There's a wonderful 1982 memoir called An Orphan in History by the late Village Voice writer Paul Cowan. It's about Cowan's search for his European Jewish roots, and in it he says something about the sacrifices of older generations of immigrants that's always stayed with me. Cowan says: "Millions of immigrant families . . . left the economically and culturally confining Old World towns where they were raised, and paid for the freedom and prosperity this country offered with their pasts."
Remember when movie companies just put Roman numerals at the end of titles when they made sequels? Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV. Well, not anymore.
This summer, we've had X-Men: Days of Future Past, with no mention that it's either the sixth or seventh X-Men movie, depending on how you're counting. Also 22 Jump Street, the across-the-street follow-up to 21 Jump Street. And Begin Again (which ought to be a sequel, but isn't).
In his Ask Me Another Challenge, Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings) helps expand your vocabulary to include a spot of British slang. Any idea what the "collywobbles" are, or what happens when you throw on a "boob tube" before leaving the house? You'll be speaking like a Brit in no time.
Andy Serkis is a renowned actor, but you may not recognize his face. The most famous of his roles include the "ring-junkie" Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this summer's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis disappears completely into his characters, thanks to performance capture technology that films his face and body movements, and translates them to digitally created avatars.
But it's not the bag filled with American history books that kids heave to school. Nor is it the rugged, nylon thing athletes carry around. These backpacks are clever examples of fashion following function.
Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 11:01 am
Two remarkable graphic novels being released this week are themed around shadow-selves, legacies and second chances: Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds is about a woman given the opportunity to magically undo past mistakes, while Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew's The Shadow Hero revises a mysterious golden-age superhero called the Green Turtle by fleshing out his Asian-American origins.
From feisty kittens to pacing cheetahs, Vint Virga knows animal behavior.
A veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine, Virga has treated many household pets in his clinic. But for the past five years he has been working mostly with leopards, wolves, bears, zebras and other animals living in zoos and wildlife parks. He deals with such issues as appetites, anxiety and obsessive behavior.
Back in 1964, movie audiences were treated to three hit musicals. Two of them — Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady — won scads of Oscars. But it was the third that announced the future, and it did so from its opening chord.
What followed from that chord was what we call The Sixties.
Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 12:17 pm
One word: jetpack. You perked up, right? When most of us dream of the future, jetpacks are one of the first things we dream about. And yet, even now that the future is indisputably here, we continue to be denied the ultimate sci-fi accessory. With all the 21st-century tech we've got these days — maps that talk, hand-held videophones — why aren't we all flying through the air with the greatest of renewable-energy-fueled ease? Maybe jetpacks need a special kind of power, an explosive force the average adult just can't muster. Maybe they need a teenager instead — say, a teen girl.
The PG-13 movie rating celebrates its 30th birthday this month. Until 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America rated films as G, PG, R or X. But that year a couple of gory scenes in PG-rated movies raised concerns.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDRED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. Now to 19th-century New Jersey and a new novel. It set among unusually tolerant people. A racially mixed community that offers refuge to independent souls. Alan Cheuse has this review of the novel "Angels Make Their Hope Here" by Breena Clarke.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union during World War II, Nazi commanders had another worry besides the Red Army. Epidemics of typhus fever, which is transmitted by body lice, killed untold numbers of soldiers and civilians during and after World War I.
As World War II raged, typhus reappeared in war-torn areas and in Jewish ghettos, where cramped, harsh conditions were a perfect breeding ground for lice.
Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 12:20 pm
In September 1777, Samuel Johnson declared to his friend James Boswell, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
Johnson actually was referring to his hectic social calendar, but he did have a point. The city he was discussing was on course to become the largest metropolis the world had ever seen. In 1800, London was home to 1 million residents. By 1911 that number had grown to a staggering 7 million: a population far greater than Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Moscow combined at that time.
Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s, Albert Paley played with blocks and Legos. And he loved wandering the streets, scavenging bottle caps, matchbook covers, cigar bands and "picking up pebbles that I thought were interesting," he recalls.
Now 70, the American sculptor has moved from pebbles to monumental gates. His iron and steel works adorn Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Rochester, N.Y. His gates, archways and free-standing sculptures are eye-catching landmarks.