Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

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It took Bill Broun 14 years to write Night of the Animals. But the novel, Broun's debut, has still proved remarkably timely in a summer of "Brexit"-tinged anxieties.

The book depicts a dark future in which the European Union has dissolved and the U.K. has become a pacified surveillance state. Between "indigents" and "the new aristocracy," a vanishing middle class bows beneath abundant chocolate, lager, legal hallucinogens and mind-numbing electronics.

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

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In 'Ghost Talkers,' The Spies Are Actual Spooks

21 hours ago

Look, I am solidly a ray-guns-and-spaceships kind of genre nerd. Never been much for fantasy done after the 1970s (it mostly sounds like bad Tolkien). Never cared much for ghost stories or alternate histories or love stories or horror.

Which is why, on the surface, it might seem odd that I was so thoroughly taken in by Mary Robinette Kowal's newest novel, Ghost Talkers. I mean, it's essentially an alternate history love story with ghosts in it. Lots and lots of ghosts. And therefore falls firmly into that sprawling pile of Stuff I Wouldn't Read On A Bet.

Can one photo help end a war?

That's what people are wondering about the image of a little Syrian boy covered head to toe in a thick layer of dust, his face bloodied, as he sits in a bright orange chair.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The surprise TV hit of the summer is a show that looks like it could have been made 30 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV THEME, "STRANGER THINGS")

A stop-motion samurai film — that's the germ of an idea that grew into the sprawling fantasy film, Kubo and the Two Strings.

It's a coming-of-age epic set in fantasy Japan about a young storyteller who makes magic with music and origami paper. The film stars Art Parkinson as Kubo, the Samurai's son, as well as Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei and Matthew McConaughey.

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This week, in a tale of Olympic scandal and intrigue, Ryan Lochte is in the spotlight for an ugly encounter at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro.

On a blisteringly hot day at the state fairgrounds in Skowhegan, Maine, Kathy Savoie takes some local blueberries and simmers them in a pot.

She adds onions, ginger, vinegar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and salt. And, later, she drops in some calcium water, pectin and sugar for consistency.

Clearly, what she calls "savory blueberry ginger conserve" is not your grandma's blueberry jam.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

The only thing more delightful than being back with my PCHH team this week is that while Glen Weldon takes a week off, we're joined by our former sometimes-producer Kiana Fitzgerald, who's also a DJ and writer and wonderful Twitter follow, as well as Brittany Luse, who hosts Sampler over at Gimlet Media and hosts the fabulous For Colored Nerds podcast with Eric Eddings.

Friends, Romans, Countrypersons: Let us agree there is nothing inherently sacrilegious about embarking upon a fourth feature-film version of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Artisanal Food Waste: Can You Turn Scraps Into Premium Products?

Aug 19, 2016

Many efforts to address the food waste crisis hinge on getting consumers to buy fruits and vegetables that are adorably ugly — the bumpy tomato, the bulbous carrot, the dinged apple. Taste and nutritional value aren't compromised by their irregular appearance.

Editor's note: This interview contains adult themes, including a discussion of sexual assault.

Amy Schumer is tired of answering a question journalists ask her all the time: Is this a good moment for women in Hollywood?

"It is an amazing moment for every woman," she tells NPR's David Greene, "if you have ovaries and you're in the 90210 ZIP code."

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The new Ben-Hur opens today, which can't help but put moviegoers in mind of the 1959 MGM blockbuster. That classic starred Charlton Heston and won a pile of Oscars.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEN-HUR")

We have become so used to movie characters who always do and say the expected movie things that it's a shock to watch a film and encounter genuine humans. The new coming-of-age comedy Morris From America centers around a 13-year-old aspiring rapper played with astonishing magnetism by first-time actor Markees Christmas. What's remarkable about the film is that it sets up what could have been a bunch of pat, dumb culture-clash jokes about a black New York kid in Europe, yet never takes the easy way out. Instead, it explores and resolutely preserves its hero's humanity.

With dark bangs draped over an eyepatch, a stack of colorful origami paper, and a two-stringed, lute-like instrument called a shamisen strapped to his back, young Kubo heads into a seaside village to put on a street performance for spare change. As he rocks the shamisen like the Joe Satriani of ancient Japan, the origami paper dances to life around him, folding into sharply edged characters and objects, and occasionally bursting into ribbons of confetti.

In such dudes-gone-wild comedies as Pineapple Express and The Hangover, guys get incredibly wasted, do phenomenally stupid stuff, stumble into spectacular trouble, and yet somehow emerge relatively unscathed. Of course, scenarios like that don't play out in the real world.

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Natalie Portman says her new film felt like something she just "had to make." It's an adaptation of A Tale of Love and Darkness, the autobiographical novel by Amos Oz, in which he tells the story of his childhood in Jerusalem during the early years of Israeli independence.

Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, directed and wrote the Hebrew language film. She also stars as Oz's mother, Fania, whose family emigrated from Eastern Europe.

Americans love shrimp.

We import about $5 billion worth of it from all over the globe, including from India, Thailand and Indonesia.

But over the past year, we've learned more about the downsides of global shrimp production. The AP uncovered slave labor in Southeast Asia, and there's also documentation of environmental degradation from destruction of mangroves.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

'The Hike' Turns Traditional Fairy Tales Inside Out

Aug 18, 2016

You know what they don't make a lot of? Summer beach books for dudes.

I mean, okay. If you like crime novels, sure. There are always 10,000 of those slumping on the shelves. Military techno/spy WE-ONLY-HAVE-24-HOURS-TO-SAVE-THE-KENTUCKY-DERBY-FROM-ESKIMO-TERRORISTS!-style thrillers? Yeah, I guess there are some of those, too.

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

Riveting 'Obelisk Gate' Shatters The Stillness

Aug 18, 2016

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in a trilogy that makes me forget everything people say about second books in trilogies. By rights it should be full of the things we forgive middle books: necessary stalling; development of characters less interesting than in the first volume but nevertheless plot-critical; all the weary setup of scaffolding from which to launch the finale.

Next-generation hot dogs and hamburgers may come with an unusual ingredient: seaweed. That's the goal of a group of scientists trying to make these red-meat-rich, unhealthful foods more healthful by adding nutrient-packed seaweed, a staple in Japanese and other Asian cuisines.

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