Two spheres merge in The Avengers: the Marvel Comics universe and the Whedonverse, fans' name for the nerdy wisecracking existentialist superhero world of writer-director Joss Whedon.
The Whedon cult is smaller but maybe more fervent, inspiring academic conferences on such subjects as free will vs. determinism in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I find a lot of Whedon's banter self-consciously smart-alecky, but I love how he can spoof his subjects without robbing them of stature.
TV writer and producer Steven Moffat specializes in injecting new life into old, familiar characters and stories. He first worked his magic on the revived edition of Doctor Who, leading to several BAFTA and Hugo Awards for the series.
More recently, he has turned his eye to the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. As the co-creator of the critically acclaimed BBC series Sherlock, Moffat is responsible for updating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous fictional creation for a modern-day audience.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus will forever be known to millions as Elaine Benes, the character she played for nine seasons on Seinfeld. But she was also an early cast member of Saturday Night Live, and she won the Emmy for Best Comedy Actress while starring in the CBS series The New Adventures of Old Christine, which ran for five seasons after Seinfeld.
One of my favorite professors, the late Ian Watt, taught that there were four great myths of modern individualism: Faust, Don Juan, Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. This always got me wondering which, if any, pop-culture heroes might endure in the same way. James Bond? Luke Skywalker? The Avengers? C'mon. In fact, there's only one who I feel sure will last — Sherlock Holmes.
In Private Empire, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Steve Coll investigates how ExxonMobil has used its money and power to wield significant influence in Washington, D.C., particularly during the Bush administration.
Executives at the company maintained close personal connections with members of the Bush administration — but Coll says the "cliched idea that Exxon-Mobil was just an instrument of the Bush administration's foreign policy — a kind of extension of the American government during the Bush years — is just wrong."
There continues to be a lot of talk about gender bias in the book industry. The core argument goes that, while both male and female authors write novels about relationships and the domestic sphere, when a woman does so her books are relegated to "chic lit," and when a man (like Jonathan Franzen) does, he's lauded for serious literary achievement.
I have to hand it to the Putumayo label. Since it started as a soundtrack-provider to a clothing store in the early '90s, the operation has placed racks of CDs with friendly-primitivist art by Nicola Heindl into Starbucks and Whole Foods everywhere. Putumayo is as responsible as anything for making music buyers ask "Where's the world music section?" in shops or online.
When Sissy Spacek started her film career, she was told to lose her heavy Texas accent. But her famous drawl became one of her greatest assets when Terrence Malick cast her in his 1973 crime drama Badlands.
Spacek played Holly, a teenage girl from South Dakota who became an accomplice on a cross-country murder spree. The film, which also starred Martin Sheen, was narrated in Spacek's distinctive Southern voice.
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: