Instead of you throwing a curve here instead is a fastball, high and hard.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the granddaddy of American poetry; the gray ghost; the big thumper; the barbarian's text with its barbaric yawp; the nation's first truly great mega biblion; the Kosmos; the Civil War witness; the seaside songbook; the irreverent hymnal; the book of the lover; the book of the loafer; the peacemaker; Leaves of Grass.
Stephen Thompson and I are joined this week by our blog siblings Gene Demby and Kat Chow of NPR's Code Switch, which always puts us in an upbeat and playful mood. Fittingly, we take a couple of listener questions this week about youth and play.
It's been nearly 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as he watched America's flag fly over Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. Set to the melody of a popular English tune, it officially became the national anthem in 1931.
But spanning one and a half octaves, America's national song is awfully hard for the average citizen to sing. So NPR went down to the National Mall on Flag Day and asked folks to give it their best shot (without looking up the lyrics, mind you!)
With or without his knighthood, the legendary climber Sir Edmund Hillary stood 6-foot-plus in his stockinged feet and looked a bit like a mountain crag himself. The New Zealand beekeeper — who with his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay was in May 1953 the first to reach the top of Mount Everest — was possessed of a jutting lantern jaw, piercing eyes and an obstinate determination that served this self-described "rough old farm boy" well when holding his own against the posh British leaders who ran the expedition to crest the world's highest peak.
For decades, cop dramas have depicted the South Bronx as the devil's playground. Deliver Us From Evil takes that idea all too literally. But then this slow-witted occult thriller takes everything literally, from the Catholic rite of exorcism to Jim Morrison's shamanic posturing.
The movie is derived from a book of the same name by former NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie, who reportedly came to believe that some of the criminals he faced were literally possessed. Wisely, director and co-scripter Scott Derrickson made the on-screen Sarchie (stolidly intense Eric Bana) a skeptic.
Think of Melissa McCarthy playing Megan in Bridesmaids, and you may first remember her defecating in a sink, or driving a minivan full of stolen puppies, or brazenly propositioning an air marshal. McCarthy stole the show with a talent for profanity and pratfalls, but it's a reflective one-on-one scene playing impromptu life coach to Kristen Wiig's character that solidified her star-making performance. For that scene, she dropped the clownish shtick for a real human moment that made Megan into a character, not just a caricature.
In his five decades as a director, Bernardo Bertolucci has tended toward grand political filmmaking. His movies have generally been set in turbulent times: the rise of fascism in Italy in The Conformist and 1900; the leftist youth movements of the 1960s in Partner and Before the Revolution; the years prior to the Chinese Communist revolution in The Last Emperor — moments when social orders are being overturned.
With the onset of summer comes also a bounty of strawberries. Add to those berries a bit of sugar and plenty of sunlight, and you have a strawberry jam recipe fit for the season's best mornings — with a slice of good toast, of course.
Before writing the poems that make up Hustle, David Tomas Martinez was hustling for a long time. In sidelong verses, he compacts his childhood in the Meadowbrook Houses in San Diego, his teenage years running with a gang, his enlistment in the Navy, and then his eventual escape into the world of poetry — a place he admits sometimes surprises even him.