Arts and culture

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Mark Sutcliffe's TED Talk

Mark Sutcliffe says our luck—or privilege—is determined before we are even born. He encourages people to acknowledge the role of privilege in their lives and work to lessen the opportunity gap.

About Mark Sutcliffe

" — Aye, Franco say, then eh admits. –Played aw that DMT stuff doon. It wis f***in wild but I didnae want Renton tae ken. Him and Sick Boy thegither: it eywis annoyed the f*** oot ay ays when they went on aboot drugs, f***in drugs, f***in drugs aw the time. A mean, take the c***s or dinnae; but dinnae f***in talk aboot them twenty-four/seven!"

Yeah, Irvine Welsh is back.

For 11-year-old Olivia Mongelli, the bad news came during rehearsal.

"Everyone onstage was just in shock," the Ohio girl, cast as Scout in the dramatic production of the classic Harper Lee novel, told The New York Times. "I just sat there for a second and said, 'Is this a joke?' "

Chiwetel Ejiofor is best known for his starring role in the movie 12 Years a Slave. Now he's making his directorial debut.

A decade ago, the English actor of Nigerian descent picked up a best-selling memoir called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. It's about William Kamkwamba, a schoolkid in Malawi whose ingenuity helps save his village from famine.

During Robert Mapplethorpe's brief time in college, he kept a pet monkey named Scratch. But the famed photographer quickly lost interest in the creature, according to his biographer Patricia Morrisroe, and kept "forgetting" to feed Scratch, until one day the monkey keeled over. Mapplethorpe then supposedly beheaded Scratch with a kitchen knife, boiled away his flesh, and turned his skull into a musical instrument for a class project, wailing, "Scratch is dead!" to a classmate over the phone.

We've all seen footage from the Apollo 11 mission, when the world watched as two American men walked on the moon for the first time. It was the stuff of fantasy made real, not science fiction but science, with live images and radio connecting the earth to its first lunar pioneers. "The eagle has landed," "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" — it's a story we think we know.

In his last three features, the brilliant German director Christian Petzold has made mysterious, arresting and subtly heartbreaking dramas about characters fighting against the headwinds of history. In 2012's Barbara, his longtime muse Nina Hoss plays an East German doctor whose suspected subversion gets her exiled to the country practice, where she can be more closely managed.

It was only a matter of time before French screen legend/art-house cinema icon Isabelle Huppert, of The Piano Teacher and Elle, assayed a deliciously duplicitous, unhinged, black widow-like figure of menace for the delight of American audiences. In Neil Jordan's Greta -- as in those Michael Haneke and Paul Verhoeven films — sex, gender, and literal and metaphorical notions of bondage play key roles.

What happens when more than a dozen professional dancers, pulsing with lust and resentment, get dosed with LSD?

Their lives turn into a Gaspar Noé movie.

Technically, of course, Climax is a Gaspar Noé movie from its opening: an ominous flash-forward that quickly yields to a rush of credits, including the small-print ones that usually run at a film's end. But this bad-trip drama's first half is uncharacteristically benign for the Argentina-born French writer-director, who's best known for Irreversible, his assaultive 2002 rape drama-in-reverse.

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Women Show The Faces Of War In 'The Huntress'

Feb 28, 2019

Kate Quinn's The Huntress runs on a bit too long, but once you've read her Author's Note and understand that many of her characters are based on real people, real people who include the craven and the heroic, you'll understand why Quinn has stuffed her book with plot.

'We Set The Dark On Fire' Burns Bright

Feb 28, 2019

Tehlor Kay Mejia's debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire aims to burn it all down.

Someday soon, the rains will come and they will wash away everything and everyone you love.

Someday soon, the seas will rise. The temperatures will rise. The plants will die and the animals will die and we will die.

When it comes to niche programming, there is everything else, and then there is Documentary Now!

Boris Fishman was nine years old in 1988 when his family left Belarus for New York. As Jews in what was then the Soviet Union, their prospects were limited, and they lived under the constant threat of discrimination and violence. But his grandfather was resourceful, so, unlike other families, Fishman's did not lack for good food.

His new memoir, Savage Feast, layers family recipes into the stories; Fishman says his grandparents' attitudes toward food were shaped by the hunger and loss of World War II.

Pamela Adlon is a member of the "sandwich generation" — the mothers/daughters and fathers/sons who find themselves simultaneously caring for their children and their parents. Adlon's three daughters live at home, and her mom lives next door — a reality reflected in Better Things, the FX series she writes, directs and stars in.

Now returning for its third season, the show centers on a single working mother of three daughters who is also trying to help her elderly mother and keep her acting career alive.

"It's an exaggerated version of my life," Adlon says.

At some point in their careers, all authors have heard some variation on the advice "Grab the reader from the front page." For some writers of literary fiction, this translates to "Describe the sun shining on a New England lake in very exacting detail," or something of that nature.

'The Raven Tower' Rises From Shakespearean Foundations

Feb 26, 2019

"Here is a story I have heard."

In the city of Vastai in the country of Iraden is the Raven Tower, ruled by the Raven's Lease — whose life is forfeit to the god in exchange for such favor — and the Mother of the Silent, human interpreter of the forest god outside the gates. But when Mawat, the heir to the bench, is suddenly summoned home, he finds one Raven dead, his uncle in power, his father missing, and a city on the brink of disaster.

This week, millions of students and teachers are taking part in Read Across America, a national literacy program celebrated annually around the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. For over 20 years, teachers and students have donned costumes — often the Cat in the Hat's iconic red and white striped hat — and devoured books like Green Eggs and Ham.

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The Monday after the Oscars is full of red carpet recaps, Twitter threads and think pieces and occasionally some big snub or snafu that has everybody talking. Last night, it was a surprise win in the final category, Best Picture.

Steve Luxenberg's storytelling mastery may be most evidenced by the fact that the big, sprawling swath of history he bites off in his new book — Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, And America's Journey From Slavery to Segregation — does not read like a big, sprawling, swath of history.

The story feels neither distant nor lifeless, and Luxenberg's careful narrative choices creates a lucidity that saves save the book from ever feeling unwieldly, even at more than 600 pages.

It turns out the Oscars telecast doesn't need a host.

Updated at 11:36 p.m. EST

Director Peter Farrelly's Green Book, about a black musician (played by Mahershala Ali) touring the segregated South with a white chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen), won the Oscar for best picture. The film also won for supporting actor (Ali) and original screenplay.

Below is the full list of 2019 Academy Award winners, marked in bold.

Best picture

The Oscars red carpet arrivals are often more surprising than the Academy Awards ceremony itself. While we can sometimes predict which of our favorite movie stars are taking home golden statuettes, good luck predicting what Lady Gaga will wear this year.

One thing's for sure: The red carpet fashions promise to be just as bold, glittery, glamorous — and even political — as they always are. Here's a photo recap of some of the most memorable looks at the 91st Academy Awards.

When Desus and Mero stopped by NPR's New York bureau the day after their buzzy new late-night talk show debuted on Showtime, they were still taking it all in.

"We're still a little hungover from the premiere party," says Daniel Baker, also known as Desus Nice. Joel Martinez, or The Kid Mero, chimes in, "I can barely speak, I'm so exhausted."

In an interview with NPR's Michel Martin, the comedy duo say they can hardly believe their newfound success.

Katherine Harmon Courage wants us to think about digestion as a collaborative journey between us and our microbes. In her new book, Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome, she envisions digestion not as a simple food-in, excrement-out process, but as a series of encounters with varying microbial players that takes place along the winding 30-foot tunnel of our gastrointestinal tract.

Han Kang has been a familiar name to Korean readers for two decades, but it's only recently that English-speaking audiences have been able to read her work. She made her major American debut in 2016, when the English translation of her novel The Vegetarian was released in the States; the horrifying story of a woman who comes undone after giving up meat became an unlikely breakout hit. A year later, her novel Human Acts followed; while the subject matter wasn't similar to The Vegetarian, the critical praise it received was.

The Poets Of Fishing Gather In Oregon

Feb 23, 2019

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This weekend, fisherman and fishing women gather in Astoria, Ore., as they do once a year, to appreciate the compositions of BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music, and to read and perform their own poetry. Melanie Sevcenko has the story.

Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi opens his new memoir, I.M., in the toy aisle at the Avenue U Variety Store. It's the mid-1960s, and he desperately wants a deluxe Barbie set — which comes with a doll and three outfits. Unfortunately for 5-year-old Mizrahi, a Barbie was "the exact thing that would label a kid in those days as someone who was a freak," he says.

In the new horror-thriller film Greta, Frances and the titular Greta find each other in a time-honored old movie way: Frances sees a woman's handbag in a seat on the New York subway. This nice young woman, who has just come to New York, does a nice thing.

She opens the bag, finds a wallet, ignores the money, and returns the bag to its owner, who turns out to be an elegant older woman full of conspicuous kindness and courtesy. They seem happy to find each other.