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Mo Amer: Working The Classroom Comedy Circuit

53 minutes ago

When Mo Amer was nine, he left his home in Kuwait with his mother and sister. "It was a tough time," he told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn. "We fled war in Kuwait and we ended up in Houston, Texas. Which is a natural destination for refugees."

Texas is where Amer first experienced stand up comedy. "I saw stand up for the first time when I was ten at the rodeo, and I told my brother that this is what I want to do for a living," he recalled.

Dascha Polanco is no stranger to an erratic schedule. "I was never a college student without working," she told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn. "I was working the overnight, and then I would rush to Hunter [College], eight o'clock in the morning — organic chem."

Polanco now stars in Orange Is the New Black, but she originally set out to become a nurse. However, she said she was jealous of the students in Hunter's performing arts programs. She reflected on her decision to follow her dreams of performance:

AMC's decision to show its new six-hour miniseries The Little Drummer Girl over three consecutive nights is a smart strategy. This spy story, based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carré, begins at such a deliberate pace that it takes almost two hours before the central story line — the actual spy mission — is set in motion.

It's hard not to judge the people in a twin-switch story who don't immediately realize that a loved one has been replaced by a copy of herself. But honestly, if you had known someone to be a good cook and she was suddenly a terrible cook, would your first thought be, "I wonder if she's been swapped out and that's actually her identical twin"?

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For more years than we can count, on this Friday before Thanksgiving NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg has presented her mother-in-law's unconventional recipe for cranberry relish — it's tart, time-tested, terrific for some tasters and terrible for others.

The recipe is controversial — especially if you only like sweet cranberry sauce. Mama Stamberg's has the usual cranberries and sugar, but then you tart it up with onion, sour cream and — wait for it — horseradish.

Discussions of diversity in Hollywood may seem trendy, but for audiences who don't normally see actors who look like them, or stories told about their communities, such conversations are vital, and action necessary.

Young Lara is asleep as Girl, Belgium's official submission for this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film, begins. Her mane of straight blonde hair falls across her cheek as her five-year-old brother Milo (Oliver Bodart) climbs onto her bed, whispering her name.

It's clearly a ritual: As she wakes, she stays motionless — then, suddenly, hoists him in the air. The boy giggles.

Hands up, everyone who liked the Harry Potter series — books and/or movies — at least well enough.

OK, well, that's a lot of you.

Keep them up if you made it all the way through 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — a prequel to the canonical Potter stories, in which Eddie Redmayne played magizoologist Newt Scamander, who came to New York City in 1926 with a magical valise and an annoying, squirrelly affect.

Hunh. Thought that would eliminate more of you than it did.

The short, brilliant, tragic life of Vincent Van Gogh has long been a source of inspiration for creatives of all types. Something about the mystique of the artist with severe mental illness, whose greatness was only recognized years after his death, resonates with frustrated souls the world over. But it can be distressingly easy for a story as nuanced and contradictory as Van Gogh's, with all its bright colors and violent strokes, to become flattened into easy answers under the harsh light of the camera, an artist's implement that so rarely matches the delicacy of the paintbrush.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors. Melania Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, confirmed to NPR on Thursday that "there are no plans for them to attend" the awards ceremony, which will be held on Dec. 2 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

This decision makes Trump the only president to miss the ceremony twice in the history of the awards, which were inaugurated in 1978.

"If you could see every bird in the world, you'd see the whole world," writes Jonathan Franzen in The End of the End of the Earth. In the new collection of previously published essays — spanning art, nature and autobiography — he travels the world finding hope in things with feathers.

It was the kind of love triangle that would test the imagination of even the most creative novelists.

In 2015, Richard Matt and David Sweat, two prison inmates, turned a sexual relationship with a female employee at the prison into their ticket to freedom. And for weeks, news coverage followed every twist and turn of their remarkable escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y.

It is one of the oldest and most sexist tropes of all that husbands make messes and wives clean them up. Widows, directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) and co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), spins that idea in a new direction.

On a rather frigid night in New York City, hours after sundown, a constellation of the U.S. publishing industry's bright lights gathered at the National Book Awards to honor their brightest this year — and to put forth a fiery defense of the possibilities of their medium.

"In our inexorable pursuit of freedom and human rights, books serve us as weapons and also as shields," declared the ceremony's MC, a shaggy-bearded and shaven-headed Nick Offerman. "They are perhaps the greatest creation of humankind."

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Even if you don't know his name, you're probably familiar with the work of Edward Gorey.

His art formed the basis of the animated introduction to the PBS show Mystery!, and he was the twisted mind behind The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the dark alphabet book that gleefully listed the names of doomed children and how they met their ends ("A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears"). Gorey, with his gloomy sensibility and defiantly retro art style, was the man who launched a thousand goths.

This would be a terrible thing to say about most books but, in this case, it might actually be a compliment: I kept falling asleep reading Marina Benjamin's Insomnia.

I wasn't so much bored as somehow soothed by her velvety ruminations on night wakefulness, which run on, unbroken by chapters, with lots of airy white space between paragraphs. Awash in the comfort of a kindred soul, I relaxed enough to be lulled into sleep. Did her Insomnia cure mine?

In recent months, I've learned that my life is bound together with two families who took enormous risks to save my father and my grandparents from the Nazis.

What I have discovered about the rescuers is both wondrous and bleak. One family, the Furstenbergs, has thrived; another, the Mynareks, is gone, seemingly without a trace.

Billionaire filmmaker Howard Hughes has long been regarded as one of Hollywood's most eccentric and prolific playboys. A few years back, writer and film critic Karina Longworth stumbled onto an online message board, listing women Hughes had had sexual relationships with — just a list of names, no other information.

"In each of these names there's a whole life and a whole story," says Longworth, who hosts the film podcast You Must Remember This.

Stan Lee was always a hero of mine; a feeling I share with many comic book fans. But it wasn't until recently – and especially following his death Monday at age 95 – that I began to realize that some of my love for him came specifically from my perspective as a black kid who grew up reading comic books in the 1970s.

Many of us read to escape our own realities, to learn about the realities of others. Some of us write for the same reason.

Becoming Miss Navajo Nation

Nov 13, 2018

Beauty — or Hózhó to the Diné, or Navajo, people — symbolizes living in harmony and balance with the earth, the spirits in the plants and animals, with the sky and with each other. So it's fitting that the Miss Navajo Nation pageant is a weeklong celebration of the Beauty Way in many aspects of a woman's life.

Contestants must be at least 18 years old, unmarried, a high school graduate and able to speak the Navajo language, called Diné Bizaad.

"Stan Lee" was a pseudonym. Which is to say: an alter ego. A larger-than-life persona whose secret identity was that of not-particularly-mild-mannered writer Stanley Martin Lieber.

A Marvel Of A Man: Stan Lee Dead At 95

Nov 12, 2018

American comic book writer, editor, publisher and former President of Marvel Comics Stan Lee died Monday at the age of 95.

Lee gave us over six decades of work like The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man — superheroes we could identify with, characters that allowed us to suspend our disbelief because they reacted to bizarre situations like you or I might.

You may be shocked by what's living in your home — the bacteria, the fungi, viruses, parasites and insects. Probably many more organisms than you imagined.

"Every surface; every bit of air; every bit of water in your home is alive," says Rob Dunn, a professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "The average house has thousands of species."

Take Meg Wolitzer's novel (now also a film) called The Wife, about a brazen case of literary ghostwriting, and cross it with Patricia Highsmith's classic Ripley stories, about a suave psychopath, and you've got something of the crooked charisma of John Boyne's new novel, A Ladder to the Sky.

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