Scott Simon

Remember Utopia Avenue? Elf, their keyboardist and singer — a voice from the clouds. Dean, the bluesy Cockney bass virtuoso. Griff on the drums — who didn't love gruff Griff? And of course, the peerless Jasper de Zoet, shredding, I mean shredding the guitar.

Their great hits — "Abandon Hope," "Smithereens," "Mona Lisa Sings the Blues" — propelled Utopia Avenue from seedy Soho clubs to Top of the Pops, and then America in the enchanted times of bell bottoms, the Beatles, drugs, sex, and street protests. Remember?

July 4th is U.S. Independence Day. But D.L. Hughley, the comedian and author, suggests in his new book that all U.S. holidays "be put on a probationary period to ascertain their relevance and value to All Americans, acknowledging that days off are nice and that mattress sales must occur ..."

His book, co-written with Doug Moe of the Upright Citizens Brigade, is Surrender, White People! Our Unconditional Terms for Peace.

Rowing crew got Arshay Cooper away from the gang life on Chicago's West Side in the 1990s.

In A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team, he tells the story of how he, and others from rival neighborhoods, found their way to crew — and each other.

Now, Cooper is an accomplished chef in New York — and he works to convince other kids to find an outlet in crew. His forthcoming book has been turned into a documentary narrated by Common.

When actor Matthew Rhys first found out about plans to reboot the legal drama Perry Mason his first question was: Why?

"Why would you? How can you?" says Rhys, who stars in the new HBO show.

This Perry Mason is no rerun of your grandfather's Perry Mason from the 1960s. He's not a sharply creased L.A. defense lawyer, with a voice that booms in wood-paneled courtrooms.

No, this is "a very dark Perry Mason to which I was instantly very attracted," Rhys says.

Novelist Roddy Doyle is not an autobiographical writer, but he does acknowledge: "The characters have been getting older as I get older."

In his latest novel, Love, Joe and Davy are two old friends who meet at a Dublin pub for a night of reconnecting and hard drinking. Joe has a burning secret; Davy has a concealed sorrow.

Writing older characters, means "the angle at which I'm looking at the world changes," Doyle says. "There's a lot more looking back than looking forward."

Earlier this week, researchers in the United Kingdom announced preliminary results from a clinical trial that showed a low-cost steroid called dexamethasone appeared to lower the risk of death in patients with COVID-19.

The researchers said the anti-inflammatory drug reduced the number of deaths in COVID-19 patients on ventilators or oxygen alone by one-third.

Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee's new film, follows five friends who shed blood, sweat, and tears together in the 1st Infantry Division during the Vietnam War — and who return, after 50 years, to bring home the body of a fallen friend, and perhaps a treasure buried with him.

But is the treasure true riches, just reparations, or a curse?

Ted Turner and Daniel Schorr: Doesn't sound like a likely match, does it?

The Mouth of the South, as Ted Turner was called, and Murrow Boy Dan Schorr — one was on President Nixon's Enemies List when he covered the Watergate investigations for CBS. The other made some of his own worst enemies with, well, intemperate remarks.

With nationwide protests focusing renewed attention and urgency on the issue of police brutality, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago says that police unions continue to be one of the biggest obstacles to reform.

Megha Majumdar's debut novel, A Burning, is set in modern-day Kolkata, India, and suddenly sounds breathlessly contemporary in the United States, too — a landscape of lockdowns, curfews, fires, and anguished posts on the internet.

It begins with a young woman named Jivan, scrolling through social media accounts of a gruesome terrorist attack near her neighborhood: flaming torches thrown into the windows of a halted train, its doors locked from the outside.

Rutger Bregman begins his new book Humankind: A Hopeful History with what he calls this "radical idea" that most people deep down are pretty decent.

Bregman is a historian and writer for The Correspondent in the Netherlands and author of the previous bestseller Utopia for Realists.

Larry Kramer was angry, irascible, and indispensable. He was a playwright and novelist in 1983, as he saw friends around him die of what you then had to spell out as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. And he wrote a call to action in the New York Native, a gay bi-weekly paper: "1,112 and Counting," was the title.

It was the number of people diagnosed with serious complications from AIDS - nearly half in and around New York.

Andrea Hoehn of Waseca, Minnesota, told us this week, "I just want to wake up from this nightmare."

Many may feel that way right now. But the experience of the Hoehn family, and other livestock farmers, may be distinctly telling and tragic.

The Hoehn family has run a hog-farm for 6 generations. They can feed and care for about 20,000 hogs at a time, until they're sent to a packinghouse, where, yes, the pigs are slaughtered and packed for food. Hog-farming is a tough business, physically and financially, even in good times.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

New Jersey has the second-most COVID deaths in the U.S. and remains in near lockdown. After seven weeks and counting of suspending work, many small business owners worry they may not be able to keep their employees.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is a conversation many real estate brokers have had to have recently.

MARILYN RIVERA TORRES: The client just called me and said, I need to cancel this contract.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jerry Seinfeld says he's "adjusted pretty comfortably" to his new life in quarantine.

"I think there's something to be said for not socializing," he tells Weekend Edition. "It's kind of a rest for your face and your fake emotions and your repeating the same stories."

Seinfeld's new standup special, 23 Hours to Kill, starts streaming May 5 on Netflix.

He jokes in the special: "I could be anywhere in the world right now. Now you be honest. If you were me, would you be up here hacking out another one of these?"

Author and bookstore owner Emma Straub's new novel reminds us how lives can change in an instant — not that we may need that reminder too much right now.

All Adults Here is a modern family saga of three generations thrown together, whether they like it or not — and a lot of the time, they don't. It begins with a bang, when Astrid Strick sees a lifelong friend she'd never much liked get hit and killed by an empty, speeding school bus. And at the age of 68 she realizes — as she tells her children — that "there are always more school buses."

As I read news reports this week that health care workers in several states said they don't have enough protective gear, including face masks, an email pinged in.

"PUT ON YOUR GAME FACE," it said. A sport merchandise site now sells face masks in the colors and logos of NFL teams.

Let me just note that some masks looked more appealing than others. The dancing Miami Dolphin could make you look like a bear with a fish in its mouth.

Humans came from dust, says Ecclesiastes.

But writer Bonnie Tsui reminds us that humankind also once sprang from — and still seeks — water.

Why do we swim? Tsui takes us from ponds to pools to surfers, racers and a few who have survived icy currents, seeking the answer in her new book, Why We Swim.

Interview Highlights

On the story of Iceland's Guðlaugur Friðþórsson

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Americans like to think of ourselves as rolling up our sleeves to do a hard job.

But these days, we have to remind ourselves first: wash your hands!

The coronavirus has made some of our long-time slogans and clichés about confronting a crisis sound a just a little tinny.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of unscheduled time for people who are sheltering in place. Some are using these unscheduled hours to spoil their pets.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Pages