Glen Weldon

Linda Holmes is in Los Angeles, NPR's Stephen Thompson and I are in D.C., and we're joined by the fantastic Brittany Luse of the highly recommended The Nod podcast, among a great deal of other things.

HBO's Insecure is one of those shows we were surprised to learn we haven't already devoted a segment to. Several of us gave its first season some shout-outs in our What's-Making-Us-Happy segments last year, but we haven't ever sat down to unpack it as a team. This episode, we correct that.

In April, musician Jonathan Coulton released Solid State, a sci-fi concept album that represented a significant departure — both from Coulton's wry, bright, tuneful back catalog and from any conventional understanding of what a sci-fi concept album sounds like. Gone, for the most part, were the stripped-down but aggressively catchy hooks, and the lyrics riffing on the foibles of digital culture, that Coulton's built a career on.

Linda Holmes hosts from Los Angeles, where she's still attending the Television Critics Association press tour. This week, she's joined by two regular panelists — me and NPR Music's Stephen Thompson — and in our fourth chair, PCHH's resident Poobah of Punching, Chris Klimek.

This episode: We talk Atomic Blonde, the spy thriller dripping with I Love the 80s style elements that's directed with a surprising amount of attention to the logistics of brawling — how it looks, how it feels, and how physically exhausting it is.

We're recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound.

Be honest: You were waiting for that two-shot. We all were.

The previews, the promos, they showed you Dany on the Dragonstone throne, they showed you Jon and Davos gazing up at it, and the only way this episode could have spent more time keeping them sep-a-rate-ed was if its director of photography were Dexter Holland.

Linda Holmes hosts from L.A. again, joining regular panelists Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon and our fourth chair this week, Slate's own Aisha Harris.

The topic: Luc Besson's gleefully schlocky, years-in-the-making science fiction ... epic? ... Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

June Foray is gone, leaving an absence, an ache, a cloud of whirling bobby pins in her wake.

The voice of many beloved animated characters, including the plucky Rocky the Flying Squirrel, the sinister spy Natasha Fatale, the tow-headed moppet Cindy-Lou Who and — most delightfully, to my mind — the girlishly ghoulish Witch Hazel, Foray died Thursday at the age of 99.

This week, our intrepid host Linda Holmes calls in from L.A., where she's attending the Television Critics' Association press tour, to host a discussion of the filthy, freewheeling and very, very funny Girls Trip. She's joined by regular panelist Stephen Thompson, Code Switch's Gene Demby, and special guest Aisha Harris from Slate.

The title of literary historian Bill Goldstein's book refers to a familiar quote from writer Willa Cather. In a 1936 essay, sensing that the literary landscape had shifted under her feet and that her own work was passing out of fashion, she lamented,"The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts."

She was referring to the appearance, in that year, of three towering works of modernism: James Joyce's Ulysses, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and the English publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

We're recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound.

We'll be recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound

As you may have heard (AND I DEARLY HOPE YOU FRIGGIN' HAVE), our Summer Readers' Poll on Comics and Graphic Novels came out yesterday. You cast thousands of votes, and a crazily accomplished judging panel (which, due to some egregious error in the vetting process, also included me) combed over the top vote-getters, spent hours on the phone arguing for or against each one ...

Long, long ago, when the Earth was new and ichthyosaurs swam the turbid seas, Iron Man 2 arrived in theaters. [Ed. Note — Simmer down. It was 2010.]

It was, most agreed, a disappointment, compared with its predecessor, despite a fun and deeply, deeply squirrelly Sam Rockwell performance. (Remember how he had bronzer on his palms? And no one mentioned it. It was just a character thing? Remember that? That was cool.)

In his new memoir, actor Curtis Armstrong excerpts passages from a diary he kept while filming the 1983 film Risky Business.

July 1

Tom's an interesting character. Can't really make him out. He would appear to be on the brink of a great career.

The "Tom" mentioned in that section above is, of course, the film's star: Tom Cruise.

Armstrong the young diarist proved insightful about two things: 1. Cruise was indeed about to become a megastar, and 2. He was, and remains ... kinda squirrely.

We'll be releasing the results of this year's Summer Reader Poll on Comics and Graphic Novels later this week — and it's a varied and deeply idiosyncratic list, trust us. Y'all have some fascinating favorite comics.

Not to spoil anything, but the final list skews heavily toward recent offerings, which makes sense: The stuff that's been around a long time may earn people's respect, but new discoveries spark excitement. And that's what any survey that asks folks to name their favorites will naturally turn up.

Actor Michael Nyqvist, a respected Swedish actor whose achieved international fame originating the role of journalist Mikael Blomqvist in the 2009 Swedish-language film Män som Hatar Kvinnor (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and its two sequels, died after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement released on Tuesday.

(Daniel Craig assumed the role of Blomqvist for the 2011 English-language film adaptation and its follow-ups.)

The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

Contains spoilers for both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.

Two shows, two slow, inexorable descents into moral bankruptcy.

Over five seasons, from 2008 to 2013, Breaking Bad showed us feckless chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) transforming — coalescing, really — into the coldly brutal drug-lord known as Heisenberg.

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Here at NPR headquarters in DC, MARVELous IMAGEs and FANTAstic GRAPHICS are dancing in our heads as we contemplate this year's edition of our famous Summer Reader Poll — who will make the cut? Will it be packed with old favorites or BOOM! Will a DARK HORSE muscle in?

This year, Free Comic Book Day turns sixteen years old.

The good news: It can drive itself to swim practice now!

The bad news: When you ask it to drive its younger siblings Record Store Day and Independent Bookstore Day to Gymboree it'll give you THAT LOOK IT GETS and spend the rest of the day sulking.

Here's the gist: Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books.

Forget the fava beans.

The main reason Jonathan Demme's Oscar-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs gets its hooks in you — and leaves you feeling vaguely distracted and discomfited long after it's over — isn't anything Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter says.

It's how he says it. And to whom.

In the reality of the film, of course, he's directing his consummate, artisanal brand of creepiness at Jodie Foster's FBI agent, Clarice Starling.

"It was in the early morning hours of July 2 that I was kidnapped."

On the opening page of Guy Delisle's Hostage, those words hang in a slate-gray night sky, above a building in a nondescript neighborhood of what we soon learn is a small town west of Chechnya.

That same, muted grayscale color-scheme will stay with us throughout the book, because the man imparting those words — Christophe André, a Doctors Without Borders administrator assigned to the Caucasus region in 1997 — will spend the bulk of Hostage's 432 pages in darkness.

Cathy Malkasian creates fantastic worlds out of her proprietary blend of melancholy and dream-logic, and peoples them with characters who are all too dully, achingly human. Her landscapes and cityscapes, rendered in gorgeous colored pencils, can seem as chilly and remote as her facial expressions seem warm and intimate.

It's a Wednesday at Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C., and the store is bustling.

Every Wednesday is New Comics Day — when subscribers come in to pick up the week's new titles, check in with each other, and talk comics. This Wednesday is no different.

Well. It's a little different.

I'm used to comics-shop chatter that revolves around things like which new books are worth checking out, what storylines have gone one way too long, and which hero could kick which other hero's butt.

During World War I, some 223 members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps performed a highly specialized service which demanded great skill, nerve and tenacity: Over the vast network of telephone lines that had been hastily constructed across France, these soldiers worked the complicated switchboards connecting the ever-shifting front lines with vital supply depots and military command. At the height of the fighting, they connected over 150,000 calls per day.

Let's acknowledge this at the top: It's a thin slice.

To gaze across the great swath of written English over the past few centuries — that teeming, jostling, elbow-throwing riot of characters and places and stories and ideas — only to isolate, with dispassionate precision, some stray, infinitesimal data point such as which author uses cliches like "missing the forest for the trees" the most, would be like ...

Chuck Barris, the game show producer, emcee, author and songwriter who died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, N.J., at age 87, was in his time called "The King of Shlock," "The Baron of Bad Taste" and "The Ayatollah of Trasherola."

(... In fairness: It was the '70s.)

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