The early Beach Boys story is pretty well known: The three Wilson brothers — Brian, Carl and Dennis — were music-crazy, and lived near the Pacific in Hawthorne, Calif. Dennis loved surfing; egged on by their father Murry, a failed musician, they made a record in 1962 with one of their cousins, Mike Love, and a friend, Al Jardine.
A batch of internal documents recently leaked to The Guardian has revealed new insights into the goals and finances of the secretive group called ALEC. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a group that brings together state legislators and representatives of corporations. Together, they develop model bills that lawmakers introduce and try to pass in their state legislatures.
There's an unforgettable moment in the diary of the great Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. He's on the beach and he spots a beetle that's been blown on its back by the wind and now lies there helplessly, legs wiggling, unable to right itself. Gombrowicz saves it by turning it over. He sees another upside-down beetle, and turns it over. Then, another. Looking along the sand, he realizes that there are so many beetles he can't possibly save them all. Eventually, he gives up trying.
This is FRESH AIR. At 44, the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann may be the most popular tenor of his generation and one of the most versatile. Music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two of his recordings this year, dedicated to both Verdi and Wagner, celebrating the bicentennials of their birth.
In the opening chapter of her latest book, novelist Delia Ephron writes that losing her older sister, writer Nora Ephron, was like "losing an arm, it's that deranging." Nora, who wrote When Harry Met Sally, died of acute myeloid leukemia in June 2012. Delia and Nora were writing partners; they co-wrote the movies You've Got Mail and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as well as the off-Broadway hit Love, Loss and What I Wore. Delia was an assistant producer on Nora's film Sleepless in Seattle.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
On Monday, HBO presents the premiere of Six by Sondheim, a new TV special that's part biography, part music-appreciation lesson and part performance piece. It's all about the life and music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, in which he explains, among many other things, how and why he became a musical theater composer and lyricist, and the inspirations for some of his most familiar songs. If you're new to the works of Stephen Sondheim, this TV special should entice you. If you're already a fan, it should delight you.
The films of Joel and Ethan Coen pose a challenge: How do we reconcile their wildly disparate tones? Consider O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a burlesque of Homer's Odyssey centering on three stumblebums — but with a soundtrack assembled by T Bone Burnett of heartfelt historical gospel and country music. Ditto The Ladykillers: venal idiot characters, soaring African-American spirituals. The ridiculous and the sublime sit side by side, with no spillover.
Sondheim, shown here in 1974, won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. He has also received eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy awards and a Kennedy Center Honor.
Sondheim (left) wrote the lyrics for West Side Story; classical-music superstar Leonard Bernstein (center) was the composer, Jerome Robbins the director and choreographer. The story of the show's genesis is told in the special NPR series 50 Years of West Side Story.
Credit Staff/Hulton Archives / Getty Images
Zero Mostel starred as Pseudolus in the bawdy farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The musical was the first to feature Sondheim's music and lyrics.
Some years ago, I wrote a poem called "Why I Love Vermeer," which ends "I've never lived in a city without a Vermeer." I could say that until 1990, when Vermeer's exquisite painting The Concert was one of the masterpieces stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It's still missing.
A lot of what we think we know about interrogation tactics comes from television and movies. Above (from left), Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Robert Young appear in a scene from the 1947 film Crossfire.
Credit Courtesy of Douglas Starr
Starr is the author of The Killer of Little Shepherds and Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce. He co-directs the Program in Science Journalism at Boston University
Credit Shannon Kingery / AP
Darrel Parker spent years in prison after falsely confessing to the murder of his wife in 1955. When he was finally exonerated in his 80s, he said, "At least now I can die in peace."
Steve Lacy used to say that the right partner can help you make music you couldn't get to by yourself. Take the quartet William Parker founded in 2000, for example. Parker's bass tone was always sturdy as a tree trunk, but power drummer Hamid Drake gives him lift. The upshot is that free jazz can swing, too. The quartet's front line is another firm partnership: quicksilver alto saxophonist Rob Brown and flinty trumpeter Lewis Barnes.
This summer, I hit one of life's great milestones: I became a person who posts baby pictures on the Internet. A lot of them.
Our son was born in August, and I have already taken 15,000 pictures of him, hundreds that I want to share with our family and close friends, and a few dozen that I might want to show colleagues and acquaintances. But how?
In theory, we're in a golden age of photo sharing. There are literally dozens of ways to share photos with friends now. But with the new capabilities of the Internet come new and distinctly contemporary problems.
Gold is assumed to have eternal, inherent value, but what makes it valuable? And what determines its value now that it's no longer the basis of our currency? In the book Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal, journalist Matthew Hart examines the new gold rush driven by investors. He travels to gold mines — including the Mponeng mine in South Africa, where he descended into the deepest man-made hole on Earth — and investigates why gold and crime sometimes go hand in hand.