Arts & Culture

Interviews and stories about art, culture, music, books, food / dining and sports.

A downtown section of Birmingham, Ala., including the church where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963, has been declared a national monument by President Obama.

The 16th Street Baptist Church will be the focal point of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park. The bombing, which also injured 22 other people, proved to be a turning point in the civil rights struggle.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Mike Sutter, food critic for the San Antonio Express-News, about his "365 days of Tacos" series, in which he eats at a different taco joint every day for a year. He's done it before, in Austin, where he ate more than 1,600 tacos in 2015. But now he's moved to San Antonio, and he's finding that the taco scene there is a bit different, and in fact is tied to a cultural identity that spans back many decades.

When Otto and Anna Quangel, a middle-aged couple in early '40s Berlin, receive a letter informing them their only son has died in the Battle of France, they take the news with curious resignation. Otto can't even bring himself to open the envelope, leaving his wife alone to process its contents. Their reaction is somewhere between shock and a grim acceptance of the inevitable, and it stands in sharp contrast to a city buoyed by Nazi victories and nationalist propaganda. They've lost their child and they've lost their country, perhaps long before.

Rummage through the many movies that get dumped into distribution in the run-up to Oscars night and you'll often find, amid all the prestige, cinematic awards-bait, a smaller film that's perfectly fine — not great — yet that tells us something consequential about the culture that produced it. That's 100 Streets, a sour-sweet British drama about a bunch of walking-wounded Londoners crossing paths as they struggle through life-crises we all recognize — a marriage on the skids, a longed-for child, an uphill battle to rise above poverty and petty crime.

The firm of Wahlberg and Berg, LLC is a highly specialized one. Patriots Day, an absorbing and detail-rich account of the terrorist bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the four-day manhunt that followed, marks the third time in three years that director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have collaborated to dramatize recent history. (Deepwater Horizon, their thriller about the 2010 Transocean oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, came out all of four months ago.)

When a man vanishes in a Hollywood studio movie, the disappearance is usually the prelude to disclosing a hidden, violent life. But Claire in Motion is an indie domestic drama, so its revelations are less sensational. In fact, they're kind of bland.

Claire (Breaking Bad veteran Betsy Brandt) and Paul (Chris Beetem) are a faculty couple at Ohio University. Their shared surname is Hunger, but Paul is the only one who's been experiencing it.

Free speech advocates see President-elect Trumps's testy relationship with the media and his middle-of-the-night tweets reacting to critics as evidence that he is — at best — insensitive to the First Amendment. And they say one recent controversy, the decision by Simon & Schuster to publish a book by social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, has grown out of an atmosphere that encourages hate speech.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Six years ago, Don Cameron, the general manager of Terranova Ranch, southwest of Fresno, Calif., did something that seemed kind of crazy.

He went out to a nearby river, which was running high because of recent rains, and he opened an irrigation gate. Water rushed down a canal and flooded hundreds of acres of vineyards — even though it was wintertime. The vineyards were quiet. Nothing was growing.

"We started in February, and we flooded grapes continuously, for the most part, until May," Cameron says.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Update:

While most Presidential inaugurations feature performances from high-profile musicians, the upcoming Trump inauguration has thus far been notable for not having such performances booked.

To date, the only solo performer confirmed to perform is 16-year-old Jackie Evancho, who will sing the National Anthem.

The bustling Paris streets were rutted and caked in thick mud, but there was always a breathtaking sight to behold in the shop windows of Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. By 1814, people crowded outside the bakery, straining for a glimpse of the latest confection created by the young chef who worked inside.

Latin American literature has an excellent tradition of short and creepy novels. The leader of the pack is Juan Rulfo's classic Pedro Páramo, set in a town where everybody is dead, but Rulfo is in good company. Chilean masters José Donoso and Roberto Bolaño wrote breathtaking novellas; so have present-day Mexican stars Valeria Luiselli and Carmen Boullosa. And so has the Argentine short story writer Samanta Schweblin, whose first novel, Fever Dream, is an exceptional example of the short-and-creepy form.

If reading more in 2017 was one of your new year's resolutions, Nancy Pearl is here to help. Every once in a while, the Seattle-based librarian sends host Steve Inskeep a big stack of books. They're generally "under-the-radar" reads — titles she thinks deserve more attention than they've been getting.

This year, the stack includes breathtaking thrillers, a multi-generational crime story, an unforgettable family tale, and more. Pearl tells Inskeep why she loves these novels, and why she thinks you will, too.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

Gabriel Otero's family has lived in Tucson, Ariz., for five generations. The region about 70 miles from Mexico has a complicated history. Lots of people have called it home.

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