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Scott Simon

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, "the blob" is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

George R.R. Martin has sold more than 90 million books around the world. He has written all kinds of things, but of course, he's best known for his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire — which was adapted into HBO's Game of Thrones. His fans are impatient, even demanding, for him to finish the next installment. The most recent, A Dance with Dragons, appeared more than eight years ago.

Cokie Roberts was fierce and funny, hard-nosed and kindhearted. She was steeped in politics, as the daughter of two Louisiana pols, Hale and Lindy Boggs, and enjoyed the game. But she also elevated politics with her elegant reporting.

Cokie wasn't fooled by the blather of politicians, but also wasn't smug about journalism. We covered a few primaries and papal trips together, and Cokie used to caution young reporters with preconceptions, "Stories are so simple until you actually cover them."

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed some of the agency's top surveillance programs, has a memoir slated to hit shelves Tuesday.

Permanent Record is part coming-of-age-with-the-Internet story, part spy tale and — his critics might say — an attempt to try to justify betraying his country.

Dr. Carrie Jurney is on the board of an online organization that works to prevent suicides. It's called Not One More Vet.

This isn't a mental health support group for veterans — it's for veterinarians.

Margaret Atwood has written a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale — that sentence alone will move millions of readers to buy the book ASAP.

The final act of that book, published in 1985, saw its unnamed heroine Offred (at least, that wasn't her real name), step off the pages and into the unknown.

The new book is The Testaments, and it returns us, 15 years later, to the fictional totalitarian theocracy of Gilead, with its Handmaids, Marthas, Wives, Commanders and Aunts.

Joanna Schroeder started getting worried when her sons were coming to her with loaded questions.

"One of my kids said: If you can be trans and just decide what you are then how come you can't just decide to be a penguin?" said Schroeder, a writer and mother of two sons and a daughter, in an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

Dr. Julie Rickard thought her visit to Wisconsin over the Christmas holiday would bring a break from her day job working in suicide prevention in Wenatchee, Wash.

The visit didn't go as planned. After a tense fight broke out between her mother and another family member, everyone dispersed. Rickard readied herself for the trip back to the Pacific Northwest.

At the airport, she received a call from her mother, Sheri Adler. This was not out of the ordinary — Adler, like many adoring mothers, always calls her daughter after parting ways.

The California condor, North America's largest bird, once ruled the American Southwest and California's coastal mountains. The vulture-like bird was revered by Native Americans and was believed to contain spiritual powers.

Hundreds of years later, its future seemed all but certain. Defying odds, conservation efforts brought the species back and prevented it from joining the dodo in extinction.

Now, condor reintroduction celebrates a milestone: Chick No. 1,000 has hatched.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Louis Armstrong has served as the focus of many works of literature. Now, a few seconds of old film that appear to feature Armstrong as a teenage boy have captivated jazz journalist James Karst. If Karst's theory is correct, the clip from 1915 shows Armstrong at a turning point in his early life — years before he became famous and eventually legendary around the world.

Why don't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? The P is silent.

I'm a father. I tell dad jokes.

See that farmer? A man outstanding in his field.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large of Merriam-Webster, defined dad jokes for us as "an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny."

Did you see that documentary about beavers? What a great dam show ...

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Craig Ferguson is in his upper 50s, and it's a small — maybe not so small — kind of a miracle that between drinking, drugs, and hard general hard living, he's around, and a quarter-century sober, to write this book.

Riding the Elephant is a series of reflections on what he's learned along the road of being a comic and a drummer in Scotland, a bouncer in New York, stints on American TV shows, including The Late Late Show, meeting Princess Diana, and all 12 steps of recovery.

On April 19, 1775, the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired on the Lexington, Mass. town green. No one knows for sure who fired the shot, but when British soldiers heard it, they panicked. The red coats fired at members of the local militia, killing eight and wounding 10. With that, the Revolutionary War had begun.

The Seychelles magpie-robin is about 9 inches long, with inky blue-black feathers, and white patches along its wings. There may be only 200 or so of these beguiling birds in the world, all in forests of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa.

It is alarming to think of just a few birds left of a single species, isolated and fragile. It seems as if a sudden storm, or a rampant sickness, could extinguish them.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Margaret Trudeau married Pierre Trudeau, the 15th prime minister of Canada, when she was 22. He was 51. That marriage came apart — publicly, spectacularly — as she made public rounds with rockers, actors and other celebrities.

There has never been a better name for a person than Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick. She died this week, at the age of 35.

Charity was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension when she was a young opera singer in Europe. She had two double lung transplants in the past 10 years, flatlined twice, sank into comas, suffered innumerable close calls and lights-blinking, horn-blaring intensive care unit emergencies, only to always to come roaring back with rekindled energy and sunny grace — to sing and to shine.

It's been used by brands such as American Airlines, Panasonic and Toyota. It's all over the signage in the New York City subway system. Even Google, Apple and Netflix used it for a time.

Helvetica is ubiquitous around the world, but despite its popularity, the typeface has some issues: letters scrunch together at small sizes and the space between them can be uneven.

Now, after 36 years, the widely used — and widely controversial — font is getting a makeover.

An art show opens in El Paso today. It's what they call a "multi-sensory exhibit" that includes works like a chapel, cut from cardboard, surrounded by trees and hedges spun from yarn, with Popsicle stick church pews and crosses. There are many images of bright birds, cooing in trees; and a looming volcano, smoking over a bright, cheery town.

In season six of HBO's Veep, Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, made some pretty dramatic decisions — she chooses to run for president to get a second shot at working in the Oval Office.

In the process, she walks away from a chance at true love due to her belief that her relationship with Qatari ambassador Mohammed Al Jaffar, a Muslim man, could harm her campaign.

We may all wonder if we would act with courage in the face of catastrophe, emergency, or evil.

Michel Bacos was captain of Air France Flight 139 on June 27, 1976, with more than 240 passengers and 12 crew, when it took off from Tel Aviv for Paris, with a stop in Athens. About eight minutes after takeoff from Athens, Captain Bacos heard screams and commotion.

Fresh waves of grief have hit the communities of Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn., after recent news of more deaths.

On Monday, the father of a girl who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting died by apparent suicide, and last week, two students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took their own lives.

Charlotte Lehman could hear the man reading his credit card number out loud from across the Starbucks.

He was speaking to a companion, but his voice carried over the music to where Lehman sat. Surrounded by a dozen or so people, the speaker also divulged his phone number a­­nd home address.

After that, all it took for Lehman to identify him was a quick Google search. She was able to find the man's full name, what he does for a living and his professional website. She even heard him sharing a password.

When high school senior and wrestler Brendan Johnston realized he had to face Jaslynn Gallegos, a high school senior, and Angel Rios, a high school junior, in last month's Colorado state wrestling championship, he knew his shot at a state title was over.

Johnston refused to compete against Rios and Gallegos because they are both girls.

Gallegos went on to place fifth in that tournament, and Rios was fourth — marking the first time girls have placed at a Colorado state wrestling tournament.

Arthur Dubois isn't your typical grandfather. That's because at 72 years old, the Chicago resident is a newly discovered hip-hop artist.

This week, Dubois walked into Haven Studios, a music mentoring program on the South Side of Chicago that supports young aspiring artists.

The owner of Haven Studios, Andre "Add-2" Daniels, said Dubois claimed he was "young at heart." So, Daniels decided to listen to Dubois' music. He was quickly floored.

In between robbing banks, fleeing the law and killing, Bonnie and Clyde had a hobby: poetry.

After a roughly two-year crime rampage, the infamous duo — Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow — died in a shootout with police during an ambush in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. It was a death foreshadowed in the final stanzas of one of Bonnie's poems, which begins with an acknowledgement of the couple's bad reputation:

You've read the story of Jesse James

As birds flitted on and off colorful feeders in a flicker of flapping feathers, and chattered in chirps — punctuated by the occasional trill — a band of birdwatchers offered a cacophony of their own.

"I heard a red-winged blackbird!"

"There's a blue jay!"

"Is that a downy woodpecker?"

Don't have a backyard? No problem. The Great Backyard Bird Count can be done anywhere, whether that's standing on a street outside an apartment, looking out a window at the office, or wandering around a park.

You might be surprised at what you find.

Back in 1967, Bobbie Gentry sang a haunting ode to young love and sad endings in the deep South called "Ode to Billie Joe." That song, about a mysterious occurrence on the Tallahatchie Bridge, was the No. 1 song in America for several weeks. A year later, Gentry released a country-rock opera, The Delta Sweete. It hardly sold at all — but has since become a favorite of collectors and musicians.

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