Arts & Culture

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

Hot summers can devastate canola farmers. Prolonged heat waves can leave behind fields of fallen, shattered oilseed pods and destroy vast amounts of the crop. Why canola (oilseed rape) seedpods disintegrate rapidly in prolonged heat blasts has been something of a mystery, but a new study suggests rising temperatures trigger a genetic cascade in the plant that leads to premature fruit development.

Brand new portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama — wearing matching calm, strong expressions — were revealed on Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Kehinde Wiley painted Barack Obama sitting in a chair, elbows in his knees, leaning forward with an intense expression. The background, typical of a Wiley painting, is a riotous pattern of intense green foliage.

"Pretty sharp," Obama said with a grin.

The year is 3089. The world looks something like that scene from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where society meditates on the most outstanding music of a singular artist. But instead of smoove Van Halen licks, it's The Body, the extreme doom-metal duo who, by this point, have downloaded their brains into cyborgs.

If your mom's favorite telenovela met The Love Witch, the resulting TV movie would be La Luz's video for "Cicada." After 2015's Charles Burns-inspired Weirdo Shrine, "Cicada" is the first single off the L.A. band's upcoming album Floating Features, and builds on its noir foundations with a sunny edge.

On a recent Sunday night at the Lodge Room, a Masonic temple turned music venue in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, salsa and cumbia music wafted down from the second-floor concert hall. Over the stairs, gold mylar balloons spelled out the words "Quince Night."

You can hear the hum of the speaker, buzzing from a quiet bass line. You move closer to the riff; it beckons with mysterious portent like a smoking cauldron... and then the pot spills, the riff wobbling in distorted frequencies, a heavy hand on the organ and a voice singing a spooky fairytale. It's too late, you've met the "Three Sisters."

In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — two Jewish kids from Cleveland who were reading the alarming news coming out of Europe — created precisely the hero necessary to put things right: an impossibly strong and nigh-invulnerable paragon of virtue and butt-kicking they called Superman. He could have ended Hitler's advance with a snap of his fingers — and he definitely would have, if only he weren't a creature of pure fantasy.

When author Judy Blume first broached topics like puberty and adolescent sexuality in her writing, it was long before those questions could be asked in a quick Google search.

Yet for those who read her now, her tales of adolescence remain modern – so much so that many of her young readers are surprised to learn Blume's books aren't brand new.

"They don't know that I wrote them generations ago. They think I wrote them yesterday for them, for the most part," Blume, who turns 80 on Monday, tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

Back in January, in honor of Valentine's Day, Morning Edition announced a love poem request line: Send us your memories of love and relationships, and author Kwame Alexander will find a poem that captures that feeling.

We got more than 600 heartfelt, moving responses. You shared stories of being smitten and stories of betrayal; stories of parental love and of love between empty nesters.

And, of course, there's at least one love letter to a dog.

Marlon Williams is a handsome devil with a heart-stopping voice, who writes songs about vampires and horror films. This 27-year old, New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based singer is also a teller of tales.

Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood megaproducer accused of sexual harassment and assault dating back decades, has been slapped with a civil rights lawsuit by New York's attorney general. Eric Schneiderman announced the suit Sunday, saying his office has sued not only Weinstein, but also his brother, Robert, and The Weinstein Company.

She says she was born doing it. He says a schoolboy crush got him interested. Years later, their mutual love for their shared art form has brought them critical acclaim, awards, magazine covers — and each other.

Jerry Bergman is sitting in the audience at a Broadway matinée performance of The Band's Visit. Despite the fact that a huge sign above the stage tells the audience — in English, Hebrew and Arabic — to turn off cellphones, Bergman is keeping his on so he can read closed captions while watching the show.

He is one of an estimated 48 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss. And he is availing himself of new technology that allows deaf and hearing-impaired people to enjoy shows with something most people have in their pocket — a smartphone.

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