Arts

Movie Reviews
12:16 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

In A 'Miraculous Year' For Movies, Edelstein Picks His Favorites

In the sci-fi romance Her, a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) finds love in a rather unexpected place — with a computer operating system named Samantha.
Warner Bros.

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 3:44 pm

"It was a miraculous year," film critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. At a time when Hollywood is churning out Blockbusters and superhero movies that are guaranteed to make money at home and overseas, "it's really great when so many interesting movies, somehow or other, manage to bleed through," he says. " ... You really feel as if directors are taking chances in their storytelling. They are creating a new syntax for every story."

Here are his favorite movies this year:

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Television
12:13 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

David Bianculli's Top 10 Shows: 2013 Was A 'Good Year For TV'

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Kevin Spacey (left) and Robin Wright star in House of Cards, directed by David Fincher. The Netflix series, which follows a Machiavellian politician, is an adaptation of a BBC series of the same name. Hear an interview with Spacey and Fincher.
Patrick Harbron Netflix

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 3:44 pm

This was a good year for TV, says critic David Bianculli, and that had a lot to do with two new shows from Netflix: House of Cards, the American adaptation of the BBC political thriller series, and Orange Is the New Black, a dramatic comedy which takes place in a women's federal prison. "I was very impressed with the overall quality of what Netflix gave us," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "... That was quite a string of good shows."

So, without further ado, here's Bianculli's top-10 TV list for 2013:

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The Salt
11:07 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Hair Dryer Cooking: From S'mores To Crispy Duck

Ready for a blowout: Blasting the duck with the dryer before roasting dehydrates the flesh so the skin gets firm and crispy.
Michaeleen Doucleff NPR

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:54 am

This past year, we've introduced you to some wacky cooking methods. We've made an entire lunch in a coffee maker and even poached salmon and pears in the dishwasher.

But a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon a crazy culinary appliance that may be the most legitimate of them all: the hair dryer.

Now, before you think we've fallen off the kitchen stool from too much eggnog, check out the science and history behind the idea.

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Food
11:00 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Spicing Up Your Holiday Drink List

General Harrison's Eggnog No. 3
David Kressler

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 1:24 pm

When it comes to holiday drinks, there's always the traditional recipes for mulled wine and eggnog. But what about a taste of something new and different?

James Beard Award-winning mixologist Dale DeGroff has some surprising ideas to spice up your drink menu this season. He is widely credited with reviving the art of the cocktail. He's also president and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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The Two-Way
7:10 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Book News: Efforts To Ban Books On The Rise

Joe Songer AL.COM/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 9:03 am

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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Code Switch
6:57 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Hey Hey Hey! Historian Draws Attention To '70s Black Animation Art

An original production cel from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The show was among a burst of 1970s-era Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive African-American characters.
Courtesy of Pamela Thomas/Museum of UnCut Funk!

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 12:34 pm

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First Reads
6:03 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Exclusive First Read: Chang-rae Lee's 'On Such A Full Sea'

Chang-rae Lee won the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel for 1995's Native Speaker. His most recent book was 2010's The Surrendered.
Annika Lee

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 8:37 am

Chang-rae Lee's new novel, On Such a Full Sea, opens in a surprisingly contented dystopia: Hundreds of years in the future, the world has unraveled; in America, the government has crumbled and the population has fled. But its abandoned cities have been given new life by immigrant workers, moved in by big multinational corporations to provide pristine fish and produce to elite enclaves. In B-mor (once known as Baltimore), workers from China have built a relatively stable and prosperous community — though outside the walls of B-mor, the open counties are still lawless and rough.

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All Tech Considered
1:56 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Check Out These Gorgeous, Futuristic Tech Company Headquarters

Architect's rendering of Apple's new facility
Courtesy of City of Cupertino

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

This past year, many of the best known technology firms were actively designing and building new corporate offices. It's the first time Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have done so from the ground up. The same is true for Amazon, which is building in Seattle.

All of these projects are still in their early stages, but perhaps the most talked about and architecturally ambitious project that broke ground this year is the Apple headquarters building in Cupertino, Calif. It was a project near and dear to the late Steve Jobs.

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Movies
4:15 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

'12 Years' Gets Story Right But Context, Some Details May Be Off

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:56 pm

The film 12 Years a Slave tells the real-life story of Solomon Northup. In 1841, Northup, a free black man, was drugged and then sold into slavery. How faithfully does the movie capture Northup's life? As part of our week of truth-squadding some of this year's film biopics, Robert Siegel talks with William Andrews, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wrote To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865.

Technology
4:15 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

It's Never Been So Easy, Or Complicated, To Stream Video To Your TV

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:56 pm

Robert Siegel talks with technology columnist Farhad Manjoo of The Wall Street Journal about the various ways to watch online video on your television. Manjoo says it's never been so easy or more complicated to do.

The Salt
3:32 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

How To Build An Indestructible Gingerbread House

With our design, gingerbread families everywhere can enjoy the holidays without having to worry about their roofs caving in.
Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:56 am

Here's the thing about gingerbread houses. You labor over them for hours. You painstakingly decorate them with gumdrops and candy canes.

And then, someone shakes the table it's sitting on, and boom! It all comes crumbling down, leaving a huge, house-shaped hole in your heart.

Never again, we said.

This year, we were determined to build a stronger gingerbread house. One that wouldn't crumble, no matter what. One that could withstand an earthquake.

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Digital Life
3:18 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

A YouTube Powerhouse Looks Beyond Its Gamer Base

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One of Machinima's signature offerings is a series called Christopher Walkenthrough, in which creator Jason Stephens, in character as actor Christopher Walken, navigates his way through popular video games. You kind of have to see it to understand.
Machinima.com

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:53 pm

One of the most popular channels on YouTube is aimed toward people who play video games. It's got tons of content — thousands of game reviews, how-to videos of people gaming away enthusiastically, even little homemade movies that people have made using video-game software.

That last format is a user-generated phenomenon called machinima — "little m" machinima. "Big M" Machinima is a company, and it wants to be a new media empire. It's the entity behind that YouTube channel.

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Movie Reviews
1:08 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Great New DVD Box Sets: Blasts From The Past And 'Breaking Bad'

A new MDV Entertainment boxed set called Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection features the widow of Ernie Kovacs, in shows from her 1962-64 ABC variety series, which was televised just after her husband's death.
AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:01 pm

Here's a short list of some of the most exciting recent TV offerings on DVD. These are sets you can still order and receive in time for the holidays — and regardless, they're perfect to dive into over the vacation period, enjoying an episode or two a night.

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Television
1:08 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

'Getting On' With It: A New HBO Show Doesn't Tiptoe Around Death

Alex Borstein (left) and Niecy Nash star as nurses in the HBO comedy series Getting On, which was modeled after the hit BBC series of the same name.
Lacey Terrell HBO

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:01 pm

When they set out to create the HBO series Getting On, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer wanted to create a different kind of workplace comedy — one that celebrated the workplace and the employees in it.

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The Two-Way
7:04 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Book News: 'It's Kind Of A Funny Story' Author Mourned

Ned Vizzini
Sabra Embury HarperCollins Children's Books/PR Newswire

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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Television
4:57 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Grab Some Tea And Binge View British TV Dramas

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 7:00 am

British dramas, mostly from BBC America, have become gold mines of binge viewing for American TV fans seeking a deep dive into compelling series. Gillian Anderson's The Fall, David Tennant's Broadchurch and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock are just a few of the series which offer hours of escape.

Games & Humor
2:28 am
Mon December 23, 2013

David Sedaris Reads From His 'Santaland Diaries'

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 7:00 am

You might not expect "Santa's Helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he read on Morning Edition in 1992.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

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Weekends On All Things Considered Podcast
6:54 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

A Pinball Monopoly, Camel Trekking In Texas, Charles Dickens' Mistress

  • A Pinball Monopoly, Camel Trekking In Texas, Charles Dickens' Mistress

This week on the podcast, we meet a tour guide leading camels through the wilderness, and a pinball manufacturer who wants to shake up his industry.

Plus, DJ Bettos Arcos plays some Christmas music from south of the border.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Author Interviews
4:00 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Picture Books With A 'Clash Bash' Of Culture For Kids

Marisol McDonald is the main character in two of Monica Brown's bilingual picture books. The inspiration for the books came from Brown's own upbringing.
Illustrated by Sara Palacios Courtesy of Lee & Low

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 9:54 am

Millions of Americans speak a language other than English at home, and many of them are young children. Picture books are starting to reflect this diversity.

Monica Brown has written more than a dozen children's picture books with text in both English and Spanish. Raised bilingually by a South American mother and North American father, she says her inspiration comes from her own upbringing.

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All Tech Considered
1:58 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Museums Give Video Games Bonus Life, But The Next Level Awaits

Flower, a 2009 release from thatgamecompany, is one of two video games the Smithsonian American Art Museum has acquired for its permanent collection.
Sony Entertainment/Smithsonian American Art Museum

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 8:36 am

The long-running debate over whether video games constitute art may finally be moot — at least as far as the Smithsonian American Art Museum is concerned. Last week, SAAM acquired two video games, Halo 2600 and Flower, for its permanent collection.

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Arts & Life
9:05 am
Sun December 22, 2013

How To Find A Worthy Volunteer Job On The Road

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 1:33 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Volunteering while traveling isn't really a novelty anymore. But sometimes that work you're doing, say, in a developing country, well, it could be doing more harm than good. On this week's travel segment, Winging It, we look at what it means to travel ethically.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Interviews
9:05 am
Sun December 22, 2013

What A Top Gun Learned On Her Way To The Top Of The Pentagon

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 1:33 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to hear now from the woman charged with streamlining the Pentagon's roughly $700 billion annual budget.

CHRISTINE FOX: We have to curb the growth of the compensation of our force. It's grown 40 percent above inflation over the last decade. And it's fully half of our budget. So, we have to slow the growth.

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Sunday Puzzle
7:05 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Follow Santa Claus' Lead

NPR

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 1:33 pm

On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which, like Santa Claus, the first word starts with the letters S-A, and the second word starts with C.

Last week's challenge from listener Pete Collins of Ann Arbor, Mich.: Name an island in which some of the letters appear more than once. Drop exactly two instances of each repeated letter. The remaining letters can be rearranged to name something to eat. What is it?

Answer: Manhattan, ham

Winner: Fred Stadler of Oshkosh, Wis.

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Three Books...
6:03 am
Sun December 22, 2013

In Search Of Identity: Three Of 2013's Best Translated Novels

iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 11:15 am

I tend to like my heroes strong and capable; not self-important, yet with a certain brand of assurance. But in literature, as in life, profound truths often come to us not through confidence but through wrestling — through the quest for who we are and what we hope to become. Three newly-translated novels star not exceptionally robust heroes but unexceptional, aimless ones, each exploring the inward struggles that make us human.

These three international voices offer no barrage of answers. Instead, they remind us of the importance, and the power, of simply asking the questions.

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Book Reviews
4:11 am
Sun December 22, 2013

'The Empty Chair' Meditates On The Space Between Two Stories

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 5:47 pm

Working in radio, you learn one uncomfortable truth faster than you would have otherwise: Few things make a story more difficult to tell than having a listener expecting to hear it. A microphone can make even the most relentless gabber stammer and become self-conscious.

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The Salt
4:10 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Flying This Holiday? Here Are A Few Tips To Survive Airline Food

Dan Pashman of The Sporkful podcast suggests saucy pastas over meat: "They tend to hold up better to the chilling and reheating process."
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:56 am

When you think about a scrumptious meal, airline food does not come to mind.

There are plenty of challenges to tasty airline meals, like the fact that many airlines now charge you for anything more than a tiny bag of chips and a plastic cup of non-alcoholic drink, at least on domestic flights. Plus, you can't cook on an airplane, so anything you're served has probably been chilled, then reheated. And flight delays certainly don't help with the freshness factor.

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The Salt
4:05 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Grasslands Get Squeezed As Another 1.6 Million Acres Go Into Crops

Retired farmer Joe Govert looks at a parcel of family land near Tribune, Kan. It has been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 5:59 pm

As the year winds down, we here at NPR are looking at a few key numbers that explain the big trends of 2013.

Today's number: 1.6 million.

That's 1.6 million acres — about the area of the state of Delaware.

That's how much land was removed this year from the federal Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, which pays farmers to keep land covered with native grasses or sometimes trees. Most of that land now will produce crops like corn or wheat.

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Movie Interviews
4:14 pm
Sat December 21, 2013

'The Invisible Woman': Charles Dickens' Muse And Mistress

Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan
David Appleby Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 9:28 pm

Charles Dickens was a celebrity of the Victorian era. His books and plays continue to be celebrated around the world, particularly around Christmas. The new film, The Invisible Woman, focuses on a lesser-known part of his life — his relationship with a young woman named Nelly Ternan.

Felicity Jones plays the young mistress and muse, and Ralph Fiennes, who also directed the film, plays Dickens.

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Monkey See
3:42 pm
Sat December 21, 2013

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For The Wild Cards On Your Shopping List

Don't be the bane of the Secret Santa pool this year.
Sharon Dominick iStockphoto

Ah, the holidays — a time for love and good cheer, for snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes. For full-blown panic attacks in department stores brought on by a particularly perplexing Secret Santa pick.

Fret no more: here at NPR Books, we believe that there's a perfect book out there for everyone on your holiday shopping list. And — lucky you! — we've made it easy to sort through this year's top releases to find just the right read.

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Monkey See
9:00 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Murderous Intent: Go Ahead, Kill That High-Profile TV Character

THEY KILLED BRIAN THE DOG! Oh, wait. Nevermind.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 10:42 am

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