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.

On a sunny weekday afternoon, chef Bonnie Morales leads me past the Q subway line in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. We are going shopping for Russian food.

Morales owns Kachka, a restaurant in Portland, Ore., that serves food from the former Soviet Union. It's one of the most popular places to eat in one of the hottest food cities in the country.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Would you like a little distraction? There's a new movie that's being described as one of the most over-the-top samurai movies ever made.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWORD BATTLE)

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right, we're now going to hear a doctor describing what's going to happen to a patient during a cutting-edge medical procedure.

JAMES STEEIL: So Karl's going to come in through this door. We'll put him down on the ground, restrain him.

At a Halloween happy hour recently in Washington, D.C., a small crowd gathered to celebrate the relationship between bats and spirits.

Not spooky spirits. Instead, think tequila and mescal.

"We're here at a bar tonight to talk about [bats], because they are intimately tied to agave," announced Mike Daulton, the executive director of Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit devoted to the well-being of bats.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has decided to expel Harvey Weinstein after the producer was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing at least three dozen women in extensively-reported articles that have appeared in The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine over the past two weeks.

In the wake of an emergency meeting Saturday, the academy's 54-member Board of Governors issued a statement saying:

It looks like a fairy tale palace.

With its pink stucco walls and massive coral stone terraces, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a beloved South Florida landmark that has drawn Miamians for 60 years. But since getting blasted by Hurricane Irma, the estate more resembles the part in the fairy tale after an evil spell is cast, and the forest overgrows the castle.

Miami's largest hurricane shelter, run by the Red Cross, still houses nearly 1,000 people. Some have been there since before the storm but many are recent arrivals—people who tried to ride out the storm but are now dealing with an ongoing lack of power and mold infesting their homes.

You might know it as a garbage truck.

But to police departments around the country, it has become a cutting-edge tool in law enforcement.

"More and more, we're seeing attacks both in the U.S. and abroad where vehicles are utilized," says Daniel Linskey, a retired Boston Police Department superintendent in chief who now works for a security management firm called Kroll Associates.

He points to the lethal examples of cars running into crowds in Nice, France, in London and in Charlottesville, Va., among many others over the past few years.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Chuck Lorre is, without question, television's sitcom king. He created two of today's top money-making syndicated shows — The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men — and his other hits over the years include Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly and Mom.

So why did every single broadcast network turn down his latest sitcom?

One word: Cannabis.

Think today's kids want to be doctors or lawyers? Nope. YouTube stardom is the No. 1 dream career for young people today, at least according to a widely publicized survey by a British newspaper last spring.

Hell's Kitchen has long served as pop culture shorthand for New York City at its grittiest. Four popular Netflix series based on Marvel Comics heroes use this neighborhood as a backdrop. Now those characters — Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist — will team up in one of this summer's most hotly anticipated TV shows, The Defenders. But does their version of Hell's Kitchen bear any resemblance to the real city?

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Actor and playwright Sam Shepard has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIGHT STUFF")

SAM SHEPARD: (As Chuck Yeager) I think I see a plane over here with my name on it.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Do you still have old Polaroid pictures stashed away? Are they all washed out and faded? NPR's Neda Ulaby visited a museum exhibition of Polaroid photographs taken some 35 years ago that look as though they had just slid out of a camera yesterday.

One of the main characters on HBO's hit series, Game of Thrones, is paralyzed. Another has lost his right hand. We've met an important character with a severe skin disorder and another with an intellectual disability.

Sixty years ago, two young musicians happened upon each other in Liverpool, England, in a meeting that would change the course of popular music forever.

It was July 6, 1957. John Lennon, then 16, was playing with his skiffle group The Quarrymen at a church garden party in the midst of a stultifying heat wave. Paul McCartney, 15, was in the crowd, wearing a white sports jacket with a pink carnation.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's look at some of the buzziest shows on television in the past year or so, shall we? What do House of Cards, Girls, I Love Dick, Orphan Black, Transparent and The Magicians have in common?

Every one of them has featured unconventional romantic or sexual relationships involving more than two people.

The creator of one of the most popular hockey-themed web comics — yes, that's a thing — does not even know how to ice skate. Ngozi Ukazu created "Check Please," about a sweet-natured Southern hockey player who's short, loves baking pies and is completely crushed out on his hunky team captain.

The success of "Check Please" shows how a new generation of storytellers are refining the 21st century tools that help them attract and retain fans and earn a living with their work.

Hollywood has solved another cliffhanger. A massive writers' strike was narrowly averted Tuesday, as a tentative agreement was reached between the members of the Writers Guild of America and the group representing the studios they work for, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Details of the deal are expected to be provided to members on Thursday. Around 13,000 film and TV writers were ready to strike starting at midnight, but they managed to reach an agreement over pensions and health plans and how much writers get paid.

If you're the kind of person who opens the paper in the morning and goes straight to the obituaries, we've got good news for you: There's a new documentary out this week that follows the staff writers of the New York Times obituary desk. It's called Obit.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

2016 was the year the Underground Railroad became a focus in popular culture — in Colson Whitehead's National Book Award-winning novel, and a critically acclaimed new television drama about a group of runaways fleeing a Georgia plantation in 1857.

Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET

Zsa Zsa Gabor — the woman who probably inspired the term "famous for being famous" — died on Sunday, according to multiple media outlets. She was 99 years old, just two months shy of her 100th birthday.

NPR confirmed Gabor's death with her publicist, Edward Lozzi, who issued the following statement:

When Dominika Tamley chose "Isebelle," her American Girl doll, she picked a toy whose hair and eye color matched her own. But the 10-year-old is quick to point out that's not the only way the doll resembles the real child who plays with her.

"She's like a mini-me," Tamley explained with pride. "Because she has a hearing aid and I have a hearing aid."

Barbara Massaad was watching a TV news program about the plight of Syrian refugees from her apartment in the suburbs of Beirut when she decided to visit a refugee camp herself.

"I just wanted to go and see what was happening," she told me. "So I went and started taking photographs and talking to people about food."

In the 1990s and early 2000s, TV shows didn't have a lot of love for mass transit — as Homer Simpson pronounced, "Public transportation is for jerks and lesbians."

"I'll never be able to speak their words!"

That cry of frustration comes from linguistics professor Louise Banks in the new movie Arrival. Banks, played by Amy Adams, is confronted with a hard jolt of reality in a fantastic situation: Aliens have arrived from outer space and we have no idea how to talk to them.

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