely Fabulous movie in 2016, over 20 years after the cheerfully vulgar British sitcom became a cult sensation, seems both absurdly late and entirely in keeping with the spirit of the show. After all, Edina "Eddy" Monsoon and Patricia "Patsy" Stone, a pair of unrepentant boozers on the fringes of the fashion world, have never known cultural cachet. It only follows, then, that a big-screen version of their exploits would not be particularly hip or in-demand, but a continuation of the bawdy obliviousness that have made them such a treasure over the years.

Early in director Catherine Corsini's Summertime, a group of radical women breaks into an asylum while one of their number distracts the guard by pretending to be just too helpless to decipher a map. And some people say feminists don't have a sense of humor.

The moment is comic, but the Janis-Joplin-fueled caper is crucial both to the women and to the movie. They rescue a male friend who's been confined, drugged, and electroshocked for the offense of being homosexual.

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

Since calorie labeling on most alcoholic beverages is voluntary, it's often hard to know how many calories are in your favorite brew.

And — perhaps — ignorance is bliss. But ignoring those liquid calories is about to get a lot tougher. Soon, calorie counts may be staring you in the face.

So Long, VCR. We Hardly Knew You (Were Still Around)

17 hours ago

The VCR is officially going the way of the Betamax and LaserDisc: into the technology graveyard.

'To The Secretary' Tries To Unwind The Tangles Of Diplomacy

Jul 21, 2016

Halfway through John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it's clear who Soviet mole Gerald really is. And for George Smiley, the career spy investigating the conspiracy, it's never really been a secret at all. He unspools the conspiracy web from a sense of duty and a resigned curiosity. And after all the secrets and the human toll, the fallout boils down to a minor exchange of concessions designed to keep two empires moving.

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

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

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

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

In the Banda district of west-central Ghana, July is the hungry season. This year's sorghum, yams and millet are still young and green in the rain-fed fields, and for most farmers, last year's harvest is long gone.

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

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

Over the past few years, so-called ugly fruit and vegetables have been gaining a host of admirers.

An Old Trick Holds New Promise For Tastier Tomatoes

Jul 20, 2016

Scott Stoddard is an expert when it comes to tomatoes. He plants rows and rows of tomatoes outdoors on farms across central California for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

They're the kind of tomatoes that "end up on sandwiches at Subway," Stoddard says. "Also, at any of your common hamburger places, In-N-Out, McDonald's, you name it."

Amadeo Esposito's first sight of the island of Castellamare is "a low and brooding thing on the horizon, no more than a rock on the water." On one side, the lights of Sicily are visible; on the other side, pure black stretching all the way to Africa.

I suspect I was about eight years old at the time I'm remembering. I had to go to bed at 8:00 on school nights, except that one night a week, I could stay up until 8:30. I got to pick the night, and I generally picked Tuesdays, because that's when Happy Days was on.

Lindsay Hatton's novel Monterey Bay bobs somewhat awkwardly in the wake of John Steinbeck's 1945 classic, Cannery Row. In Hatton's tale, a boyishly attired 15-year-old named Margot Fiske works as a helpmeet for her father, an eccentric entrepreneur, in the scenic enclave "that splits the difference between Monterey and Pacific Grove" on California's coast.

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

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

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

Comic Mike Birbiglia's new film, Don't Think Twice, was inspired by an observation his wife made when she came to one of his improv shows.

"She goes, 'It's amazing that everyone is equally talented in this show, and yet this one person is on Saturday Night Live and this one person is a movie star and this one person lives on an air mattress in Queens,' " Birbiglia tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And I thought: Not only is that true and a great observation, but it's also a movie."

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

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