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.

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5:52pm

Thu January 10, 2013
Theater

'Adventure Hour' Is A New Take On Old-Time Radio

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 6:26 pm

Mark Gagliardi and Autumn Reeser, as aviator Amelia Earhart, perform in The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Actors dress up and read scripts onstage in front of a live nightclub audience.
Jonathan Reilly The Thrilling Adventure Hour

The creators of The Thrilling Adventure Hour proudly call it "fake radio." It's less an homage to old-time radio and more of a clever update. A live monthly performance at Largo, a 200-seat, scruffy-chic Hollywood nightclub is also available as a popular podcast through Nerdist.

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11:03am

Wed January 2, 2013
Television

Who's Gay On TV? Dads, Journalists, Investigators And Footmen

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 8:24 pm

Partners Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) decide to use a surrogate to expand their family in The New Normal.
Trae Patton AP

The pop culture gay flavor of the minute? White gay dads.

"We're having a baby, Bri!" croons one of the leads on NBC's The New Normal. "This is our family. You, me and that kid forever."

It's a mini-boomlet, says real-life white gay dad and sociology professor Joshua Gamson. Not too long ago, he says, pop culture mainly defined gay men as promiscuous and deviant, rather than monogamous and devoted to their families.

"It does seem like a strong counter-stereotype of how gay men have been portrayed over the past, whatever, 50 years," he says.

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4:20pm

Thu December 27, 2012
Food

'Dirt Candy': A Visual Veggie Cookbook With A Memoir Mixed In

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 9:40 pm

Amanda Cohen is the chef-owner of Dirt Candy, a vegetable-focused restaurant in New York City.
Clarkson Potter

The Ones That Got Away series: There were so many good arts and entertainment stories in 2012 that we couldn't get around to reporting on everything as it was released. So this week, our arts reporters are circling back to look at books, movies, TV shows and trends that we should have paid more attention to.

Amanda Cohen's Dirt Candy is a graphic novel, vegetarian cookbook and memoir. But because it's all of those things, it's also not exactly any of them — so it fell between the cracks.

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3:29am

Thu December 27, 2012
Digital Life

In Rapid-Fire 2012, Memes' Half-Life Fell To A Quarter

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 4:34 am

A screengrab from the "Kony 2012" online video about the Central African warlord Joseph Kony, which skyrocketed in popularity after its release in March. It was criticized, then forgotten, just as quickly.
via YouTube

Last June, a young woman in Texas uploaded a Justin Bieber fan video. She seemed a little .... unhinged.

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4:38pm

Tue December 18, 2012
Spirit Of The Season

At A Real-Life Santa's Workshop, Christmas Comes Early

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:16 pm

Lou Nasti runs a factory in Brooklyn that makes animatronic Christmas displays. He's been at it for almost 44 years.
Neda Ulaby NPR

"Everyone calls me Geppetto," announces Lou Nasti. "I mean, look at me: The glasses, the gray hair — and I play with dolls. Come on."

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3:22pm

Fri November 30, 2012
Pop Culture

That's So Random: The Evolution Of An Odd Word

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 6:44 pm

The use of the word random as slang found its way into Amy Heckerling's 1995 hit film, Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone.
Paramount/The Kobal Collection

Random is a fighting word for young Spencer Thompson. The comedian posted a video to a Facebook page entitled I Hate When People Misuse the Word Random.

"The word random is the most misused word of our generation — by far," he proclaims to a tittering audience of 20-somethings. "Like, girls will say, 'Oh, God, I met this random on the way home.' First of all, it's not a noun."

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4:43pm

Fri October 26, 2012
Remembrances

Cultural Historian Jacques Barzun Dies At 104

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 5:57 pm

Pioneering cultural historian Jacques Barzun was the author of dozens of books and essays on everything from philosophy to music to baseball. He died Thursday in San Antonio at the age of 104.
Eric Gay AP

Jacques Barzun, one of the most influential historians, educators and thinkers of the 20th century, died Thursday, just one month shy of his 105th birthday. Barzun seemed to have a limitless capacity to understand and translate complex ideas — about the evolution of Western culture, what it means to be free, and even the value of American baseball. He shared his observations in numerous books and magazine articles and at Columbia University, where he held forth for half a century.

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8:43am

Tue October 23, 2012
How We Watch What We Watch

The Afterlife Of A TV Episode: It's Complicated

Despite having aired its final episode in May, the medical drama House lives on, in reruns and on digital services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. But not every episode is available in all formats.
Adam Taylor AP

Have you ever seen a rerun episode that made you want to watch more of a show — even a whole season? With so many TV channels and so many shows to keep up with, it's possible that some of them could completely pass you by.

But there are also many ways to watch a show, even if it's no longer on the air. Take the medical drama House, which ended its run on FOX in May.

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4:33am

Mon October 22, 2012
Television

Ratings Success? It's All In The (ABC) Family

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 5:09 pm

Broadway veteran Sutton Foster stars in the ABC Family show Bunheads, which, while focusing on adults, is still popular with ABC Family's demographic.
Adam Larkey ABC Family

In a sterile white boardroom in ABC Family's headquarters in Los Angeles, two young women are assiduously ignoring a spread of cookies in favor of two more important things: their laptops and a live broadcast of the show Pretty Little Liars playing on a large flat-screen TV.

Dalia Ganz, 28, is the show's social-media manager. She's patiently teaching one of the beautiful young actors on the show how to live-tweet this episode.

"Include #prettylittleliars in your answers," she instructs. That is a literal transcription of her words.

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3:34pm

Wed October 17, 2012
Television

Jessica Lange, Back In Black For 'Horror Story'

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 7:09 pm

Jessica Lange plays Sister Jude, a stern nun running an insane asylum, in the second season of American Horror Story.
FX

To speak with Ryan Murphy about his show American Horror Story is to hear this declaration repeatedly: "She classes up the joint."

Murphy is referring to his star, Jessica Lange, who recently won an Emmy for her role in the show's first season. If you've been a fan of Lange's film career, from Tootsie to Frances to Blue Sky, you might wonder why this treasure of the American theater, this two-time Oscar winner, is slumming in a lurid cable TV horror show.

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