NPR Staff

You'd recognize actress Elizabeth Banks if you saw her — blonde, attractive, funny — whether she's playing an exhausted pregnant woman in What to Expect When You're Expecting, or an inappropriate a cappella judge in the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect.

Now she's taking on a different role: Directing Pitch Perfect 2. It's a tall order since the first one was such a surprise hit — it cost only $17 million to make, but earned more than $100 million worldwide.

For more interviews from NPR Music, click here.

Before Ferguson, Baltimore, Tamir Rice or Eric Garner, there was 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr.

In 1994, he was playing in the stairwell of the Gowanus Housing Project, where he lived in Brooklyn, when a police officer shot and killed him.

"He was an amazing kid and I don't just say that because he was my son," Nicholas Heyward Sr. says during a recent visit to StoryCorps.

Two of the most important books in the English language were printed four centuries ago: the King James Bible and William Shakespeare's first folio. Today, that first collection of Shakespeare's plays would fetch a king's ransom; and in the early 1900s, one man was willing to spend his entire fortune to own as many of them as he could. His name was Henry Folger and he was a successful businessman who worked his way to the top of Standard Oil. Folger managed to buy 82 first folios out of only a couple of hundred that survived from the original 1623 printing.

Think local Nebraska food, and Omaha's famous steaks may come to mind. The Great Plains are indeed an agricultural powerhouse when it comes to commodities like feed corn, soybeans, beef and pork.

But as food journalist Summer Miller tells Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR's Here & Now, there's much more on offer these days in Nebraska, as well as in its Great Plains neighbors Iowa and South Dakota.

Noelle Stevenson is making her mark in the world of comic books.

She's just 23 and already a writer and illustrator. She has co-authored a series for Boom! Studios, called Lumberjanes, and she has written for Marvel's new female Thor. But it's a tough world for women to be a part of, whether they're creators or fans.

Naomi Novik is best known for the Temeraire series — rousing adventure tales of a man and his dragon, set in an alternate-universe version of the Napoleonic Wars where France and England battle it out across land, sea and sky with the help of dragons.

In his new memoir, Deal, drummer Bill Kreutzmann tells a story about the Grateful Dead's tour of Egypt. Instead of filling hookahs with "black, gooey tobacco," the band "filled the entire hookah with hash. No tobacco!" In the midst of Middle East trouble, the Grateful Dead's members were unwitting ambassadors of American culture.

"Everybody had fun," Kreutzmann tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Yes, indeed."

Since October of last year, four teenagers in California's Palo Alto school district have taken their own lives. Tragically, it's not the first cluster of teen suicides this area has seen: In 2009 and 2010, five local teenagers killed themselves by stepping in front of trains, and more suicides followed the next year.

If you met the author Mark Danielewski on an elevator, here's how your conversation might go:

"What are you doing these days?"

"I'm writing a novel," he replies. "It's 27 volumes long."

"Wow," you might say. "What's it about?"

"It's about this little girl who finds a little kitten."

"Twenty-seven volumes, huh?"

"Ah, it's a very intense subject."

Imagine you're on the highway. You glance into the cab of the 18-wheeler next to you — and there's no driver. That day might be getting closer.

Automaker Daimler unveiled a truck last week that drives itself, called the Freightliner Inspiration. But the truck is not yet entirely autonomous.

This weekend, the Class of 2015 graduated from Howard University, a historically black college located about a mile from NPR's headquarters. The new graduates include two of the students who have spent the last semester talking with NPR's Weekend Edition about their college experience.

Leighton Watson and Kevin Peterman are still kind of in denial.

"It's very surreal, because I think a lot of people expect you to feel like you've graduated earlier in the process," says Watson. "But it literally didn't hit me until I was walking off of the stage and out."

Two years ago, one of the worst tornadoes on record hit the town of Moore, Okla. And you might say to yourself, well, doesn't this always happen there? It's called Tornado Alley for a reason.

And that's pretty much how the residents of Moore think about tornadoes. They're just part of life, and you take your chances. But that kind of thinking was part of the problem on May 20, 2013. The storm that came through that day was different. It was horrific.

Keith Jarrett hit a milestone this past week: The famed jazz pianist turned 70 years old, and he's decided to mark the occasion with two new releases. One offers his take on two important classical works; the other, Creation, documents how his creative process plays out in front of a host of live audiences.

Being a parent changes you in many ways — including when it comes to what you're willing to eat.

Parents eat their kids' leftovers — yes, it's true. And this can mean leftover scraps on their baby's tray ... or bits and pieces hanging off bibs and mouths. Hey, it can look strangely irresistible at the time.

When Lecrae gets into something, he goes all in. The hip-hop artist is a devout Christian, and his lyrics deal with issues of faith, family and social justice.

It's been more than 20 years since Jurassic Park came out, and scientists have been cloning animals almost as long.

So where are the baby velociraptors already?

In Russia, there is a park all ready for woolly mammoths and scientists there say it's just a matter of time before they can bring back actual mammoths to enjoy it. But why bring back a species that went extinct thousands of years ago?

Right before the 2014 release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, producer J. Period and The Roots rapper Black Thought recorded an entire mixtape in one take. It functions like a documentary about the Godfather of Soul.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are well underway. Fans of the Winnipeg Jets are heartbroken; Chicago Blackhawk lovers are feeling great.

But you don't need to be an NHL superfan to find something fascinating about hockey. A.J. Jacobs, an editor-at-large for Esquire and a professional know-it-all, joined NPR's Scott Simon to talk about quirky facts from the sport's past and present.

How much hockey trivia do you know? Take a guess at which of the facts below are true, then hit "play" to see if you were right.

Matthew Diffee has been drawing cartoons for The New Yorker since 1999. When asked which comes first, the image or the words, he tells NPR's Scott Simon, "They both come at the same time. I start with words, but while I'm thinking words I'm picturing the drawing already."

Famed British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been lending his calming voice to nature documentaries ever since TV was in black and white.

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, in which thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

People make a lot of assumptions based on a name alone.

Jamaal Allan, a high school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa, should know. To the surprise of many who have only seen his name, Allan is white. And that's taken him on a lifelong odyssey of racial encounters.

Welcome to the second session of the Morning Edition book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

The first thing you notice when you get on Willie Nelson's tour bus is a pungent aroma. Parked outside a gigantic casino and performance venue in Thackerville, Okla., Nelson offers NPR's David Greene a joint, which Greene declines. Nelson says he understands.

Photographer Matt Black grew up in California's Central Valley. He has dedicated his life to documenting the area's small towns and farmers.

Last year, he says he realized what had been a mild drought was now severe. It had simply stopped raining.

"It was kind of a daily surreal thing to walk outside," Black says.

Most of the tech buzz these days has centered on the new Apple Watch — including on the potential for health-related apps. Less attention has been given to Apple's ResearchKit, an open-source mobile software platform released in March.

But the medical world is paying attention.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

You know actress Jane Seymour from the frontier town of Colorado Springs in the hit TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

Night of the Living Dead director George Romero once told NPR his movies have always been less about zombies, and more about humans and the mistakes they make.

An estimated 14,000 were injured in April's earthquake in Nepal. The caseload is overwhelming hospitals in Kathmandu, says Dr. Bianca Grecu-Jacobs, a resident in emergency medicine from California who was working in Nepal when the quake struck.

"[In] the lobby areas, patients just are on the floor waiting," Grecu-Jacobs says via Skype from Katmandu. "They strung up IVs for patients who need them in whatever manner they can."

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