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Publisher's Summary

A murderous rampage in Afghanistan earlier this month left 16 civilians, nine of them children, dead. Experts are looking at marital, financial, or psychological problems on the part of the suspect, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We may never truly understand what triggered the killings.

Then, this weekend, The Hunger Games opens, and it’s likely to be one of the year’s most successful movies. Based on the trilogy of dystopian young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, it’s about a teenage girl named Katniss Everdeen living in a future, totalitarian North America called Panem. Each year, the country’s impoverished 12 districts send two teenagers each to the Capitol for a spectacularly brutal ritual: a televised fight to the death, in which the victor brings home food and other aid. Children kill each other on national television — it’s Lord of the Flies meets Survivor.

After that, this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival featured 2,000 singer-songwriters, bands, rappers, and DJs, among them Kimbra. A 21-year-old from New Zealand (born Kimbra Johnson), she sang on last year’s pop hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.” SXSW was her American debut as a solo artist.

Following that, it all started with a broken coffee cup. “It was a totally meaningless thing,” remembers Rob Walker, “but it happened to be a coffee cup that I had bought on a trip with my now-wife.” The ceramic casualty made Walker realize that the stories we attach to objects may be more valuable than the objects themselves.

Then, over 30 years and 80 films, Willem Dafoe has played a vampire and Jesus Christ; a drug dealer and an FBI agent; the Green Goblin and a tropical fish. This spring, he’s particularly prolific, appearing in three new movies: the big-budget sci-fi epic John Carter, and indies 4:44 Last Day on Earth and The Hunter.

And finally, Young Jean Lee is a playwright who’s become an it-girl of experimental theater in New York City. Her play The Shipment is a study of black identity, though she is Korean-American; most recently, she created a wordless piece called Untitled Feminist Show performed by a half dozen women in the nude. [Broadcast Date: March 24, 2012]

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