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Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's radio and online stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions, as well as artistic adventurousness— and awesomeness.

Over the last few years, Ulaby has strengthened NPR's television coverage both in terms of programming and industry coverage and profiled breakout artists such as Ellen Page and Skylar Grey and behind-the-scenes tastemakers ranging from super producer Timbaland to James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features. Her stories have included a series on women record producers, an investigation into exhibitions of plastinated human bodies, and a look at the legacy of gay activist Harvey Milk. Her profiles have brought listeners into the worlds of such performers as Tyler Perry, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Ruffalo, and Courtney Love.

Ulaby has earned multiple fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg as well as a fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism to study youth culture. In addition, Ulaby's weekly podcast of NPR's best arts stories. Culturetopia, won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

Joining NPR in 2000, Ulaby was recruited through NPR's Next Generation Radio, and landed a temporary position on the cultural desk as an editorial assistant. She started reporting regularly, augmenting her work with arts coverage for D.C.'s Washington City Paper.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. Her film reviews and academic articles have been published across the country and internationally. For a time, she edited fiction for The Chicago Review and served on the editing staff of the leading academic journal Critical Inquiry. Ulaby taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in the idyllic Midwestern college towns of Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Picture an angry little ball, covered in spikes, perhaps equipped with arms and legs, and definitely an evil grin. That's how cartoonists and animators are anthropomorphizing Covid-19. Which seems to make the coronavirus unique in our long history of anthropomorphizing diseases.

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One thousand years of Native American women's art is currently traveling around the country, being featured at major museums.

"The whole idea to wipe us off the face of the Earth didn't work," says Anita Fields, an Osage artist in the show. "So we're still very powerfully here."

In a video released by the Pritzker Architecture Prize, commonly seen as the Nobel of the architecture world, the winners look directly into the camera and introduce themselves in soft Irish accents.

The museum faced a docent dilemma.

When Ellen Owens, director of learning and public engagement at the Penn Museum, looked at her pool of docents, she saw a wonderful — and aging — group of largely white people. Docents explain exhibits to visitors and show them around the galleries. Owens thought that having docents from a range of ages and backgrounds might be a good way to connect with more diverse communities who might not otherwise be drawn to the Penn Museum.

The technical wonder of a movie, 1917, could win up to 10 Oscars on Sunday. Filmed to look like a single shot, its view is glued upon two soldiers racing behind enemy lines during the ravages of World War I. This is the second time in recent years that a one-shot film swept up Oscar nominations.

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Singer Marie Fredriksson, who co-founded the hitmaking Swedish pop group Roxette, died yesterday in Sweden. She was 61 years old.

Before she became one of the most recognizable voices of her era, Fredricksson grew up in a tiny village, where her mom was a factory worker and her dad a postman. There wasn't any day care, so he'd take her along while delivering mail and sing to her — the experience was formative.

Robert Evans – the once vice president of production at Paramount who was responsible for critically acclaimed films such as The Godfather parts 1 and 2, Chinatown, and Serpico – died Saturday at the age of 89.

While Evans was known for his string of '70s cinema hits, he was also convicted of cocaine possession in 1980. He detailed his own rise and fall in the industry in his 1994 memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Harold Bloom was a rarity: a best-selling and widely known literary critic. Affectionately dubbed the "King Kong" of criticism, Bloom died Monday at the age of 89, at a hospital in New Haven, Conn., according to his wife,

Over a redoubtable career, Bloom wrote scores of books, edited hundreds more and irritated innumerable intellectuals by arguing, for example, for the superiority of Western literary traditions.

When is it wrong to show cigarette smoking on television, but OK to depict people smoking cannabis products, particularly in programming popular among young teenagers?

It's a genre known for screaming matches, hot-tub hookups and contestants who are there to win, not to make friends. But as of late, reality television has taken a kinder, gentler turn.

The funny, freckled face of Alfred E. Neuman is more or less retiring.

One of the last widely circulated print satirical magazines in America will leave newsstands after this year, according to sources at DC Comics, which publishes MAD magazine.

While the Harvard Lampoon remains in business, The Onion hasn't been in print since 2013. The once-influential Spy was a casualty of the 1990s.

Franco Zeffirelli once said that when the curtain comes up "you have to give the audience a big thing to look at."

The Italian filmmaker and opera director gave audiences plenty to look at — in his lavishly styled operas and his biblical and Shakespearean film adaptations.

Zeffirelli died Saturday in Rome after a long illness. His death was announced on the Foundation of Franco Zeffirelli website. He was 96.

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Screenwriter William Goldman died last night at the age of 87. He's responsible for the scripts for more than 30 movies, including classics like "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" and "The Princess Bride." NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.

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When Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in 1951, her cells were harvested without her knowledge. They became crucial to scientific research and her story became a best-seller. Since then, Lacks has become one of the most powerful symbols for informed consent in the history of science.

On Monday, when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., honored Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks' grandchildren were there.

When Trenton Doyle Hancock was 10 years old, he made up a superhero: Torpedo Boy. The character has become the center of a complicated cosmos Hancock has developed obsessively for more than 30 years. There are drawings, paintings, sculptures — and now, a plush stuffed doll.

"Well, he looks like me," Hancock says. "He's a black guy. His face is basically my face."

Every weekday for more than three decades, his baritone steadied our mornings. Even in moments of chaos and crisis, Carl Kasell brought unflappable authority to the news. But behind that hid a lively sense of humor, revealed to listeners late in his career, when he became the beloved judge and official scorekeeper for Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! NPR's news quiz show.

Kasell died Tuesday from complications from Alzheimer's disease in Potomac, Md. He was 84.

At some point, you or a woman you know has likely looked through a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The book was revolutionary when it was first published in the early 1970s. It taught women about their own anatomy and sexuality at a time when talking frankly about sex was considered — well, unladylike.

Bal Krishna is the name sometimes given to the young Hindu god Krishna. Balkrishna Doshi was named for him, when he was born in 1927.

"They wanted me to remain young," the 90-year-old architect explains, as he bursts into peals of laughter.

Doshi is the newest winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, known as the Nobel for architects.

Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever nominated for an Oscar in cinematography.

"I can't believe I am the first," she says. "It's really kind of crazy!"

It was her lensing on Mudbound that earned her this recognition, but Morrison also served as director of photography for the massive blockbuster Black Panther. Being a DP means you're in charge of all the cameras, everyone who operates them, the electricity on set and the look of the entire film.

Here's a serious pop culture conundrum. Why are we still so obsessed with zombies?

Maybe you've seen the movies World War Z and 28 Days Later and the TV series iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet. Or maybe you've read Zone One by Pulitzer-winning author Colson Whitehead or Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Haven't you had enough of zombies over the last decade?

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The California woman who was the most likely model for Rosie the Riveter has died. If you'll remember, Rosie was the apple-cheeked icon who helped inspire the American workforce during World War II.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROSIE THE RIVETER")

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On a sunny weekday afternoon, chef Bonnie Morales leads me past the Q subway line in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. We are going shopping for Russian food.

Morales owns Kachka, a restaurant in Portland, Ore., that serves food from the former Soviet Union. It's one of the most popular places to eat in one of the hottest food cities in the country.

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Would you like a little distraction? There's a new movie that's being described as one of the most over-the-top samurai movies ever made.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWORD BATTLE)

At a Halloween happy hour recently in Washington, D.C., a small crowd gathered to celebrate the relationship between bats and spirits.

Not spooky spirits. Instead, think tequila and mescal.

"We're here at a bar tonight to talk about [bats], because they are intimately tied to agave," announced Mike Daulton, the executive director of Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit devoted to the well-being of bats.

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