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.

Pages

4:58pm

Mon July 21, 2014
The Salt

For These Vegans, Masculinity Means Protecting The Planet

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 2:32 pm

Mixed martial arts fighter Cornell Ward (from left), chef Daniel Strong, triathlete Dominic Thompson, lifestyle blogger Joshua Katcher and competitive bodybuilder Giacomo Marchese at a vegan barbecue in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Courtesy of James Koroni

Real men eat meat. They kill it and then they grill it.

That's the stereotype, or cliche, that's about as old as time.

At a recent barbecue in Brooklyn, N.Y., a half-dozen guys who resist that particular cultural stereotype gathered together. Many of them are muscled semi-professional athletes, including triathlete Dominic Thompson, competitive bodybuilder Giacomo Marchese and mixed martial arts fighter Cornell Ward.

Read more

5:47pm

Fri June 6, 2014
Monkey See

'I Kinda Stole The Show': Laverne Cox And The Path To Prestige Television

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 7:29 pm

Laverne Cox of Netflix's Orange is the New Black.
Netflix

"My femininity was seen as a problem that needed to be solved."

Laverne Cox is talking about her childhood in Mobile, Ala. She remembers being routinely chased and beaten by classmates after school. Cox was born biologically male, and her gender identity was confusing and threatening not just to other children but to the grown-ups in her life as well. Her third-grade teacher warned her mother, "Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don't get him into therapy right away."

Read more

4:16pm

Fri May 30, 2014
Movies

With Possible Theme Park, 'Hunger Games' May Live Beyond Final Film

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 7:07 pm

The movie studio Lionsgate is exploring the possibility of a theme park based on The Hunger Games films and books. To test the idea's viability, the company announced that it will launch a Hunger Games exhibition at museums around the country next summer.

Read more

5:48pm

Mon April 14, 2014
News

NSA Coverage Garners Pulitzers For Post And Guardian

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:42 pm

Winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday. The Washington Post and The Guardian were among the notable winners, commended for together breaking the news of NSA surveillance programs.

4:01pm

Tue April 1, 2014
Remembrances

Dance Music Legend Frankie Knuckles Dies At 59

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 10:45 am

Frankie Knuckles in 2007.
Getty Images

Frankie Knuckles, a legend in the world of dance music and one of the inventors of house music, a steady, beat-driven style played in nightclubs all over the world, died unexpectedly at his Chicago home on Monday. He was 59.

Read more

9:50am

Sat March 1, 2014
Business

A Picket Line At The Oscars: Visual-Effects Artists To Protest

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 11:37 am

Hundreds of visual-effects artists are planning to picket the Academy Awards on Sunday for the second year in a row. They're hoping to bring attention to what's been happening in their industry.

The field is losing jobs and relocating to countries with bigger subsidies for employers. It's the result of a technical revolution that's changed the profession since it kicked off in the 70s with Star Wars creator George Lucas' visual-effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.

Read more

6:44pm

Thu January 23, 2014
The Edge

A Baby Didn't Bump These Moms Out Of Competition

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:32 pm

Malaysian shooting athlete Nur Suryani Taibi was eight months pregnant in 2012 as she prepared for the Summer Olympics in London.
Rebecca Blackwell AP

Let's be clear: Olympians handle the physical challenges of childbirth differently than most of the rest of us.

Aretha Thurmond is a discus thrower who'd already competed in two Olympics when she went to the hospital in labor.

"So I get there and they're like, 'Yeah, whatever, you're 4 centimeters dilated. Go walk around the hospital and come back,' " she says.

Thurmond's hospital was part of a university, so she headed straight for its track, where she power-walked for the next two hours. Then the school's discus throwers came out.

Read more

5:16pm

Thu January 9, 2014
Remembrances

Amiri Baraka's Legacy Both Controversial And Achingly Beautiful

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:31 am

Amiri Baraka, shown here in 1972, was a renowned poet whose politics strongly shaped his work.
Julian C. Wilson AP

One of America's most important — and controversial — literary figures, Amiri Baraka, died on Thursday from complications after surgery following a long illness, according to his oldest son. Baraka was 79.

Baraka co-founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. His literary legacy is as complicated as the times he lived through, from his childhood — where he recalled not being allowed to enter a segregated library — to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. His poem about that attack, "Somebody Blew Up America," quickly became infamous.

Read more

4:18pm

Mon December 23, 2013
Digital Life

A YouTube Powerhouse Looks Beyond Its Gamer Base

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:53 pm

One of Machinima's signature offerings is a series called Christopher Walkenthrough, in which creator Jason Stephens, in character as actor Christopher Walken, navigates his way through popular video games. You kind of have to see it to understand.
Machinima.com

One of the most popular channels on YouTube is aimed toward people who play video games. It's got tons of content — thousands of game reviews, how-to videos of people gaming away enthusiastically, even little homemade movies that people have made using video-game software.

That last format is a user-generated phenomenon called machinima — "little m" machinima. "Big M" Machinima is a company, and it wants to be a new media empire. It's the entity behind that YouTube channel.

Read more

2:55am

Mon November 25, 2013
Code Switch

Hollywood's New Strategy: Supporting Chinese-Made Blockbusters

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 1:11 pm

Hollywood's version of Iron Man 3 shown in China played down the rather unfortunately named baddie, The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley.
Marvel

If you've seen the 2012 science fiction movie Looper, you might remember a telling exchange when a time-traveling hitman (Bruce Willis) sits down with a young version of himself (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and offers some advice.

"You should go to China," Willis says firmly.

Gordon-Levitt resists: "I'm going to France."

Read more

4:54am

Thu November 7, 2013
Business

Most Remaining Blockbusters To Close In January

Blockbuster is going to shut all of its company-owned stores. Some franchise stores will stay open. At its peak, the video rental chain had about 9,000 stores.

3:47pm

Sun October 27, 2013
The Record

Lou Reed, Beloved Contrarian, Dies

Originally published on Sun October 27, 2013 5:59 pm

Lou Reed onstage in London in 1975 playing a transparent, Plexiglass guitar. Reed died Sunday. He was 71.
Denis O'Regan Getty Images

One of rock's most beloved and contrarian figures has died. Lou Reed epitomized New York City's artistic underbelly in the 1970s, with his songs about hookers and junkies. He was 71.

Read more

4:47am

Mon October 21, 2013
NPR Story

New Cable Channels Try To Lure Millennials Back To TV

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 3:37 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, three brand-new cable channels all share the same problem. How do you persuade 20-somethings to look up from their phones long enough to gaze at an old-fashioned, regular TV? In Los Angeles, NPR's Neda Ulaby visited one of the channels that's trying to do that.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: This could be the set of any cable news show about to go live.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TAKE PART LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Three minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: As character) We've got three minutes to air.

Read more

7:05pm

Tue September 24, 2013
Monkey See

'Trophy Wife' Is More Than Just A Pretty Face On ABC

Kate (Malin Akerman) pitches in alongside husband Pete (Bradley Whitford) on her stepson's soccer practice in ABC's Trophy Wife.
Danny Feld ABC

One of the strongest new sitcoms on TV this season has the worst name, but its title, Trophy Wife, was intended to be ironic. The show's creators, Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, are self-professed feminists who wanted to take on a type generally scorned in popular culture.

The show's eponymous character, Kate, is a reformed party girl trying to find her place in a family that includes a much older husband, Pete, his two ex-wives and three kids. When Kate inadvertently breaks Pete's nose, the situation is expertly handled by ex No. 1, an intimidating surgeon.

Read more

5:18pm

Tue September 10, 2013
Television

What The $@** Is Up On Cable These Days?

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 7:11 pm

Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln), in between curses on AMC's The Walking Dead.
Gene Page AMC

Seriously, if you were being attacked by zombies, you might yell out the word f- - -! But no one does on The Walking Dead. When it comes to language in this golden age of basic cable dramas, the rules are idiosyncratic and unclear.

"It's so arbitrary, hon," says Kurt Sutter. "It's just basically people in suits making up the rules."

Read more

2:58am

Thu August 22, 2013
Crime In The City

Awaiting The Apocalypse In The Quiet Town Of Concord

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:43 pm

Ben Winters wrote the best-selling Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters, as well as Bedbugs, Android Karenina and several books for kids. So far, he's published two books in the Last Policeman series.
Neda Ulaby NPR

No place seems safe these days from someone's terrifying, post-apocalyptic imaginings. Los Angeles is wrecked in the movie Elysium, the South is zombie-ridden in TV's The Walking Dead, and now— thanks to writer Ben Winters — even the quiet streets of Concord are at risk of annihilation.

Read more

3:07am

Mon August 19, 2013
Books

For You To Borrow, Some Libraries Have To Go Begging

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 4:14 pm

The Tyson Library in Ludlow, Vt., is required to support itself independently; public libraries in Vermont receive no state funding.
Neda Ulaby NPR

More than 90 percent of Americans say public libraries are important to their communities, according to the Pew Research Center. But the way that love translates into actual financial support varies hugely from state to state.

Vermont, for instance, brags that it has more libraries per capita than any other U.S. state. Some of them are remarkably quaint. In Ludlow, one library is a white clapboard Victorian, slightly frayed, ringed by lilies and sitting by the side of a brook.

Read more

2:03am

Sat August 3, 2013
Ecstatic Voices

Songs Of Africa: Beautiful Music With A Violent History

Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 10:00 am

Fred Onovwerosuoke founded the St. Louis African Chorus 20 years ago.
Courtesy of the artist

For the next year, NPR will take a musical journey across America, which is one of the most religiously diverse countries on earth. We want to discover and celebrate the many ways in which people make spiritual music — individually and collectively, inside and outside houses of worship.

The founder of the choral group Sounds of Africa is Fred Onovwerosuoke. He was born in Ghana and brought up in Nigeria, and his choir in the heart of the U.S. — St. Louis, Mo., to be exact — has recorded his arrangements of African sacred music by a composer named Ikoli Harcourt Whyte.

Read more

5:50pm

Sat June 29, 2013
Monkey See

Girls' Legos Are A Hit, But Why Do Girls Need Special Legos?

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 9:55 pm

Olivia also has a treehouse.
Lego

Two years ago, in 2011, 90 percent of Lego's consumers were boys. A tough statistic to swallow for those of us who grew up playing with Lego's gender-neutral buckets of bricks. But the statistic came straight from Lego, which was then focused on boys with franchised sets based on properties like Star Wars and The Avengers after weathering a disastrous period in the 1990s that left the company on the brink of collapse.

Read more

4:48pm

Thu June 20, 2013
Television

'Dome' Luck: On CBS, A Drama About Getting Stuck With Each Other

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 4:55 pm

In the wake of the dome's mysterious appearance, the townspeople are cut off from access to TV, phones and the Internet, and must make do with the people and objects they have at their disposal.
CBS

One of the most anticipated shows of the summer, Under the Dome, starts Monday on CBS. It's about a tiny New England town that's suddenly and mysteriously sealed off by an impenetrable dome.

The series is the first on-screen collaboration between two of the biggest Steves in popular culture — Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.

"The Steven Squared, we call it," cracks Neal Baer, an executive producer of the show.

Read more

3:15pm

Wed June 19, 2013
Monkey See

From Classic Toys To New Twists, Kids Go Back To Blocks

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 1:39 pm

Legos and other interlocking toys are only one kind of blocks that remain popular with kids.
iStockphoto.com

I visited Toy Fair in New York City hunting for ideas for our summer series about kids' culture. One of the big takeaways was the increasing popularity of construction games such as Legos. Sales shot up nearly 20 percent last year. Now, it seems, every major toy manufacturer is scrambling to add new games geared toward kids building things.

Read more

4:09pm

Fri June 7, 2013
Monkey See

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts — But Do Too Many Of His Fans Watch For Free?

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 8:29 pm

Peter Dinklage stars as the cunning, charismatic Tyrion Lannister in HBO's hit drama Game Of Thrones. One security consultant suggests that the number of people watching the popular drama through HBO's streaming service HBO Go without paying for it could be high enough to pose a real challenge for providers of such services.
Helen Sloan HBO

For today's All Things Considered story about people sharing their Netflix or Hulu Plus passwords, producer Sami Yenigun latched on to what could've been an ordinary entertainment-business story and front-loaded it with snippets of sound from Game of Thrones — attacking dragons, evil kings, treacherous harlots. He made it hilarious.

Read more

4:14pm

Mon June 3, 2013
Monkey See

Foster Families Take Center Stage

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 1:42 pm

Cierra Ramirez, Teri Polo, and Jake T. Austin star in ABC Family's The Fosters.
Randy Holmes ABC Family

This summer, NPR is taking a closer look at media for kids, taking it as seriously as what's offered to adults. Our first piece looks at a new show starting Monday night on ABC Family.

Read more

3:37pm

Tue May 21, 2013
Monkey See

'Arrested Development' Leads The Charge For Old Brands In New Media

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 5:43 pm

David Cross and Portia de Rossi in a scene from Arrested Development, which returns on Netflix on May 26.
Sam Urdank AP

Arrested Development returning via Netflix? Just another old-media brand reviving itself on new media.

The TV show, which originally ran on Fox from 2003 to 2006 and unveils new episodes on Netflix next weekend, finds itself in splendid company. Radiohead, Louis C.K., Veronica Mars — all found their audiences with promotion and distribution from big studios and networks. Radiohead was signed to a major music label. Louis C.K. enjoyed HBO specials and TV shows. And Veronica Mars ran on two TV networks for three years.

Read more

3:18am

Fri April 5, 2013
Television

As Audiences Shift To Cable, TV Programming Changes, Too

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 1:20 pm

In recent years, high-profile cable TV dramas like AMC's Mad Men have helped to shift audiences and programming across all types of TV networks. (Pictured, from left: John Slattery, Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser)
Michael Yarish / AMC

Mad Men comes back for its sixth season Sunday at an opportune moment for basic cable. Last weekend, 25 million viewers combined watched The Bible and The Walking Dead on basic cable channels. That's more than triple the audience for The Good Wife on CBS that same night.

Read more

3:23am

Tue March 26, 2013
All Tech Considered

Why Are TV Remotes So Terrible?

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 10:25 am

The buttons, symbols and signs on many modern TV remotes make for one confusing user interface.
iStockphoto.com

Let's call it the baby sitter's dilemma.

If you go to someone's house and pick up the TV remote, chances are, you won't know how it works. You know the situation's bad when even a tech writer who also majored in physics at an Ivy League school is confused by her own TV remote.

Read more

3:12pm

Sun March 17, 2013
Architecture

2013 Pritzker Winner Toyo Ito Finds Inspiration In Air, Wind And Water

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 7:48 pm

Dome in Odate (multipurpose dome), Odate-shi, Akita, Japan
Mikio Kamaya Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects

Toyo Ito, a 71-year-old architect based in Japan, is the winner of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The jury honored Ito for his more than four-decade career, in which he has created architecture that "projects an air of optimism, lightness and joy ... infused with both a sense of uniqueness and universality."

Read more

5:34am

Wed February 20, 2013
Monkey See

From Louisiana To Versailles, Funding 'Vital Stories, Artfully Told'

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 6:01 pm

Cinereach aims to support films that tell stories from underrepresented perspectives. The Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of those films.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The movie Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fairy tale of a film. It might not seem to have much in common with documentaries about evangelical Christians in Uganda or the billionaire Koch brothers. But these films were all funded by a not-for-profit group called Cinereach. It was started by a couple of film school graduates who are still in their 20s. And now, with Beasts, it has a nomination for Best Picture at this year's Oscars.

Read more

1:53pm

Mon February 11, 2013
The Two-Way

Toy Fair: Markers That Don't Blot Walls, Sand Without The Mess

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 2:00 pm

Pac-Man joins opening ceremonies at Toy Fair to celebrate the launch of new Pac-Man Toys from Bandai of America.
Fernando Leon Getty Images

Toy Fair 2013 in New York started Sunday and runs until Wednesday. NPR's Neda Ulaby had the tough assignment of sizing up the acres of fun offerings. She brings us this report:

The venerable industry convention Toy Fair celebrates its 110th anniversary this week. But it might as well be the 1970s or '80s within the great glassy expanse of New York City's Javits Center.

Read more

4:56pm

Tue February 5, 2013
The Record

Reg Presley, The Voice Of 'Wild Thing,' Dies

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 6:36 pm

Reg Presley in Hamburg, circa 1965.
Petra Niemeier — K & K Redferns

Reg Presley, the founder and lead singer of The Troggs, the rock group best known for the performing the original version of the song "Wild Thing," has died. Presley was 71. He died of lung cancer yesterday at his home in England.

Read more

Pages