Chion Wolf / WNPR

What is it we salute when we salute the flag of Jeopardy?

I really don't know the answer nor do I know how to put it in the form of a question.

There are some obvious answers. Jeopardy celebrates competence. It acknowledges the idea there are things worth knowing and that people who know them deserve a slightly different status than people who don't.

Sky Arts / sadieandthehotheads.com

Elizabeth McGovern doesn't want her role as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, to overshadow her identity as a musician. But she does admit it drives people to come see her band. Sadie and the Hotheads have just released a new album, Still Waiting. They'll be at Hartford's Infinity Hall on December 14.

In the new film Top Five, Chris Rock plays Andre Allen, a standup comedian who has starred in a series of blockbuster comedies as a catchphrase-spewing character called Hammy the Bear.

When Top Five begins, Allen has given up the Hammy movies, given up drinking and is trying to reshape his career with his new dramatic film about a Haitian slave rebellion. Like Allen, Rock says he has had doubts about his own career.

JJ Georges / Creative Commons

Casting is an underrated art. There used to be an Academy Award for it, and there probably still should be. We honor actors, but not the people who pick the perfect actor for the role, so that actor doesn't have to act quite so much.

"Downton Abbey" is immaculately cast, and the choice of Elizabeth McGovern to play Cora, the Countess of Grantham, seems especially nuanced and inspired. Cora is an American Jew, a transplant to English nobility, who wears all the status and tradition comfortably without fully buying into it. McGovern herself is a transplant, married to a British director for 22 years, long enough to slip effortlessly into Cora's skin.

Foxwoods Resort Casino says it has indefinitely postponed Bill Cosby's concert appearance that was scheduled for January.

A TV comedy Bill Cosby had been developing for NBC has been canceled, after new allegations of rape have been made against the comedian. Netflix made a similar move late Tuesday, shelving a comedy special that had been slated to premiere the week of Thanksgiving.

Updated: 12:22 a.m. ET Friday:

Because of a lack of evidence, prosecutors in New Zealand have dropped a murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd. The Associated Press reports the 60-year-old Rudd had been charged Thursday with trying to arrange two killings. He's still facing charges of threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.

Original Post:

Authorities in New Zealand have charged Phil Rudd, the drummer for the legendary hard rock band AC/DC, with trying to have two men killed.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Carlos Santana has won 10 Grammys and sold more than 100 million records. He has become one of the world's most celebrated musicians, a destiny that was difficult to imagine during his childhood in a small Mexican town. His father, also a musician, was Santana's first teacher, but he really learned his craft playing on the street and in strip clubs in Tijuana.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

It's been 40 years since the release of the Mel Brooks' movie Blazing Saddles. I recently went to an anniversary screening and in the audience was one of the movie's stars: Gene Wilder.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers." (Wikipedia)

Some version of the uncanny valley phenomenon is tangled up in the national freak-out this week over actress Renee Zellweger’s post-nip & tuck coming out party. Of course, the uncanny valley usually flows in the other direction — from the artificial toward the almost-natural. Cosmetic surgery can work in reverse. We almost recognize Renee. It’s so close — but also indubitably the result of manufacture — that we are unsettled by it.

Fashion Icon Oscar De La Renta Dies At 82

Oct 21, 2014
Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET.

Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who designed gowns for first ladies and for Hollywood stars died Monday at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

A statement from de la Renta's stepdaughter and her husband, Eliza Reed Bolen and Alex Bolen, did not give a cause of death, though the designer had been treated for cancer.

Cuban-American actress Elizabeth Peña has died at age 55. She played dramatic roles in movies such as La Bamba and Lone Star and appeared in sitcoms including Modern Family.

Peña died Tuesday after a brief illness at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to her agent.

Cinémathèque Française/San Francisco Silent Film Festival

A long lost, feature-length silent film starring Connecticut actor William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes was discovered earlier this month in France.

In the last 20 years, Prince has gotten more attention for his acrimonious spat with Warner Brothers — and the shenanigans surrounding his name — than for the music he's continued to make. And yet, as a performer, Prince is still undeniable, one of the living best.

Tomorrow in Central Park, Jay-Z will rap, Sting will sing and India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, will talk about the need to end open defecation — that's what they call it when people don't have access to toilets, and it's a huge global problem.

Emmy-winning actress and singer Polly Bergen died at her home in Southbury, Connecticut on Saturday. Bergen played the terrorized wife in the original 1962 film "Cape Fear," and the first woman president in the 1964 film "Kisses for My President." She was 84 years old.

Chion Wolf

Life is full of peculiar ironies and thus, Tom Stoppard, quite possibly the most most dizzyingly proficient writer of the English tongue did not grow up speaking English.  to college. He is, to use his old joke, a bounced check. He grew up in Czechoslovakia and spoke that language until the age of three-and-one half, or perhaps five.

The Sporty Katharine Hepburn

Sep 5, 2014
Courtesy of the Judy Samelson Collection. / The Connecticut Historical Society

Katharine Hepburn relished wearing slacks at a time when most women would never consider such a clothing item as an every-day element of their wardrobes. Although Hepburn’s choices were unusual at the time, the idea of sportswear was becoming more and more popular. American designers began creating clothing made from knits with the primary purpose being comfort, practicality, and ease of movement.  Pants were designed but not widely adopted outside the home, until  Hepburn along with some of her more liberal minded contemporaries made pants chic.

[Note: The audio above is a conversation about the Emmy Awards I had today with Stephen Thompson, my co-panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.]

The Emmys are known for one thing more than any other, and that's repetition. Shows winning four times, actors winning three times — the most likely Emmy winner is always the guy who's already won.

Sure, some of the coverage so far has been about the fear that holding the Emmys on a Monday — and forcing the attendees to compete with weekday traffic — will create havoc. But one way or another, Seth Meyers is hosting the Emmy Awards on Monday night, and there are a few races that will be interesting to watch.

Sunday night, women gave the most memorable performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and Stephen Thompson and I got together to chat about the provocations of Nicki Minaj, the royal Beyonce and more.

You can check out the video of all the performances for yourself, from the triple threat of Ariana Grande, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj to the 16-minute Beyonce-stravaganza that closed the show.

Remembering Jazz Violinist John Blake Jr.

Aug 21, 2014

For decades, John Blake Jr. created a rare role for the violin within the jazz of his eras. A versatile player, he worked memorably with Archie Shepp, Grover Washington Jr., and McCoy Tyner. He released several solo recordings. He taught in conservatories and mentored many outside the classroom.

Blake died Friday, Aug. 15 from complications due to multiple myeloma, according to his family. He was 67.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It has been a busy week in culture. There were the deaths of Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, and the latter death brought up questions about how people behave on social media when an icon passes. Also, he who is tired of sharks is tired of death. But we might be getting tired of sharks!

LA Clippers Sold To Former Microsoft CEO Ballmer

Aug 12, 2014

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. A press release from the NBA says a California court has confirmed the authority of Shelly Sterling to sell the team.

Shelly Sterling had arranged to sell the franchise to Ballmer in May for $2 billion, but her husband, Donald Sterling, sued to block the deal.

Documentarian Robert Drew Dies at 90

Jul 31, 2014

Documentary filmmaker Robert Drew has died at his home in Sharon, Connecticut. A pioneer of the modern documentary, Drew broke new ground with his 1960 political film "Primary" whose subject was John F. Kennedy.

Bruce Szalwinski / Creative Commons

Imagine two people. One of them is named Betsy Kaplan, the other, Betsy F.P.R. Academic studies suggest people, on average, would infer a higher intellectual capacity for Betsy F.P.R. Kaplan and be more likely to admire her and think she made more money than plain old Betsy Kaplan. A middle initial, says the scholarly literature, is basically a free ticket to higher status. 

Which makes it odd that each successive generation is less likely, overall, to use them.