Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 5:16 pm
In a certain region of the Missouri Ozarks called Devil's Promenade, there are tales of a "spook light." According to local accounts, it's a mysterious orb-like light that appears in the woods — but only on chance nights. And, as many local legends are, this one is shrouded in mystery: Is the spook light real? What is it? Is it evil? Is it good?
Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 2:39 pm
"Dickensian" is one of those literary modifiers that's overused. But before I officially retire this ruined adjective (or exile it to Australia, as Dickens himself would have done), I want to give it one final outing, because no other word will do. Here goes: Donna Tartt's grand new novel, The Goldfinch, is Dickensian both in the ambition of its jumbo, coincidence-laced plot, as well as in its symphonic range of emotions.
Welcome, all you ghosts and goblins! Welcome, all you cats and princesses! Welcome, Iron Man Under That Down Jacket! Welcome, Werewolf Whose Mom Is On The Phone!
I am pleased to see you at my door. I welcome always the young people in whose vicinity I reside, provided they are not so old that they pause before picking up their candy to put down a lit cigarette, which really happened to my parents once. (I will be using that anecdote in my upcoming book, Signs That You Have Outgrown Trick-Or-Treating.)
It's Halloween again, and now that we know there will be no Game 7 of the World Series, that leaves you an open evening to enjoy running back and forth to the door to drop tiny Snickers bars into plastic bags carried by children dressed as superheroes.
But this strange ritual is not the evening's only appropriate entertainment. Perhaps you just want to scare the pants off yourself. Perhaps you just want a Scary Movie Night. Fortunately, with the proliferation of distribution methods for films both scary and less so, you've got plenty of options.
Shake things up in our nation's capital with one of D.C.'s music legends. In this hour, recorded at the NPR Headquarters in Washington, our Very Important Puzzler is the prolific and outspoken Ian MacKaye. The front man of the D.C. punk bands Fugazi and Minor Threat shares tales from the road, and muses about what "punk" means today. Plus, try out your best Nicolas Cage impression, play a game that asks you to create new company names after imagined big-time mergers and search for National treasures.
If you are prone to motion sickness on roller coasters, have no fear — the only twists and turns in this game led by host Ophira Eisenberg are in the clues. All of the answers are words that contain double "ee"s, just like the word you would say when you're on a ride: "whee!" For example, the Fox television series that features students competing in a cappella choir competitions is "Gleeeeee!"
House musician Jonathan Coulton decided to get a little patriotic for our stop in the nation's capital. He performs a rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," in which you must salute famous individuals with the initials "D.C." Glory, glory, David Caruso!
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Thirty years after launching his music career, what does it mean for Ian MacKaye to be a punk rocker? In the 1980s, MacKaye rebelled against popular culture as the front man of the influential D.C. punk bands Minor Threat and Fugazi, and founded his own label, Dischord Records. These days, he maintains the label and plays in a more stripped-down outfit, The Evens, with his wife, Amy Farina.
In this final round, led by puzzle guru Art Chung, contestants are given the names of two actors who have played the same role in different movies, and they must name the character. For example, Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro both played Vito Corleone from The Godfather trilogy. Who was a more convincing mob boss? We'll let you figure that out on your own.
Throughout his career as a musician, Ian MacKaye has played, listened to and analyzed countless hours of music. But how will he fare in our version of "Name That Tune"? In this Ask Me Another Challenge, MacKaye teams up with Stephen Thompson, NPR Music Editor and co-host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, to identify punk songs performed acoustically by house musician Jonathan Coulton.
In this game led by host Ophira Eisenberg, you get to become a corporate executive. Trust us, it's way more fun than board meetings and conference calls. We merge two well-known businesses, and it's up to you to create the new company's name. For example, if the company that prepares one in every six U.S. tax returns merged with a struggling video rental company, they would form H&R Blockbuster, which is a combination of H&R Block and Blockbuster
We hope you've been practicing your Nicolas Cage impression, or have seen his 2004 action thriller National Treasure. In this game, you must name famous items found in the Smithsonian Museum's collection, as described by house musician Jonathan Coulton. We encourage you to answer in the style of Cage's immortal line, "I'm going to steal the Declaration of Independence."
I love me some fun-size Almond Joys, and pumpkin carving is a tragically under-sung creative outlet. But my favorite Halloween tradition comes in the form of a kid's movie starring Bette Midler in a set of fake buck teeth: Walt Disney's 1993 cult classic, Hocus Pocus.
All through October, the secretive British street artist known as Banksy has been placing graffiti-inspired paintings and installations on the streets of New York City in an outdoor exhibition called "Better Out Than In." Now that the month is almost over, we asked fans and critics for their reviews of Banksy's New York residency.
Neil Gaiman started writing the Sandman comic books 25 years ago. Since then, he's written acclaimed fantasy novels, children's books and screenplays — but the pale, star-eyed Lord of Dreams remains one of his most beloved characters. Over the course of 75 issues, the series captivated fans and critics alike.
Pulp-fiction writer Howard Phillips "H.P." Lovecraft has for decades terrified an underground following of readers with horror stories about monsters and aliens. He's known to some as a bad writer, and to many as a racist. Even during the author's lifetime, his readership was limited.
Problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act have been all over the news — and the not-quite news. Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart has been one news-ish outlet that hasn't been too kind in its coverage.
NPR TV critic Eric Deggans spoke with All Things Considered host Audie Cornish about why negative coverage on The Daily Show might be worse for the Obama administration than negative coverage on the nightly news.
Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 4:07 pm
Dazzling with diamonds, emeralds and gold, 70 pieces of treasure — said to be some of the most valuable in the world — have been transported from a vault in a Naples cathedral to a museum in Rome. They'll stay there until February, marking the first time they've ever been displayed outside of Naples.
Credit NASA / Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has spent a total of six months in space. In his new book, he writes that getting to space took only "8 minutes and 42 seconds. Give or take a few thousand days of training."
Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 3:15 pm
Poetry is important. And the hope for this standing feature of The Protojournalist is that by searching for a poetic nugget in the constant rush of news we can slow down for a moment and contemplate what the news story really means.
Like finding a lovely pebble in a mountain stream. Or a dropped earring on a crowded sidewalk.
Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 1:37 pm
Welcome to SymboGen, your friendly neighborhood medical company; have you stopped by for your tapeworm implant? Fair warning: There have been some unusual side effects ...
Health care has swallowed American headlines in recent years; besides the arguments over who deserves treatment to begin with, issues are emerging in pharmaceutical brand ethics, anti-vaccination activism, and the overuse of antibiotics. The war against disease is spreading against the smallest enemies of all.
When it comes to book publishing, all we ever seem to hear about is online sales, the growth of e-books and the latest version of a digital book reader. But the fact is, only 20 percent of the book market is e-books; it's still dominated by print. And a recent standoff in the book business shows how good old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar bookstores are still trying to wield their influence in the industry. You might even call it brick-and-mortar booksellers' revenge.
Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 1:35 pm
The drawings are MS Paint-style doodles, and the stories are about everyday things like cake, poor spelling and dopey dogs. And yet each month, millions of people visit Hyperbole and a Half, the hybrid Web comic and blog created by 28-year-old Allie Brosh, who says she "tries very hard to be funny." Hyperbole has just come out in book form with a mix of old and new material featuring Brosh's absurdist take on the world and her author avatar, a stick figure with a pink dress and what might be a blond ponytail — or might not.
It's been a year since Superstorm Sandy tore up the Atlantic coast — one of the biggest and most expensive hurricanes in the region's history. The images at the time were remarkable: rows of homes washed from their foundations; New York City's Hugh Carey Tunnel completely flooded; a boat washed up onto a New Jersey front yard — its bow piercing straight through the front door.
Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 8:51 pm
Johann Sebastian Bach has been a central figure in the life of British conductor John Eliot Gardiner since he was a youngster. On his way to bed, he couldn't help glancing up at the famous 18th-century portrait of Bach that hung in the first floor landing of the old mill house in Dorset, England where Gardiner was born.
Nikki Giovanni is one of the most celebrated living poets, known for beautiful descriptions of family, friends, politics and even food. Host Michel Martin talks with Giovanni about her "truth telling" and some of the surprises in her latest collection, Chasing Utopia.