One Last Strike is Tony La Russa's memoir of the 2011 major league baseball season and, in passing, a memoir of his very successful career as a big league manager. Last season, La Russa led the St. Louis Cardinals out of nowhere to win the National League wildcard slot, and then, improbably, advanced to the League Championship Series and the World Series. The Cards won the title in what was one of the great World Series of all time.
Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 4:18 pm
More than the ice is frosty at the Olympic Oval outside Salt Lake City this week, as short track speedskaters begin the 2012-2013 season.
U.S. skaters are split over allegations of abuse leveled against two coaches and a claim that one coach ordered the sabotage of a Canadian competitor's skates at an international competition last year.
After one of the driest summers on record, recent rains have helped in some parts of the country. But overall, the drought has still intensified. The latest tracking classifies more than a fifth of the contiguous United States in "extreme or exceptional" drought, the worst ratings.
In some parts of the Lower Midwest, water-starved crops have collapsed, but the farmers have not. Farmers across the country are surviving, and many are even thriving. This year, despite the dismal season, farmers stand to make exceptionally good money, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Aurora, Colo., became a familiar name this summer, in the wake of a mass shooting at a local movie theater.
But there's much more to this Denver suburb than the recent tragedy. Just ask Ethiopian immigrant Fekade Balcha. Balcha's apartment, on Aurora's north side, sits in a dense neighborhood of squat brick apartment buildings and tiny homes.
"You see, in our apartment, there are Russians, Mexicans, Africans," Balcha says. "From Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, and something like that."
Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 5:17 pm
During the Republican National Convention last month, I traveled with Mitt Romney's campaign from Tampa, Fla., to the American Legion conference in Indianapolis.
Romney delivered a speech about foreign affairs and national security. Among the thousands of attendees from around the country, I interviewed one woman from Virginia whose quote sparked a conversation among NPR's audience and staff.
Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 3:35 pm
Brooklyn-based electronic-music producer Jonathan Dagan, a.k.a. J.Viewz, writes songs that whirl and clatter like tiny Rube Goldberg devices. So it's only reasonable that his videos might function the same way. Witness "About the Sea," in which small green squares reveal a series of patterns before giving way to gorgeous animated nature scenes.
Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 11:12 am
Ever wish you could travel back in time to New York's 52nd Street — circa 1950, during the heyday of bebop — and whisper into Charlie Parker, or Dizzy Gillespie, or Thelonious Monk's ear, and ask them: Who was their favorite pianist to listen to? They would all give the same answer: Bud Powell.
The main problem with time-travel movies is the many black holes that the plot can stumble into; for a certain kind of viewer, they can be more than a little distracting. While the story presses forward, we're stuck wondering, for instance, how a character can safely hang out with his future self in the same time period — an anomaly that, despite Spock's shenanigans in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, aficionados of Doctor Who know is a Very Bad Thing.
When it's done right, there's nothing so miraculous as the sound of human voices blending into a creamy swirl of color, with neither the help nor the distraction of musical accompaniment. Pitch Perfect banks on that magic — the purely human wizardry of a cappella singing — though it also attempts to be several other things: a mild gross-out comedy, a paean to the awkward early stages of new love, a Mean Girls-style riff on campus hierarchies. That may be too much for one modest comedy to carry, but one thing's for sure: Pitch Perfect doesn't skimp on the singing.