Mitt Romney was on CNN not long ago defending the claims in his campaign ads — "We've been absolutely spot on," he said. Politics aside, the expression had me doing an audible roll of my eyes. I've always associated "spot on" with the type of Englishman who's played by Terry-Thomas or John Cleese, someone who pronounces "yes" and "ears" in the same way — "eeahzz." It shows up when people do send-ups of plummy British speech. "I say — spot on, old chap!"
Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 12:21 pm
Mention the name Rick Riordan to adults, and they might say, "Huh?" But kids? They know. Riordan has been burning up the best-seller lists with three different series of books that all feature modern-day kids entangled in the lives of ancient gods. The Red Pyramid — the December pick of NPR's Backseat Book Club — features a brother and sister who have no idea they are descended from age-old sorcerers until their archaeologist father accidentally unleashes ancient gods into modern society.
Skeletons: Skeleton imagery pervades this holiday. In pre-Columbian times, the Day of the Dead was celebrated in August. It now takes place on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, coinciding with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
Credit Karen Castillo FarfÃ¡n / NPR
Credit Karen Castillo Farfán / NPR
Altar: Altars are used to welcome the ancestors' spirits into the home. It is also practice to visit the ancestral burial ground to celebrate with picnics and music.
Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 3:19 pm
Sugar skulls, tamales, and spirits (the alcoholic kind) — these are things you might find on homemade altars to entice those who've passed to the other side back for a visit. The altars, built in homes and around tombstones, are for Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a tradition originating in central Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2.
Richard Russo sits in his elderly mother's home, holding her hand. She's just been diagnosed with dementia, one more illness to add to the long list of ailments she's been battling for years. She wonders aloud whether she'll ever be able to read again, plainly scared at the prospect of a life without her favorite hobby. She takes a look around her small apartment, and tells her son that she hates it.
"I just wish you could be happy, Mom," he says, heartbroken. "I used to be," she responds. "I know you don't believe that, but I was."
Think of the smallest kitchen you can imagine, and then take away a few square feet. That's Deb Perelman's New York kitchen. It's so small that the blogger, and now author, literally has to wedge herself between the stove and the refrigerator to cook.
Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 11:51 am
Mark Danielewski is the author of The Fifty Year Sword.
When I was 12, the movie was forbidden. What my parents matter-of-factly declared too scary, friends confirmed with added notes of hysteria: "Nothing more terrifying!" "The most horrifying film ever made!" "People pass out!"
In Provo, Utah, where I grew up, Mormon children — and in my world that meant all of my friends — reported how just a glimpse resulted in actual, irreversible possession.
A friend of mine — whose opinion is shared by hosts of viewers — has griped about Lena Dunham and the fame ofGirls and its cast members: "Everybody talks like they're the voice of our 'lost generation,'" she said. "But their parents are all famous people." In other words, the complaint goes, the extent of the Girls cast's success comes from the connections available to them.
As Gemma, the fierce matriarch of the biker gang in the FX series Sons of Anarchy, Katey Sagal has shot and killed people, hit somebody with a skateboard, pulled a gun on a baby and done other horrible things. It's all part of the challenge of playing the character, Sagal says.
"She does things in the name of loyalty, which I relate to, but she goes way beyond anything I would do."