Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 4:55 pm
One doesn't necessarily associate spring travel with heavy reading. For one, books are bulky luggage, the weighty enemies of economical packers; even an e-reader takes up precious space in one's overflowing duffel. And two, escapist migration to mountaintops or flowery fields or seaside locales for sun worship and meditative communion with nature connotes a markedly book-free environment, an escape from the office or the solemn halls of academe.
For more than 20 years, the indie-pop group The Magnetic Fields has been singing songs about love, though not always in the traditional sense. With a style that ranges from bitter to sincere to ironic, Stephin Merritt — the group's frontman, writer and producer — has created a growing cast of characters surviving love's vicissitudes.
In his characteristic deadpan, Merritt tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that he owes the inspiration for many of those characters to a particular ritual of his.
In 2009, jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez showed up in Laredo, Texas, with only a suitcase, some sheet music and one aim: to collaborate with Quincy Jones. A Cuban seeking amnesty in the U.S., Rodriguez ended up arrested by Mexican border officials. He says they questioned him for hours and demanded money.
These days it can take a village to create a child. Technology means someone who never thought they'd be able to conceive can use a sperm donor, an egg donor and a surrogate — a woman who bears a child for someone else. But the law has not kept pace with technology, and with so many people involved, a key question remains: Who is a legal parent?
After a financial bailout earlier this year, fees in Portugal's health system have risen substantially. As a result, nongovernmental organizations say, the poor and elderly in Western Europe's poorest country can no longer afford essential care. Some Portuguese fear that austerity measures are threatening not only their livelihoods, but their lives.
Alfredo Silva, 67, showed up at an anti-austerity protest in Lisbon last month dressed as a skeleton. He says the costume shows the effect of Portugal's $100 billion bailout on retirees like him.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 7:14 am
North Korea this week quite literally demonstrated an old truism, with the world as an anxious witness. It turns out that reaching space is, as the saying goes, as tough as rocket science.
The much hyped launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea said was meant to place a satellite into orbit to celebrate the centenary of the country's "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, apparently failed Friday shortly after launch. It was the fourth time North Korea had tried and failed to do it, adding to the growing worldwide history of failed rocket launches.
In a new book, Relics: Travels in Nature's Time Machine, Harvard entomologist and photographer Piotr Naskrecki documents his travels, from New Guinea to New Zealand and beyond, looking for organisms whose genes can tell us something about conditions on Earth millions of years ago.
When M. Night Shyamalan's fantasy film The Last Airbender — panned by both critics and fans of the wildly popular TV series on which it was based — flopped majestically at the box office, it looked like the end of a valuable franchise.
But now, with The Legend of Korra, which premieres Saturday on Nickelodeon, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender have been given a rare chance to rebuild a world that was taken away from them.
Imagine an era when mainstream music wasn't filled with synthesizers. When electronic music wasn't a force propelling everything from pop and hip-hop to music from the underground. There was a time when this world existed. Then Kraftwerk emerged, and the world we knew changed.