Arts/Culture

WNPR Arts and culture reporting focuses on the world of ideas in fine art, crafts, writing, music, theater, performance, design and creative activities that make us unique and make us human

Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

From the Hand of the Master: The Signs of William Rice

Dec 26, 2014
the Connecticut Historical Society

Highway travel today is notable for the number of services available on both interstate and secondary roads. Automobile fuel and repairs, food, and lodging are just some of the amenities available, all easily located thanks to an abundance of signs large and small.

When listener Susan Tannewitz-Karnes was a child in Johnson City, Tenn., Christmas wasn't Christmas without an English tea cake baked by their neighbor, Mrs. Lawrence.

She would deliver it about a week before Christmas. "We would come home from school and my mother would just say, 'Mrs. Lawrence came by! We have Mrs. Lawrence!' And we'd say, 'Oh, yes! Yes!' We couldn't wait."

Starting Christmas day, audiences can see a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s nearly 30-year-old musical fairy-tale mash-up, “Into the Woods” — this time, on the big screen.

And as the production moves from stage to screen, the high-budget Hollywood version comes with the requisite star power, including Johnny Depp as the iconic big bad wolf, Emily Blunt as a baker’s wife and Meryl Streep as the wicked witch who sets the whole plot in motion.

Although it wasn't a great year for the shows themselves, it was a good year for programming, says TV critic David Bianculli.

"In terms of what was happening on television, in terms of new and old formats and new, exciting players coming into the mix — [it was] another good year," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm actually kind of encouraged."

Bianculli reflects on how far TV has come.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It's just unthinkable to me that "Why Can't It Be Christmas Time All Year" is not a classic, and a staple of holiday music. But it's not. In fact, you've probably never heard of it or Rosie Thomas, who recorded it. And that helps explain why it has been 20 years since any song became a mainstream hit. "All I Want For Christmas Is You", released by Mariah Carey in 1994, did what is now impossible - it survived its first season, and became a song that is played every year during the holidays, and performed by other people. It got a big boost, of course, from the movie "Love Actually", but that's not the only reason it stuck around. But 20 years is a long time to go without another success in that department.

"This is a very, very depressing year for film," critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "because none of the great material came from Hollywood studios."

Studios, he says, direct their financial resources into sequels and comic-book movies, which leaves little room for "creative expression, and for doing something weird and potentially boundary-moving."

Sony Pictures

Moviegoers in Connecticut who want to watch "The Interview" have a choice of two theaters screening the film at the center of an international storm involving Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and North Korea. 

l.hillesheim/flickr creative commons

From the Saveur magazine cookbook, German Pot Roast (Sauerbrauten) has a secret ingredient -- ginger snap cookies... a velvet Palmer red wine from Long Island's North Fork is perfect for beef... spiced pork roast from Alex Province that is inexpensive and lusciously good....

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Every now and then, the jazz world needs a reminder that there are master musicians among us whose distinguished careers, elegant artistry, versatility, intelligence, resilience and well-honed craftsmanship are not given the recognition they so richly merit.

CintheaFox / Creative Commons

We're nearing the end of another news-filled year. Take an entertaining and informative look back at 2014 as we benefit from the wisdom of the WNPR audience: below are ten most-viewed stories you shouldn't miss from our newsroom. 

Unraveling the Web of Deception

Dec 23, 2014
Chion Wolf / WNPR

We fool people all the time. Whether with bad intent or not, deception has become a common practice in today's society. While modern tools such as texting, social media and the internet at large have all made the practice easier, deception in its most basic form goes back to Man's beginning.  Some believe it to be an assertion of power while others claim it's in our blood- a practice born out of our species' need to cooperate in order to survive.

Pope Francis blasted the Vatican's top bureaucrats at an annual Christmas gathering, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the Curia of "spiritual Alzheimer's" and of lusting for power at all costs.

Brandon Anderson/flickr creative commons

When I first heard about the work of Find Me, I wasn't sure what to think. On a social visit, drink in hand, I stared across the living room at my impeccable source, Joni Evans, among the most respected and successful professionals in publishing, now retired as Publisher and President of Simon & Schuster and Random House. (Evans serves on the Find Me board of directors.) 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It doesn't really even make any sense what has happened at the Goodspeed Opera House every since  Michael Price took over the late 1960s. East Haddam, which is conveniently located near absolutely nothing, has played host to Mike Nichols, Idina Menzel, Jerry Herman, Mark Hamill, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Julie Andrews...I could go on.

Flickr user "yosoynuts"

Many people were surprised by the news of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba. It was especially surprising for WNPR's Morning Edition host Diane Orson. When the news broke, she was returning from Cuba, and landed back in the United States. She shares her story and we hear the music of the Sarah LeMieux Quintet, who will brings us on an imaginary visit to a Paris nightclub.

Peter Morenus / University of Connecticut

They just don’t make 'em like they used to, unless you put a bunch of Ph.D.s in a room with a 3D printer. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

Hartford Seen: Photographs By Pablo Delano

Dec 19, 2014
Pablo Delano

Houses, apartments, businesses, schools, places of worship. Like all cities, Hartford’s built environment—its physical structures and shape—has changed over time for many different reasons. As the population grows and changes, different voices influence the city’s identity, and new building materials and resources become available (or disappear). This year, with a series of onsite and offsite exhibits, the Connecticut Historical Society is exploring the history of Hartford’s modern cityscape, as well as the city’s urban spaces today.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing and the occasional author behaving badly.

For a public library to expect to survive today, it must begin to take crucial cues from coffee shops. At least, that's the key recommendation offered by a much-anticipated report on British public libraries, which is set to be released Thursday.

After nine years, Stephen Colbert is retiring the character he created for The Colbert Report, the conservative, self-important blowhard who opines about the news and the media. The final episode airs Thursday. Colbert will take over as host for The Late Show, replacing the retiring David Letterman.

Joshua Frankel

A new installation at Hartford's Real Art Ways imagines New York City lifting off to Mars, building by building. 

Scott Parrish / Creative Commons

With Christmas just days away, I thought Santa, busy guy that he is just now, might appreciate some last-minute gift suggestions for some of the more deserving music folk on his list. 

Chris/flickr creative commons

Faith's motto on The Book Show is: Life is short, but it can be ever so wide.

Join Faith and her book buddies for a call-in show recommending terrific books to read in all categories. If you're in a book club, please tell us what you've read and enjoyed.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Let me set the stage a little: A movie called "The Imitation Game" will be released nationwide Christmas day, the latest of several attempts to tell the story of Alan Turing. That story is so big, it can only be told in little pieces.

The piece most people focus on is Turing's work as the single most important code breaker in World War 2, the man who built a machine that broke apart the deeply encrypted Nazi code, and then gave the Allies an advantage that they were forced to conceal.

If you’re looking for a house-rocking, soul-drenched, exuberantly emotional concert, the place to be is Collinsville’s Bridge Street Live on Thursday, December 18, as blues master James Montgomery and his super blues band jam with the skyrocketing, young jazz saxophonist Grace Kelly in a funk-filled funfest.

John Morgan/flickr creative commons

Lemony Veal Piccata from a cooking star... a beautifully balanced healthy noodle kugel... why you might try giant potato pancakes instead of lots of small ones... our favorite holiday cocktail, The Aperol Sour Martini... make roasted chestnuts at home in the oven or fireplace... Martha Stewart's warm apple skillet cake... and a fabulous and festive $15 rosé sparkler, Lamberti... it goes with everything!

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Thomas Moore was, for 13 years, a Servite monk. In 1992, he burst onto the national scene with "Care of the Soul", which combined the psychotherapeutic of Jung and James Hillman with ancient and contemporary religious and spiritual ideas. It was number 1 on the New York Times best seller list, and stayed on the list for a year.

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