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The night Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston, the reigning heavyweight champion, crowds had squeezed into the venue, expecting to watch Liston beat the stuffing out of the young braggart. The odds were 7-to-1 in Liston's favor. The air was filled with testosterone and cigar smoke. Few people noticed the tall, quiet man at ringside, immaculately dressed in a dark suit and tie and crisp white shirt, watching the fight intently.

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President Obama has nominated Carla D. Hayden as the next librarian of Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African-American ever to lead the world's largest library.

Hayden is currently CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

In a White House statement, Obama says he and the first lady have known Hayden since she was at the Chicago Public Library, where she was deputy commissioner and chief librarian from 1991-1993.

As if there's not enough controversy over the Oscars, there's also the matter of a curse.

The French have gotten themselves into one of their recurrent linguistic lathers, this one over the changes in their spelling that will be taking effect in the fall. The changes were originally proposed more than 25 years ago. But nothing much came of them until the government recently announced that they'd be incorporated in the new textbooks, at which point traditionalists took to the barricades.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Once Mumbai's largest slum, Dharavi — made famous by the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire — is a teeming multi-ethnic and multicultural settlement claiming almost a million migrants from across India.

A Reference Guide To Reference In 'You Could Look It Up'

Feb 24, 2016

Of the many problems facing dictionary authors past and present, the most predatory of them seem to be — in order — time, politics, and ghost words. And if you're already pulling up a tab to Google "ghost words," You Could Look it Up is written just for you. A casual but fascinating read that feels like sneaking into a library after hours, it offers an absorbing glimpse into the world-changing and frequently turbulent history of the reference shelf.

British costumer Sandy Powell already has three Oscars, and now she's been nominated for two more. This year she's up twice for best costume design: one for Cinderella -- with its sweeping ball gowns — and another for her work in Carol -- featuring impeccable 1950s dresses.

Carol is a love story starring Cate Blanchett as a wealthy woman whose marriage is falling apart. Powell says Carol can afford the latest 1952 clothes — including a blonde mink coat.

News that British tea-drinking is on the decline is stirring a tempest in a teapot across the pond. But U.K. leaders might have welcomed such headlines in the 1970s, when the length of the tea break became a major point of political contention.

To be named "world capital" of something is both a badge of honor, yet also something of a badge of shame, writer George Pendle tells NPR's Robert Siegel.

It means your city revolves entirely around a single product, like gravel or toothpicks.

Five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared and later turned up in police custody on mainland China, and nearly two months later, Chinese authorities have yet to explain how they got there.

Foreign governments and the United Nations have expressed concern about the disappearances. The British government went so far as to assert that one bookseller had been "involuntarily removed" — basically kidnapped — from Hong Kong.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Finding bread alternatives may seem like a thoroughly modern obsession. (Can someone pass the chia-millet rolls?) But the widespread search for substitutes to white flour, in particular, dates back at least a century, to World War I, when Allied forces aggressively urged consumers to change their starchy habits for nationalistic reasons.

On one hand, bread was symbolically important: It conjured up ideas of comfort that were especially welcome during a time of fear and turmoil. The act of sharing a loaf — literally breaking bread together — carried psychological weight.

Wilco: Tiny Desk Concert

Feb 23, 2016

Thousands of bands have made strong debuts, and many of those have made good second and third records — it's harder, but not unusual. It's truly rare to make your 10th album exciting and relevant more than 20 years on. For all that, I'd say Wilco is an American legend.

You're about to listen to a song from what is likely to be my No. 1 album of 2016. I haven't felt this way about a guitar-based rock record since I heard Courtney Barnett's debut last year.

The total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to approach $6 trillion, but it will be decades before we know what we've truly lost. We have a generation that's never really known peacetime, and thousands upon thousands of service members who have returned to the country wounded in ways the rest of us might never understand. The wages of sin might be death, but the wages of war could be something even worse.

In the central Japanese mountain village of Damine, children have kept up an unbroken tradition of performing Japan's classical theater, kabuki, year after year for more than three centuries. But as people age or leave for opportunities in cities, the village is running out of performers.

It's hard to imagine a more magical way to begin a museum visit than to step inside The Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad Museum. Artist Yayoi Kusama has covered the walls, floor and ceiling with mirrors. LED lights hang from the ceiling and are reflected everywhere you look. The lights sometimes move with the closing of the door, and create a wonderland of infinite color.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano. Yes, we're serious. Derek is one of just a few dozen known "sudden savants" or "accidental geniuses"—people who survive severe head injuries and come out the other side with special gifts for music or math or art. We were skeptical, so we brought Derek into a studio and asked him to play. He can't read music or even play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but the music he improvises is beautiful.

Screenwriter Meg LeFauve is having a very good year. She's nominated for an Oscar as one of the writers of Pixar's deeply original, animated movie Inside Out; she wrote the screenplay for The Good Dinosaur; and now she's co-writing the female superhero movie Captain Marvel. According to actress Jodie Foster, LeFauve's mentor and one-time collaborator, her gifts as a writer mirror her gifts as a person: sensitivity combined with a "keen, precise mind."

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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As public health officials struggle to contain the Zika virus, science writer Sonia Shah tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that epidemiologists are bracing themselves for what has been called the next "Big One" — a disease that could kill tens of millions of people in the coming years.

Americans craving kung pao chicken or a good lo mein for dinner have plenty of options: The U.S. is home to more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants.

One could think of this proliferation as a promise fulfilled — America as the great melting pot and land of opportunity for immigrants. Ironically, the legal forces that made this Chinese culinary profusion possible, beginning in the early 20th century, were born of altogether different sentiments: racism and xenophobia.

Writer and performer Mike Schlitt has made it his mission to start an honest dialogue about American democracy. His traveling, one-man show, “Patriot Act,” tells a concentrated history of U.S. politics with some comic relief mixed in. Schlitt joins us to talk about why he calls the show “career suicide” and what he hopes people take away.

A newly released study suggests diversity in TV and film is so bad, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should probably be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite.

That's because of an "epidemic of invisibility" cited by researchers at the University of Southern California, who analyzed more than 21,000 characters and behind-the-scenes workers on more than 400 films and TV shows released from September 2014 through August 2015. They tabulated representations of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual status.

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