Arts and culture

We'll ask two members of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys — "Mike D" and "Ad-Rock" — three questions about bread-making.

Click the audio link above to hear how they do.

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In Portland, Ore., Patrick Donaldson's Christmas party is swinging. Although the living room is filled with lights, flowers, champagne and bacon-wrapped appetizers, people keep leaving the comfy couches and drifting back to the kitchen. And it's not a big kitchen.

"It's about 10-by-12, I would say — small," Donaldson acknowledges of the cooking space in his 1949 duplex. "Sometimes, I've been at parties where the kitchen is even smaller than this, and everybody is pinned in there."

Decked in red velvet, Darla Bicknell has spent this holiday season hightailing it around Dallas. She has made appearances at four country clubs, four preschools, three banks and three parades. On Dec. 23, she will attend a Dallas Cowboys game and then return home with the team's owner, Jerry Jones, to present his nine grandchildren with gifts.

It's the busiest time of the year for Dallas' pre-eminent Mrs. Claus. "I can't fulfill all the requests that come in," she says. "There's no way I can get to all the children that want a Mrs. Claus."

For more than 60 years, poet Robert Bly has written about nature, mysticism and political protest. His two dozen collections have garnered many prizes, including a National Book Award.

Now all of Bly's poetry has been reissued in a single volume – his Collected Poems.

Like many mid-century American poets, Robert Bly started out writing rhymed verse in iambic pentameter — five rhythmic beats to the line — in the centuries-old Western tradition.

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


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


Tony Hawk: Puzzles, Skateboards, And Trivia

Dec 21, 2018

Tony Hawk's first visit to a skatepark proved to be a life-altering occasion as a child. "I literally saw people flying out of these empty swimming pools, and that was my moment," he told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another, at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. "That was my epiphany: 'I wanna fly like those guys." That desire to fly would eventually lead Hawk to become one of the most talented and influential professional skateboarders of all time, and transcend the sport and push its popularity into the mainstream with his groundbreaking tricks.

Adam Lambert: Queen Of The Glamberts

Dec 21, 2018

For Adam Lambert, performing has always been an innate pursuit. Doing "sheet drag" at home as a child was only the beginning of what became a lifetime of concerts and productions. What is sheet drag? "It's taking your bedsheets and making a garment out of [them]. Notably, a strapless gown, or a cape, or palazzo pants," Lambert explained Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another, at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. "There's a lot you can do with one giant piece of fabric, and of course mine, when I was a teenager, was leopard print. I mean who doesn't love leopard print?

In Kolkata, India, a city famous for its sweet tooth, the rosogolla — also known as rasgulla — is the most basic of sweets.

When comics creator Taneka Stotts accepted an Eisner Award — the comics industry's highest honor — this year for her anthology Elements: Fire — A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, she was fired up.

"I hold this award," she said, "and I declare war on the antiquated mentality that tells us our voices and stories aren't 'profitable' enough ... we're not waiting for you to catch up anymore. We are here, we have always been here, and we will do as you've always told us. We will make it ourselves."

In the opening sequence of the artful and distinctive yet finally unsatisfying Cold War, three minor functionaries of Poland's new Communist regime canvass a remote region. Armed with a tape recorder, the travelers seek genuine "peasant" music. But only one of them is truly interested in authenticity.

Midway through All Is True, Kenneth Branagh's imaginary wrangle of the troubled last years of William Shakespeare, a young fan approaches the Bard, who has returned to his native Stratford-upon-Avon to lick old wounds and reinsert himself into the family he has neglected for two decades. The eager visitor wants to know how Shakespeare did it — how he understood so deeply what drove the many disparate kinds of people in his plays.

Mankind has split the atom, sent a man to the moon, and now, in arguably its most unlikely achievement, it has produced a watchable Transformers movie.

The 2010 documentary Marwencol introduced the world to Mark Hogancamp, an artist from upstate New York who uses dolls to stage eerie, violent dramas in a scale-model Belgian WWII town he's built in his backyard. Hogancamp does this as a form of therapy: A group of men beat him within an inch of his life after he revealed he enjoyed wearing women's shoes. The attack left him with brain damage so severe he lost all of his memories and much of his motor functions.

Being a TV critic right now is kind of like being a sports writer — in a league where 10 new teams spring up every week. Among the most memorable TV moments of 2018 was James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney, which hit all the emotional notes.

So many of my favorite films this year seemed to be in close conversation with each other that it didn't make sense, in the end, for me to separate them. So I didn't. Here are my 12 favorite movies of 2018, listed as a series of themed pairings. You can read my full write-ups of these pairings here, or find a simple list below:

In a year of big headlines, Fresh Air continued to dive deep, broadcasting in-depth interviews on topics that ranged from the magnificent to the microscopic.

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The first insect that Pascal Baudar ever tried eating was an ant he found in his kitchen. The verdict? "It tasted like some kind of chemical," says Baudar.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it's no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don't know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

'The Disasters' Could Be The Beginning Of A Great Story

Dec 19, 2018

The Disasters kicks off with a high-concept punch: A group of space-school rejects band together to save the universe. It's the stuff of old-timey space serials with a modern update, featuring a crew of diverse misfits wrestling with rejection and the choices that got them into this mess in the first place.

Julia Roberts stars in Ben Is Back, a new film about a mother and son.

The latter is facing his addiction to opioids. Ben (Lucas Hedges) has been in treatment and shows up unexpectedly at his family's home on Christmas Eve.

Roberts says the film, directed by Lucas' father Peter Hedges, shows a complicated picture of addiction.

Jennifer Lopez has come close to quitting the entertainment industry. "You just get to those crossroads in your life," she tells NPR's Sam Sanders. The tabloids were full of stories about her, she says, and she wanted to regain control of her career. "Maybe I just shouldn't do this anymore," she remembers thinking. "Maybe I should just stop singing, and stop making movies, and do something else."

Let's get the bona fides out of the way up top.

Penny Marshall was famous as an actress first. She was the Laverne in Laverne & Shirley, one of what felt like so many '80s comedies with a catchy theme song, weird supporting characters, increasingly oddball plots and a messy last couple of seasons as contracts and cast changes interfered. But for years, she "schlemiel, schlimazel"-ed down a Milwaukee street with Cindy Williams, who played Shirley. Just a couple of single girls.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Penny Marshall, who became a household name as Laverne in the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley and went on to direct several popular movies, has died at the age of 75.

Marshall died Monday night at her Los Angeles home from complications of diabetes, family publicist Michelle Bega tells NPR.

When Emily Blunt landed the title role in Mary Poppins Returns, she made a conscious decision not to rewatch the 1964 version of the film, which featured Julie Andrews as the iconic nanny. Instead, Blunt dove into the books by P.L. Travers, from which the film had been adapted.

"I didn't want to sort of get compromised by the details of what Julie Andrews did so beautifully," Blunt says. "I knew it was going to be my version of her."

Every December, our critics look back on the books, movies, music and TV they loved — and this year, we've gathered all of those Fresh Air recommendations for you in one place.

David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries" has become a tradition on NPR. Listeners first met Crumpet the un-merry department store elf in 1992 when Sedaris' reading debuted on Morning Edition, and we've heard Crumpet's story many times since.

Now, we want to hear from you: Pretend you're an elf who works at Santaland during the holidays, and in just one sentence, tell us something about your imaginary shift.

Disgraced former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who's been accused of sexual harassment and assault, has been denied the controversial $120 million severance package contained in his contract, the network's board of directors announced on Monday.

It's often said that we regret the things we don't do more than the ones we do. Each December, I'm haunted by all the books, movies and shows that I've loved but haven't managed to get on the air. Wailing in my ear and rattling my shelves, these neglected spirits come together to demand their rightful places on what I call my annual Ghost List.

Paddington 2 (available on DVD, HBO, and streaming on multiple platforms)