Arts and culture

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HBO's Leaving Neverland is ultimately a tribute to the power of personal testimony.

Over four hours, the film slowly excavates the stories of James Safechuck and Wade Robson. The two men each met Michael Jackson as children in the 1980s and allege the pop star sexually abused them for years while showering their families with attention and gifts.

Leaving Neverland, by documentary filmmaker Dan Reed, is a tough show to watch — but it should be seen. Its central question is whether Michael Jackson used his fame and money to seduce young boys and their families into enabling a hidden pattern of serial pedophilia.

Jim Gaffigan Brings The Laughs Again

Mar 1, 2019

How has comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan's relationship with his wife Jeannie evolved over their 15 years of marriage? "I've become more and more frightened of her," Gaffigan deadpanned to Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York. "I was very resistant to [collaborating], but now it's full-on codependency."

Rats' faces express joy when the animals are tickled.

Fairness matters to monkeys; when food offered to their social partners is of higher quality than what they themselves receive, they become highly agitated.

Pigs experience hope, which we know because if raised in decent conditions they anticipate that pleasurable things will happen to them.

Liv Boeree: Does Success Come From Skill Or Luck?

Mar 1, 2019

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Liv Boeree's TED Talk

In the game of poker, is it more important to be skilled or lucky? Former poker pro Liv Boeree examines how chance affects us, and whether success—in poker or elsewhere—is within our control.

About Liv Boeree

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Amy Hunter's TED Talk

How do zip codes indicate luck? Amy Hunter examines how where we live determines the resources and opportunities we receive—and how society is designed to keep some people from being "lucky."

About Amy Hunter

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Eshauna Smith's TED Talk

Eshauna Smith says we cannot let luck decide the fate of underprivileged youth—we need to make purposeful interventions to create opportunities for all kids to reach their full potential.

About Eshauna Smith

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.