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

12:58am

Thu August 22, 2013
Crime In The City

Awaiting The Apocalypse In The Quiet Town Of Concord

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 10:43 am

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

1:07am

Mon August 19, 2013
Books

For You To Borrow, Some Libraries Have To Go Begging

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 2:14 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

3:31pm

Thu June 20, 2013
Television

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

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 2:55 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

1:15pm

Wed June 19, 2013
Monkey See

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

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 11:39 am

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

2:12pm

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 6:29 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

2:14pm

Mon June 3, 2013
Monkey See

Foster Families Take Center Stage

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 11:42 am

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

2:44pm

Tue May 21, 2013
Monkey See

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

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 3:43 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

1:18am

Fri April 5, 2013
Television

As Audiences Shift To Cable, TV Programming Changes, Too

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 11:20 am

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

1:23am

Tue March 26, 2013
All Tech Considered

Why Are TV Remotes So Terrible?

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 8:25 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

1:19pm

Sun March 17, 2013
Architecture

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

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 5:48 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

3:34am

Wed February 20, 2013
Monkey See

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

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 4:01 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

12:00pm

Mon February 11, 2013
The Two-Way

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

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

2:38pm

Tue February 5, 2013
The Record

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

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 4:36 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

3:33am

Wed January 30, 2013
Television

Competition, High Bills Hurt Cable Companies

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 8:44 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. In the next few days, cable companies announce how they did financially in 2012. Most industry watchers expect some negative trends to continue. More people are canceling their cable subscriptions. They are called cord cutters, because they are getting TV from the Internet and over the air, not their cable cords. But they're not the only problem the cable industry needs to worry about. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Meet Comcast's worst nightmare.

Read more

1:41am

Fri January 18, 2013
Arts & Life

In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:11 am

At Tyler Perry's live performances, his gospel-tinged references aren't meant for everyone in the audience.
Jason Merritt Getty Images

On a recent episode of Saturday Night Live when the comedian Louis C.K. played host, one skit parodied his eponymous show on F/X. It riffed on the theme song and the discursive style of his comedy.

But here's the thing: Fewer than 2 million people watch Louie. About 7 million watch Saturday Night Live. That means even optimistically, at least two-thirds of the audience is missing the joke.

Read more

3:52pm

Thu January 10, 2013
Theater

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

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 4:26 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.

Read more

8:35am

Wed January 2, 2013
Television

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

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 6:24 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.

Read more

1:29am

Thu December 27, 2012
Digital Life

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

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 2:34 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.

Read more

2:56pm

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 1:16 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."

Read more

1:22pm

Fri November 30, 2012
Pop Culture

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

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 4:44 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."

Read more

Pages