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 adventurousnessβ€” 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.



Thu October 20, 2011

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 β€” which transports the population of the Enchanted Forest into modern-day Maine β€” 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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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 β€” 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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Thu October 6, 2011

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 β€” he's worked as a psychologist and social worker in addition to his writing.


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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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 β€” a revamped version of Helen Mirren's iconic Jane Tennison β€” 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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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 β€” 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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Thu August 18, 2011

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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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 β€” pricked with picturesque church steeples β€” 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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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.


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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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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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 β€” 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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Tue April 19, 2011

'Tea' Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs

The case of philanthropist Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling β€” but now besieged β€” memoir Three Cups of Tea, is just the latest in a long line of publishing debacles that are starting to feel like an annual occurrence: the running of the fraudulent memoirist.

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Thu April 14, 2011

HBO Lures Fantasy Fans With 'Game Of Thrones'

HBO has built up a sterling reputation for its original series and their true-to-life settings; there's the old West in Deadwood, New York single life in Sex and the City and a recovering New Orleans in Treme. But this Sunday, HBO will be premiering a series that's light on true-life and heavy on epic fantasy.

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