Arts

Arts and culture

I first noticed it in a neighborhood of Boston aptly called the "Innovation District." On a crumbling corner of an old brick building, there was a gaping hole created by about 15 missing clay bricks, filled in with about 500 Lego blocks.

I was determined to find out who the artist was.

"I don't know!" I was told by folks working in the building. Their property manager had no clue, nor did the people at Lego. "If you hear, let us know," said brand relations manager Amanda Santoro.

"Ca nous fait swinguer" — love that swing, says an aficionado at the Dakar Goree Jazz Festival as the tempo shifts from Senegalese jazz to salsa and blues. Aissatou Niang says she's enchanted and delighted with the performances.

Other festivalgoers concur, smiling. They're attending the second edition of a burgeoning jazzfest in Dakar last month that brought together musicians from Senegal, the U.S. and beyond.

The festival is the brainchild of Amadou Koly Niang, a Senegalese man who fell in love with jazz in his teens.

Historians hailed U.S. President Obama's visit to Cuba as the beginning of a new relationship between the two countries. But for hundreds of thousands of Cubans, the real thrill this week was the visit of some prominent Brits: The Rolling Stones.

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The book that put the plays of William Shakespeare into print for the very first time, nearly 400 years ago, is on display now at the Seattle Public Library. Many historians believe without it, we would not know about half of Shakespeare’s plays. KPLU’s Ed Ronco went to take a look, and he enlisted some help.

Lots of people are fuming about Nina, an upcoming biopic about legendary singer Nina Simone. According to its critics, the filmmakers butcher important parts of Simone's biography (in part, by attributing much of her success to the men in her life), but that their larger sin was casting actress Zoe Saldana, who plays the lead role with the help of skin-darkening makeup and a prosthetic nose.

This week the world's been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.

With Beauty And Wonder, 'The Winged Histories' Soars

Mar 16, 2016

In Sofia Samatar's World Fantasy Award-winning debut novel A Stranger in Olondria, she introduced an empire redolent with magic and rife with turmoil. Olondria is one of the richest new fantasy settings in recent memory, and Samatar has returned to it in The Winged Histories. Like the book before it, Histories deals with the way language, books, and romance intersect with class, politics, and religion — and it does so in an ornate, dreamlike atmosphere.

Chances are, if you've seen a Kelly Reichardt film, it would be Wendy and Lucy, a small, languorous, utterly heartbreaking 2008 drama with a big star, Michelle Williams, as a young homeless woman trying to make her way to the Pacific Northwest with her beloved dog. Wendy and Lucy is an art film with a delirious sense of place, but it's also a road movie, and far from Reichardt's first. One way or another, every extreme indie she makes pays sly, ardent homage to genre.

The eccentric middle-aged cat lady has met the vintage-loving hipsters. Hello, My Name Is Doris stars Sally Field as a woman whose attraction to a much younger man leads her on a journey into young-adult circles, where she is celebrated for her "unique style" — at least until someone has the guts to tell her what ironic appreciation means.

I'd already been thinking a lot about George Martin. I've spent the last year writing a book about the songs that changed the lives of musicians, and in the introductory chapter I offer my own selection. "A Day in the Life," by The Beatles, changed the way I think about music. It's a song George Martin, who died on Tuesday at the age of 90, had a clear hand in.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There’s a lot of angst about Seattle’s growing tech sector these days, with people blaming it for everything from rising rents to congested streets. But comedian Bridget Quigg has found plenty of absurdities in what she calls "Techlandia."

That's the title of her one-woman comedy show, which she's performing at Seattle's Theater Schmeater this week.

Beatles fans around the world are paying tribute to the group's longtime producer, Sir George Martin, who died Tuesday at age 90.

Paul McCartney said in a statement, "The world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music." George Martin also left a lasting mark on the art of record production.

Whether horns or harpsichord, so many of the embellishments you hear on the Beatles' songs came from Martin. He wasn't just a good producer, says Grammy-winning producer Nigel Godrich.

"The Native American wizarding community was particularly gifted in animal and plant magic, its potions in particular being of a sophistication beyond much that was known in Europe."

That's what J.K. Rowling writes in the first of a four-part essay series, collectively called History of Magic in North America. "The most glaring difference between magic practised by Native Americans and the wizards of Europe was the absence of a wand."

Perhaps you first heard the name Esperanza Spalding in 2011, when an award that many were calling an easy win for Justin Bieber instead went to an eclectic young bass player, singer and composer.

Late Thursday evening, Kendrick Lamar crept back into our lives like a thief in the night. With his new album untitled unmastered., Lamar and his label Top Dawg Entertainment offer us a look at the steps it took to get to his fully formed magnum opus — 2015's To Pimp A Butterfly — and show us that they can stop the world when they feel like it.

From M'Lynn Eatenton in Steel Magnolias to Mary Todd in Lincoln, Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field doesn't shy away from taking on emotionally charged and challenging roles.

All of these characters become a part of her in a sense. "They stay in me and they have always changed me in some way," Field tells NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

Now, playing a woman in her late 60s with some borderline personality issues for her latest film, Hello, My Name Is Doris, part of Doris is already in Field.

Novelist Pat Conroy, who announced last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, has died, according to a statement from his publisher. Conroy was 70.

He announced his diagnosis on Facebook almost three weeks ago, saying "I intend to fight it hard."

Today's statement from Todd Doughty, executive director of publicity at Doubleday included comments from Conroy's wife and his longtime editor:

NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with Frannie Kelley of NPR Music's podcast Microphone Check about Kendrick Lamar's untitled unmastered. You can hear their conversation at the audio link.


Hip-hop fans received a surprise Thursday night: an unexpectedly released project from Kendrick Lamar called untitled unmastered.

First, it's not really black. It's not even a color or a pigment. "Vantablack" is a "material," according to Surrey NanoSystems, the British company that created it.

Jack White stopped by the season finale of The Muppets this week, injecting some of his raw blues rock into the show.

Havana will meet the Rolling Stones later this month.

The band has announced they'll play a free open-air concert in the Cuban capital on March 25.

That will make them "the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution," the Associated Press reports.

Host Chris Rock made sure Sunday's Oscars were about as black as they could be, given that no black people had been nominated in any high-profile categories.

Of course, Rock brought the pain, as he always does, in a razor-sharp monologue skewering sensibilities on all sides of the #OscarsSoWhite debate. And his comedy bits throughout the show kept up a steady drumbeat, reminding audiences in the hall and at home just who had been left behind.

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