Fresh Air Weekend: Zach Galifianakis; The Duplass Brothers; 'Mad Max'

Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron, front right) fights to liberate the wives of a tyrannical warlord in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron, front right) fights to liberate the wives of a tyrannical warlord in Mad Max: Fury Road. Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. hide caption

toggle caption Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

‘Baskets’ Takes Zach Galifianakis From French Clown School To The Rodeo Ring: The comic, who plays a rodeo clown in his new FX comedy series, says he is “not creeped out by clowns.” Galifianakis is also the creator of the Emmy Award-winning web comedy series Between Two Ferns.

Duplass Brothers On Filmmaking, Siblings And Parenting’s ‘Fugue State’: The brothers’ latest project, Togetherness, is about four people in their late 30s who live in Los Angeles. Mark Duplass describes it as a “deeply personal television show.”

‘Mad Max’ Director George Miller: The Audience Tells You ‘What Your Film Is’: Miller, who directed the first Mad Max film in 1979, says it will be a few years before he has any idea as to whether Mad Max: Fury Road “endures in some way.”

You can listen to the original interviews here:

‘Baskets’ Takes Zach Galifianakis From French Clown School To The Rodeo Ring

Duplass Brothers On Filmmaking, Siblings And Parenting’s ‘Fugue State’

‘Mad Max’ Director George Miller: The Audience Tells You ‘What Your Film Is’

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Brazilian Military Takes Aim At Mosquito Problem

Brazilian soldiers prepare for an operation to fight the Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of the Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on February 3. The operation on Saturday will include 220,000 soldiers passing out pamphlets; they hope to reach 3 million homes.

Brazilian soldiers prepare for an operation to fight the Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of the Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on February 3. The operation on Saturday will include 220,000 soldiers passing out pamphlets; they hope to reach 3 million homes. Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a one-day battle in the fight against a tiny enemy: On Saturday, 220,000 Brazilian soldiers are fanning out across the country and knocking on doors to raise awareness about the Zika virus and the mosquito that carries it.

The “Zero Zika” campaign, which The Associated Press calls “unprecedented,” aims to reach 3 million homes in 350 cities across Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is also hitting the ground to spread information, and the AP reports that Rousseff was planning to send cabinet ministers to each of Brazil’s 27 states as well.

Doctors and scientists suspect the mosquito-borne Zika virus may be linked to a serious birth defect, microcephaly, as well as a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome, or GBS, which can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.

An ongoing outbreak of Zika in Latin America began in Brazil last spring. On Friday, Brazilian authorities announced they have confirmed 462 cases of microcephaly since October and they are continuing to examine more than 4,000 reported cases. Brazil usually reports about 150 such cases a year, the AP says.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization said that Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela have all reported a rise in GBS “in the context of the Zika virus outbreak.”

Links between Zika and microcephaly or Zika and GBS have not been proven. Scientists are racing to understand how Zika works and how it can be prevented or treated.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment.

But one form of prevention is available now: Mosquito control. Zika is carried by Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that carries dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

All day Saturday, Brazil’s soldiers will be distributing pamphlets about how to prevent mosquitoes, and the dangers of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Castro, told the AP on Friday that the war on mosquito-borne illnesses was an old one in Brazil.

“In this last 30 years we never managed to defeat the mosquito,” he said to the wire service. “But this time we’re obligated to prevail because the mosquito has become much more dangerous.”

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HBO's '70s Rock Series 'Vinyl' Sings A Familiar Tune

Bobby Cannavale stars as record executive Richie Finestra in the new series Vinyl.

Bobby Cannavale stars as record executive Richie Finestra in the new series Vinyl. HBO hide caption

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HBO’s music industry drama Vinyl comes at you like a classic rock song you can’t get out of your head.

Powerful. Emotional. But also kind of predictable.

It’s obvious from one of the earliest moments in the first episode, when Bobby Cannavale‘s out-of-control record company owner Richie Finestra stumbles into a smoky club circa 1971 and finds the New York Dolls.

Director-producer Martin Scorsese does an amazing job re-creating the anarchic spirit of the time, with drugged out fans and sexually available groupies littering the steps up to the main stage. As Finestra stands with his mouth agape, the lipstick-wearing band tears into a note-perfect version of The Dolls’ early ’70s single “Personality Crisis.”

Peering through a haze of cocaine and fatigue, Finestra looks like he’s found God. But it’s a scene we’ve seen in rock ‘n’ roll movies many times over — this time, presented from the perspective of the record company man.

That’s the problem with HBO’s Vinyl, which debuts Sunday as HBO’s odd Valentine’s Day gift to viewers. Despite its familiarity, the show expertly re-creates the time of peak gonzo in the record industry — when everybody from musicians and record company executives to radio DJs and record store employees were swimming in cocaine, payola and backroom swindles.

Emmy winner Cannavale is ferociously magnetic as Finestra — the blunt, talented founder and president of American Century records. By 1973, he’s a successful powerbroker trying to kick a mountainous cocaine habit and sell his company to German-owned conglomerate Polygram.

But even as he’s poised to sign over his company, Finestra can’t help ruminating the state of the music industry in his typical in-your-face fashion.

“When I started in this business, rock ‘n’ roll was defined like this: Two Jews and a guinea recording four schvartzes on a single track,” he says. “Now, it’s changed so much, it’s not even recognizable as the thing people used to be so afraid of.”

That bums out Finestra, an adrenaline junkie with the perfect ear for blockbuster bands. To tell his story, Vinyl takes viewers behind the scenes of the record industry in the 1970s, when glam rock, punk, disco and rap were all just starting to emerge.

It was also when “record men” were brazenly breaking the law to fatten their wallets, paying off record store managers and radio disc jockeys to pump up their most important artists.

“Hyman Weiss invented the $100 handshake back in the ’50s,” Finestra tells the viewer about bribing disc jockeys — the specialty of his partner, Zak Yankovich, played by Ray Romano.

“By 1971, Zak had raised it to $5,000 and a gram of Bolivian dancing dust,” the record company owner adds. “What, you thought songs only got played because they were good?”

Guys like Weiss — who was an actual producer and record company owner in the ’50s and ’60s — were the generation before operators like Finestra, whose American Century label is floundering with acts like Donny Osmond, Savoy Brown and Robert Goulet.

All this detail comes from an authoritative source: Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who described during a press conference how he developed the idea for Vinyl with his longtime friend, Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese.

“I had an idea years ago that I took to Marty and we tried to develop as a movie,” Jagger said. “And it was a very sprawling idea. (So) when TV series came online and started to become interesting, respectable and moneymaking, we decided to make a TV series out of it.” Spoken like a rock star-turned-film and TV producer who once attended the London School of Economics.

What works here are the details. Especially in the first episode, Vinyl re-creates the danger of ’70s-era New York before Times Square got Disneyfied. We see young actors as compelling versions of classic stars like the New York Dolls, Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper.

And the show slips those talented doppelgangers right next to fictional stars who feel like they could have existed back then, including a Sly Stone-style funk singer named Hannibal and a bratty protopunk band called The Nasty Bits.

As epitomized by Finestra, the record company guys are unscrupulous glad-handers, distracting artists with drugs and groupies while trying to shave points off their royalty percentages in hastily signed contracts.

But all this quality — cooked up with another executive producer, Terence Winter and author Rich Cohen — services a story that still feels too predictable.

Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde in the HBO series Vinyl.

Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde in the HBO series Vinyl. HBO hide caption

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Cannavale’s Finestra is a coke-snorting, self-obsessed record man who lays waste to his personal life in search of the perfect artist. Olivia Wilde is mostly underused as Finestra’s wife Devon, a former actress and model stuck cleaning up after her husband in a decidedly male-centered story.

In fact, Vinyl sometimes seems like a Frankenstein monster cobbled together from the influences of its producers. There’s the gritty ’70s New York of Scorsese’s Mean Streets, the rock ‘n’ roll rags to riches story from Jagger’s own life, and the damaged loner searching for fulfillment who resembles the lead character from Winter’s previous series, Boardwalk Empire.

Still, for those who admire the days when most music was bought in a record store, this series satisfies a certain nostalgia.

Just don’t include in that group its rock star executive producer, who admits he doesn’t even listen to records anymore.

“I never play vinyl, personally,” Jagger said, drawing chuckles from journalists at the press conference. “But all my children love it.”

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The Carpet Weaver Of Shiraz

Zarafshan, shown here with her 10-year-old son, earns money by weaving carpets. But it's not enough to support her family of five children.

Zarafshan, shown here with her 10-year-old son, earns money by weaving carpets. But it’s not enough to support her family of five children. Steve Inskeep/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Steve Inskeep/NPR

What does the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, as part of a nuclear deal, mean for one Iranian?

We met a carpet weaver in the ancient city of Shiraz. She spends her days on the floor of a little room. Working swiftly by hand, she ties knots with little bits of wool — orange, green, white and two shades of red. Wool threads stretch across a steel frame like strings on a harp.

Her clothes — loose, and flowing, and colorful — identify her as part of a traditional nomadic family. She might be in her 40s, though she said she didn’t know her age. She was born back when her family was still living in tents.

It wasn’t bad in tents, she said. They used to move south toward the Persian Gulf in the winter.

The name her family gave her, Zarafshan, means “spreader of gold.” And they made carpets: Her mother did, and her grandmother, and her grandmother before that. It’s a family tradition that Zarafshan has also passed down, saying her oldest daughter makes better carpets than she does.

Even today, Zarafshan’s loom is of a kind that’s simple and easy to carry — though the family long ago settled outside Shiraz.

We’d found her by following one street to a narrower street to a still narrower dead end, and finally to a little house, where her daughter-in-law was reading a book beside the gas stove.

Zarafshan is divorced with five kids, not all of them grown. She said what she earns from making carpets isn’t enough to support her family.

Zarafshan comes from a family of carpet weavers, dating back to her great-grandmother.

Zarafshan comes from a family of carpet weavers, dating back to her great-grandmother. Steve Inskeep/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Steve Inskeep/NPR

Still, “What do I need a husband for?” she says with a laugh. But now that he’s gone, she is forced to supplement her income with help from her son-in law.

This is true even though she employs her local craft as part of the global economy. Zarafshan works for a local businessman, who says he employs a total of 40 women to make carpets in their homes.

He told us the carpets are sold in Germany. They were sold overseas even during economic sanctions, passing through third-party sellers. Iran is said to sell about two-thirds of its carpets abroad, exports worth about $330 million in 2014 alone.

They can be sold more easily now, though it’s not clear what difference that will make to Zarafshan. I asked if she’d ever seen one of her carpets in someone else’s home.

This is such an outlandish idea that she doesn’t understand the question at first.

She finally says no. She hasn’t. She’s never even kept one of her carpets for her own home. She can’t afford her own handiwork. So she keeps a machine-made, red-and-yellow carpet, the kind you might see in any modest home in Iran.

“Rich people can buy the carpets,” she says.

And she goes on making them, working in this room whose only window opens to another room.

She’s part of a very big world, though her world remains very, very small.

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Don't Be Fooled, 'The Vegetarian' Serves Up Appetites For Fright

In “The Vegetarian,” a young woman is tormented by violent dreams that drive her to give up meat. Author Han Kang says that extremes of human behavior compelled her to write the book.

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Fact-Check: Could The Next President Bring Back Waterboarding?

Waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, was used by the CIA on at least three alleged terrorists.

Waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, was used by the CIA on at least three alleged terrorists. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption John Moore/Getty Images

As national security has come to dominate the 2016 presidential race, the GOP contenders in particular are being pushed to define where they stand on a contentious matter: how suspected terrorists should be interrogated. Specifically, they’ve been asked about the currently banned use of waterboarding — a simulated drowning technique the CIA used on at least three alleged terrorists.

In a debate on ABC News earlier this month, Donald Trump said, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” In response, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz was asked whether he considered waterboarding to be torture.

The Claim

“Well, under the definition of torture, no, it’s not. Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing — losing organs and systems. So, under the definition of torture, it is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.” — Sen. Ted Cruz

The Big Question

If waterboarding is torture, could it even be considered as an acceptable interrogation technique? And if it is not torture, does that mean it remains an option to be used possibly by a future president?

The Broader Context

President Obama signed an executive order in 2009 banning the use of torture by any government agency. Last year, Congress codified that ban into law in the National Defense Authorization Act. So, if waterboarding is considered torture, it would take an act of Congress to allow its use as an interrogation technique, since that’s now forbidden under current U.S. law. Only those interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual are considered legal — and those techniques do not include waterboarding.

But if waterboarding is not considered torture, a president could argue he or she has the legal right to order it — much as George W. Bush did during his administration.

The Short Answer

For Cruz, it’s torture only if excruciating pain “equivalent to losing organs and systems” has been inflicted. That is not the standard used by international organizations whose definitions of torture have been endorsed by the U.S. There is a wide legal and diplomatic consensus that waterboarding is torture, and therefore illegal.

The Long Answer

Cruz’s contention that waterboarding “does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture” largely echoes the rationale used by the Bush administration to get around the existing legal strictures surrounding torture. But the argument made in the 2002 “Bybee Memo” — named for Jay Bybee, who at the time headed the White House Office of Legal Counsel — has been repudiated even by members of that administration.

Waterboarding is, in fact, widely considered to meet the definition of torture in the United Nations Convention Against Torture, ratified in 1990 by the U.S. Senate. “Torture,” it says, “means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose as obtaining from him or her information of a confession” and when it is done with the consent of anyone acting in an official capacity. The International Committee of the Red Cross also considers waterboarding torture. And the U.S. executed half a dozen Japanese generals after World War II found guilty of torturing American prisoners of war with techniques that included water torture.

Sources

  • ABC News candidate debate, Feb. 6, 2015
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law, Dec. 10, 1984
  • Congressional Record, 114th Congress, amendment SA 1889 to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 1735, “Reaffirmation of the Prohibition on Torture”
  • “Waterboarding is Torture, Says International Red Cross,” Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7, 2014
  • “A Guide to the Memos on Torture,” The New York Times

This story is part of NPR’s fact-checking series,Break It Down,” in which we try to cut through the spin and put things in context. Have something you want us to fact-check? Put it in the comments section or send us an email at nprpolitics@npr.org.

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Einstein Saw Space Move, Long Before We Could Hear It

Albert Einstein once wrote that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science.

Albert Einstein once wrote that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science. AP hide caption

toggle caption AP

Here we are in an election year — once again asking the great see-into-the-future question in politics — who will be the next president?

Yesterday, I picked up the paper (I still have a paper to pick up) and read about a man who did see into the future, Albert Einstein. He developed his theory of general relativity in the early 20th century, and in 1915, he announced his theory that space and time are woven together and that events in the universe can cause space and time to move, to bob and jiggle, to stretch and ripple. Einstein’s ideas overturned previous ideas of an orderly universe where planets and solar systems revolved in a calm and eternal magnificence.

And this particular notion — of space and time moving — was, you might say, out there, and not possible to observe.

Now, 100 years later, this most mysterious piece of Albert Einstein’s imaginings has reached out to scientists on Earth in the form of a chime, a chirp, a sound which one scientist described as what you might hear if you ran your thumb over piano keys from the lowest rumbly bass to middle C. A chirp in C, which left a distant part of the universe more than a billion years ago and rippled outward, beginning a journey to a very different Earth.

An extraordinary group of scientists, starting in the ’70s, began work on ways to listen to the universe and perhaps to hear the sound of space and time moving, bending. Over the years, three men, Ronald Drever and Kip Thorne of Cal Tech, and Rainer Weiss of MIT, searched for a way to detect the movement that by this time most scientists believed in but could not observe.

They built a most improbable pair of instruments, one in Washington State, and one in Louisiana called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory — huge tubes and mirrors which could detect and measure impossibly tiny shifts in space and time. And last September, they did.

Two huge black holes fell into one another more than a billion years ago and rattled space and time. And in September, scientists heard that sound and recorded it. It is impossibly impressive, a very great achievement. But one of the things we must celebrate is that 100 years ago, a funny looking little fellow with flyaway hair trained his powerful brain on the universe and imagined what might be true. And was right.

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Listen: 10 World Cafe Sessions With This Year's Grammy Nominees

Top: Courtney Barnett, My Morning Jacket, Florence And The Machine. Bottom: The Punch Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, Glen Hansard. Photos provided by the artists.

Top: Courtney Barnett, My Morning Jacket, Florence And The Machine. Bottom: The Punch Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, Glen Hansard. Photos provided by the artists. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

There was a time when the world of World Cafe and the world of the Grammys only intersected with a few Contemporary Folk nominees. These days, that category doesn’t even exist — hello, Americana! — and World Cafe guests like Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett are cropping up as nominees across the board.

Get ready for the big show, which airs on CBS Monday at 8 p.m. ET, by listening here to World Cafe sessions with Barnett and nine other artists who are nominated to win Grammys.

Hear The Sessions

Courtney Barnett.

Courtney Barnett. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Courtney Barnett On World Cafe

    The Best New Artist nominee performed songs from her full-length debut, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, in March 2015.

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    My Morning Jacket.

    My Morning Jacket. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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    My Morning Jacket On World Cafe

      From the Best Alternative Music Album category, we have My Morning Jacket, who played music from Waterfall on World Cafe in June 2015.

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      Punch Brothers.

      Punch Brothers. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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      Punch Brothers On World Cafe

        Punch Brothers’ transcendent The Phosphorescent Blues is up for Best Americana Album, while “Julep” is in the running for Best American Roots Song. If that weren’t enough, the band is up for Best American Roots Performance, as well.

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        Florence Welch of Florence The Machine, whose new album is titled How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

        Florence Welch of Florence The Machine, whose new album is titled How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Courtesy of the artist hide caption

        toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

        World Cafe Guest DJ: Florence Welch

          The charismatic lead singer of Florence + The Machine joined World Cafe as guest DJ in June 2015 to spin two new songs from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which is now nominated for Best Recording Package.

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          Brandi Carlile.

          Brandi Carlile. Rocco Peditto/WXPN hide caption

          toggle caption Rocco Peditto/WXPN

          Brandi Carlile On World Cafe

            With five full-length records under her belt, Brandi Carlile is up against Punch Brothers for Best Americana Album with The Firewatcher’s Daughter.

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            Shemekia Copeland's new album, Outskirts Of Love, comes out Sept. 11

            Shemekia Copeland’s new album, Outskirts Of Love, comes out Sept. 11 Mike White/Courtesy Of The Artist hide caption

            toggle caption Mike White/Courtesy Of The Artist

            Shemekia Copeland On World Cafe

              Shemekia Copeland performed tunes from Outskirts Of Love, nominated for Best Blues Album, in January.

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              "It still speaks to people," Rhiannon Giddens says of old folk music.

              “It still speaks to people,” Rhiannon Giddens says of old folk music. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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              Rhiannon Giddens On World Cafe

                Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens is nominated for her solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn in the Best Folk Album category.

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                Patty Griffin.

                Patty Griffin. David McClister/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

                toggle caption David McClister/Courtesy of the artist

                Patty Griffin On World Cafe

                  Patty Griffin gets a Best Folk Album nomination for Servant Of Love, which she showcased on World Cafe in September 2015.

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                  Glen Hansard performs live for World Cafe on Tuesday, Sept. 1

                  Glen Hansard performs live for World Cafe on Tuesday, Sept. 1 Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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                  Glen Hansard On World Cafe

                    Also in the hunt for the Grammy for Best Folk Album is Glen Hansard’s Didn’t He Ramble. Hansard graced the stage at World Cafe Live in September 2015.

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                    Monsieur Periné Perform Live On World Cafe

                    Monsieur Periné Perform Live On World Cafe John Vettese/WXPN hide caption

                    toggle caption John Vettese/WXPN

                    Monsieur Periné On World Cafe

                      World Cafe recently hosted Colombia’s Monsieur Periné, marking the show’s first guest to be nominated in the Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album category.

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                      Dinner With A Side Of I Do's: For Restaurants, Proposals Are Good Business

                      Marriage proposals are pretty routine at America’s high-end restaurants. They can lift the mood in the entire dining room, boost tips and create lifelong customers. Unless the answer is “no,” that is. iStockphoto hide caption

                      toggle caption iStockphoto

                      If you work in a restaurant, marriage proposals are good for business. Happy couples lift the mood in the entire dining room and often turn into lifelong customers. That once-in-a-lifetime experience for them is pretty routine for restaurateurs.

                      High-end restaurants with nice decor can count on someone popping the question every week or two. At a few rooms with big views, such as The Sun Dial in Atlanta or the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, proposals are a daily occurrence.

                      “It’s very, very common, and we absolutely love it,” says Ti Martin, one of the owners of the famed Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. “I’m a sucker for a good proposal.”

                      Remember the opening scene of that 1987 movie Moonstruck, when Danny Aiello proposes to Cher? He gets down on his knees, the waiter worries he’s ruining his suit and a neighboring diner tut-tuts that he didn’t spring for a ring. Once Cher accepts, the whole place bursts into applause.

                      Movieclips/ YouTube

                      It’s a comic version of what commonly happens in real life. Proposing in a restaurant might be the ultimate public display of affection, but no one seems put off. “If anything, it puts the entire restaurant in a good mood,” says Don Saunders, chef and owner of The Kenwood in Minneapolis.

                      Servers can be as surprised as anyone else. The guy bends the knee, she accepts and everyone is happy. (It is usually the guy, still, who asks, according to restaurant owners we spoke with – though they told us they’re seeing more gay couples propose in-house.)

                      Unless she says no. Then it gets awkward for everybody. Along with the nervous suitor, restaurant managers say they all hope for a happy ending. “Getting a ‘no’ when you’re surrounded by other diners — the gentleman is embarrassed, and you get a disappointed environment,” says Duncan Newman, general manager of the Briarwood Inn in Golden, Colo.

                      Usually, restaurants get tipped off in advance. The groom-to-be will call up and ask for a special table, or maybe something personal printed on the menu.

                      Managers laugh at the fact that some guys only mention their proposal plans in a note box through an online reservation service such as OpenTable. Pro tip: Talk to a live person.

                      Typically, the proposal comes after the entree and before the dessert. Or with it. The Knot rates having a box with a ring arrive on the dessert tray as one of the “most romantic ways to propose.”

                      Wherever they get the idea, guys seem to view a ring as the most tempting dessert choice possible. “Sometimes we have them want to put the ring in a bread pudding souffle,” says Martin, the Commander’s Palace owner. “I think the ring can get kind of sticky.”

                      Aside from being nervous about taking responsibility for an expensive ring for a couple of hours — and having to make sure its intended recipient sees it upon presentation and doesn’t accidentally swallow it — restaurant workers hate the wait.

                      Often, the entire staff on a shift has been alerted that a proposal is coming. It’s important that no one giggles or gawks or offers premature congratulations — anything that could tip off a woman who may have her suspicions already.

                      Some managers make sure their most experienced hands are taking care of the couple.

                      “We’re in a chopped up old house, and a balcony overlooks our dining room,” says Kenny Lyons, general manager of Husk Nashville, the Tennessee outpost of Husk, from acclaimed chef Sean Brock. “Everyone [on staff] wants to peek over, but we can’t allow it. It would tip the lady off.”

                      Once she accepts, restaurant workers and managers are happy to send over champagne or snap pictures. Sometimes they’ve worked things out with the guy to bring over friends or members of the family.

                      Chandlers, a steak and seafood restaurant in Boise, Idaho, facilitated a Brady Bunch-style engagement a couple of months ago, with kids from the couple’s previous marriages hiding over by the bar. “The four children each held up a sign, like at a baseball game, ‘Will-you-marry-me,’ ” says Chandlers general manager David Boyle. “That was a cool deal. That got the attention of the room.”

                      Patrons sometimes take off in a horse-and-carriage — or even a helicopter. Generally, they hang around, basking in their self-produced glow. “Because they’re celebrating, they buy extra champagne, they tip better, they’re in a good mood,” says Trey McCutcheon, manager of Chez Nous in Charleston, S.C.

                      They may or may not live happily ever after, but couples tend to remain loyal to the restaurants where they got engaged. After In Good Company in Rockland, Maine, changed its logo recently, a couple who got engaged there called and asked to take home something with the old design for a souvenir. “They come for their anniversary, they were here for their engagement,” says owner Melody Wolfertz. “They wanted to buy my old sign to hang in their house.”

                      The only time restaurants don’t expect to see any proposals: Valentine’s Day. This weekend’s reservation notes don’t say anything about proposals, says Lyons, the Husk Nashville manager.

                      “That’s almost too cliche,” he says. “You go to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day, eat dinner and propose. It’s almost too storybook.”

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                      #NPRreads: 4 Eye-Opening Stories To Read This Weekend

                      Hotels and apartment buildings line the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The head of a sports travel agency specializing in packages for the Rio 2016 Olympics said that the company's business could be devastated if the Zika virus continues to spread.

                      Hotels and apartment buildings line the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The head of a sports travel agency specializing in packages for the Rio 2016 Olympics said that the company’s business could be devastated if the Zika virus continues to spread. Silvia Izquierdo/AP hide caption

                      toggle caption Silvia Izquierdo/AP

                      #NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

                      From NPR Ed Digital Producer and Editor Elissa Nadworny:

                      Just finished this wonderfully-written profile by @vcunningham. Nicely done. #NPRreads https://t.co/P64B49mbJA

                      — Elissa Nadworny (@ElissaNadworny) February 7, 2016

                      I love when profiles introduce you to people behind the work you love. In Last Sunday’s New York Times magazine, Vinson Cunningham wrote about Chris Jackson — the editor behind Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside (and many, many others.)

                      As Cunningham puts it:

                      “To the extent that 21st-century literary audiences have been introduced to the realities and absurdities born of the phenomenon of race in America, Jackson has done a disproportionate amount of that introducing.”

                      Cunningham is a wonderful writer, so the pleasure isn’t just learning about Jackson and his work, but also reading Cunningham’s ideas laid out in what he calls “phrases nicely turned.”

                      The piece also touches on larger issues of narrative and perspective and truth — and ignited a lengthy Super Bowl party discussion of “black books” and the publishing industry.

                      From Didrik Schanche, International Desk Acting Senior Supervising Editor:

                      How a Medical Mystery in Brazil Led Doctors to Zika #NPRreads https://t.co/Qu64o6OSgW

                      — Didrik Schanche (@DSchanche) February 6, 2016

                      A virus that was virtually unheard of three months ago is today’s global scourge: Zika.

                      It’s a virus transmitted by infected aedes aegypti mosquitos and was thought to be relatively harmless until a wave of babies in a particular region of Brazil were born with tiny heads: microcephaly.

                      While no definitive link has been found, scientists keep digging for answers. The World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. Sports teams are thinking about the safety of their athletes in this year’s summer Olympics in Brazil. And governments in a handful of Latin American and Caribbean countries are giving women simple guidance: don’t have babies.

                      This New York Times article is a fascinating look at how a relatively benign virus that first emerged in Uganda in 1947 could have morphed into an illness that causes such powerful deformities and today is a global concern.

                      From senior editor for engagement Wright Bryan:

                      Nairobi: City of immigrants, city of good food? https://t.co/fTEu43Yo0t

                      — Wright Bryan (@wrightbryan3) February 10, 2016

                      Nairobi is a lot like the city I grew up in, Atlanta. It’s a crossroads that owes its existence to the railroad. It’s a place that has blossomed into a regional and international hub. It attracts people from all over. It’s a city with hustle. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Quartz told me it’s becoming “a global cuisine hub.” Ariel Zirulnick, whose Twitter bio says she’s “recently repatriated from Kenya,” writes:

                      “There’s freedom here to deviate from the norm. A Chinese restaurant up the street … includes kimchi on the menu. For the owner hailing from northeast China near the Korean border, kimchi is Chinese—and in Nairobi, that aberration gets little more than a shrug as long as it tastes good.”

                      We’re told that Indian dishes (with an East African twist), pizza, Japanese specialties, Norwegian salmon and hot pot are all on Nairobi’s menu. This is in addition to the region’s traditional “maize, grilled meat, and a kale-like green known as sukuma wiki.”

                      I have to say, this bit of foodie boosterism left me scheming for reasons to drop in on Nairobi. Soon, however, we’ll all be able to dip into the city’s food scene without flying halfway around the world. Zirulnick reports that a cookbook called Im/Migrant Nairobi is coming out in 2016, capturing “the signature dishes of the city’s best ethnic restaurants” and “the personal journeys of the restaurateurs.”

                      From Joe Ruiz, Weekend Editor, NPR.org:

                      Really impressed, informed on women/guns w/ this piece. #NPRreads | The Truth About Women and Guns https://t.co/Z83fbUAORQ via @MarieClaire

                      — Joe Ruiz (@joeruiz) February 11, 2016

                      Whichever side of the debate over gun rights you find yourself, many of the stories focus on men. This week, Marie Claire posted a well-designed, informative, nuanced view on women and guns.

                      It published ten short stories focusing on data about women who use and carry guns, the political debate, gun safety, crime, increasing numbers of female gang members, women who use guns for protection, and even the National Rifle Association’s increasing effort to recruit women. Here’s more:

                      “It’s a smart political move. Women represent a huge portion of the electorate: The Center for American Women and Politics says that since 1964, the number of female voters has exceeded male voters in every single presidential election—the 2012 election saw 9.8 million more female voters than male voters. With gun control already a factor in the upcoming presidential race, the NRA’s increased female ranks could help further its cause.”

                      Two of the most interesting stories as part of its collection were of a woman who’d been raped and wished she had been carrying a gun, and the efforts of another woman to purchase a gun outside her home state.

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