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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4:12pm

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 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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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3:19pm

Sun March 17, 2013
Architecture

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

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 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."

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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.

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2:00pm

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.

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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

5:33am

Wed January 30, 2013
Television

Competition, High Bills Hurt Cable Companies

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 10:44 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.

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3:41am

Fri January 18, 2013
Arts & Life

In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 9:11 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.

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