Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

Tom Arnold: Don't Call It A Comeback

Oct 5, 2018

Before Tom Arnold was a comedian, he worked in an Iowa meatpacking plant. "If you work at a meatpacking plant, especially on the kill floor, two things are for sure," Tom Arnold told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another. "One, you will get very drunk every night, and two, you'll have crazy dreams like you're best friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger."

The NBC sitcom The Good Place is back for its third season, and fans will be happy to know Tahani al Jamil is as "conceited, but deeply kind, insecure, [and] vainglorious" as ever — in the words of Jameela Jamil, the actress who plays her.

But Jamil's personal story couldn't be more different from her character's. While Tahani is a selfish socialite who does massive charity events largely so she can name-drop celebrities, Jamil is a disability rights advocate and strong voice against body-shaming and impossible beauty standards for women.

With great power comes great irresponsibility. It's been 29 summers since Prince's "Batdance" heralded the release of Tim Burton's Batman, and longer than that since a comic book screen spin-off featured an original song with lyrics explicitly describing the title character. Even Joss Whedon, a musical-theater guy who made two Avengers movies, and re-wrote and re-shot a hefty chunk of last year's Justice League, failed to supply this very basic, spins-a-web, any-size, catches-thieves-just-like-flies need in his three at-bats.

"Your body is a wonderland," sang John Mayer, wrongly.

What he obviously meant to sing was "Your body is Wonderland," as in, "Your body, like mine, like everyone's, is a surreal and frequently terrifying Lewis-Carroll hellscape where everything exists in a state of constant flux, where rules of logic and intellect get trammeled by whim and caprice, and where the governing authority is casually malicious and heedlessly cruel."

Our bodies hate us. They delight in our dismay and embarrassment. This is an essential human truth, but it's one that adults forget.

Walk into the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. right now and you will find a painting that has been ripped to shreds.

Another one, nearby, hangs half-loose from its stretcher, rumpled. It's a portrait of Thomas Jefferson; behind it, you glimpse a seated black woman.

They are works by the artist Titus Kaphar. He takes familiar images and remakes them. Maybe he pulls a hidden figure to the front.

His work often confronts the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins has only made three features in 20 years, but each one feels like the work of someone who has continued to chip away at her screenplay the entire time — adding details, refining characters, getting everything just so. All three are about families on the edge: Her 1998 debut, Slums of Beverly Hills, follows a teenager (Natasha Lyonne) whose nomadic single father moves her and her brothers from one run-down apartment to another within the same elite school district.

With guest host Todd Zwilich.

The political divide in our country might be stark, but it’s not a recent phenomenon.

How did we get here?

Political correspondent Steve Kornacki has a theory. In his new book, The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism, he traces the origin story back several decades, to when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich climbed to the top of their respective parties.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

What could possibly bring together a painter, an economist, a pastor and a planetary scientist? If you ask the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the answer is simpler than you may think: They've all shown creativity, potential for future achievements — and the likelihood that $625,000, meted out over five years, will help them complete their grand designs.

Despite a warning to wear rattlesnake shin guards when walking through the Hill Country, the only sound I hear is the ticking of grasshoppers, crickets and dragonflies on this 100-degree day in Spicewood, Texas.

I'm hunting mesquite trees, and they bite. Their branches, spiked with two-inch thorns, hold desert-colored, seed-hugging beans that rattle when they're ready to pick. If you break one open and put it in your mouth, it tastes lightly sweet.

The story Nicole Chung was told about her adoption was always the same: "Your birth parents had just moved here from Korea. They thought they wouldn't be able to give you the life you deserved."

Her adoptive parents were white Catholics living in Oregon who told the story with joy: explaining that Chung was born 10 weeks premature, that her birth parents worried she would struggle all her life, that they believed adoption was the best thing for her.

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