Born in New Orleans and still in his mid-20s, Frank Ocean has already written songs for major pop stars. He sang on the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne, and he's been part of the tumultuous Los Angeles musical collective known as Odd Future. None of which quite prepares a listener for the beautifully moody music that dominates his new album, Channel Orange.
In the novel What Happened to Sophie Wilder, writer Charlie Blakeman runs into his former college love after 10 years and finds out that she has converted to Catholicism. Charlie can't make sense of her conversion, but as he finds out more about Sophie's past, he sees her life is more complicated than he previously thought. When Sophie once again disappears, Charlie sets out to discover what has happened to her.
Although Ai Weiwei's art is internationally recognized, much of his worldwide fame comes from his political activism in China. The latter is the focus of Alison Klayman's documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.
A couple of months ago, I visited Beijing, and like so many before me, I was stunned by how hypercapitalist Communist China has become — the hundreds of glossy highrises, the countless shops selling Prada and Apple, the traffic jams filled with brand new Audis. You felt you could be in L.A. or Tokyo — until you wanted some information. Then you discovered that Facebook was permanently blocked, certain words in Google searches always crashed your browser, and, as my wife joked, it was easier to buy a Rolls-Royce than a real newspaper. Here was a country at once booming — and repressive.
Four years ago, a Vatican group called "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" began an assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a member organization founded in 1956 that represents 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States. The assessment was designed to take a careful look at whether the nuns were acting in accordance with the teachings of the church.
In The Twilight War, government historian David Crist outlines the secret history of America's 30-year conflict with Iran. The book, based on interviews with hundreds of officials as well as classified military archives, details how the covert war has spanned five American presidential terms and repeatedly threatened to bring the two nations into open warfare.
Crist tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that there have been several incidents that have almost resulted in battle over the past 30 years.
Sometimes it's small government you need to keep your eye on. Take Middleborough, Mass., whose town meeting recently imposed a $20 fine for swearing in public. According to the police chief, the ordinance was aimed at the crowds of unruly teenagers who gathered downtown at night yelling profanities at people, not just someone who slams a finger in a car door. But whatever the exact idea was, nobody thought it was a good one.
There's enough DNA in the human body to stretch from the sun to Pluto and back. But don't confuse DNA with your genes, says writer Sam Kean.
"They are sort of conflated in most people's minds today but they really are distinct things," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Genes are like the story and DNA is the language that the story is written in."
As a child, astronomer Jill Tarter would walk along the beaches of western Florida with her father and look up at the stars.
"I assumed, at that time, that along some beach on some planet, there would be a small creature walking with its dad and they would see our sun in their sky, and they might wonder whether anyone was there," she tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "But I never thought about it professionally until graduate school."
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Aaron Sorkin: The Writer Behind 'The Newsroom': HBO's new behind-the-anchor-desk drama follows in the footsteps of Sorkin's hit series The West Wing. "I like writing about heroes that don't wear capes or disguises," he says.
Many jazz musicians, the kind who wear jackets and ties on stage, are often carelessly referred to as playing bebop. In reality most of them are post-boppers, who build on that dynamic style that burst forth after World War II, without bringing it back in pure form. It's the rare modernist who gets an authentic bebop sound on alto saxophone, who catches some of the raw explosiveness and rapid-fire grace of jazz god Charlie Parker. And then there's Jesse Davis.