NPR: 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.

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12:01am

Mon February 20, 2012
Monkey See

'Awake': Can A Risky New Drama Break A Streak Of Bad Luck?

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 9:16 am

Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten in NBC's Awake, from writer Kyle Killen.
Lewis Jacobs NBC

This piece was not my idea. It was Linda Holmes'. If you're reading this blog, you probably share my regard for her take on popular culture. So my ears pricked up when she suggested I look into doing a radio piece on Kyle Killen.

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9:01am

Fri February 17, 2012
Monkey See

Is There Hope In Friday Night Television's 'Timeslot Of Death'?

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 1:52 pm

The Wild Ranger crew of Bering Sea Gold: Steve Riedel, owner Vernon Adkison and Captain Scott Meisterheim.
Ryan Rude Discovery Channel

Call it the resurrection of the time slot of death.

For years, Friday nights have carried a grisly reputation — where shows on broadcast networks are sent to die. But a certain kind of cable show has recently performed well — even really well — on Friday nights.

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4:00am

Fri February 17, 2012
Television

How Friday Night TV Started Producing Hits

Fridays used to be infamous as the worst night for TV ratings. It was where shows went to die. Now, between DVRs and people not going out because of the lousy economy, Friday has become a perfectly respectful night to have a certain kind of show on TV and even become a hit.

11:40am

Fri January 20, 2012
Music News

Remembering Etta James, Stunning Singer

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 2:03 pm

Etta James rehearses a song before recording at Fame Studios circa 1967 in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
House Of Fame LLC Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta's name and reversed it: Etta James.

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12:01am

Fri January 20, 2012
Monkey See

Stephen Colbert Wants You To Know: That's Definitely Not His SuperPAC

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:06 am

Comedian Stephen Colbert appears before the Federal Election Commision in Washington, June 30, 2011. The FEC granted Colbert's request to form a political action committee.
Cliff Owen AP

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is running for president. He's parodying the process — including, now, superPACS — in the same way he has parodied cable news. He's getting plenty of attention, but to really look into his political practical joke, I needed to go upstairs and find Peter Overby, NPR's man on campaign finance. I warned him it would seem like a dumb question, but I needed his help. What, exactly, is a superPAC?

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4:00pm

Thu January 19, 2012
Monkey See

Fox International Finds That Not Everyone Wants To Buy What Hollywood Sells

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 10:16 pm

Stephanie Sigman as Laura, a beauty queen drawn into a Mexican drug gang, in the film Miss Bala.
Eniac Martinez Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Remember that movie Sarah's Key? Did you miss it? It was last year's highest grossing foreign-language film, but it made less than eight million dollars. The fact is that selling foreign language films to U.S. audiences is a notorious challenge. Nevertheless, Fox, one of the world's most powerful media conglomerates, is beefing up its investment in foreign films.

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3:42pm

Wed December 28, 2011
Movie Interviews

Coming Out, Coming Of Age As A Teen 'Pariah'

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 7:32 pm

Adepero Oduye planned to be a doctor, but after her father died suddenly, she decided to change course and pursue an acting career.
Focus Features

When the new film Pariah opens nationally, it's safe to say it will not be competing with any other movies about a black teenager coming of age as a lesbian in Brooklyn.

"It's not so much coming out, but coming into," clarifies director Dee Rees. "Alike, the main character, knows she loves women. That's not her struggle. Her struggle's more how to be in the world."

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12:00pm

Mon December 26, 2011
The Record

Skylar Grey: And The Hits Keep Coming

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 2:41 pm

Skylar Grey.
P.R. Brown Courtesy of Universal Music Group

5:36pm

Wed December 7, 2011
Remembrances

Harry Morgan, M*A*S*H's Col. Potter, Dies At 96

Col. Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) was a father figure to Cpl. Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff).
CBS/Landov

One of television's most beloved commanding officers died Wednesday. Harry Morgan, who played Col. Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H, brought an avuncular authority to a show about the absurdities and horrors of war. He was 96.

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12:03pm

Mon November 28, 2011
Remembrances

Controversial Film Director Ken Russell Dead At 84

Central Press Getty Images

The acclaimed, eccentric, and very polarizing British film director Ken Russell has died, after a series of strokes at the age of 84.

The director of Tommy, Women In Love and Altered States, Russell was known for a florid style and fascination with sadomasochism that earned him condemnations and a cult following. His adaptations of classic literature and over-the-top biopics ranged from perverse to merely provocative — and an indelible nickname: "Kinky Ken Russell."

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12:01am

Tue November 22, 2011
Monkey See

In 'The Artist,' A Silent Look At Old Hollywood

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 9:18 am

Silent Screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a young and upcoming dancer, share a vivacious moment on stage in Michel Hazanavicius's film The Artist.
The Weinstein Company

Director Michel Hazanavicius met me at the Bradbury building in downtown L.A. It's the location of a key scene in his audacious new movie The Artist, which takes place just at the moment when talking pictures supersede silent films.

"It's mythic," said Hazanavicius of the era during which Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were stars.

In the scene shot here, a dashing film star reminiscent of Fairbanks bumps into his lovely young protégé on the building's remarkable staircase. He's on his way down; she's on her way up.

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4:29pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Around the Nation

In L.A., Interactive Play Draws Scares

The buzz in Los Angeles for Halloween includes enthusiasm for the interactive play, called Delusion. In the words of the blurb, "This inclusive scare-down has audiences as participants in an interactive play by creator and professional stuntman Jon Braver, who uses his Hollywood background to pack punches in a twisted story of a mad asylum genius gone bad."

4:03pm

Thu October 20, 2011
Television

Fairy-Tale Adaptations: It's Ever After, All Right

Seeds Of Change: Once Upon A Time's Regina (Lana Parilla) has an apple (or six) with Snow White's name on it. The ABC show — which transports the population of the Enchanted Forest into modern-day Maine — is one of two new network dramas that put a new twist on old tales.

Jack Rowand ABC

With NBC's Grimm, the ABC series Once Upon A Time makes two new fairy tale-based shows premiering on network television within a week. That, plus a movie release schedule peppered with fairy tale remakes, raises a question: What's put them in the zeitgeist?

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3:00pm

Wed October 12, 2011
The Record

Death Metal, Vernacular And Tradition: The Music Scene In Taiwan

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 6:27 pm

A Moving Sound. YunYa Hsieh stands at the center, Scott Praire sits to the right.

Courtesy of the artists

Taiwan might be known to most Americans for its export economy, but it's also been importing musical styles — from avant garde jazz to hip-hop. I first learned about Taiwan's thriving music scene from Joshua Samuel Brown. He's a travel writer who authored the last two editions of Lonely Planet: Taiwan.

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5:04pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Books

Swedish Poet Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer is this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. Transtromer has been mentioned as a candidate for the award for years. His work often walks a line between concrete reality and dreams — he's worked as a psychologist and social worker in addition to his writing.

4:06pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Monkey See

Long Literary Shadows On Nobel Shortlist

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 5:05 pm

Adonis, born Ali Ahmad Said Esber, is one of the contenders for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mario Vedder AP

They are the Nobel literature bridesmaids. Every year, they appear on Ladbrokes' betting site alongside their odds of winning. Les Murray: 16/1. Cees Nooteboom: 33/1. Claudio Magris: 40/1.

Perennial names probably more familiar to American readers include Haruki Murakami (7/1), Chinua Achebe and Amos Oz. The latter two aren't even ranked by Ladbrokes this time around. If recent history is any indicator, that means they've got a decent shot of winning. The Ladbrokes lads, after all, did not bother to place odds for such recent winners as Herta Muller or Elfriede Jelinek.

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12:01am

Mon September 19, 2011
Monkey See

NBC's 'Prime Suspect' Hopes To Fill Some Very Big And Very British Shoes

Maria Bello plays Detective Jane Timoney — a revamped version of Helen Mirren's iconic Jane Tennison — in NBC's remake of the British drama Prime Suspect.
Patrick Harbron NBC

When a British television show is remade for an American audience, it usually hews closely to the original, at least at the uncertain beginning, while it fumbles to find its own identity.

The Office found one. Most don't.

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5:00pm

Tue August 23, 2011
The Record

Nick Ashford, Songwriter And Singer, Has Died

Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson on stage in New York around 1978.
Richard E. Aaron Redferns

Nick Ashford's songs are so ingrained in American culture they almost seem to have written themselves — songs such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need to Get By." Ashford was married to his songwriting partner, Valerie Simpson, for over 30 years. Ashford died Monday at the age of 70.

Ashford and Simpson wrote "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" for Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" for Diana Ross and "Solid as a Rock" for themselves.

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3:58pm

Thu August 18, 2011
Movies

On Location: The Frozen Ozarks Of 'Winter's Bone'

Jennifer Lawrence, as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone, on the front porch of Frank Layson's house in southwestern Missouri. Layson's hand-built house served as the home for the Dolly children in the film.
Sebastian Mlynarski Roadside Attractions

Set in the Ozarks, in a small community where illegal methamphetamine trade flourishes in a devastated economy, Winter's Bone follows the travails of Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl who spends the length of the film trudging through the bleak chill of southwestern Missouri in its darkest season, with the trees black spikes and hills bleached silver and rust. Ree's father, a meth cooker, has gone missing while out on bail, but not before putting the house his three children live in up as collateral against his bond.

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4:59am

Mon August 1, 2011
Books News & Features

Brattleboro: Vermont's Hotbed Of Fictional Crime

Archer Mayor exposes the seedy underbelly of Brattleboro, Vt., in his mystery novels. But it's a challenge to bring out the dark side; Brattleboro, and Vermont in general, the author says, are "inordinately pleasant" places.
Ken Gallager

Brattleboro, Vt., is a bucolic town — pricked with picturesque church steeples — and home to a vibrant arts community. So it's an unlikely setting for gruesome murder and gritty crime, but that's just what goes on in Archer Mayor's Brattleboro-based Joe Gunther detective series.

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12:01am

Thu July 14, 2011
The End Of The Space Shuttle Era

Out Of This World: Designs Of The Space Age

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:40 am

Unidentified Fashion Object: A 1963 rendering shows the design for Biff's Coffee Shop in Oakland, Calif. "It almost looked like a flying saucer," says Victor Newlove of Armet Davis Newlove Architects. "It looks like it's about ready to lift off."
Armet & Davis Architects

The Space Age left a sleekly modern mark on everything from office parks to kitchenware to kids' TV shows like The Jetsons. Even today, if you drive around Los Angeles, you'll see relics of Space Age architecture, including the flamboyantly futuristic Los Angeles International Airport and a nearby coffee shop called Pann's.

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2:00pm

Fri July 8, 2011
The Record

Manuel Galban, Cuban Guitarist, Has Died

Manuel Galban.
Alejandro Perez Courtesy of Big Hassle

Manuel Galban, a man who helped shape the sound of modern Cuban music, died Thursday of a heart attack in Havana. He was 80 years old.

Galban played guitar on the 1997 album Buena Vista Social Club, a collaboration between traditional Cuban musicians and American guitarist and composer Ry Cooder. But Galban's popularity in his home country long preceded that album and resulting documentary.

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3:00pm

Thu June 30, 2011
The Record

The New Wave Of Cartoon Bands

Anime character Hatsune Miku stars in a new series of Toyota Corolla ads aimed at the Asian-American market.
Toyota USA, Inc.

Hatsune Miku is an anime girl with kiddie-pool sized eyes and flowing teal pigtails. She stars in a new Toyota Corolla commercial aimed at the Asian-American market.

Miku is huge back home in Japan. Originally invented to sell synthesized voice software, the character's featured in a video game, she's released hit pop songs and she sells out live concerts. (If "live" is the right word.)

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3:52pm

Mon June 27, 2011
Monkey See

'That's Racist!' How A Serious Accusation Became A Commonplace Quip

Sort your laundry into whites and darks? "That's racist," quips one character on Parks and Recreation.
iStockphoto.com

My editor proposed this story about "that's racist" after hearing her young son's friends using it as a joke. Just the night before, it had been a punchline on one of my favorite sitcoms, Parks And Recreation. (Someone calls sorting laundry into whites and darks racist.)

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12:01am

Mon June 13, 2011
Arts & Life

Colorado Tribe Puts Cultural Riches On Display

With its upward-sloping wings, the new Southern Ute Museum and Cultural Center is designed to resemble an eagle, a sacred symbol for the tribe.
Courtesy of the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum

It's not often that you hear of Native American tribes flourishing thanks to the U.S. government, but that's what happened to Colorado's Southern Ute.

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3:00pm

Thu May 19, 2011
Monkey See

Mary Hart: An Icon Of Modern Celebrity Steps Down After Nearly 30 Years

Mary Hart has hosted Entertainment Tonight since 1982. She's now stepping down.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

After 29 years, Mary Hart is stepping down as host of the CBS show Entertainment Tonight – presumably with those legs once insured for a million dollars each. It's television's longest-running entertainment show, and Hart's been with it almost since the beginning. She helped create a kind of news that, like it or not, has come to permeate the culture.

Before Entertainment Tonight, regular folks weren't expected to be interested in the industry side of the entertainment industry.

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4:00am

Thu May 19, 2011
Around the Nation

Frito-Lay Uses Time Square For PR Stunt

NPR's Neda Ulaby goes inside one massive PR stunt. Frito Lay setup in Times Square with Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef to promote the company's products as healthy and all-natural.

12:01am

Thu May 5, 2011
The Message Makers: Inside PR

Corporate America Take On Multilingual PR

Part of a series on the PR industry

Julia Huang runs InterTrend, a marketing company in southern California that focuses on Asian-Americans.

"We say Asian-American markets, [but] it's really not one market," she said in a recent phone conversation. "It's so many markets. It's so many!"

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4:10pm

Tue May 3, 2011
The Record

Beyonce (And Michelle Obama) Get The Kids Moving

Tuesday afternoon, kids at hundreds of middle schools all over the country were dancing exactly the same dance at exactly the same time. OK, they're middle school kids, so probably they were all doing something similar at more or less the same time. They called it a "flash workout" at the direction of two powerful leaders: Beyonce and the First Lady.

The kids were dancing to Beyonce's song and video "Move Your Body," a reworking of her song "Get Me Bodied," made for Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign.

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12:01am

Fri April 22, 2011
Monkey See

A New 'Doctor Who' Tries To Make Peace With Its Impatient Stateside Fans

It's a problem that might baffle even the intrepid Doctor Who: how to dissuade the show's devoted fans from downloading it illegally.

Those fans span generations — from those who remember the cult-y British science fiction show as a rickety affair, with visible zippers in costumes and esoteric plotlines, to newer converts impressed by the slick, accessible and very funny new reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the Time Lord, who scoots around the space-time continuum by way of a bright blue police call box.

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