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How Hurricane Harvey Harmed The Clocks

Aug 26, 2018

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It's a quarter past 2 a.m. My siblings and I are standing in an assembly line in the sunroom of our Ohio home, preparing falafel sandwiches. I'm in charge of the final stage: wrapping each one in aluminum foil, then cutting it into two pieces. We are preparing these for morning Eid prayer, and we will pass them out to worshippers who'll be attending in just a few hours. It's become an annual family tradition, and though the work is tiring, we feel rewarded. For as long as I could remember, this was Eid.

In 'Red, White, Blue,' High Peaks And Low Blows

Aug 25, 2018

A book combining literary sensibility with genre readability: It happens, but not as often as I'd like. So when I cracked open Lea Carpenter's Red, White, Blue a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to find that this second novel from the author of 2013's Eleven Days is a dark spy thriller with plenty of plot but even more meaning – and no hint of sophomore slump.

License plates are strictly utilitarian in most states, a number to identify a car.

Some states include artwork on their plates — oranges in Florida, a peach in Georgia — or slogans, like "Land of Lincoln" in Illinois, or "Live Free or Die" in New Hampshire.

In Delaware, license plates can be investments.

On Monday, a license plate hit the block at Emmert Auction Associates in Rehoboth Beach. The winning bid was $410,000 — yes, nearly half a million dollars — for license plate No. 20.

A River of Stars is a kind of road story.

Scarlett, a factory worker from China, and Daisy, a Taiwanese-American teenager, go on the lam. They're fleeing Perfume Bay, a secret home in Los Angeles where pregnant women from China are sent — by rich husbands, married lovers or prosperous parents — to give birth such that their babies may enjoy "the most precious gift of all": U.S. citizenship.

But Scarlett and Daisy have their own suspicions about what might happen to them after they give birth.

Jamie Bernstein can't call her childhood a typical one. On any given weekend, she might find Lauren Bacall, Isaac Stern, Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman or Sidney Lumet hanging out at her house. Jamie's father was Leonard Bernstein.

The debate about whether romantic comedies are — or ever were — dead is an old one by now. In fact, I wrote about it five years ago.

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

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

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

The Happytime Murders is packed with violence, foul language and graphic felt-on-felt sex. There's also a scene with an octopus that is — well, you need to see it for yourself.

The new movie stars Melissa McCarthy as a human detective trying to solve a string of puppet killings. And yes, many of its characters are puppets.

But it's definitely not for kids.

The cabin in the woods that Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) head to for their one-year anniversary seems even more murder-y than your standard-issue cabin-in-the-woods, which is saying something. There's a shotgun hanging over the fireplace, a handy ax waiting by the woodpile, a nearby cliff just begging for someone to get pushed over its edge, and a deep, dark lake ideally suited to corpse disposal.

There's a powerful juvenile allure to the raunchy puppets in The Happytime Murders, just as there was in cruder predecessors like Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles or Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police. After all, children who grew up on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and their own collections of plush lovies cross a short bridge to adolescence, when they learn all the swear words and obscure sexual maneuvers in the lexicon.

In 1978, embarking on a career at the ripe age of 58 that would earn her a raft of literary prizes, the British novelist Penelope Fitzgerald published a wonderfully tragicomic tale, short-listed for the Booker prize, about a 1950s middle-aged war widow who wakes up one day and decides to open a bookstore in her fog-bound East Anglian fishing village. The Bookshop's plot turns on all the locals who mobilize to thwart Florence Green, and a stalwart few who come to her defense.

In 'Support The Girls,' The Script ... Doesn't

Aug 23, 2018

The women who toil at Double Whammies, a Hooters-like sports bar along some Texas highway, deserve better. So do the actresses who carry Support the Girls, a sometimes winning but fatally underwritten workplace comedy.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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OK, of all the choices we make about our appearance, what does it mean to choose to dye our hair blond?

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

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After 150 Years, 'Little Women' Still Resonates

Aug 23, 2018

About once a year I turn to one particularly tattered book, its red cover worn, its two halves taped together after falling apart from frequent use years ago.

JM Holmes has a lot of questions: the title of his debut short story collection, for one, as well as the name of its first story: "What's Wrong with You? What's Wrong with Me?" And then there's the first line of that story, posed by a young African American man to one of his friends: "How many white women you been with?" The query leads to a fight — in Holmes' world, the questions aren't easy, and the answers are even harder.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Two days ago, on Monday, police in Uganda fired upon protesters who were demonstrating against the detention of Robert Kyagulanyi — a lawmaker better known as the musician Bobi Wine — and others.

In the opening scene of To Be Honest, Savannah "Savvy" Alverson is in a dorm room at Indiana State, saying goodbye to her big sister Ashley. Ashley is tall and lanky and adores her little sister very much. Savannah is short and chubby and book smart, has a tendency toward panic attacks, and is totally unprepared for the life she's about to have to lead all on her own now that her sister's off to college.

Madonna is no stranger to controversy, and she stirred it again when she showed up to the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Monday night wearing jewelry and garb from North Africa's Amazigh people.

Her ensemble included a horned headdress, heavy silver necklaces and a colorful tunic, all of which can be found in shops in Morocco, where she celebrated her 60th birthday last week.

Fashion critics had a field day. They condemned her for cultural appropriation and mocked her stylistic choices.

There's a sentence at the beginning of Ling Ma's standout debut novel, Severance, that stopped me cold: "When you wake up in a fictitious world," one character tells another, "your only frame of reference is fiction."

There's no shortage of statistics about the depth of America's opioid epidemic — there were 72,000 overdose deaths just last year — but numbers don't tell the whole story. Beth Macy takes a ground-level look at the crisis in Dopesick, a new book focusing on central Appalachia. Macy has spent three decades reporting on the region, focusing on social and economic trends and how they affect ordinary people — she says this area is the birthplace of the modern opioid epidemic.

Jessie Greengrass' Sight is one of those books that critics rave about, yet many readers wonder why. Here's why: Shimmering sentences and long paragraphs that unspool like yellow brick roads, winding toward emerald cities of elusive, hard-to-express insights. A definition of love as an "encumbrance of minutiae" which both anchors and defines you. Observations like this: "The price of sight is wonder's diminishment."

Lisa Hanawalt creates kids' stories for grownups. She's the producer and production designer for Netflix's animated BoJack Horseman, in which talking animals intermix with humans, and she's authored graphic novels like 2016's Hot Dog Taste Test and her new release, Coyote Doggirl. In Hot Dog Taste Test, Hanawalt looks at food from the perspective of a kid peering up over the table's edge, imagining all sorts of weird culinary combinations and just as ready to play with an appetizer as eat it.

Around the time Kevin Kwan published his 2013 satirical novel Crazy Rich Asians, a producer reached out with an offer: "I will option this movie if you are willing to change Rachel to a white girl ..." Kwan recalls the producer saying.

Kwan didn't even bother to respond.

The film adaptation of Kwan's book is now out. All of the characters are Asian and Asian-American, and all of the actors are of Asian descent.

Updated at 12:52 p.m. ET

Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the most prominent voices in the #MeToo movement, paid $380,000 to a man who accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17, according to a report by The New York Times based on legal documents anonymously leaked to the paper.

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