Arts & Life

Before writing his first book, author Daniel Nieh was an international model and a Chinese interpreter.

Those previous lives shine through in Nieh's debut novel, Beijing Payback.

"As a model and as a translator, you're always behind the scenes," Nieh says in an interview. "You know, you get backstage, you're a fly on the wall, you're there to be seen or be heard but maybe not to speak. And so you get to witness all kinds of different bizarre situations."

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Breakthroughs in heart medicine, including surgical procedures, devices and medications, have changed how various forms of heart disease are treated and enabled many people to live longer lives. We're going to hear about some of those new developments from Haider Warraich, author of the new book "State Of The Heart: Exploring The History, Science, And Future Of Cardiac Disease." We're also going to talk about cholesterol and blood pressure.

The original Veronica Mars premiered on television 15 years ago, which, in TV terms, was a whole different era. David Milch's HBO series Deadwood, which just reunited its cast for a fabulous TV movie, premiered that year. So did two major hits for ABC, Lost and Desperate Housewives.

More artists are telling the Whitney Museum of American Art they are withdrawing from the museum's high-profile Biennial contemporary art showcase currently underway in New York.

"It was a really easy decision," says artist Nicholas Galanin, who spoke by phone from Alaska, where he lives. Along with three other artists, he told the Whitney on Friday that he wanted his multimedia work pulled from the show.

Petra: It's Saturday! (Or actually, as we're posting this it's now Sunday) I feel the need to reiterate this, lest I forget what day it is or which direction is up! Saturday tends to be the day people bust out their best cosplays — I saw some truly amazing getups, including countless Deadpools (Deadspool?), a lot of women dressed as Loki and Doctor Strange, a really well-done armored Cersei Lannister, Missandei of Naath carrying her own head, and my personal favorite, Logan and Jessica from Logan's Run, complete with life-clocks in their palms.

Opera is an art form well-suited to big emotions and tragic stories, often set in the past. But a new opera, Blue, grapples with a more contemporary tragedy — the killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer.

I must say, I really am enjoying this trend of contemporary novels starring young women who are 100% body positive. Laura Dockrill's My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant fits squarely into that category, pulling no punches right from the jump.

In the opening scene, our snarky, self-confident plus-size main character Bluebelle (aka "BB") is visiting the doctor after experiencing her first asthma attack. She immediately runs up against a judgmental nurse who callously informs her that many of her problems would be solved by losing weight.

There has to be an equivalent of Americana in each country; art that digs deep into the culture and history of a place in a way that allows those who consume it to get a sense of what that country's shifting zeitgeist is like.

With that in mind, Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk is a perfect slice of Koreana; a touching, somewhat depressive narrative full of nostalgia that shows the underbelly of a nation through the life of characters inhabiting society's bottom rung.

Cartoonist Dylan Meconis's new book Queen of the Sea is set in a convent on a tiny island, somewhere off the coast of a country that could be Tudor England, but it isn't, not quite.

The story plays out in a mysterious, possibly magical alternate world just a few degrees off what you might have learned in history class — but it's packed with intricate, well-researched details. And goats.

In Family Reunion, the new Netflix series, Tia Mowry-Hardrict plays Cocoa McKellan, a free-spirited mother of four and wife of a retired football player, Moz (Anthony Alabi, himself a former NFL player). The McKellans packed their bags in Seattle, Wash., and have moved to Columbus, Ga. to live with Moz's parents — including his old-fashioned mother M'Dear (Loretta Devine).

If you're reading this on your phone, drop it! (Or at least, drop it once you've finished this article.) That little screen of yours won't give you access to some of the wildest, weirdest, most innovative images and words bubbling up into the culture right now. Said miraculous content can only be found — brace yourself — on paper. To be precise, it can only be found in a flood of new periodicals by brave (or perhaps deluded) publishers who've declared war on digital monotony. Where in the world could such a quixotic movement emerge, you ask? Only in alternative comics.

Mallory: It's Friday! By this point in the con, the crowds are much crowdier, the lines for everything are much longer, the cosplay is starting to come out ... we're in the full swing of things, folks.

Piper Kerman served time in minimum security prison for money laundering for a drug ring — and turned that experience into the book and TV show Orange Is the New Black — but how much does she know about actual laundering? We'll ask her three questions about washing clothes.

Early in Family of Origin, CJ Hauser's oddball-brilliant second novel, an aging scientist tells the two protagonists, a pair of estranged sort-of-half-siblings named Nolan and Elsa Grey, that their generation is ruining the human species. The scientist, Esther, belongs to a fringe group of biologists called the Reversalists, who believe evolution has started running backwards — running away from millennials, according to Esther. Family of Origin is a spirited defense of the maligned millennial generation.

Declawing a Cat

Jul 20, 2019
altemark [Flickr]

Clipping a cat's claws must be done periodically because, like your own fingernails, claws continue to grow.  Claw clipping can be a good alternative to declawing, in part because it does not leave the animal defenseless.

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Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fresh hell ignited social media this week, or was it heaven?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: It took form with claws and whiskers and scampered across a dark London alley before...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CATS")

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. "I think it's fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?"

We've been talking to robots for a while now.

In the decade or so since Siri and her compatriots first appeared, we've all gotten pretty used to having conversations with computers in various forms. While your Alexa doesn't look much like a Cylon (the scary metal kind or hotty flesh kind) now, it seems like it's just a matter of time of time before we'll be talking with all kinds of robots — including those that look just like us.

Classical Power Chords

Jul 19, 2019

In this audio quiz, classical compositions are paired up with contemporary songs they inspired.

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Fly Me To The Permanent Natural Satellite

Jul 19, 2019

Pretending they're on a romantic night stroll, contestants must correctly identify facts about the moon that would impress their hypothetical date.

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers were not fast friends. Now the co-hosts of the pop culture podcast, Las Culturistas, the two lived on the same floor of their freshman dorm at New York University (NYU) — where they had little to do with each other. Smash cut to 2019 where they are now both emerging voices on the comedy scene.

Chicken And Egg Problems

Jul 19, 2019

In this final round, the contestants — plus special guest Bowen Yang — are asked to identify, given a pair of events, which came first?

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Too Many Letters With Anna Roisman

Jul 19, 2019

In this game guest-hosted by the host of HQ Words, Anna Roisman, contestants mash-up two initialisms: The first is a government agency, and the second could be anything. For example: if your tax returns are being audited by Kate McKinnon, you've sent them to the I-R-S-N-L.

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

Put On A Happy Face

Jul 19, 2019

In this music game, songs from famous musicals are rewritten to describe the plots of famous non-music dramatic stage plays. It's a crossover the Tony Awards would never themselves allow.

Heard on Bowen Yang And Matt Rogers: I Don't Think So, Honey!

As a college sophomore, I knew exactly what the Apollo astronauts would find when they arrived on the moon: a desolate rockscape, craters shining white in reflected earthglow — and a big, black monolith.

Stanley Kubrick showed us all of that in the top-grossing movie of 1968 — 2001: A Space Odyssey — a full 15 months before Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. And even Kubrick was late to the party: Moviegoers had been heading moonward from pretty much the moment there were filmmakers to lead the way.

Welcome to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

A good convention is almost a ritual space — a time and place away from time and place. Once you step through that glass door and swipe your badge, you could be anywhere, anywhen; the hours pass by outside and you don't notice. It's almost as if the rest of the world doesn't exist — you are at Comic-Con. You have always been at Comic-Con. What I'm trying to say, here, is that I've barely been here 24 hours and I already don't know which way is up or really what day it is. Mallory, I hope you're less disoriented than I am.

Blink and you might miss a priceless bit of fly-by news footage in a new documentary about rocker David Crosby, he of the sixties bands The Byrds and endlessly self-dissolving combinations of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Emerging from a spell in prison for gun possession and drug abuse in the mid-'80s, Crosby — shorn of his signature walrus mustache, knitted cap, and cocksure charisma — might easily be mistaken for a low-level clerk in a button-down shirt and nondescript pants belted over an ample paunch.

"You have time, but before the 26th is best."

That's Marianne (Laetitia Casta) going over some awkward practicalities with her live-in boyfriend Abel (Louis Garrel) in the opening scene of A Faithful Man, a French romantic comedy that's as dry as kindling — and nearly as combustible. Moments before, Marianne has informed Abel that she's pregnant. And that his best friend Paul is the father. And that the two have plans to get married later in the month. And that he should probably move his stuff out of the apartment before then.

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