Arts & Life

The timing feels terribly apt.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression turned 50 this year. A bestseller in 1970, the book was one of nearly two dozen written by the cheerfully empathetic historian and journalist Studs Terkel.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

A now-former administrator of Opera Theatre of St. Louis [OTSL], Damon Bristo, was arrested last month for child sex trafficking in the second degree. Bristo has resigned from his position as the company's director of artistic administration.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Veteran political consultant Stuart Stevens has spent years working as a strategist for Republican campaigns, including the presidential bids of Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. But Stevens didn't support the party's candidate in the 2016 presidential election — and he wasn't alone.

"In 2016, when I went out and attacked Trump on television," he says, "I would say maybe a third of the party hierarchy would email me and thank me for doing this."

The Old Guard filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood always loved action movies — she just never thought she'd have a chance to make one.

"Those doors were not open at all to women," she says. "It's so hard for women to get into the room, because we don't have action on a resumé. But how do you get action on your resumé if you're not hired to do films with action?"

Back in the days before the coronavirus pandemic, lots of people found community and comfort in singing together, whether at school, as a form of worship, in amateur groups or performing as professionals. Last year, Chorus America reported that some 54 million Americans — that is, more than 15% of the entire country's population — participated in some kind of organized group singing. And that study revealed that nearly three-quarters of those polled felt less lonely.

To read Isabel Wilkerson is to revel in the pleasure of reading — to relax into the virtuosic performance of thought and form one is about to encounter, safe and secure that the structures will not collapse beneath you.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's first book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Wilkerson evinced a rare ability to craft deeply insightful analysis of deeply researched evidence — both historical and contemporary — in harmonious structures of language and form.

The promotional black and white photos from Taylor Swift's new album Folklore show the pop star shedding her lipsticked glamour for an ethereal frock to frolic in the meadow.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Museums around the world are struggling because of the coronavirus: New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is projecting $100 million in losses this year, and even France's publicly funded Louvre has lost 40 million euros following a four-month closure.

Linden A. Lewis's debut novel The First Sister (book one in a trilogy of the same name) is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you've been waiting for.

American Humane Association

The 2020 Hero Dog Awards, celebrating its Tenth Anniversary, is seeking to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, and Shelter Dogs.

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The Service Dog category includes animals that assist people with disabilities other than sight and hearing. Most have received special training.

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Law Enforcement dogs include what we often think of as police dogs, animals specially trained to patrol, search buildings, track criminals, and to detect drugs, narcotics and explosive devices.  Arson dogs are animals trained to sniff out accelerants that may have been used to start a fire. 

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So you're casting a delightful new children's movie and you need a loveable circus ringleader ... who do you turn to but the homicidal meth kingpin from Breaking Bad? Cranston stars in The One and Only Ivan which comes out on Disney+ on August 21.

Since many of us know Cranston from Breaking Bad, we've invited him to play a game called "Braking ... good!" Three questions about safe driving, inspired by classic driver's education films of yesteryear.

Click the audio link above to find out how he does.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

How's your Latin? Satis, satis? Well, Spencer Alexander McDaniel's Latin is really, really good.

The series Upright opens with a man hauling an upright piano in a trailer across the bare Australian landscape. He's frazzled and alone at the wheel, guzzling beer and gobbling pills. He gets a text message: "Mate. Time is running out. Don't duck this up."

Ah, spell-check.

Then he drives into a ditch, hears his piano bleat, and the shouts of an angry, profane 16-year-old he's just run into. Upright is the story of two strangers, Lucky and Meg, who take off across the expanse of Australia, scheming, swearing, pilfering, and becoming vital to each other.

Nate Marshall has a new collection of poems. It's called Finna, and he says the title of this new book comes from the Southern phrase "fixing to, right, which is like 'about to.' One of the things that I love about that, and that is a kind of central thing in the book, is it's all about what happens next. It's this thing that is informed by history, but that is all about looking forward, all about possibility. That's sort of what I hope the poems do, is that they I hope they sort of wrestle with history, but also look forward."

Alexis Daria's You Had Me at Hola had me at Latinx representation, sexy soapy plot, and a meta-telenovela addicting enough to actually get picked up by Netflix IRL. This book fizzes with sex, betrayal, lies, and family drama — but the good news is, it comes without an actual telenovela's requisite cliffhangers and tragedies.

Editor's note: This story was reported and photographed from February 2019 to March 2020. The text has been updated to reflect the activities of the circus during the pandemic.

Phelelani Ndakrokra prefers not to talk about his past. But what the 23-year-old acrobat will say is that if he hadn't joined the circus ten years ago, he'd probably either be dead or in prison by now.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Baseball is back, for now at least. And many major league teams this year are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, which gave African Americans a place to showcase their talents before the game was integrated.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Baseball is back, for now at least. And many major league teams this year are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, which gave African Americans a place to showcase their talents before the game was integrated.

John Early

Aug 7, 2020

John Early grew up in Nashville, TN, but came to New York City as a teenager to attend NYU, where he studied acting. John quickly became a mainstay in New York's alt comedy scene, hosting shows at the Cake Shop, the Bell House, and Ars Nova.

Meatless Loaf

Aug 7, 2020

Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid join house musician Jonathan Coulton in a game where Meatloaf songs are rewritten to be about vegetarian meat substitutes.

Heard on Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata And 'Star Trek: Lower Decks': Starships And Friendships.

League Of Super Pests

Aug 7, 2020

Comedian Tawny Newsome and actor Jack Quaid (Star Trek: Lower Decks) try to guess the pest based on the description of a made-up superhero.

Heard on Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata And 'Star Trek: Lower Decks': Starships And Friendships.

The Mostest

Aug 7, 2020

This game was supposed to be more than one question long, but Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer derailed it with an extended conversation about ducks.

Heard on Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata And 'Star Trek: Lower Decks': Starships And Friendships.

Junk Food Taste Test

Aug 7, 2020

Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer try to identify junk foods from the descriptions Ophira and Jonathan give while snacking on them.

Heard on Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata And 'Star Trek: Lower Decks': Starships And Friendships.

Muppet Laughs

Aug 7, 2020

Comedians Sasheer Zamata (SNL) and Nicole Byer (Nailed It!), hosts of the Best Friends podcast, play an audio game where they guess the Muppet based on its laugh.

Heard on Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata And 'Star Trek: Lower Decks': Starships And Friendships.

There are two kinds of reactions to Beyoncé's new Black Is King video: lavish praise – and deep criticism. The praise comes from her many fans and from many reviewers. The criticism often comes from Africans.

We are both from Africa. Esther Ngumbi was born and grew up in Kenya. Ifeanyi Nsofor was born and grew up in Nigeria. We can understand the critiques – and have some of our own. But in the end, we think the positives outweigh the problems.

Diego Luna wants you to start talking.

The star of Y Tu Mamá También, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Narcos: Mexico and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has a new series that he hopes will compel audiences to do that. It's called Pan y Circo, or "Bread and Circus," out Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

The title is a reference to the poem "Satire X" by Roman poet Juvenal, who wrote in the second century that bread and circuses — food and entertainment — are all that's needed to convince Romans to give up their political freedoms.

Melissa Faliveno exists in liminal spaces, but her debut essay collection Tomboyland opens and ends in the landscapes that shaped her: Mount Horeb, the small town (or, technically, village) that she grew up in — the stretch of hills called the Blue Mounds, and southwestern Wisconsin more broadly.

On the Beach, the 1959 film version of Nevil Shute's cataclysmic bestseller, kicks into gear with a newscast designed to transport 1950s movie audiences from the nuclear age into a post-nuclear age:

"Scientists disagree as to when radiation will reach Australia," intones the newscaster. "The atomic war has ended. But the prime minister reports no proof of survival of human life anywhere except here."

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