Arts & Culture

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

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Riveting 'Obelisk Gate' Shatters The Stillness

Aug 18, 2016

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in a trilogy that makes me forget everything people say about second books in trilogies. By rights it should be full of the things we forgive middle books: necessary stalling; development of characters less interesting than in the first volume but nevertheless plot-critical; all the weary setup of scaffolding from which to launch the finale.

Next-generation hot dogs and hamburgers may come with an unusual ingredient: seaweed. That's the goal of a group of scientists trying to make these red-meat-rich, unhealthful foods more healthful by adding nutrient-packed seaweed, a staple in Japanese and other Asian cuisines.

There are plenty of Civil War museums in Gettysburg, Pa., but none of them recreate the drama of the battlefield quite like the Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum.

It boasts a collection of dioramas — miniature models of important Civil War battles — painstakingly sculpted by Rebecca Brown and her twin sister, Ruth. The stars of the exhibits are the tiny clay soldiers — nearly 2,000 of them. They're less than an inch tall and meticulously detailed right down to the patches on their blue and gray uniforms.

In the 1500s, an Italian scientist named Giambattista della Porta made a discovery near and dear to many a frozen dessert lover's heart: By mixing salt and snow, you could lower the melting point of ice.

Della Porta used this discovery to freeze wine in a glass of salt and ice. Specifically, he took a vial of wine, added a dash of water and immersed it in a wooden bucket full of snow mixed with saltpeter, then turned the vial round and round. The saltpeter made the snow colder than it would have been otherwise, allowing the wine inside the vial to freeze.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Anyone who has ventured into a third wave coffee shop like Stone Creek or Colectivo, can tell you: There’s a million ways to brew a cup of coffee. There’s the french press, the moka pot, those ever-popular pour overs - the list goes on and on.

www.jhardin.net

You might have heard the music of singer-songwriter J. Hardin before, but you probably wouldn't have known it. Hardin wrote and performed for years under a pseudonym, Everett Thomas. His new album, "The Piasa Bird" is the first he released with his own name attached to it.

"What I'm writing about is a search for kind of an inner truth that I'm trying to find, so it seemed a bit silly to be wearing this mask of something else," Hardin explains.

Distilling The Story Of California Wine, One Label At A Time

Aug 17, 2016

For the first half of the 20th century, nobody would have ever compared the wines of California's Napa Valley to the great wines of France.

"It's amazing when you think about it," says Amy Azzarito, online strategist at the University of California, Davis, library. "California wines were a joke for a long time. And they're not anymore."

In the romance world we love to say that the RITAs are the Oscars of romance — a fitting comparison not only in terms of prestige but also, unfortunately, in terms of representation. Out of the more than 90 RITA finalists this year, only five have protagonists who aren't white. The good — and bad news — is that this is actually an improvement over past years.

Twentieth century painter Romaine Brooks introduces herself in a 1923 self-portrait: She wears a narrowly cut, long, black riding jacket with a white blouse. She has short cropped hair, and her eyes are shadowed by a black high hat. There's the slightest smudge of maybe pink on her lips — otherwise the whole portrait is black and various shades of gray.

In Teju Cole's writing, everything is fair game. Politics, poetry, music — even Snapchat.

He roams between time periods, genres and media, drawing unexpected parallels, and his latest book, Known and Strange Things, is a collection of his essays written for publications like The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

Sue Zumberge of Subtext Books in St. Paul, Minn., shares her favorite books for summer reading: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard and Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova.

Jace Clayton circles the globe looking for new sounds, from home studios in Morocco to teen parties in Mexico. Performing as DJ /rupture, he incorporates them into his work — and in his travels, he's found that digital technology has profoundly changed how music is produced, even in the most unlikely places.

That's the subject of his new book, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture. He joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about it; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

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