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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Monkey See
3:34 am
Mon September 23, 2013

The Man Who Gets The Science Right On 'The Big Bang Theory'

David Saltzberg (right) hosts his "Geek of the Week," UCLA student Andrew Peck, on the set of The Big Bang Theory.
Michael Yarish Warner Bros.

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 12:02 pm

Sure, Bob Newhart may have won his first Emmy for guest-starring as Professor Proton on the hugely popular show The Big Bang Theory, about four young scientists at Caltech. But behind the scenes is a real-life professor, David Saltzberg of UCLA.

Saltzberg studies high-energy particle physics and high-energy neutrino astronomy, using radio-detection techniques when he's not working as The Big Bang Theory's science consultant.

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Crime In The City
2:58 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Awaiting The Apocalypse In The Quiet Town Of Concord

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

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

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.

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Movies
5:13 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Winona Ryder: With Smaller Roles, A Welcome Return From Exile

Winona Ryder in the 2010 thriller Black Swan
Niko Tavernise Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 3:23 pm

This summer, NPR has been looking at comebacks — from politicians reinventing themselves to the recovery of once-endangered species.

And there's a special place in comeback heaven for disgraced movie stars — like Winona Ryder, who more or less made everyone forget about her 2001 shoplifting arrest with her role in the movie Black Swan, where she played an aging ballerina in a jealous frenzy.

But then people root for Winona Ryder. Film critic Wesley Morris has, ever since the 1988 movie Beetlejuice, where she played the ultimate depressive goth chick.

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Books
3:07 am
Mon August 19, 2013

For You To Borrow, Some Libraries Have To Go Begging

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

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

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.

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Ecstatic Voices
2:03 am
Sat August 3, 2013

Songs Of Africa: Beautiful Music With A Violent History

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

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

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.

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Monkey See
2:53 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Fangs And Fishnets For The Win: 'Goth Barbie' Is Monstrously Successful

Mattel executives say they did not anticipate the runaway success of the goth-influenced Monster High brand when it debuted in 2010.
Mattel

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 3:15 pm

We've got two words for you: Goth Barbie.

Not only does such a thing exist, but after Barbie, it's the best-selling doll in the world. The dolls of Monster High are bone-thin beauties all related to famous monsters. They come with books and Web episodes that follow their stories in that place where everyone feels like a freak — in high school.

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Movies
5:03 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Movie Studios Hope We Celebrate July 4 At Theaters

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 9:48 am

The long holiday weekend follows on the heels of a record-setting May and June at the box office. This month begins with the return of the lucrative family-friendly franchise: Despicable Me 2.

Monkey See
5:50 pm
Sat June 29, 2013

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

Olivia also has a treehouse.
Lego

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

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.

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The Record
3:35 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Remembering The Multidimensional Music Of Bobby 'Blue' Bland

Bobby "Blue" Bland performs on stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, in 1989.
David Redfern Redferns

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 6:10 pm

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Monkey See
3:15 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

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

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

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

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.

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Monkey See
2:54 am
Mon June 17, 2013

An 'Adventure' For Kids And Maybe For Their Parents, Too

Finn is in the middle, with the skinny arms. Jake is the dog. Together, they have Adventure Time.
Cartoon Network

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 1:27 pm

Count plenty of grown-ups among the millions of fans of Adventure Time, a kids' show on Cartoon Network. Some are surely Emmy voters. (It's won three.) Others are very possibly stoners. Still others are intellectuals. Lev Grossman falls in the last category. He wrote two best-selling novels, The Magicians and The Magician King, and he's Time's senior book critic.

Grossman's critique of Adventure Time? "It's soooo smart! It's sooo intelligent!"

Hang on. He's just getting started.

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Monkey See
4:14 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Foster Families Take Center Stage

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

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

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.

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Monkey See
4:44 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

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

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

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

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.

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Television
5:06 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Show Abandonment: When Once Popular Shows Nose Dive In The Ratings

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 6:48 am

What happens when fans stop talking about a show that used to be their favorite? Take American Idol, for example. Last week's finale was way down from last year's finale. It was the first time a finale did not reach the 20-million mark.

Pop Culture
6:47 am
Sun April 14, 2013

In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?

Originally published on Sun April 14, 2013 11:04 am

In film and TV, pop culture references are meant to give a knowing nod to those in the audience who understand the joke. But in an increasingly segmented and diverse country, those jokes may be pulling in fewer laughs. This story originally aired on Morning Edition on Jan. 18, 2013.

Television
3:18 am
Fri April 5, 2013

As Audiences Shift To Cable, TV Programming Changes, Too

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

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

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.

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All Tech Considered
3:23 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Why Are TV Remotes So Terrible?

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

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

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.

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U.S.
4:56 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

FCC Chairman Had Trouble Pleasing Interest Groups, Industry

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 7:17 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The head of the Federal Communications Commission gathered his staff this morning, 1,700 people, to tell them this...

JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: I'm announcing that I'll be stepping down as chairman of the FCC in the coming weeks.

BLOCK: The FCC regulates your cell phone, your television and the companies that bring you the Internet. Here's NPR's Neda Ulaby.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: In this morning's speech to his staff, Julius Genachowski talked about how their work affects ordinary people.

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Architecture
3:19 pm
Sun March 17, 2013

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

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

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

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."

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Monkey See
5:34 am
Wed February 20, 2013

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

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

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

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.

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